15 Things I Want My Daughters to Know

March 11, 2013 | 37 comments

15 Things I Want My Daughters to Know

Dear Daughters,

There are approximately 10,952 things I want you to know, but these 15 are the ones I absolutely, positively pray that you will never, ever forget.

1 – I will always love you.


As in, you can’t get de-loved in this house — or in this life. You might just make massive plumes of steam roll out of my ears, but I’ll never, ever un-love you.

girls reading books, feet

2 – You are brave.

I can’t tell you that enough. I already marvel at what you can do, little ones. I love how you think big and believe in doing justice and how you gather up coins and prayers like every single one can make a difference. And you’re absolutely right. They can. They do! You said it first: You don’t have to be a grown-up to do big things for God. 

3 – You are enough.

The world will tell you there’s something better for your life — if you’d only try harder, get cuter, make the Honor Roll, tell a better joke, drive a better car, shrink into a smaller pair of jeans. You’ll face some really big “Not Enoughs” in this life. And girls, those Not-Enoughs are fierce and stubborn.

Be stubborn-er.

Here’s the deal: I’ve seen what you’re made of: you’re brave enough to say “Enough!” to the Not-Enoughs.

little girl in heels

4 – No one in this world is ever too far from grace.

I want to grab you by the shoulders for this one, and tell you eye to eye. No one is too far. No one. Remember that truth, when you want to write someone off. Remember that, when the grace-hungry “someone” is looking at you in the mirror.

5 – Take good notes.

Keep a prayer journal. Tell your diary how you’re mad at the world, and how you’re mad at me. Write a letter to the editor at least once. Fold up love letters in actual envelopes. Pen some really bad poetry, and — who knows? — you might end up with a masterpiece when you weren’t even looking. Hand-write your recipes. And when you get to college, write home to your mother.

when your heart speaks take good notes

6 – You will want to give up. Don’t.

There are worse things in life than failing. First on the list: Not trying.

Important lessons are learned in those moments when things don’t turn out the way you hoped, and I’ve only begun to learn it. As brave as you are, those bitter failures might make you even braver.

brave girls

7 – It really is all about Jesus.

Someone might say this one should be first on the list. But I saved it for the middle. You wanna know why? Because that’s where you’ll need to remember it most–when you’re smack-dab in the middle. In the middle of life,
of the valley,
of the struggle,
of the dark,
in the middle of your crumb-covered kitchen floor
while you’re on your knees
begging for the good grace of God
to rescue you.

Make this one here — No. 7 — your religion. You will never regret it.

bible on stack of books

8 – Love people just as they are, not as you wish them to be.

Not everyone believes that “it is all about Jesus.” Love them anyway.

Also, not everyone is nice or brave or thinking grace is an actual thing. Also, just so you know, some people smell funny and say naughty words. (You don’t have to up-and-marry the person; just love ’em. )

9 – The Bible will freak you out.

Keep reading. It’s not the end of the book.

10 – Always leave an empty seat at the table.

Everyone wants to know they belong. Let them know they do. Keep a chair open, and let them do most of the talking.

11 – Remember, I’m always here.

You had no trouble letting me know that you needed me at 3 a.m. when you were my baby. Why change things up now? Look, you’ll always be my baby.

12 — Go to church.

Yes some of the people there will annoy you. But guess what? You will annoy some of the people there. Go anyway. Church was God’s idea. So let’s all try to make it work. It’s a crazy system, but you’ll find some of your best friends there. And they’ll be the ones at your kids’ weddings. And depending on how things turn out, they will be at your very own funeral.

13 – Be nice to old people.

I say this somewhat selfishly, because I’m going to be an old person someday, God-willing. And come to think of it, so will you. Do unto others, girls, do unto others.

14 – Live outside of your comfort zone.

That’s where all the cool stuff happens. And you are cool people. I’d hate for you to miss out.

15 – It’s good to come home.

We will forever love your texts and your Facebook messages and your phone calls and your letters that we begged you for (see No. 5), but we will never tire of your sweet cheeks and your hugs and the way you make fun of us in the most endearing ways possible. We’ll be waiting on the porch. As in, hours before your headlights show up in the driveway.

As long as I live, I’ll be waiting on the porch for you…


by | March 11, 2013 | 37 comments


  1. ro elliott

    just a wonderful list…a list full of love…oh yes…#15 yes …yes…especially when they are bringing those grand loves 🙂 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Ro … You know, I haven’t actually experienced #15. But I’m guessing that’s how it will go. I hope so anyway! 🙂 … Thank you for the confirmation. 🙂

  2. Simply Darlene

    “Grace-hungry” – that’s all of us, aye?

    So beautyFull.


    • dukeslee

      Yes ma’am … All of us, grace-hungry people at the door of the banquet hall. And He bids us come. I’m so grateful. (Love you, Darlene…)

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Thelma. Your words are affirming to me as a writer, and as a mother. 🙂 Love you.

