Austin, on Saturday, you will turn 12. I can’t believe it as I type it. Where did the last 12 years go? I know I blinked, but I also know I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss the moments that are forever etched in my memory. I didn’t miss the laughter. I didn’t miss the ballgames and cheering you as you excel. I didn’t miss our talks on long drives. I didn’t miss you being baptized and leading with a quiet strength. It just went by so fast.

I know when I blink again, you’ll be a man. Sometimes I swear you already are. Time is moving so fast. So before it is gone, before these moments pass in a blink. Before I forget or don’t get to tell you. Let me leave you with this charge.

Love well – You’ve got a heart that beats for people. Don’t ever lose that. Hold them in the highest regard. Protect and guard your heart, but never, ever be afraid to love well.

Love your mother – In many ways I hope I’ve modeled this for you. Son, love your mom. Cherish her. Honor her. Learn from her. She will be the example of the godly wife I’m already praying for you one day. Love your mom son.

Love your sisters – Protect family. There is no greater core of which you must protect. Honor them. Care for them. You’re our first born and they follow as you lead. Never let someone minimize the beauty and strength of your sisters. Protect family.

Lead well – We all lead in different ways. Some lead by a voice. Some lead by example. In your first 12 years, I see a leader by example. Live how you live and do what you do. In these ways you will lead without ever saying a word. Should a time come to speak up, speak with confidence. Earn respect and your words will land softly on all that would listen.

Never stop learning – For 12 years I’ve witnessed you do well at what came easy and work hard at the things that didn’t. Never stop your pursuit in all arenas. If it’s sports, act like you’ve been there. If it’s education, act like you can always learn more. You have been blessed in so many ways. The best way to honor those gifts is to continue to refine and grow each one.

Be the change – Last but not least, I charge you in your faith. There will be questions you can’t answer. There will be moments you can’t explain. That’s why it’s faith. Lean into Gods grace. Trust His hand. Seek His face. Proceed in His strength. While I try to be there for most everything, God will be there for all things. I’ve probably failed you many times, but He will never fail you. Your faith will guide you to be the change in this world. Help the ones that need help. Protect those that can’t protect themselves. Fight for the ones who need defending. Trust Gods timing. When it feels like it’s been too long, trust it even more.

There’s no formula or magic recipe for raising a Godly son. I’ve told you many times that we’re doing this together. This is my first time at this parenting thing too. Yet somehow, you’ve risen to be a son I couldn’t be more proud of. It is my honor to be your dad. I have no greater joy than you and your sisters. I have no greater job than being called your dad. Thank you for that. Thank you for who you’ve become even despite my flaws. Happy Birthday Austin.

Love – Dad.