Happy Birthday! You are thirteen years old today – an official teenager. If you stop and think about it, you only have five more years before you are old enough to go on a mission, start college or leave home. Five years is not very long to get yourself ready for that day. Not many people your age are wise enough to make the most of their teenage years. These years are your preparation time for adulthood. The decisions you make will start you on a course that will lead you to a life of selfishness or a life of joy. This is the time to develop your talents, intellect and desire to serve. If you keep learning, work hard and never give up, you will become a remarkable young man. If you choose to be lazy and selfish, you will have regrets.
Just a few days ago I watched you perform a piano solo in front of your school. I was so proud of you because you did something hard. Hours and hours of regular practice and persistence made it possible for you to perform well. I think learning to play the piano is a lot like learning to live your life well. With the piano you start out as a beginner not knowing anything. Then you are taught one musical concept at a time. After you learn how to read music, you begin playing simple one finger songs. If you keep learning, practicing, and listening to your piano teacher you will make slow gradual progress over time.
We all make lots of mistakes while we learn. Mistakes are part of the process of improving. If you don’t get discouraged and keep trying you have the opportunity to keep getting better. One day you may become a piano teacher and help others learn as you have learned. Helping others learn is what we do when we grow up or gain maturity. It is difficult to help others if we have not done the hard work of learning and reaching a certain level of mastery.
Going through these next few years as a teenager will be a lot like learning to play the piano. You can choose right now how you want to make slow gradual progress over time. You do that by choosing what kind of person you want to become. Do you want to be friendly, happy, hard-working and service oriented? Or do you want to be closed-off, grumpy, lazy and selfish? You simply choose who you want to be and then start practicing.
The most important qualities we learn first come from our interaction with our family. So the best way to practice becoming who you want to be is by practicing the qualities you want to develop on your parents and brothers. For example you learn how to be a hard worker by helping your parents at home and in the yard. You learn how to be a hard worker at school by regular attendance and careful study. You learn how to be friendly or how to serve by practicing on your parents and brothers, the boys in your church group and at school. If you want to be a happy person, practice getting rid of all your negative thoughts and replace them with grateful thoughts. If you want to become a loving person, practice forgiving someone . . . especially those closest to you in your home and community.
In the same way you had regular piano lessons each week where you reported to your music teacher, take the time on a regular basis to pray to God with a sincere desire to listen and learn. God wants you to know how to improve, but you must want to listen before you can hear Him. Your Father-in-Heaven is the best Matthew-Becoming-Awesome teacher in the universe. Remember to schedule regular lessons with Him.
I have loved watching you grow up for the past thirteen years Matthew. I so enjoy seeing your smiling face come through my front door. I love your passion for life your and joy for living. You have an amazing mind and spirit and God will expect great things from you. I will always be your biggest fan.