  3. Linda ww

    Can’t think of a single thing to add Jennifer. The day you are waiting on the porch will come in the blink of an eye. It is so wise to plant these seeds in their hearts now. They will bear good fruit.

    • dukeslee

      Linda … I’m afraid it will come fast, yes… I got choked up, just writing about it, and I haven’t even experienced it. Thanks for standing on the porch with me a while. 🙂

  4. Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    Oh good heavens, Jennifer. You’ve got me all teary-eyed here. I don’t think there’s a daughter in the world who doesn’t need to hear these things. Or a son. Or a brother or a sister. I think I really needed to hear these today.

    • dukeslee

      You know what? I think even us “big girls” need to hear it from time to time. You’re absolutely right. Love you, Nancy Franson!

  5. Dawn@Dawnings

    You have outdone yourself on behalf of mamas everywhere. Thank you.

  6. Kathy Schwanke

    Simply BEAUTIFUL! This list, and your darling girls AND their mama! You are a star Jennifer…the kind Philippians talks about. Thanks for filling up always and spilling out His love.

  7. monicasharman

    For this post, I am going to make you my mother. At this point I think I could most benefit from 6, 7, and 8. Thanks, ma. 🙂

  8. Annie Barnett

    Love this, Jennifer. So much sweetness and earnest mama-heart here.

  9. Nancy Kourmoulis

    All heartwarming, but the last line, “As long as I live, I’ll be waiting on the porch for you…” had tears running down my cheeks. Perhaps because I can see my Mamaw swinging with our daughter on her front porch or my own mother with her great-grandson on that same swing as we pull into the same driveway. Perhaps it is because the last six months has seen Precious husband and I build a front porch on our house as we are down to 3 of 6 children at home. All 15 things we need to hear and say.

  10. Leah Adams

    These are all so good, but ‘you are enough’ really touched me. The world tells us every day, in a thousand different ways that we are not enough. It is why I nearly starved myself to death. It is why I fell into sexual sin. It is why so many do much that will be regrettable. What a great message to give your girls.

  11. Stephani

    Okay so I have a huge lump in my throat! Your daughters will cherish this in years to come!

  12. Floyd

    Awesome list, Jennifer… And they know God will be there waiting with you… Deeply moved…

  13. Abby

    This is beautifully done, an example for many parents to follow. You may never know how far reaching your words are, but God does and I’m sure He will make sure this message gets out. Thank you for sharing your heart here Jennifer. I’ll share this on my fb page for moms. Blessings to you and yours dear one.

  14. laura

    So many good things to teach our children. And to learn for ourselves. Some of these, I’m still learning 😉

  15. Jillie

    This is a great list of all the most important things your girls need always remember and never forget! Can’t help but feel sad that my Mom didn’t have the time, nor the health, to tell me all these vital things for my life. How blessed Lydia and Anna are, to have a Mom like you. To know they’re always loved, always good enough, always seen by the Saviour. Wish I’d known these things in the younger days of my life.

  16. JulieS

    Thanks for sharing your heart — again — Jennifer. I love the simplicity and straightforwardness. Your girls are so blessed to call you “mama.”

    I think my three boys need a list like this… before they leave for college.

    And I think I needed to read this as a daughter — to gain some insight into some of the things my mom has tried to tell me, but I didn’t really listen — especially the “it’s good to come home” part.

    Thank you.

  17. Diana Trautwein

    Gorgeous list, Jen. And exactly YOU. Thanks for it, friend.

  18. Jean Wise

    This is a wonderful list. Have you thought of self publishing it and giving it to her? I bet you could sell copies of it too!

    • Court

      This is fabulous. I needed to hear these things and certainly my daughter does too. I especially like the loving people as they need not as we want, that is a hard one, and one I scream for myself but forget to give to others.

  19. Dayna DeLaVergne

    Your girls are very, very lucky to have you for their mom! These are beautiful reminders for the rest of us too–about how to parent well.

  20. Rachael

    Oh my! A treasured blog post for any mother’s heart. Thank you for putting in words the cry of my own heart for my own girls.

  21. Holly

    I hope you don’t mind, I forwarded the post to my two daughters. I wish I had said these words, but my heart is in the same place! Thank you for sharing…

  22. Megan Willome

    I like how you put No. 7 in the middle and your explanation of why you did it.

    This list is hard to read right now. But nothing in it is wrong.

  23. Shelly Miller

    Lovely Jennifer, your heart for your girls and these wise words.

  24. Nancy Ruegg

    Such good advice, even for older (way older!) daughters. Especially appreciated #7, which puts all the questions and messiness of life into proper perspective. Thank you, Jennifer, for your tender heart and down-to-earth wisdom in each and every post.

  25. Kristen Strong

    Love this a thousand times over, Jennifer. Just beautiful.

  26. Meredith

    When your book gets published I need a audioversion on CD. I love hearing the voice of the author on audio CD. Your voice will be perfect for your book. Read your Dordt email when you get a chance



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