A letter to my daughter when she turned 16

This Saturday our family will experience another “first” when Rachel, our third-born daughter, is married. Her husband-to-be is Ricky Davis, a wonderful young man from our church in Cape Coral. The process leading up to this day began over 18 months ago when Ricky told me of his interest. I have been humbled to see how the Lord has led during that time, making clear His will for their lives.

It has also been encouraging to see how they have sought and followed counsel and worked out their devotion to Christ as they have become devoted to one another. In fact, their approach to their relationship would be considered “odd” even by conservative, Christian standards today. I have been blessed to watch them along the way.

The last few days have provided lots of opportunities to trek down memory lane, reviewing the last 22 years with Rachel. On her sixteenth birthday, her two older sisters put together for her a special book of encouragement that included brief letters from a few friends and family. Yesterday I came across my contribution to that effort. I post it below in honor her impending wedding.

Rachel has always been open to my advice. Saturday, she will definitely take an important piece of it when she marries Ricky, because, in addition to being a godly man, he makes her laugh.

Dear Rachel:

You are a precious gift of God to our family. For sixteen years you have blessed us with your sensitive spirit and servant heart. I am so proud to be your dad. The Lord has special plans for you and I look forward to seeing how they will unfold. I am very encouraged with how the Lord is working in you. Keep focusing on Him and remember what is important.

I won’t always be around to dispense my fatherly advice, so I jotted down a few thoughts that might be worth remembering after I am gone. There is nothing new here. You have heard it all before. But maybe it will be helpful to have this collections of aphorisms all in one place. Happy sixteenth birthday!

Improve your vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to learn new words, like “aphorism.” Share your peanuts. Bathe daily. Wash your hair at least 3 times a week. Brush your teeth after every meal. Floss. Respect your elders. Be kind to those less fortunate than you. Turn off lights. It’s good practice for the time that is coming when you will pay the bills. Use sunscreen. Write letters. Don’t forget to send thank-you notes.

Be a good friend. If you have a good friend, consider yourself rich. Don’t love money. Don’t love things and use people to get them. Love people and use things to show them. Study hard. Take vacations. Laugh. Marry someone who will help you do so.

Read your Bible daily. Meditate on truth. Memorize it. Pray. Keep a journal. Repent when you sin. Believe in forgiveness. Forgive. Think of the cross every day. Remember heaven.

Take risks, but only for eternal reasons. Live dangerously. Hope big. Never compromise convictions. Never demand that others accept your mere opinions. Be sure what you believe. Be respectful toward authority. Evaluate what you are taught in the light of Scripture.

Never underestimate the value of church. Find a good one and live near it. Organize your life around its life. Help other people. Let other people help you. Listen more than you talk.

Don’t underestimate the power of encouragement. It is easy to give and it goes a long way. Give away money. Not necessarily all of it but enough of it to remind yourself of how unimportant it is. Make eternal investments.

Never jump out of a tree unless you know where you are going to land. Do not doubt in the dark what God has taught you in the light. Sing. Dance; especially with your children.

Read good books, the kind that will make you a better person. Make them your friends. Especially read biographies. Teach your children to love reading.

Finally, impress on your children early in their lives the importance of visiting their grandparents regularly!

I love you.


Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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