Sometimes, I worry you ended up with a birthday at the worst time of the year. The weather can be so hot and humid (like it was at the beginning of this week). And the start of the new school year makes everything busy and restless: always running to and from, from home to school to soccer practice to church activities… just cramming in food and sleep wherever we can… This time of the year doesn’t lend itself to thoughtful affirmation or laidback celebration.
But then again, other times, I wonder if you ended up with a birthday at the best time of the year. When the weather makes that shift towards Fall instead of Summer (like it’s done this year, in these last 48 hours leading up to your birthday), it’s just glorious. Really and truly some of the finest weather of the year! And there’s also a fun energy to this time of the year that actually suits you really well. It’s kind of a “New Year” for everyone — especially soccer teams, football teams, and schools — but it’s extra-special for you because it’s a whole new year of life for you.
All that to say: Happy Birthday, Cor! My fourteen-year-old son. Man, I love you so much.
One of the things that I really love about you is your heart. You’ve got such passion for the people, places, and things you love. Your family… the YMCA of the Rockies… AFC Ajax… America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies… bicycling…the color orange… short car rides and long car rides (but not medium-length car rides)… You’re just so easy to love because of the way you so fiercely and demonstrably love the world around you.
I admire the way you lead with your heart, more than your head. I wish I could be more like that, sometimes. While I’m caught up in my thoughts, you’re getting down in the dirt and playing with a little toddler in the park. You’re inviting your friends to church. You’re laughing with those who laugh and crying with those who cry. I see the Spirit of God alive in you, Cor, when you let Him guide your heart.
Leading from the heart has allowed you to play a valuable leadership role on your soccer team. When it comes down to a late-game penalty kick (as it has already twice this season), you confidently grab the ball, line it up, and slot it skillfully. It’s not the coaches’ directive. It’s not because of the position on the field that you play. There seems to be nothing cerebral about it. You take the penalty kicks because of your heart, your intuition, your feel for the game and for your team. I think this is amazing. So different from the way that I process the world around me (largely through a lens of logic and protocol). When I ask how you know that it’s your job to do this, you just shrug and say “I just want the ball in that situation, and everyone else wants me to take it.”
You’re amazing, Cor. I’m proud of you. And the soccer stuff is really only a very small part of that.
As I’ve been thinking, praying, and drafting this letter, my mind keeps drifting back to the Book of Ecclesiastes, from the middle part of the Bible. I think especially of chapters 11 and 12, where the Wise Teacher says, “Young man, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in.” But he also cautions: “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator.”
Keep running hard towards God. Keep pace with the Spirit. Let your heart be filled with His goodness and grace — towards yourself and towards others — and persevere through the challenges that come your way. I’ll try to keep in step beside you as long as I can, but feel free to surge ahead. You’ve got what it takes. Your heart is strong. You’re well on your way.
I love you, Cor. Happy Birthday.