Dear Thirteen Year Old Me

dear thirteen year old me

Last week, I celebrated my last teenage birthday. Realizing I only have year left of being a teenager made me stop and think about the year I started being one. I remember wanting to avoid it, but at the same time savoring the new world of adolescence opening up to me.

Six years later, on the other side of teenage-hood, I’m very much different than when I first entered this territory. Yet underneath, I still see that thirteen year old. I still am that girl, in so many ways.

Looking back, there’s so much I wish I could tell my thirteen year old self. I wish I could take that eighth grade girl out for a hot fudge sundae and a heart to heart.

I haven’t perfected the art of time travel (yet), but some things still deserve to be said. This is what I would tell my thirteen year old self.

Dear Thirteen Year Old Me,

Being a teenager is scary, isn’t it? It means that you’re getting closer and closer to adulthood… Which seems even scarier. Right now, in eighth grade, you’re already stressing over figuring out college and a career. Please don’t. Those things will come soon enough, sooner than you’ve even factored into your plans. When the time is right, they’ll fall into place. Until then, enjoy your now. Celebrate every second of your life and don’t try to be a grown up too soon! Those moments tick by faster than you expect. Even though you feel stuck right now, and scared you’ll be that way forever, I promise you won’t be.

freely-10108You know those Scriptures you’ve read, about how God has a plan for you? Those words aren’t just pretty quotes. They are life, and they are truth. You have a future, outside of and in spite of all the details you’re trying so desperately to hold down.

You don’t have to figure everything out. You can’t figure it all out, and that’s perfectly okay. Do the best with what you have, where you are. Take the time to explore and try new things. Let yourself make mistakes. Messing up might be embarrassing or even painful, but the lessons you learn will outweigh all that. Finding yourself is a process of trial and error. And as far as I can tell, it’s one that lasts a long time- maybe even a lifetime.

You’re going to set out on ventures and realize they aren’t for you. You’re going to put your heart out there and have it come back broken. You’ll have days when you feel like you cannot do this, and you’d really like to run away. It’s okay. It’s life, and it’s not perfect. It wouldn’t be truly living otherwise. Embrace that mess, but more importantly, remember that you are not a messSure, you’ll have messy days and weeks, even months. But you are not defined by that.

You are not the incomplete math assignments, the fragile dreams, the missed devotions, the overslept mornings. You are not the image you criticize in the mirror, the acne you can’t get rid of, the skirt you can’t zip, the people who ignore you or the emotions that feel out of control. You are not the lies the world has told you or the ones you have told yourself.

You are smart, even if you have trouble focusing at times. In fact, you have trouble focusing because there’s so much going on in your brain. Your creativity is what causes you to dream big. Don’t ever stop.

Consistency will be a virtue you have to fight for. Even at nineteen, you’ll miss devotions some days. But God will not shut you out, even when you don’t make time for Him. His love is deeper and stronger than anything you’ve imagined. He will carry you when you can barely crawl to Him; He will understand the language of your tears and rejoice in your songs. You know those Narnia books you love so much? Aslan the Lion is still one of the best representations of Jesus’ character. He is not tame- you’ll never be able to box Him in- but He is good. So truly good. Hold onto that. His grace is about the great gift of salvation, but also about daily strength. It covers every flaw; it’s strongest when you’re weakest. There is nothing you must do to earn it, even though you try to do exactly that; there is no place it will not reach you. No day is too bad to be touched by it, and no situation is too insignificant. All of God’s grace is for all of your life.

freely-10019Speaking of grace, give yourself some. Stop standing in front of the mirror and focusing on everything you need to “fix.” You are beautiful. The family and friends who compliment you aren’t lying or just being nice. Don’t brush off what they tell you.

It isn’t vain to be confident. Insecurity is what’s trying to turn you vain, by pinning all of your attention to your appearance. Love your skin, red spots and all. Stop letting the number on the scale weigh your happiness. You wouldn’t believe it, but in six years, you’re going to weigh more than what you currently consider “too much”. And you’re going to be happy. So embrace what God has created you with now. Take care of yourself; be healthy, strong and confident. Live like you are beautiful, from the inside out- because you are. More importantly, live like you are loved, because more than anything, you are.

As you’re already discovering, there will be people who try to make you forget that. Not everyone will understand or even like you. Some of them won’t even bother to be polite. Be nice anyway. Pray for them. But don’t give them any space in your head. Their actions and opinions are on their shoulders. They have no bearing on you. I know it’s difficult, because you have a sensitive heart and wonder if you’ve done something to make them behave this way; if somehow, you deserve this. Keep that soft heart, but get rid of the idea that you’re to blame. Jesus dealt with more rejection and hate than any other person on the planet; none of us can be 100% popular in this world. Try not to take everything personally. A lot of the time, it actually isn’t personal, even if that’s the way it feels.

