An Open Letter To My Teenage Self…

“Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Dear Preteen/Teenage Me,

First things first…

I know that this may come as a complete surprise to you, but you do not become rich and famous, marry Bret Michaels, or live in Beverly Hills. You finally meet him one day, but that’s as close as it gets.

It is for the best.

And contrary to what you may think at this moment, 42 is not one foot in the grave. I know it’s hard to believe; but you are actually going to love your late 30’s & early 40’s, and I mean that with all my heart. The confidence you gain through experience and maturity will help you grow more comfortable in your own skin, and it is liberating. There is a freedom with age that cannot be duplicated in youth.

That being said, you are living some of the best days of your life, and you don’t even know it. Hindsight is 20/20, so here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you on your teenage years…

1. Enjoy school. While it may seem hard at the time, it’s the easiest thing you will ever endure. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, you have tons of homework. No, you will never need to know the hypotenuse of a triangle to change a diaper or land that dream job, but it’s a rite of passage so suck it up and endure. A roof over your head, good food in your belly, and no bills to pay. Stop wishing those days away. You will have the “opportunity” to work the rest of your life. Good grief, don’t rush it!!

2. Appreciate the skin that you are in. Be thankful your parents won’t let you wear makeup at 12. You don’t need it!! Your skin is glowing and without wrinkle. Why cover it up? There will be plenty of time and money spent on beauty products in the years to come, not to mention, tutorials galore on which makeup is best and how to contour until you are unrecognizable.

Stop trying to look like the girls on TV. Your body is going through numerous changes right now. Give it time. You will grow into those curves you hate so much, and freckles are not a curse. You are beautiful just the way you are.

But please, for the love, use sunscreen!!!

3. Wear what is flattering not just what is fashionable. All fashion trends do not look good on all people, and this is true no matter the decade. If it doesn’t look or feel fantastic, just don’t…or you will look back on pictures one day and wonder why you did.

That.is.all.

4. Quit worrying about boys. There will be plenty of time for boyfriends and relationships someday. Your worth is not measured by what a boy thinks of you. Jesus thinks you are precious and beautiful, and that’s all that matters. Spend these days making memories with family and friends, and stop wasting emotions and tears on boys who are hormonal and lack maturity and common sense.

It’s a proven fact that the brain of preteen/teen (sometimes older) boys goes through an enormous amount of change during these years causing them to say and do stupid things. (I know, I have two of them right now) So bypass this stage and catch them on the upswing! It will save you a lot of heartache.

5. Cherish your friendshipsRecognize good, healthy friendships and hold them close. Nurture those relationships and make the effort to keep in touch even when life takes you separate ways. If not, you will reconnect years from now and mourn the time you’ve lost and the memories you could have made.

And while we are talking about relationships, learn to extend grace to struggling friends but cut ties with toxic people. Neither of those become any easier as you grow older, but both are extremely important. Knowing the difference is key.

Find your tribe and love them hard. 

6. Be kind. Popularity is fleeting and matters very little in the grand scheme of things, so don’t waste your time, money, or energy trying to keep up with that crowd.

Instead of dwelling on your own problems, look for those who are sitting by themselves and join them. Let them know that someone sees them and that you care. You have no idea how far a kind word can go to lift the aching spirit of a lonely soul, so open your eyes to those around you and listen with your heart. It could significantly impact a life. Not only theirs but yours.

7. Listen to your parents. They actually do know what they are talking about and don’t say “no” just to make you miserable. Believe it or not, they love you more than life itself and desperately want to protect you. Let them.

Someday you will thank them. Someday you will want to talk to them every day even though you live 13 hours apart. Someday you will want your mom by your side when you are sick or having your first…second…and third baby. Someday they will be the first people you call when you need a listening ear, a comforting word, sound advice, or prayer. Someday you will realize they were right.

And you know that list in the back of your journal? The list of things you will “never say or do to your own children”?

You say and do them all. 

8. Chase your dreams. Don’t settle for what is practical or makes sense. Most successful people don’t follow the safe route. They find what sets their souls on fire and pursue it with every ounce of their being. So do that. Don’t wait. Start now.

