Dear Isabella,Welcome to the world! We are so glad you are here and that you are part of our family! You are a gift we don’t deserve, but we gratefully receive you as the sign of grace you are. Every time we look at you or think of you, we are reminded of how good God is. We love you. We don’t love you because of who you are or because of what you are. We love you just because you are. As you grow, you’ll discover who and what you are, and we look forward to encouraging and supporting you in your journey of self-discovery. It matters who and what you become, because only as you do so will you be able to realize your full potential. But it doesn’t matter as far as our love for you goes. We love you because you are you, and we will always love you, whomever you grow into being and whatever you grow into doing.I do have some hopes for you. There are certain ways that I hope your life will go.Every morning, I begin my prayer time with three one-sentence prayers. I want to pray those three prayers for you because they express my hopes for you.The first prayer is called the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ It’s hard to imagine right now in these early days of your life, but you will eventually do, say, and think things that you shouldn’t. Everyone does. You will find yourself in need of God’s mercy. I hope and pray you will turn to God for mercy when you need it. I hope and pray you will know that God is merciful.I also hope that you will, having received God’s mercy, extend mercy to other people. Every person you will ever know, meet, love, or pass on the street has pain, guilt, and regret. Be kind. Show mercy.The second prayer is a line from the Prayer of St. Francis: ‘Make me an instrument of your peace.’ I hope and pray that you will know God’s peace. I also hope and pray that it will flow through you to other people. The world into which you have been born is fractured. Relationships are strained. People live in a frenzied state, driven by greed and fear. I want you to be at peace with God, with yourself, and with others. I hope you will be so filled with peace that it will flow out of you and onto the people you encounter.I call the third prayer the Gethsemane Prayer, because it’s based on the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was arrested: ‘O God, our lives are in your hands. Not our will, but your will be done.’ You are now part of the ‘our’ in this prayer. I pray that you will learn who God has made you to be. If you do, you’ll live a fulfilling life. I pray that you will do what God has made you to do. I’m not saying there’s only one thing you are made to do; there may well be many options under the umbrella of your purpose in life. I hope that you will discover, develop, and utilize your gifts to do good in the world, in your vocation, in your community, and in your family.Isabella, you are a beautiful baby. I hope and pray that you will live a beautiful life. If you live in God’s mercy, God’s peace, and God’s will, that’s what you’ll have. And remember: we’ll be on your side for as long as we live’”and longer.Love,DukeIsabella Austen Gunter was born on February 20, 2019. Her parents are Benjamin and Sara (Ruffin) Gunter. Her big brother is Sullivan. Her grandparents are Mike (Duke) and Debra (Honey) Ruffin.