A Letter for Daughters

August 13, 2012 | 37 comments

Dear Daughters,

It would be silly to say I knew what I was doing, that I was the mother making the daughters.

Because it’s always been the other way around: The daughters have made the mother.

I’ve tried to hold things together here with all kinds of strings, tying together our days with feeding regimens, napping schedules, chore lists.

Turns out, the real strings that have bound us were these —

middle-of-the-night kisses,
whispered songs in the dark,
prayers every morning,
and every silly act of spontaneity that never once appeared on a to-do list.

Motherhood isn’t for amateurs, but every first time mother is just that: an amateur. Jesus is the only hero in this house. And the Father will still stand as the surest string tying everything together, even if it looks like it’s all falling apart.

God has hemmed us in to the real heart of a life, and it beats like this: Jesus … Jesus … Jesus.

Girls, I love you to the moon and back.

But love means your Dad and I let go a little every day.

We let a little more of that string out, sending you higher, like a diamond kite against the bright-blue dome of the heavens. We watch you fly.

And someday you’ll soar.

You girls are capable for greatness, but watch out for the way the world defines greatness. It will seduce you. Greatness will wear names like significance and ambition. Don’t forget that you are already significant in Christ.

The thing about greatness is this: the greatest lives are marked with love, not trophies. Love peopleOn your own roads toward life’s meaning, you’ll pass by someone everyday who needs you. Stop for the one lying at the side of the road.

And don’t forget that you might be the one who needs help most. Don’t be afraid to ask. And I promise you this: I’ll always keep the phone close.

I won’t let go of the string, because once you girls made me a mother, I committed to forever.

No, I won’t let go of the string, but I won’t hang on too tight either. I am your mother, not your compass. God is your GPS, the only way to fly True North.

I have wanted to be the kind of mama to show you that it was safe to trust God, to let the string out even when it felt risky. We framed your Dad’s words and hung them on the kitchen wall to remember: “God’s Got It.”

I have wanted you to know me as a mother who chose prayer over worry, sacrifice over status. I have wanted you to know me as one who sees glasses as being half full … and who doesn’t cry over the spilled ones.

I haven’t always practiced what I preached. But in those times, I pray that you remember how Christ was every ounce of strength to overmatch your mama’s weakness.

Know, above all else, that you are irrevocably loved and adored by a Savior. This is the single greatest gift of all humanity. Unwrap it every day.

There’s more:

Jesus says let the children come to me. In God’s eyes, you’re always a kid.

When God is enough for you, you will always have enough. God is your significance.

Erase grudges. Catalog graces.

Don’t just say your prayers. Be someone’s answer.

Forgive your enemies. And forgive yourself.

And never outgrow the need to hold hands when crossing the street.


I pray that you always keep your spiritual eyes open and your minds alert. God gives outlandish and marvelous gifts, but you have to be paying attention to see them. God’s gifts don’t often appear under Christmas trees. Rather, they are gifts that “happen” — often in moments when you’ve poured yourself out. Someday you will see what I mean, when you stop at the side of the road for the one who needs you.

There’s something else I need you to know: You may doubt. Your mama doubted, and I know you’ve seen what it looks like when doubt flips over, to let faith grow from the mossy underside. That’s why you see your mama cry in church some Sundays, and why she raises her hands when she sings, and why she prays for you while she folds your denim.

It really is okay to ask hard questions about God, and to wade your way into the theological deep, but don’t forget that love is never out of reach. You can find it in the shallow end of the pool.

Your Savior is a tireless Savior, and He won’t leave you. Ever.

No really. E-VER.

His goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. In the Hebrew, “follow” is radaph. And it means to pursue, to chase.

God is chasing you. 

(Guess who wins that race?)

And dear daughters, if you ever wonder how I know what I’m talking about — well then, follow the string that will lead you home. And the woman at the end of the string — the mother you made, the mother who wants you to know more than anything else how much God loves you, and who is a recipient of God’s unrelenting grace — she has a story for you.

