This won't be my last letter to you, just as it isn't my first. I've written you letters in my journals over the years, unedited and raw and private. Here are a couple:
May 4, 1999
Jacob, I should have filled up this book by now with thoughts of you . The day of your arrival is coming quickly and I have to say that, spiritually, I am not very well tuned for it. Physically, I am ready and waiting as sleeping is becoming difficult and my fingers and feet have swollen. Emotionally, I have been prepared to love you since I learned of your coming. I only wish I could protect you your entire life the way that I can now. I hope that the choices I've made on your behalf will have been adequate.
You have no idea what kind of life you're about to embark on, my son, but in order for it to be successful, I pray that you learn to fear God and keep His commandments. He loves you more than I could ever be able. Love, Mom
March 27, 2010
Dear Jacob, I'm up in the mountains in a foot of snow practicing silence because I want to be able to hear and know what God is saying to me. I wonder if that sounds strange or ridiculous to you. I've never done this before and to be honest, it feels a little strange to me.
But I'm getting used to the quiet. Everyone here is doing the same thing so it doesn't feel quite so strange after a few hours. One of the things that I keep asking God about (did you know that you can just talk quietly to him in your head?) is how to be a better mom for you. You are on my mind and heart and God knows this. I think he likes that I care so much about you. He cares about you too.
So, I keep asking, "God what do you want me to hear?" and "How can I break the bad habits I've formed in the way I relate to Jacob?" I know that I interrupt you when you talk to me and that you think I'm mean sometimes. I know that I get frustrated and don't contain it very well. I know that none of these things make you feel valued.
I say to you boys a lot, "Just do the right thing." But sometimes I don't do the right thing. I want to ask you to forgive me. Do you think that you can do that?
I know that your life is yours and little by little as you grow I let you make your own choices. I'll do more and more of that and I'm looking forward to watching you grow and change and become who God made you to be. I knew when I was pregnant with you that you were a child of great purpose. I can't tell you what that purpose is, but I can encourage you as you find it. I'll miss the boy, but I look forward to the man.
All that to say, I love you so very much. I want to the be the mom that God wants me to be. I'll fail sometimes. I ask you to give me grace when I do. You have not failed me. I am proud of you. I'm looking forward to the future. Love, Mom
When your dad ended his time at the church he interned at, eight months of youth camps and lessons and post-football events, he had the chance to sum it all up. There was a wall in the youth room that was sectioned off, one square for each person and you could write anything you wanted in that square, grafitti, poem or collage. Dad chose to give them the last words from the book of Ecclesiastes.
When Solomon summed up all of life, his experiences that had given him wisdom, he came down to this: Fear God and keep his commandments. We can infuse life with all the vanity, all the striving, all the boldness but the worth of a soul is found in this one thing. Dad painted it on the wall for them to see, washed out the brush and exited the building.
Ecclesiastes chapter 12 is a beautiful final chapter, when all is said and done, finished and settled, everything considered. Dad used this same chapter when he gave the eulogy at his own father's funeral, the chapter that implores us to enjoy our creator while we're young and have the vigor to do it. The chapter where it then describes the body of an old man whose capabilities are lessened, his youth blown away like smoke. It's the experience of walking with God when we're young that carries us through into complete trust and unity with him when we're old. These were the words your dad said in honor of his father; he knew him, he loved him, he lived him.
David's last words to Solomon in 2 Samuel 23 were, "Be strong; show what you're made of! Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you'll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go."
The last words Moses spoke to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 33, "The God who lives forever is your safe place. His arms are always under you. He drove away from in front of you those who hate you, and said, 'destroy!' So Israel lives in a safe place, the well of Jacob is safe."
At the end of his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, "Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves."
Jesus's final words in Luke 23 are, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
All of these wise men -- men who changed the world -- had the same last thing to say, God is worthy of entrusting to all of life.
This letter today most certainly won't be my last words to you. But there will come a day when you read this over again and the advancement that life has offered you between readings will shed a new light. I would say the same thing as Solomon, David and Moses. I would nod with assent to Paul and Jesus. What we have, this life, is not ours alone. The Father longs for us to live it back to him, to wear his name as we spend our days, to move as if his arms are always under us. We live and persist in living because that honors the life-giver. We don't lay down our life until it is required of us and then it goes straightaway to God to keep. It was and always will be his.
You are a gift. You have always been loved. You matter. You are welcome here. It is Easter. God is still in the business of making all things new.