If you are passionate about what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

9. Seek Jesus. Every day. Don’t just go to church and check boxes. It’s not about following a list of rules. Dive into His Word, and seek Him daily. Build a relationship with Him stronger than any other relationship in your life, and you will never regret it.

Will it always be easy? No. Will life be perfect? No, God’s not a genie in a bottle. But no matter what happens, you will always have Jesus and the peace and comfort that only He can give. He will see you through whatever you may face…and that’s a promise.

And lastly, but certainly not least….

10. Be thankful you don’t have social media!!! You have the wonderful opportunity of screwing up without the whole world watching. Don’t take that for granted! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The bottom line is this. Life is hard no matter how old you are. Pros and cons accompany any age, but the key lies in what you do with them. Embrace every stage and live it to the fullest or you will look back and wish you had.

We get one chance at this thing called life, and we need to make it count.

So buckle up, buttercup, and enjoy the ride.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” ~ Emerson

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

As we near the end of each year, we typically begin to reflect upon the past 365 days and contemplate what we would like to change in the year ahead.

Looking back on 2016, it has been an eventful year to say the least. I’ve seen countless memes and posts with the general theme of “2016 sucked.” And I get it. It’s been turbulent with the Presidential Election, racial tension, police attacks & bathroom wars. We’ve lost countless beloved celebrities from our youth. I mean, these people entertained us in our living rooms and cars like they were part of the family! There has been sickness and death in our families and communities. Jobs lost. Marriages broken. So.much.heartache.

And while it is easy to focus on the bad, there is just as much good…if we look for it. My dad reminded me of this on Christmas Day. He sat beside the Christmas tree, Bible in hand, reading the story of Jesus’ birth just as his father had done before him many years ago. And just like Grandpa, he can never make it through the reading without stopping, tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice. We often tease him about this, the fact that he can’t finish a prayer or a Bible reading without tears; but the fact of the matter is, it’s the most precious thing in the world to us. Because he gets it. He looks past the fact that their car broke down on the way to visit us and sees God’s provision throughout the frustrating ordeal. He looks past the turbulent events of the past year and sees the abundant blessings…and he sat there and reminded us of those blessings.

Yes, 2016 was rough in many ways for many people. But in spite of it all, God is so good. The evidence is all around us. We just have to refocus our mind and heart to look for it.

So what about the new year…? How are we going to make 2017 “better”?

I’ve always loved the start of a new year just as I always looked forward to a new school year both as a student and as a teacher. It’s a fresh slate, a new start. A time to drop old habits, start new ones, and to awaken the dormant motivation within us if only for a short time. It’s an exciting time full of endless possibilities.

I’m not a resolutions girl myself. I feel like resolutions were made to be broken. Nothing makes me want to rebel more than if you tell me I can’t do it…or that I have to do it. Most resolutions are usually toast by Valentine’s Day, and then we all feel like failures because of it. My fragile self-esteem can’t take it. 

So I opt for goals. Goals that are just beyond realistic so that I have something to work towards, but I don’t feel like a loser if I don’t make it. I know, I know...it’s cheating. But it works for me.

I usually try to find a word or verse to carry with me into the new year, something to guide me in the goals that I set for myself. But this year is a little different. This year I chose a quote by a woman I had the pleasure of meeting at a writer’s conference back when I was fresh out of high school. She was hilariously funny and such an encouragement, so I have followed her ever since. And it’s like God just dropped this in my lap. This was it. This was what He wanted me to use.

“Pray continually. Wait expectantly. Trust fearlessly.” – Liz Curtis Higgs

This quote captures my heart and soul during this particular season of my life. I don’t know what 2017 holds. Heck, I don’t even know what tomorrow holds. But there is one thing I know and that is that God has a plan for my life and yours. He knows why He gave me a passion for writing and where it will take me. He knows why He gave you the gifts that you possess and how you will use them. He doesn’t make mistakes, and He doesn’t do anything without a purpose.

My goal for 2017 is to find His purpose.

What is His purpose for your life? It can be big or small. It can be public or private.

But whatever it is, may we all enter 2017 praying continually, waiting expectantly, and trusting in God fearlessly. 

He promises to lead the way.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11