What I Couldn’t Have Predicted (A Letter to My Son on His Fifteenth Birthday)


Baby Boy (Always Will You Be),

Nearly sixteen years ago, I discovered I was pregnant with you.

This unmarried, rebellious wild-child was nowhere near prepared to be a mother.

But there you were, like it or not, tiny organs and hands and feet, and what would become the sweetest smile I’d ever seen. 

Sometime later on this very day, you were born, surrounded by people who hadn’t even met you but already loved you.

They talked about how perfectly shaped your head was, how beautifully peach your skin.

We could tell your eyes would remain blue, the same way it was obvious your baby brother, born seven years later, would inherit the same color as you.

That kind of blue only shines brighter with age. And thank God for it.

Your daddy thought you were just about the greatest thing he’d ever laid eyes on. From that day forward, we were Team Overby.

And again, I thank God for it.

Not that there haven’t been some ups and downs.

Some bumps along the way.

Lots of regret. 

But never–NEVER–because of you.

You see, Baby Boy, humans aren’t perfect. We just aren’t.

And parents are human.

We want so badly to be perfect for you. Oh my goodness, do the great majority of us out there–even the really, really terrible parents–want so badly to do perfect by the babies we bring into this world.

But we can’t.

It’s simply not possible.

So your daddy and I, and every other parent out there, we’re just trying our best to figure this thing out: Family, parenting, marriage.

When to push you harder.

When to let you go.

We will never fully get it right, which is why we often joke that we’ll pay for your therapy when you’re an adult.

No doubt there are trials yet to come. Things we haven’t predicted, haven’t yet planned for.

In fact, there’s already so much I couldn’t have predicted.

I couldn’t have predicted God would use a baby boy to teach a mama to accept that imperfection is not just okay but exactly the way life is supposed to be–because Grace lies smack in the middle of imperfection.

Learning this allowed me to forgive myself and others, especially my own imperfect parents.

I couldn’t have predicted three more gifts would come from two people daily choosing to build a life together–a life God has blessed only because of His Grace and not because of us.

And I couldn’t have predicted what a fine young man you would turn out to be.

A young man who has put up with a lot of insanity from parents who pretend to know what we’re doing, but who really lay down at night wondering if we’ve royally messed up this thing or that, wondering if the four of you know how very much you are loved and prayed for.

A young man who has been an awesome example to a brother who copies your every move and two sisters who think you hung the moon.

A young man who is the leader of a brood of cousins who can come to you with anything and trust you’ll be there to help. (Begrudgingly, sometimes, because you are the oldest on one side, after all, and you still think the world revolves around you. And your grandparents don’t always help with that 😉 .)

A young man who will soon be off to do great things. Some imperfect things, too, things you will regret and want to take back, I’m sure. But great things, nonetheless.

Can I give you some advice?

  • Be Vigilant in Chasing Your Dreams

Procrastinate, if you must (your mother’s great at it). Harass, if needed (your father’s specialty). Whatever it takes to achieve your dreams–in a decent and loving way–go for it.

But don’t forget to be grateful to the ones who help you along the way. So, so many people walk beside us in our most trying times of life, and too often, we forget to thank them.

Work hard, play hard, say thank you, and never give up. You get one shot at this thing called life.

  • Treat Every Woman as Someone’s Sister, Daughter and Future Wife

This ensures you have the utmost respect for the covenant that could one day be her marriage or yours.

As much as we all want to think every new date is the person we will marry, the truth is, we don’t know. Treat your future-selves kindly by not going too far.

  • Don’t Hold Your Parents, Coaches, Pastors or Favorite Celebrities on a Pedestal

You’ll want to. You’ll listen to your preacher give a convicting sermon or your parents or coaches give advice, and you’ll want to believe we’re all perfect.

We’re not.

Remember the above imperfection thing? We’re far from perfect. Don’t let our failures cause you to fall.

We are not the measuring stick. Jesus is.

  • Take the High Road (It’s the Least Crowded)

You’ll be the small fish in the big pond this coming year of high school. Don’t let the big guys get you down.

When someone makes a comment about your cowlick? Take the high road.

Ugly comment about a girl you’re dating? High road.

Mean comment about the guy/girl you support politically or your brand of religion? High road, high road, high road.

You’ll notice the high road doesn’t have a whole lot of people on it today, which is why you are desperately needed. Calm people make a peaceful world.

  • Allow God to Take You Where He Wants You to Go

Scary/Infuriating/Helpless fact of life? Sometimes we have zero control over it.

What will you do if something happens to one of us? To one of your siblings?

What if something happens to you?

What if you feel a pull on your heart telling you to do something different with your life than you planned?

Or cautioning you to stay away from something? (That’s a HUGE one and not following it can have devastating consequences!)

The comforting fact about our belief system is that we have a Creator who knows all. He tells us you were fearfully and wonderfully made for a plan and a purpose; and only He knows your beginning and your end.

Sweet son of mine: Will you be successful?

Depends on how you define it.

If you judge success only by perfection, money, power or outside appearance, then who knows.

Life is a roller coaster, as you well know by now.

But if success is defined by daily placing your life in God’s Big and Mighty Hand and accepting all things that come your way, living in gratitude, forgiveness for others, and loving ALL mankind…

Well, you’re off to a great start.

And all who love you will be here every step of the way, in body or in spirit; you can bank on it.

One more thing, Baby Boy: I promise to do my best to let God guide you without my interference. This has been Mama’s struggle since day one.

It’s every mama’s struggle: To protect at all costs what we hold so dear.

But you are not mine; you are His. And though I want to hold you under my wings and shelter you like a mama bird, I know I will soon have to let you go.

It’s for your own good to learn to flap your wings. You will soar above the clouds if you know how to fly.

Like any human being, I’ve made a lot of mistakes while flying on my own journey.

But you, sweet gift?

You are not one of them. 

Love You So Very Much,

Mom-Mom (Oh how I wish you still called me that.)


My first gift.



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