You’ve always been the shy girl, so you fret about making friends and being alone.
You don’t need to worry about that, though. Concert crowdLook at all the people in your life who already love you so dearly! Cherish them. Life’s meaning is love. As the years go on, you’ll meet many other incredible individuals. Some will stay only for a season; others will mean more than you ever expected. Both ways are part of this journey. Not everyone or everything is meant to last forever, even though goodbye is always hard. When you do find something lasting, don’t let fear keep you from giving the love you have to offer.

In fact, don’t let fear keep you from anything. It’s a daily lesson, but choose courage. Don’t let fear have the final say; that belongs to faith.

Don’t be afraid to grow up, dear girl. Yes, it’s scary. Even at nineteen, sometimes I’d like to just hide in a blanket fort. But if there’s one thing I wish I could tell you at thirteen, it’s simply this: It’s going to be okay; you’re going to be okay. Better than okay, even.

All my love,

Your nineteen year old self.

P.S. Mom told you most of this when you were thirteen, remember? You should have listened. 😉

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What would you tell yourself at 13 (or any specific age), if you could??

Forward into ’15

Go forward: 2015

Eleven days into 2015, and zero posts until now. That was definitely not one of my resolutions. I have such high hopes for this year, and myself in it, but the truth is I’m having trouble shifting into this New Year at all.

I don’t mean that I’m still writing 2014 on all my checks and journal entries, although I actually just did that. I feel like I’m still living in 2014, repeating all the patterns I want to change in 2015. This first week and a half has been unstructured and rather sporadic, reminding me of last year.

2014 was filled with changes, most of them out of my control. So much shifted, from my priorities and responsibilities to my dreams and relationships. I spent much of the year split between fighting the wave of change and learning how to ride it. Last year tested my faith and forced me to trust God; to wait on Him. More often than not, it meant simply being still. Which, for me, meant waiting anxiously for something and going partly crazy because I felt like I was doing nothing. For a girl who likes being in control and keeping busy, it’s a hard lesson to learn.

It didn’t go perfectly, and I have a lot more growing to do. Eventually, though, I settled into the stillness. (For the most part, anyway; my family could tell you I still had my “moments.”) Overall, though, I had to accept that God was doing something in the seasons of nothing. I had to learn not to fight those times, and even to give thanks for nothing. Not all the answers in life are instant or permanent, and it’s a little easier to see that now. I stopped trying to figure everything out and gave up my “five-year plan.” (And also my ten, fifteen and twenty year plans.) I don’t know what’s happening next month, or even all that could happen in the next two weeks. Even so, I know God is truly in control, not just because my Pinterest quotes say so, but because I have seen Him arrange my life before. I have seen what happens when I finally get out of the way and give Him space. 2014 was the year of being still and seeing the salvation of the Lord. It was the year Exodus 14:13-14 came true for me.

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today…… 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”  

That was hard to accept initially, but it truly worked and now I’m rather comfortable where I am. There are still other things I want to accomplish, dreams for me to chase, yet the routine of 2014 has at last become familiar. I might not be completely satisfied, but I’m safe here in the waiting… In the stillness.

And now that I’ve found the faith to wait on God… I have a dilemma. He’s asking me to have the faith to go forward again.

In verse 15 of that same passage, in 2015 of this same girl’s life, the stillness has ended. To paraphrase that verse, the Lord says, “Why do you cry to me? … Go forward.” (emphasis mine.) 

Go forward? It’s what I was straining for last year, before I learned the importance of being still. In 2014, I didn’t need to go forward. I had been racing forward too long, and needed to slow down. To stop. Breathe. Rest. Wait.

Now? I’ve found that rhythm of silence. And I’m afraid to leave it. It’s puzzling, how last year, being still seemed like the worst thing. I was chomping at the bit for the command to go. It’s finally come, and suddenly I want to curl up and stay still.

It’s what I’ve done for the last several days, fighting the strain of going forward. If I go forward, I have to move into the unknown. This season of stillness has given me a chance to recover my faith and grow it gently. If I move ahead, it will be tested all over. It will be strained and shaken and forced to dig its roots deeper in the rough patches.

In the nothingness, I could dream safely about the someday’s filled with something’s. If I go forward into that someday, and start doing that something, I’m afraid those daydreams will be shattered. What if I fail at everything I’ve been waiting to accomplish? What if I somehow mistake where God is leading me, and derail onto the wrong road entirely?

Forward is frightening. Moving forward might mean falling or failing.

But the time has come. If I want to live my life as a symphony of God’s grace, it’s time to start playing the song. I can no longer be silent, even if it means I’ll be missing beats and playing plenty of wrong notes.