Much love,



Submitted in community with Laura Boggess today:

by | August 13, 2012 | 37 comments


  1. Susan

    Beautiful, Jennifer. Keep pouring into your girls, no matter how tired or overwhelmed you feel. Few things are better than watching your children blossom and grow in their faith.

    Hugs from VA,

    • dukeslee

      Thank you for the encouragement, Susan. May God be my strength, even when I think it’s ME who’s strong. 🙂

  2. Sandra Heska King

    Heading to the bathroom for a cold washcloth. Your mama’s heart overwhelms me.

    • dukeslee

      Hi Sandy,

      Motherhood is overwhelming — in all the best ways, too. I’ve been overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God, the forgiveness of children, and the still-amazing grace of a Savior.

  3. Amy

    So beautiful. It could be the pregnancy hormones, but that made me a little weepy. I love this:

    I have wanted you to know me as a mother who chose prayer over worry, sacrifice over status. I have wanted you to know me as one who sees glasses as being half full … and who doesn’t cry over the spilled ones.

    I just may type that up as a reminder to myself of what I want my kids to know.

    • dukeslee

      Hi Amy … Congratulations on your pregnancy. It’s been eight years since I was pregnant, but I’m still weepy. 🙂

      • Amy

        Lol. That’s how long it’s been since the last time I was pregnant too. Um, I still haven’t accepted it.

        • dukeslee

          Me either. But I thought you really WERE pregnant! 😛

  4. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    The letting out of that string. It’s a lifetime’s work, yes?

    Just beautiful.

    • dukeslee

      I’m guessing so, Sheila. I’m only beginning to learn.

      Thank you for being here.

  5. Cindy

    Having two daughters (grown now), I was so struck by this beautiful letter. Looking back and seeing God’s grace in raising them, I am so thankful that He was the one who really did the raising. After my surgery last week, they were there to take care of me. I told my oldest daughter how much I appreciated her. She said, “Mom, that’s what daughters do!” I am so thankful to God that He gave me three beautiful children who love me. What a gift. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      How wonderful, Cindy, to see that love and nurturing come full circle from your children.

      My girls are only 10 and 8, but I still see hints of that full-circle nurturing. Different times when I’ve been sick, the girls have tip-toed into my bedroom to “tuck me in,” and to offer toast and tea and prayer.

      • Daniel Farrow

        Jennifer. I’ve seen that full circle from the perspective of being the youngest son. I’ve stood with my Mom when her Dad was on his deathbed and, even though that was hard for me, I was grateful to be there for her. Thank you for sharing this. Its a blessing and a great encouragement. 😀

  6. ro.ellott

    Oh wow…this is just beautiful…so much here…yes we are not there compass/Holy Spirit/God in their lives…this along with letting out the string …i am finding is a life long process…learning right now to release in my heart…even when it means no being able to see my grandlove as much…this adds a whole new dimension to letting go…blessings and may we not get rope burn from holding on to tight:)

  7. Shelly Miller

    This is gorgeous. Inspired by the way you love your girls, the way you show them Jesus. I’m writing a requested guest post, a letter to my son and this was good food for that. Thank you.

  8. Jillie

    This is beautiful Jennifer. All the tears I’ve cried over my ‘little girl’ who turns 26 this week—so worth it. All the prayers over folded denim—so worth it. She has blossomed into a lovely married woman who, herself, loves ‘fiercely’. I pray she will be the one who stops to help the one on the side of the road, because that’s what Christ is all about.
    (I hope you print out your own letters to your daughters and slip them into their Baby Books?) As one who lost her mother at 21 years of age, they would be cherished treasure forever to your girls.

  9. Deb Russell

    Beautiful Jennifer … I’ve been thinking some of these very same things but you put it all into words so wonderfully, better than I ever could. The beginning of the school year and the end of the school year always makes me a bit sentimental, just like this. Thank you for always speaking from your heart.

