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

What Do My Reactions Say To My Children?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction…and a parent’s overreaction.

He met me at the door, eyes wide and brow furrowed. I immediately knew something was up, because the only one who meets me at the door these days is our 7 pound, 4-year-old toy poodle. Not our 8-year-old who typically has his eyes glued to a computer screen watching cats jump three feet in the air at the sight of a cucumber, painful football injuries…or people opening Christmas presents. (I didn’t even know that was a thing.)

No, it couldn’t be good.

As I opened the door, he launched into the horrific tale of walking into our master bathroom to use the restroom only to find a wet spot on the wall by the toilet. (gasp)

Right.

His delivery needs work, but it was good for an amateur.

So I began my usual line of questioning. What kind of wet spot? What color is it? Did you smell it? Are you sure it was already there and not just bad aim?!?

He quickly assured me that it was already there and that he had no idea how it happened…but that I should see for myself. So I went to investigate the crime scene with him trailing close behind.

Sure enough, there it was. A wet spot, still dripping, directly next to the toilet. So I did what any seasoned mom would do and bent down on hands and knees to smell it.

Perplexed that my keen supermom-senses did not detect any bodily fluids, I sat back on my heels and began to survey the room around me while Hayes stood there anxiously wringing his hands and repeating, “I have no idea what happened…it’s just weird.”

Right.

That’s when I caught sight of faint specks of red on the floor underneath the wet spot and a wad of wet toilet paper by the sink.

“Did you try to wash something off of the wall?”

You’d have thought I had accused him of grand theft, and he was getting 10-20 in the slammer.

Denial, tears, blame (it had to be the brothers…or the dog…or BOTH) ensued while I tried not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

I wasn’t even mad, at least not about whatever had happened there. I just wanted him to tell me the truth, and I told him so. But the more I prodded him to come clean, the more the frenzy escalated until I finally just sent him to his room before I lost what little patience I had left and said something I would regret. (been there done that…too many times to count)

After a few minutes in the think tank (he does not like to be alone), he came out, sat at the kitchen island, and stared at me.

“Yes?”

Then came the tears, “But I don’t want you to be mad at me.” 

“I’m not.”

“But you are! You have the mad face!”

Sigh….“Ok, a little…but not because of the wet spot or whatever happened with the wet spot. I’m upset about the lying. The wet spot can be fixed easily; the lying is the real problem. That’s harder to fix.”

And that’s when the dam broke…and through the tears and the sniffing (lots of tears and lots of sniffing), I pieced together the sad tale of an 8-year-old who had a bloody nose, ran to the closest bathroom, made a mess on the wall, then tried to clean it up before anyone knew what had happened. How nobody else in the house knew all of this was going on, I will never know.

But in that moment, my heart broke a little.

Don’t get me wrong. He was still in trouble for lying and had to listen to my “Why it’s always better to tell the truth” speech. After 15 years of parenting, it has been fine-tuned and well-rehearsed, so I wasn’t about to waste it.

But what broke my heart was the fact that he was afraid to tell me the truth. Not because it was horrendous. Believe me, all three boys have done worse. Not because of the punishment. He knew he deserved whatever happened. I didn’t even play the “I’m disappointed in you” card, so it couldn’t have been that.

No, he was afraid of my reaction.

How many times have I completely flipped out over a spilled cup, a scratch on the car, a rip in a new pair of pants? How many times have I lost my mind over something little just because I was having a bad day? How many times have I made my children feel like something material, something replaceable, was more important than they are?

Like an arrow to the heart, I realized that I had failed in creating a safe space for them to come and share their mistakes and failures.

Oh sure, they talk to me about all kinds of things. They tell me all about their friends at school, what’s going on in their lives, who is doing what; and I pride myself on being the kind of mom who has an open line of communication with my children.

But when it comes to things like this, things they’ve done wrong and mistakes they’ve made….let’s just say my reaction has been less than inviting.

