Gift 50 – The First Three Words You Ever Heard

Before you were born, I thought long and hard about just what I wanted to say to you in your first minutes of air-breathing life. What should be the very first words your brand new ears ever hear? Your mom didn’t think it mattered too much; after all, you won’t be able to understand human speech for a long time yet. But to me this was important.

Part of me knows that words are just words. But deep down I still secretly think that words—all words—are incantations of a sort, doing things to those on whom they fall. And so I’m praying these words, three little words, do their work in you until you become like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaves never wither (Psalm 1).

photo (27)I wanted the first words you ever heard to be like good soil for you to grow in. I want these words to be a firm foundation under your feet, allowing you the freedom to try and fail, the liberty to trust, the strength to be yourself in an age of pretending. And though you won’t understand their meaning at first, I will take you back to these first three words often—on good days and on bad ones. When you’re navigating identity issues, or celebrating a birthday, or hurt by the words of a classmate, or getting ready for a date, we’ll revisit these words together. I’ll say to you, “Do you know what the very first thing ever said to you was?”

Whether you feel like it or not, these words are truth. Fact, even. No matter what you do you will not be able to shake the whole worlds of meaning they hold, brimming just beneath the surface. You are stuck in these three words, and I’m sorry but there’s nothing you can do about it. Whatever shape your identity takes in the years ahead, it will forever be building off of your base, your starting point, the irrevocable, unalterable, irreversible reality that




My Favorite Place: The Great Outdoors (by Andrew Russ)

My big brother Andrew is a mix between Tom Bombadil and Aragorn. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m trying to say two things. First, Andrew is more in-tune with creation than anyone I know. His ears are open to the words God wants to tell us about Himself through his world. Second, Andrew is an expert guide. Though he is ahead, he is always looking back to make sure I’m making it okay. Whether I have a gardening question, or am wondering how to find cheap airplane tickets, Andrew always has an answer and is willing to help. I’m grateful to him for writing this wonderful letter.

Little Drew on a 4-wheeler.

Little Drew on a 4-wheeler.

I’m going to share with you my favorite place in the whole wide world, my escape, the place where I go to recharge my battery… it’s the outdoors. I’m telling this to you because you’re DSC_0013probably going to need to escape a lot; as I write this story your sister Grace is 20 months old and your sister Autumn isn’t yet born but should be here in a couple of months. Which means at the very least you’re going to have 2 older sisters, if not more, and my boy you aren’t going to stand a chance! They’re probably going to want to dress you up and make you have tea parties with them, and play house with them and all sorts of other girly stuff and you’re going to need a place to escape to from time to time. So I want to share with you the place I go to escape: the great outdoors.

I’ve always said I think God gave me allergies because if I wasn’t allergic to things outdoors I’d never come inside. There’s just something about being outdoors in nature that I can never get enough of. Whether I’m following a deer trail seeing where it leads, or planting fruit trees in one of my orchards, or hanging a deer stand in anticipation of shooting a big buck that coming fall; as long as I’m outdoors in God’s creation I am happy and at peace.

Before I met your mother I used to live on my own in a house 294837_233409563375252_1969226363_nsurrounded by over 200 acres of fields, woods and even swamps that our family owned. I had free range to manage it as I saw fit and every chance I got I spent working on any project I could think of to make the habitat better for wildlife. I hung tree stands, made trails through the woods with a bulldozer for better access to some of the more remote areas, made bedding areas for the deer and other wildlife, the list goes on and on. Your uncles would call me on a Saturday night to see what I was up to and 9 times out of 10 I’d be outdoors. They’d ask if I’d had dinner yet and I’d say, “Dinner!? What time is it? I had a granola bar for breakfast but I haven’t thought about going in for lunch yet.” To which they’d reply, “Drew it’s 8 o’clock at night! Aren’t you starving?” I’d be having so much fun outdoors I’d lose track of time and forget to eat!

My favorite time of day is in the late afternoon, as the sun’s setting and the cool evening air is starting to descend upon the land. The animals start coming out to feed as the daylight fades; it’s such an exciting time to watch the day end and the night arrive. Every night is slightly different from the last and you never know what you might see. The world just seems so much simpler when it’s just you alone in nature. It doesn’t matter what happened earlier in the day, when I’m alone outdoors all of my worries seem to disappear and I get lost in thought, wondering about things like “I wonder what kind of tree that is?” or “I wonder where this deer trail leads to?” or “I wonder if this will be the year when this tree I planted from a tiny seedling will produce its first crop of fruit?”

I want you to have a place like this where you can just get away from all the busyness of the world and be at peace in God’s creation. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the manDSCN2635 and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” In the beginning, when the world was still perfect and evil had not yet entered the world God gave man one task, “to work it (the land) and take care of it.” I would have loved to be Adam! Placed in this beautiful, unadulterated and pure garden with one simple task to take care of it—talk about perfect! It gets even better, God would come down to be with man at my favorite time of day, and go for a walk with him in the garden. How cool would that be to get to walk and talk with God in his beautiful perfect creation! Genesis 3:8 says “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day”.

This is why I want to share my favorite place with you and hope that you will enjoy it one day as much as I do. I pray that you may grow closer to God by seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, and even tasting God’s perfectness in his great outdoors. It is when I am outdoors in nature, when I don’t hear any cars or see any buildings, when I’m surrounded by nothing but God’s perfect creation that I feel closest to God. The busyness of life seems to stop when you’re in nature just witnessing the plants and animals doing what God created them to do, and by their doing what they were created to do bringing glory to God. So the next time your sisters are trying to get you to put a boa around your neck and have a tea party with them, politely decline their invitation and go outdoors instead and see what God’s trying to tell you through his creation.