Today you turn 18. We cannot tell you how much joy and happiness you have brought into our family as our second of four children, and first of two daughters. Family and friends would often tell us about this day and how quickly it would arrive. We really didn’t believe just how right they were. So today, on your 18th birthday, Mom and I want to pause and tell you just how proud we are of the godly daughter you have become, and how incredibly thankful we are to God for giving us the privilege of being your parents.
Unspeakable joy would define the past 18 years. One of our earliest memories is the special time we shared watching your favorite movie when you were little – Dumbo! Oh how I (Dad) loved to sing along when the song – Baby Mine – came on, gently rocking you in my arms. We remember how we could not come home from Disney World without a stuffed Dumbo in your arms (and your bedroom closet testifies to this truth).
As you were growing up with your older brother Brock, we saw the incredible competitive nature that was developing within you. For you and Brock, EVERYTHING was a competition. Brock played baseball so you wanted to play baseball and were the only girl on your T-Ball team. Brock played soccer so you wanted to play soccer. Brock was in karate so you wanted to be in karate, both of you going all the way to black belt. We will never forget after one of the US Open Martial Arts competitions in Orlando, when you took first prize in your division for forms and fighting at the age of 8. On the way home, Brock spotted the Putt Putt place and ask if we could stop and play, so we did. What happened next we will never forget, especially your brother Brock. After Brock took the first putt you stepped up and took the second putt. The only difference was Brock actually putted, and you took a full swing, hitting the ball out of sight, and whacking Brock on the top of the head. So much for the Putt Putt competition.
Then volleyball became your sport of choice and we remember you telling us that was the only sport you wanted to participate in as a 6th grader with the hopes of one day playing at the next level. You are now entering your senior season as one of the captains of your team and in November, will be signing your commitment letter to Stetson University to play Division I volley ball, both indoors and on the sand (and you will be once again, joining your older brother Brock who will then be a 3rd year student at Stetson on a music scholarship). The only thing stronger than your competitive drive is your commitment to doing whatever it takes to be your absolute best.
We will never forget the conversation at the dinner table when we talked about being a church-planting family. Brock was excited. Katie wanted to be famous. And the Tank just wanted to make sure we would have plenty of snacks to eat. You, on the other hand said these words through a veil of tears, ”Daddy, I really don’t want to leave all of my friends from our church.” Even though we would only be a few miles up the road, we knew the truth and reality of that statement. But, as always, you accepted the challenge of church planting and today, four years later, many of your friends have joined you at The Cross. In fact, last night at youth group, I am told the group of 43 high school students sang happy birthday to you! And now, Mom and I cannot describe the overwhelming joy we experience in seeing you playing the drums on the praise and worship team on some Sunday mornings. God is so good.
With these as just a few highlights, let us close with what is most important to us: your love and commitment to Jesus. Growing up in the church, our greatest concern as your parents was to make sure that your relationship with Jesus was personal and that your faith was your own. As John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Mom and I are so thankful to God for giving us this kind of joy. You are an incredible daughter of God, and as beautiful as you are on the outside, you are even more beautiful on the inside. You truly understand and live out these twin truths:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gently and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4
This really is true for you. You do fear (love and reverence) the Lord and you do have such a gentle and quiet spirit. Over the years, we have watched your faith in Jesus grow and mature and your relationships with your friends deepen. We are so very thankful to God for these 18 years and know one thing for certain . . . regardless of what the future holds, we know Jesus is holding on to you and will never let you go! And for Mom and me, that is enough to know.
Happy 18th Birthday Jenna. We love you so very much!
Dad & Mom