Dear Jessica,

There’s a letter somewhere in this house written to you on your 16th birthday. I remember where I was when I wrote it … in our last house, before any renovations, at the desk by the back door. In pink pen, I poured my heart out on the paper when you were … seven? I sealed the letter, googled the year you would turn 16 and labeled the envelope.

I’ve seen it a few times since then, and I know I still have it, but just in case I can’t find it in time:


God, I love you. You are effervescent. We have come a long way since you were seven. That was a tough year (and most years before that, too). I hadn’t been able to go through your childhood without, also, going through mine. And WOW. That was a doozy – but you have such a different life. Oh my God, you have such a different life.

It dawned on me recently that you would be 16 and driving on your own so all of a sudden I needed to make sure you knew EVERYTHING about driving. You should drive all the time, I should maybe just double check to make sure you’ll be safe … and while we were on the road I had this desire to just download everything to you.

Could I just give you all my experiences? All my heart ache? Could I give you my heartbreak so you never have to have it? Could I give you my biggest disappointments, my regrets? Could I let you have my brokenness so you could stay in tact? Could I just, please, this one time, give you everything I have so far … so you could go farther than I have, before I have?

And I can’t. It’s really hard. One day, when your first child is coming of age, you might have these same feelings. Or not … You might be way ahead of us, and I can’t wait to see it. You’ll be amazing. Because you conquer everything you put your mind to. Jessica, you are a stand alone in this world. You are going to be OK. You are amazing.

You doubt yourself and you hold yourself back, but I’m here to tell you … you have nothing to fear. You are wild and free and I can’t wait to see what you do with this one and precious life.

You recently asked me “what were you like when you were my age” in the middle of Menards and I started crying. You haven’t been interested in my life (as it relates to your age) for a long time. I’ve been waiting for you to ask. I even came to the conclusion that maybe you never would, and I was finally ok with those memories and my decisions dying with me.

I have journals full of my life, and I’ve been mostly ok with you someday reading them. Until recently. All of a sudden I don’t want a written memory of my life, struggles, pains and wishes left behind without me to explain. I don’t want you, your dad or your brother, to wade through my written words worried that I wasn’t here for you.

I am. I always will be. I always have been.

But my story is storied. It is infected with pain and sorrow. A tale to overcome. And I have overcome. I am so proud of where I’ve come from – because of where I began.

When you do ask: and I do answer … it is always crystal clear to me how different you are from me. And also, and also, how similar. How much you want to know, how you’ve excavating your soul. And I’m here for it. I want to help you, assist you, be here for you and mostly I just have to LET you.

Coming of age is largely comprised of figuring it out for yourself. Which, ok. Can we talk about this? Because I want you to be able to download all my experiences for you so you don’t have to repeat them or learn on your own.

And I know it isn’t possible. I can just be here for when you’re ready. I’m ready, Jessica. I’ve been ready since we saw 2 pink lines on a pregnancy test and it was go time.

I’m here for you. I will be the shield you don’t know how to yield. I am here for you. We’ve come so far, such a long way, and that is mostly what that letter from almost 10 years ago says: I love you, look where we’ve been together and … I think we’ve come so far since then.

Jessica Ranae, you are poetry in motion. You are everybody’s wishes come true. You are the reason I believe in God. That’s a tall order, and no longer something I cast on your mantle. But you are the gift of my life. The forgiveness I believed in. The very reason I was able to break away from destruction and give myself a chance. You held so much promise for me, and without knowing it – you have delivered 10 fold.

It’s not your job, any longer, to complete me. It is mine. But you wrote the first sentence and I am so thankful I let you.

God, I love you.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

If you remember nothing else of me: please remember this in thick black ink: I LOVE YOU.

But in case you need a few reminders: I also love to dance, and be silly with you. I love the way you whine, even though it is maddening. I love the noises you make of life, you are here for it and I feel every single whine you wince.

I know the tremor you have of letting other people in, I understand the pain of personal reliability. I know the cost of loving people, and I see you calculating the effort. Here’s a short-cut: It is always worth it.

There isn’t a wasted effort in love. Time doesn’t matter when you are caring for someone. It just doesn’t. It could be 1 week, 2 years, or a decade. You will not, ever, waste your love. So, Jessica, be free here. Love wildly and without ambition. You will never regret walking someone home.

Even if, and especially when, you are not their home. We are not here to fix people or patch them back together. We’re here to find ourselves in God’s green earth. When we overlap, you go ahead and relish that. For as long or as little it lasts. You keep those moments close, and protect your heart … but don’t be too precious with it.

Your virtue is not your hymen. I will repeat: your virtue is NOT your hymen. You do not have to preserve your virginity like lemons that have soured. Jessica, you alone will decide when the expiration date has arrived, and you alone are in charge of caring for that special moment.

If it’s stolen from you: shame on them. SHAME. It is your’s and your’s alone to spend when and where you want. God is concerned with where we lay our heads at night but He has never made it His business to condemn us for it. Do Not Believe Otherwise.

And mostly, Jessica, I’m always here. For as long as I’m here … you cannot surprise me. My love for you extends every circumstance. I am here for you. I am for you.

You are good. You are special. You are so smart. You are love. You, Jessica, are just beginning. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

I love you, with all of my being, I love you,


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