If they can’t come to me with the little things, how can I expect them to come to me with the big things?! It doesn’t mean there won’t ever be consequences or punishment. Those are part of life, and we have a responsibility as parents to see those through. They know that and expect it, but sometimes they just need a soft place to land when they mess up regardless of the consequences.

I want to be that soft place. I want to be approachable in the little things so they will feel safe enough to come to me with the big things too.

It’s not easy when life is hard, and busy, and stressful. Our nerves are frayed and our tempers are short. The last thing we need is one.more.thing. 

But in the grand scheme of things, what is really more important? Fixing a broken door or fixing a broken spirit?  We all know the answer, but simply asking the question puts it into perspective.

And it doesn’t become easier as they grow older, only harder. So it’s time to create that safe space for my family, that soft place to land. It’s time to show them that their feelings are important, and I love them more than things.

It’s time.

And…

It starts with me. It starts with my reaction. It starts now.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19, 20

 

The Grace Standard

When we fail at being awesome, we need more grace and less judgment all around.

Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Take today, for instance.

I was going about my business, living my life, doing the typical Sunday stuff. You know…the stuff we put off all weekend then frantically try to complete by midnight on Sunday. It’s like we’re going to turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 12, so we’ve got to cram it all in after church.

And thank goodness, we made time for church, because someone needed to bless the muttering, complaining, and “less than appropriate words” stomping through our heads all afternoon. Heaven help us, if we didn’t start the day with a good dose of Jesus.

When out of nowhere, my husband snaps out of his football trance and says, “Hey…what time was that party today?”

Party?

Suddenly, everything in the room came to a screeching halt. My heart fell straight to my gut…and one of those “words” may or may not have popped out of my mouth.

The neighborhood “Happy Birthday to Jesus Party.”

Crap.

How did I forget the party? It’s a birthday party for Jesus, for crying out loud. What kind of person forgets that?!?!?

Me: A tired person.

Also Me: I bet nobody else forgot the party!

Me: We just moved to this neighborhood….they are going to think I’m a total flake.

Also Me: As they should!!!

So with 15 minutes left in the party, I sucked it up and texted the host, owning the fact that I totally screwed up. I mean…I was supposed to bring the mini cupcakes. Pretty sure I ruined Jesus’ birthday!!! (And I wonder where my kids get their flair for drama…)

Then I spent the next few hours fretting. Out loud.

I must have said, “I can’t believe I did that” 100 times until finally my 8-year-old said, “MOM…give yourself a break!!”

I just knew I was going to be labeled the “flaky mom” in the neighborhood. You know, the one you invite but don’t expect to come so you don’t give her anything “important” to bring. Drinks and chips. That was my fate. I would forever be the drinks and chips mom.

Fantastic.

But do you know what her response was?

Grace.

Complete grace. Not the kind that was sent in “good Christian love” but was as fake as the 17-year-old Christmas tree sitting in our living room…no, this was legit.

She even admitted to doing the same thing just a few months ago, and I don’t even care if she was lying through her teeth to make me feel better. BLESS HER.

Why is it that we have a hard time extending this kind of grace to ourselves and to others?

 Life is hard! Whether you have zero children and a thriving career or have 6 and are a stay-at-home mom…we have so many demands on us! Just being a woman and experiencing the emotional ups and downs we ride on a daily basis is hard enough! (Thanks, Eve!)

The sad truth is that I freaked out because I know the thoughts I’ve had about others who have “flaked” on me. Our first inclination is to think the worst. They didn’t want to come. They just don’t like me. They aren’t responsible. They should really manage their time better. (eye roll)

But where’s the grace? Where’s the empathy?

We’ve all been there and know we can’t be on our A-Game 100% of the time. It’s impossible. So why do we hold ourselves and others to an impossible standard?

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2

I’ve come to the realization that it starts with us. I have to hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection, so that I can then extend that same grace to others. How can I show others grace if I can’t even show it to myself?

I can’t. And you can’t either. So instead of freaking out when we fail or casting judgment when others do the same, let’s purpose in our hearts to give ourselves a break this Christmas season and determine that we will show more grace in the year to come.

“I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection.”

Merry Christmas, and God Bless!!