Some friends and I spent some time this week writing letters to our teenage selves, as part of Emily Freeman’s launch of her new book, Graceful. I only intended to have some fun with it but the exercise proved to be a walk down memory lane I wasn’t prepared to take. Enjoy.
Dear Teenage Me,
Hey. It’s your thirty-three year old self here. Stop scowling. I’m not ancient. Put the pool cue down, turn off the Roxette and listen to me for a minute. Just a minute. You’re a fast reader… you’ll be back to sinking combo shots in no time.
Let’s start with some superficial stuff… your hair? Try doing it some mornings. Stop yanking it back or letting it air-dry. And have mercy on the rest of us: no more perms. Curls are not your friend. You have beautiful hair. Just because it isn’t blond like your sisters’ does not mean you’re less lovely or less a part of the family God placed you in. Embrace it. Good heavens, brush it. Please.
The eyebrows? Wax them. I promise. You’ll be mildly addicted to well-waxed eyebrows later in life. Please start before graduation pictures are taken.
The contacts? Take them out sometimes. We haven’t worn contacts in almost a decade because you never let your eyes breathe. Turns out eyes need that and really nice glasses don’t start coming out until, like, 2005.
No, the world doesn’t end in 2000. The whole Y2K thing? Bust.
Alright. Real stuff.
I know Mom’s gone, dear one. I know. I know you think no one in the whole world can possibly know how that feels. I know you can’t find the words to tell someone how angry you are, how much you want to be done, how you pray every.single.night that God won’t let you wake up so you don’t have to face another day alone. So you don’t have to figure out this thing called a future without the only person who could make any sense out of this thing called life. And I know you’re so angry that no one is telling you what grieving looks like. You’re not doing it wrong. There is no right with grief of this magnitude.
You are going to make it through. This hell you’re slogging through right now isn’t the rest of your life. The God you’re so angry at? He’s still here and His grace all sufficient. I promise. Better yet, He promised. A long time ago. And He didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to do so.
And not only isn’t this the rest of your life, it’s a mere shadow of all the awesome stuff to come. Joy, laughter, and blessings poured out. Sure, hard stuff too. You’ll cling to the ‘Life’s not fair’ motto for longer than you should, but God will break through. Grace is powerful that way.
School… first of all, breathe. Second, here’s a newsflash we don’t realize until far too late: you’re an introvert. No, really. Embrace it. You’ll be amazed how much less exhausted you’ll be. How much more sense the world makes.
Your grades? Don’t sweat it. It is not the end of the world if Trevor gets a better mark than you. Just because he’s a bit of a jerk and likes to flaunt it, remember how long he studied while you were out pretending you were an extrovert. You’re smart, chica. You’ll work hard in college and it will pay off. Don’t let Trevor set the bar for you. He’s got it way too low.
Also, if you could do me a BIG favour and cut your dad some slack? He’s grieving too, you know. Big time. And he’s got this rare chance to finally have a relationship with you. He DOES love you… you’re his baby girl. Just because he doesn’t love you the exact way Mom did does not make his love any less real or unconditional. Dads show love differently than moms. It’s kind of the beauty of how God created us. Embrace it, will ya? This is a relationship that is going to surprise and delight you… cherish it.
And now for the big one. Yeah, you thought Mom was going to be the big one, didn’t you? Nope. We need to talk about the bottomless pit of people-pleasing that lurks in that heart of yours and eventually grows to black hole proportions.
You are you.
You are who God made you.
You were fearfully and wonderfully made… made for a purpose by a God who loves you. You are funny and genuine and a great listener.
You aren’t perfect because nobody is.
You cannot be everything to everyone.
You can only be you.
And guess what? People like you. Or, they will, once you find a few key people in your life you’re able to be truly you around.
Do you remember that morning you were putting your coat on and you looked into the foyer mirror (and even though you’re a good Reformed girl and you don’t believe in God speaking directly to people other than through His Word) you heard a voice that wasn’t yours whisper, ‘You are beautiful’? And do you remember the visceral reaction you had, and how you had to brace yourself on the table to control the sobs and how you almost missed the bus? Believe it. Believe it. Please. Because if you don’t you will spend decades believing the lies instead:
You’re not enough.
You’re too emotional.
Your laugh is too loud.
You’re fat and ugly. Why can’t you look more like your sisters?
You’ll never amount to anything.
People love you because they feel sorry for you.
You are NOTHING.
Lies, girlfriend. Lies. All the eating and sweets and crappy relationships with guys who aren’t good for you and emotional break downs and anxiety aren’t going to be able to hold the lies in forever. Trust me.
In about five years, you’re going to meet this amazing little red-haired woman who retrieves items from high kitchen shelves with large knives and she’s going to say, ‘Thelma, you don’t do anything with half your heart. I love that about you.’ Never mind who she is right now. The wonder and beauty of that surprise is worth waiting for.
And in about nine years you’re going to meet this guy who becomes your best friend and leans in one day and asks (with wonder in his voice), ‘How do you open yourself up like that? To love people like that?’ Turns out he’ll choose to spend the rest of his life asking that same question. He’ll be the one who chooses to hold you when your heart – the one that God made beautiful in you – cries out from disappointment or overflows with joy.
The point? Learn to see yourself through the eyes of those who know you best. Their eyes aren’t clouded by the lies you harbour deep within you. It’ll take the truth of God’s Word (especially the word spoken in front of that mirror) and their faithful voices to help set you free.
So, to sum up:
Brush your hair, your teeth and the lint off your clothes.
Your favourite nickname will always be Sunshine.
You’re not a coward because you hate dentists.
Listen to what Henry and Clasina tell you about boys. They’re right.
Stop wearing flannel. Please. Just stop.
You are beautiful.
You are God’s. Period. Believe that. Believe it when you believe nothing else. He cannot love you more and He will not love you less.
The slightly older and significantly more neurotic you.