A Letter To My Daughter

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.”Maya Angelou, A Letter To My Daughter

With apologies to Ms. Angelou, who wrote a letter to all of the little girls surrounding her,  I was inspired to write a few additional things for my first-born, Ellie, who turns 11 today.

Every year I'm surprised at the clip of time (thus the importance of numbering the days), and I don't want another year to disappear without passing on a few thoughts to my amazing, lovely, incredible little girl!

1. Invest your time

Your most precious asset is your time and attention.  Make intentional and wise choices on what you do with your days.  While there's nothing inherently wrong with electronics, staring at a screen can be an addictive, time-consuming habit; proceed with caution.


Show up. Pay attention. Prioritize Relationships.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."  Annie Dillard

 2. Chose Your Focus

If there's one thing I could give you, it would be the ability to always feel comfortable in your skin.  Most people waste too much time looking around to see what other people are doing or what they have.  This comparison game is always destructive, leading you to either pride or insecurity.

Don't focus on the crowd.


You are worthy of love.

"The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself."  Mark Twain

3. Take the Long View

You're entering an season where everything feels like it's a big deal.  You'll struggle to see past today's situations - this boy, that argument, the next test - circumstances will feel like "forever," and perspective is hard to find. But, change always comes.



“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”                                            - Abraham Lincoln

4. Be Extraordinary

To be extraordinary, you have to do extra.  You have to be comfortable being different.  You get to make EXTRA choices in your attitude toward people, in how you live. (This is why we love how you give your birthday to Charity: water.)

Ordinary isn't just boring - it's less than who you are meant to be.


Ask yourself this question:

"What would the extraordinary version of you do?" Andy Stanley

5. Prioritize Play

Life is far too short to take yourself seriously.  Decide to have fun at work, at home, and in life.  Your silliness is awesome!

Keep. It. Up.


If this ever becomes a struggle, refer to #2.

“I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.” -Ricard Branson

6. Travel Deep & Wide

Most of the world doesn't look like our corner of Atlanta.  Go places that make you uncomfortable.  Meet people who are different from you and learn something from them.  Everyone has a story.


Be interested and listen well.

 The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - Augustine of Hippo

7. Don't Be Afraid


You are a child of God and when he's leading you, there is no reason to be afraid.  This is the most common command in the Bible.  Fear is the enemy of boldness.  Fear is the gateway to hate.  In this instance, Yoda has it exactly right...

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. - Yoda Star Wars, Episode 1

8. Keep Short Accounts

Forgive quickly and completely.


Grudges are destructive and an utter waste of time and energy. When you have a gap in your relationships, work hard to close them.  However, if someone has wronged you and you can't be reconciled, be the first to forgive, not for their sake, but for yours.

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” - Anne Lamott

9. Love People

People won't always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.  Love people because of who you are (and you are dearly loved).  Accept people for who they are without trying to "fix" them. (That's never your job.)


Above all, remember love is more than a feeling, it's a verb.  Love does stuff...

“Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.” - Bob Goff

10. Love God

Because he loved you first and wants to be your friend...


I love that your birthday is so close to Christmas and we can celebrate two birthday's at once!!!

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." The book of John - Chapter 3 (The Message)

11. Use Sunscreen

You have beautiful skin.  Keep it safe.  Apply sunscreen liberally.


I suspect you'll ignore this specific bit of wisdom - I certainly did,  but I'll lose my mom card if I don't go on the record with this advice!

"Did you put sunscreen on?"  - Every parent

 Happy Birthday sweet girl.  You make us proud!

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