  10. Lynn Morrissey

    What an exquisite, heartfelt post, Jennifer. I felt a holy hush when I read it–as if you had peeled back a layer of your heart for us to read something completely intimate and reverent and pure. I love that you allowed your daughters to make you a mom. I don’t think we are born mothers. Truly wonderful moms are made. You must have two truly wonderful daughters!!! Congratulations!
    Love, Lynn

  11. Rebecca LeCompte

    Beautiful words that resonate in my soul. As the mom of 3, two sons and a daughter, I have felt these things many times. Our oldest, 20, is in college. It has been a delight to watch him soar…a testimony to God’s great faithfulness.

  12. Kristi

    Precious words, Jennifer. I’m going to forward them to my daughters. So beautiful and so much truth. Three of my four daughters have flown from the nest…one making me grandmommy to yet to another little girl.
    You have blessed my heart today! Thank you!

  13. Ann Kroeker

    Good stuff. I hope they read it many times at many stages of life…all the way until they become mothers and then again when they’re daughters need to see these words passed along.

  14. Brandee Shafer

    My favorite part is the one about being someone’s answer.

  15. SimplyDarlene

    That last image sums it up real nice, miss JDL.

    (is school starting soon in Iowa?)


  16. Karen

    Oh, tears…and nods…for this applies to those of us with sons as well…you are blessed, and I hope your girls know what a treasure their mom is…and I have a feeling they do…isn’t it beyond wonderful to be tethered forever to such wonderful creatures?

    “…the greatest lives are marked with love, not trophies.” Amen!!

  17. CrazyBlessed

    Wow, this was beautiful,inspiring, and made me want to go wake my kids up and give them some more hugs, wait…Who am I kidding they are probably still awake right now anyways. ;)On that note, I am off to give some big momma hugs to my precious munchkins! Thank you. 🙂

  18. Linda

    As you pour your very heart into your girls, He pours out grace. And all those things we wish we’d done just a wee bit better are covered. He is ever present.

  19. floyd

    A letter for your daughters to cherish forever. A letter of love and truth, what a blessing. Thanks for letting us take a peek over your shoulder into a miraculous life that God has blessed abundantly…

  20. Paula

    Amen! So eloquently said and true to the heart.

  21. Chelle

    My daughter is growing up…I smiled and sighed all the way through this. To teach your children this,
    “It really is okay to ask hard questions about God, and to wade your way into the theological deep, but don’t forget that love is never out of reach. You can find it in the shallow end of the pool”
    I think is one of the most powerful lessons ever. Thank you for sharing this. Every mama needs to hear it.
    Peace and good to you.

  22. Dayna DeLaVergne

    Another beautiful post…I had to send it to my daughter…who has a 1-year-old daughter of her own.
    Beautiful, beautiful!
    Thank you so much for sharing your gift–for continuing to make yourself vulnerable for the sake of so many unknown “others.”

  23. kelli

    Oh, the One who pursues, He is the string holding us all together.
    Now that’s something to stand on in a crazy world with seven of my own kids and letting go a little at a time . . . thanks for this, Jennifer.

  24. Elizabeth, wynnegraceappears

    Jennifer, you have painted a masterpiece with your deep down mamma’s heart words. WOW. Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart and your precious daughter’s pictures. Thank you friend, you steward-well that gift He gave you.

  25. Dea

    My Annie is 24 and bulging with baby girl. (She will be 19 months younger than her sister.) We were in the car a couple of weeks ago, she was in the passenger seat. As we rode quietly, she reached out and grabbed my hand. I kept my cool but it’s been awhile since I held it. It was heavenly—a gift.

    And this a gift to your girls. I pray they will always reach for your hand.

  26. Diane Bailey

    Oh, such a tender letter to the ones who will always have strings to our hearts. I have two grown girls, one by birth the other by marriage to her dad. Watching them leave the protection of our hands has been exciting, and tearful.

    This is beautiful Jennifer. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.


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