dear daughters (a letter on my 50th birthday)

dear daughters … is a series where I talk to my girls about stuff. Today is a love letter gift from one generation to the next. Join us?

Today is the day. Today I am 50 years old.


For weeks your dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday. A trip to Seattle? A dinner party at Winflo? Something sparkly for my finger? That all sounds nice. But I keep telling him … I just want to live my everyday life.

dear daughters susie davis photo kate staffordWake up, drink coffee, meet with God. Light a few candles, make the bed, eat buttered toast. Think a lot, write a little, connect with people. Pull on my breeches, head to the barn, ride Kinetic. Laugh with my barn friends, marvel at creation then get in my little white Honda, drive thru PTerrys, and sip on the best Arnold Palmer in Austin.

This is the gift: My life.

And the great love I feel for you. For Will and Amy. And of course, for dad.

I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts. But mainly the kinds of things I want to gift to you. Not Grandma Mac’s dishes and all that. The big stuff. The kind of stuff that I learned the hard way. Or the kind of stuff I’ve watched my friends learn the hard way. Things you hopefully learn by 50 …

Think of these as gifts from one generation to another. Little love notes on life. Here we go:

dear daughters a letter on my 50th birthday

1. Love God first. With all your energy, all your life. He, my sweet daughters, is the greatest lover. Give daily attention to time with Him. Your relationship with Him. And don’t confuse ministry with relationship. Ministry is an opportunity to point others to God. Things like teaching, encouraging, serving, blogging, sharing journals on instagram. Stuff like that. But too often ministry can become all you have. That’s confusing relationship with ministry. God alone is the important thing. Teaching, sharing, encouraging is secondary. Keep your relationship with Him. At all costs.

2. Most of life is blessing management. I’ve talked about blessing management before but it’s good to remember: We spend most of our time managing our blessings. When I am stressed out about what I have to do ~ clean the house, write the book, go to PT, pay the bills, etc. ~ I must remember these are all blessings. Life is not a chore list. It is a blessing list. I have a house. I can shop for groceries, I have a job, I receive needed medical care. Blessings. Sometimes we have so many blessings, we cannot even manage them all. But that is not a reason for stress. It is actually a reason for great joy.

3. When life is difficult, take the 10 year perspective. This too shall pass. Whatever problems you are going through right now will pass. Imagine yourself in 10 years. Imagine how the problem will look in 10 years. You can either chose to take today’s perspective on your problems … or take the 10 year perspective. If you want to breathe and laugh and enjoy life, I advocate taking 10.

4. Pull up a chair. Some things never change … remember back in high school, when there were clearly designated lunch room tables? Everyone was supposed to sit with their group. At their table. People who moved around disrupted things for the table kings and queens. Because there were only so many spaces at the table. Please, dear daughters, don’t worry about designations. Just pull up a chair. People are just people, no matter which table. Don’t let the designations scare you. I think social media has made life feel like the lunch room all over again. But you be free. Pull up a chair any which where. 

5. Keep it Real. I would say I spent my 20′s suspended in an unreal, fantasy type existence. That fantasy was fear. I worried about all kinds of things that never even happened. This is what I know: Fear is a thief. It keeps you constantly, compulsively focused on fake stuff. The what-if’s in life. That haven’t even happened. There’s enough big, scary stuff in life. Don’t spend a minute on the things that are not real.

6. Don’t feed the bear. Speaking of fear, there actually is a good kind of fear. It’s the fear you feel when you’re hiking on a trail and you see a bear. A surge of adrenaline sends impulses and tells you to run … super healthy. And necessary. Life-saving stuff. But did you know that living totally stressed out about your everyday life can also create that adrenaline too? Packing your schedule so tight you feel like you can’t breathe, feeling every day like you’ll never get it all done … that’s a cortisol stress bath. And it’s unhealthy. It’s like feeding the bear. Don’t feed the bear.

7. Be wonder full. Tell people why they are wonderful. This is a Papa-ism. I learned it from him. So please follow in his footsteps and tell people why they are wonderful. When you’re at McDonalds, take a minute and study the cashier. There’s something wonderful. Find it. Then tell her. Maybe her voice or her beautiful skin. Something reflects the wonder of God. Gift them with your words. This works for the grumpy guy at the grocery store or the snobby hostess at my favorite restaurant ( ;) … everybody has something. This makes people smile. And it makes people feel loved. There’s enough out there beating people down. You work on being wonder full ~ spilling out all kinds of sunshine wherever you go.

8. Eat food. Please just eat food and don’t weird out about it. My generation spent plenty of time and energy weirding out about carbs and calories. We dissected our food into compartments. Because we were hyper concerned about our weight. Too concerned. So I’ve noticed, you and your friends seem to compartmentalize your food too. But more into ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ which sounds a lot better than what we did. But I kinda think it’s actually a lot about why we compartmentalized food: Body image issues. I am all for organic, whole foods, etc. but please don’t spend enormous amounts of time thinking about, deciding upon and contemplating food. Just eat food. And enjoy it.

9. Don’t spend a lot of money on your face. Or your breasts, etc. One day, not today, but one day you’ll look in the mirror and be completely surprised and overwhelmed by where the years have taken your beautiful young face. You’ll catch your reflection in the rearview mirror when it’s super sunny outside and you’ll gasp out loud: Ohmygosh. What happened to my face?!!? You’ll curse at yourself for not wearing sunscreen when you were younger. This is normal. But dear sweet daughter, it does not mean your face needs fixing. There is nothing wrong with a soft, liney face. (I keep telling myself this.) And there is nothing wrong with an aging body. This is also normal. I’ll be honest. It makes me a little sad to watch me and your dad age. And it’s hard to sit with sad sometimes. But throwing money at sad never fixed a thing.

10. Never forget I love you. There may be a day when I don’t remember you. I’m not trying to be morbid, really. I’m just trying to accept that with an aging body sometimes an aging mind. I joke a lot about forgetting things. I’m fuzzy like that. Always have been. But you and I both know firsthand people we love going through a real forgetfulness. And it is horrible. One of the things I’m definitely going to ask God about. That and also why children must one day parent their parents. These things I do not understand. But I know that it is the way things often work out. If the two of you ever get to this with me … you must remember this: I LOVE YOU. And I’m proud of you. And I always want to be ‘mom’ to you. If my body and mind fail and I’m not ‘mom’ in the same sort of way, please remember I love you. And my whole life is built around loving you and Will and dad. My whole life. The chances I’ve had to do things like found a church or write a book, pale pale pale in comparison to being your mom. You remember that. Yes? I love you.

Gracious. I’m 50 today. Think I’ll go out and love some of this life God gave me.

But hey moms, what would you say to your daughters? How would you gift them?

And daughters, any thoughts?

PS. All these gorgeous photos are by my niece, Kate Stafford. Want to feel happy? Visit her website.