I can’t believe I’m writing my last Dear Emma blog. Where has the year gone? It seems like just yesterday it was January and we were eagerly embarking on 2018, and now here we are bringing it to a close. What a year it has been. As I look back, it has been a year of new experiences, dreams accomplished and precious memories made. However, it has also been a year of changing and growing by leaps and bounds. On one hand, I find myself so wishing time would just stand still and I could freeze frame our family at this stage forever, yet at the same time I’m so excited for what the future holds. The truth is, the more I think about it, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the past or just desperately holding on to the present or even looking only to the future. The older I get, the more I realize that it really is a delicate balance of cherishing the past, savoring the present, and looking to the future with excitement that makes up this beautiful thing called life and helps us grow and experience all that God has for us. As your mom, it truly is my heart’s prayer and desire that you would experience the amazing plans God has for you and not miss out on one thing, and I pray this blog over the last year has challenged you to live with gratitude, courage, humility, kindness, uniqueness, forgiveness, with dreams, with a teachable heart, with honesty, boldness, and generosity. The funny thing is I thought I was writing it for you, but the reality is every single month it has worked in my own heart and has been a powerful reminder to me that no one has arrived. We all have to keep learning, growing, and keeping our eyes on Jesus, who is the only perfect example to follow.
As I have been choosing qualities each month to blog about, this last quality is truly one of my favorites and I think it is such a great one to end on—being all in and fully committed to excellence. I love the verse, “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your strength” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). I think that it is important to understand there are no shortcuts in life when it comes to giving your all. Notice the verse says, “all your strength.” I believe when we do things halfheartedly, it shows that we are not fully committed to whatever we are doing. It takes an unwavering sold-out commitment to excellence to be successful. Excellence should be a given to everything we do because not only does it have our name on it, but if we are followers of Jesus, it bears His name as well. Thus, there is no room for laziness. To be successful we must give our all. We also need to take notice of the first part of the verse, “Whatever your hands find to do…” Lovey, it’s easy to give our all to the things we enjoy and skip over the things we don’t, but that will not get us ahead in life. Shortcuts rarely pay off and often require us doing tasks over and over, putting us further behind than when we started. Whatever your hands find to do—whether cleaning toilets, playing a sport, singing, doing laundry, mowing lawns, fixing meals, doing schoolwork, or working a job, all the menial daily tasks can be done with or without excellence. The choice is up to us—a choice that may seem trivial, but a choice that defines the essence of who we are.
I have shared this with you before about the camp that gave me my start with singing. In addition to my singing responsibilities, remember how I was also given the job of cleaning the girl’s bathroom each day? Have you ever cleaned a bathroom shared by 100 or more teenage girls? Let’s just say it was far from glamorous! I remember mopping that nasty bathroom floor one day singing, “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, and He will life you up” (James 4:10). I also remember mucking the beach. Since I know you have never had the privilege of doing this unique task, let me describe it to you: basically, you stand in the shallow end of the beach on an upright metal mattress frame which is pulled behind a truck. The purpose of this is to clean the beach of all the debris that has collected through the winter and to smooth it all out. Now for some, this was no big deal at all, but to this girly girl you have to know how much I dreaded being up to my waist in mud. Can you picture it? I have thought back to those memories a number of times and both cringed and laughed all at the same time. But as with anything in life, we have a choice of whether we are going to give it our all or whether we are not. Here’s what I learned: if we will be faithful in the small, thankless tasks in life, then we can be trusted with the larger ones down the road. When we give our all to even the unglamorous, it shows we are committed to excellence in whatever we do and we will not accept anything less than our best, which is a key trait of champions.
Being All In is more than just pursuing excellence, it also means being committed for the long haul. In other words, never giving up. This is so much easier said than done because challenges arise and sometimes it’s just plain old hard, and we get tired and weary. But nothing takes the place of determination and sticking with it no matter the cost. You have to stay at it when you’re up and when you’re down. You must stick it out whether you feel like it or not. Let’s face it, there are days when we may not feel like even getting out of bed in the morning much less giving everything our all, but we must not fall into the trap of allowing our feelings to be our guide. Feelings come and go, and feelings change. Therefore, it is commitment that we must go on in order to be successful. When I was a student at Liberty University, Dr. Falwell would challenge us not to quit. At the beginning of every semester, when the workload would kick in and then during finals week, when we could barely keep our heads above water, he would always read the poem, Don’t Quit. The truth is, sweet girl, the road to success is often marked with good intentions, but in order to reach our dreams we must replace good intentions with commitment. Commitment to integrity, excellence, and perseverance are just a few of the important life principles that can take us from being average to extraordinary. While these principles don’t guarantee success, they certainly give us greater potential for rising above the obstacles that come our way and boldly living out our dreams.
Lastly, Being All In is recognizing that you are here for a greater purpose. You are here to glorify God and to point people to Him. When it is all said and done, it’s not going to be how much money you made, how popular you were, what kind of house you lived in, or what kind of car you drove. What is going to last forever is whether or not you knew Jesus and lived for Him with all that you had inside. So, let the last words of my final blog to you be this: Live for Jesus! Be All In for the One who gave His all for YOU! I promise, you will never regret it. He will bless you more than you could ever imagine. I can tell you from 46 years of experience that there is nothing greater than being fully committed to Him. Yes, we still have problems just like anyone else, but the difference is we have the Lord Jesus who is with us every step of the way—leading us, providing for us, protecting us, using us, blessing us, and promising us a future in Heaven with Him for all of eternity. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain in living a life that is sold-out and All In for Him. My sweet Emma, I pray you never settle for anything less than God’s best and His amazing plan for you. I am so proud to be your mom. Always know that I am here for you, and I am praying for you and cheering you on every step of the way!
I love you forever, Mom