Today my son Eli turned 18.
Even as I type this, it’s hard for me to grasp.
It seems just yesterday I was scared to death as we left the hospital and I wondered if I would have what it took to take care of this precious little human.
He’s the one who first gave me the title “dad” and I’ve watched him pave the way over the years, as we’ve added two more sons and a daughter to the mix behind him.
I watched him learn to say “NO” (pretty easily), learn to walk (not as easily), and learn to laugh (a lot).
And yet it seems like I blinked and my little dude holding his favorite stuffed dog as he drifts off to sleep has turned into a grown man who is bigger and stronger than I am (I’m still trying to hold on to the smarter category…).
As this day has been approaching, there have been so many thoughts in my head, so much I want him know as I can feel the next chapter coming on him quickly.
And though I’ll never be able to get it all down in a post like this, I thought I’d at least give it a try.
So, here are 18 Thoughts For My Son On His 18th Birthday:
I love you
Maybe you won’t ever truly understand the depth of this until you’re a father as well, but I love you deeply and would do anything for you.
Being your dad is one of the highlights of my life and I’m so blessed to be able to call you my son. Know that whatever happens in your life, I’m here for you, I am for you, and I love you.
I’m proud of you
As I see the man that God is growing you into, I’m thankful to have been able to play a small part in that but know that it is God who has made you into the leader that I see before me.
I’m proud of the way you live your life, how you inspire and share with others, care for those around you and pursue life with a passion. Your smile is a reflection of the the big heart that is inside.
I pray for you
One thing I’ve learned is that God not only knows you better than I ever will but He also has the power to be what you need in your life. The more I’ve felt inadequate over the years as your dad, the more I’ve been reminded that pray is my first priority with you.
God knows what you need and the plans he has for you. My role is to pray for you, love you well, and trust Him with you. I pray that you will trust Him as well.
Use your gifts
God designed you uniquely with things you do well. Take advantage of those and use them wisely and often. When you do, you’ll be energized and will know that you are doing what you were meant to do.
Your gifts are God’s unique investment in you. He loves to see you using those both to enjoy life and to pour out into others.
Love others well
You’ll never regret the investments you’ll make in others. Look for ways to lift others up, go the extra mile, and defend those who can’t defend themselves. Speak words of life and encouragement to ears that desperately need to hear them and offer your time, energy and heart to a world that is hurting.
I already see this in you and get excited for the lives you’ll impact in the future.
One of my favorite things as a dad is to watch you enjoying life. Whether it’s watching you hit a jumper in basketball, spike a volleyball or down a box of mac-n-cheese in one sitting, you make life fun. Continue to pursue things that you enjoy and have fun with those around you.
Live life to the fullest and bring others along with you.
Go make a difference
You aren’t here by accident. God has so much in store for you. New stories to tell, places to discover, memories to make. Along the way, make your mark and make a difference. Whether in big ways or small, the lives you impact will cause a chain reaction.
Don’t give up
Life can be hard. You’ll face setbacks, disappointments, pain, frustration, depression. There will be times when you want to give up, when you don’t feel like it’s worth it. Don’t give up. Press through.
Trust that each day brings a new hope and often the breakthrough is just on the other side of the wall. It will be worth it. Don’t stop.
Do life with people who appreciate you
Life is too short to invest it in relationships with people who don’t get you or are secretly out to tear you down. You are worth more than that. Find those people who understand you, who encourage your passions and celebrate you. And who are willing to tell you truth when you need it as well.
Let them into your life and trust their wisdom and thoughts, both in their encouragement and in their constructive criticism.
As you go through life, you’ll be presented with countless opportunities. And usually there will be a safe option and a riskier option. Make sure to do your homework to weigh them both out and know what you’re up against.
And whenever you can, take a risk. It will be stepping into the unknown and maybe you’ll fail. But be willing to take a chance and go for it.
Be someone that listens, takes comments to heart and is approachable. There’s always something you can learn, whether from those closest to you or from those who don’t like you. It starts with a heart that is open and transparent.
You will be able to learn and grow so much when people feel like that can come to you and share what’s on their heart.
Ask for help
Be honest with yourself and be willing to ask for help when you need it. I’ve often struggled with this and carried burdens that I didn’t need to carry. Give others the opportunity to pour into your life, to lend a hand or a word of encouragement.
True strength comes from knowing that you can’t do it all on your own. You need others in your life.
Live full out
One thing that I’ve always admired about you is how you live life full out. When there’s something that you’re passionate about, you go after it with everything you have. Never lose that. As your passions change and life turns pages, continue to follow your heart and pour yourself into what you love.
Not only will you enjoy those things, but you’ll help others to enjoy them as well.
This may sound strange, but don’t beat yourself up. There will be plenty of times that you’ll be disappointed in yourself, doubt your worth, get frustrated or wonder if things will ever change or even if God can forgive you for something. Be willing to listen to His words and love yourself.
When you love yourself and value yourself, only then will you be able to fully love others as well. God’s love for you is deep and unconditional.
Take time to rest
Sometimes, in the busyness of life, you may find yourself running ragged, pulled in many different directions. Know that God designed us to rest, to refresh, to recharge. Allow yourself to do that. Maybe it means getting away by yourself, relaxing, unplugging.
Trust yourself and fight for the rest that you need. It will help equip you to be your best.
This one shouldn’t be hard for you as one of your trademarks is your smile and your laughter. Never lose these. When you laugh, it’s infectious. Even if I’m having a rough day, your laughter has a way of lightening my load and I know it does this for others as well.
Your laughter is a gift to others in many ways, a powerful medicine that can brighten a day or bring joy to a heart.
Trust your gut
Life will throw you curve balls and there will be times when you just don’t know what to do. Take time to think through, get wise counsel from others and pray. But in the end, trust your gut.
More often than not, you know the right decision. Be willing to go with it and not second guess yourself.
When it comes down to it, you are here because God put you here. He created you. You were His idea, His unique design. He takes pleasure in you, delights in you and has plans for you.
Don’t wait until you don’t know what to do to reach out to Him. Instead, keep short accounts with Him. Make Him a part of your joys as well as your trials.
Trust Him with your future, with your career, family, friends, plans, goals, dreams, setbacks, disappointments.
Trust Him with everything. He knows and He cares.
Eli, I’m so proud of the man God is molding you into and thankful to celebrate with you today as you take one more step into manhood.
Go take hold of life and live it to the fullest. I love you.