The faith I learned through stillness has to carry me forward now. It’s time.

What are you going forward into this year? 

Forward into 2015!

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It’s Truly a Wonderful Life

Merry Christmas, dear friends! I can’t believe that in just a couple of hours, it will all be a memory. I didn’t marathon Christmas movies this year like I usually do, but this was the first year I ever watched the classic It’s a Wonderful Life. 


Although the list of classic films I’ve viewed is shamefully short, this one is now a favorite. It made me laugh, more than I expected a movie from 1946 to, and it’s kept me thinking since I finished it. If you’re like I was, and aren’t yet familiar with the story, here’s a quick summary:

George Bailey dreams of attending college and traveling around the world, but circumstances continually leave him stuck in his tiny hometown, Bedford Falls. Years pass, and with them, many opportunities George must pass by. One Christmas, everything he’s tried to hold together falls apart. Left with only ruin and the worst luck ever, George wonders if the world and his family would be better off without him. Then Clarence shows up on the scene, sent from Heaven to help George. The angel grants George’s wish of never being born, and in doing so, helps George realize how much his life truly means. 

Bedford Falls

Even 68 years after its release, there’s something about the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls that resonates. I think we all feel like George at times. Desiring to try new things and explore different horizons, we work and plan for those dreams, saving up and counting down. Yet as much as we talk about “dreaming big” and how “dreams don’t work unless you do,” not all dreams actually do work.

I know, Christmas is the season of dreams coming true; of magic in the air and miracles everywhere. I fully believe that dreams can and do come true, but I’ve also realized it isn’t always the case. Like it did with George Bailey, sometimes life happens. There are situations that require us to place down our dreams and pick up responsibilities.

When we want to escape the sameness, but that’s where we are needed, how do make the best of it? When we’re going through the day-to-day, yet everyone else is going off on adventures, how do we keep going? When nothing seems to work out, none of our dreams have come true, and even what we sacrificed them for is failing… what then? For George Bailey, it meant questioning everything- even life, and what good his had really done. It took an angel named Clarence to show him all the people he had impacted. Without George Bailey, everything was darker, emptier, poorer. As Clarence said, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

George finally comes to realize that even though he’s been stuck in Bedford Falls and has never toured Europe, attended college or became wildly successful in business, his life has value beyond measure. He wants to live again.

It's a Wonderful Life

So he’s given a second chance at life… And it’s a Wonderful Life. 

George’s story made me think about my own. Granted, George Bailey was approximately a couple of decades older than I am, but in some ways I still relate to the feeling of being in “Bedford Falls.” In this season of life, I’m just doing the “day-to-day.” There are people around me getting ready to leave, to chase their dreams somewhere new, but for right now, I’m remaining here in my Bedford Falls. When I’m quiet and honest with myself, I wonder if I’m really making a difference with my life. I question if there’s something else I should be doing, some bigger dream I should be pursuing right now. Have I failed in some way?

I haven’t had a visit from a kindly angel named Clarence, but watching the black-and-white classic was close. Clarence’s parting words stuck with me: “No man is a failure who has friends.” 

 it's a wonderful life note

George didn’t fulfill all of his dreams, but his life was still wonderful because of the countless others he touched. Perhaps the greatest impact we have can’t be measured by where we go or what we achieve. Maybe it’s in the lives we touch, some of which we will never know of.

Clarence probably won’t pay you a visit tonight, but maybe I can be Clarence for a moment? If you feel stuck in the same place, your “Bedford Falls”; if you’re thinking of all the unmet dreams, unchecked boxes, all the broken resolutions… Stop. For a moment, look over here instead. Look at the people around you. Every single one, from your elderly neighbors to your tiny cousins.  I can guarantee that you have touched their lives. At the end of the day, you have made a difference. Maybe it wasn’t in the way you expected, but the fact remains that your life is immeasurably valuable. You have touched more people than you will ever know this side of heaven. Perhaps the person you chatted with in the checkout line desperately needed someone to show them kindness that day; maybe the student you shared lunch with wouldn’t have eaten otherwise or the waiter you tipped extra was down to his last dollar. Because of you, someone else may have kept going. God uses people to touch people, and you’ll likely never be aware of the numerous ways He has used you.

We all have dreams we’re chasing, but I think I’m starting to realize something. Even if I don’t catch my dreams… Even if things turn out differently than I expected… it’s a wonderful life. 

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and that 2015 is a year of wonder! Thank you for being here, and reading this. In so doing, you have touched my life.

You are wonderful.

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Still Christmas

Silent Night

It seems as though most of my recent posts have started with, “I can’t believe it’s this time already!” or some such exclamation.

Once again, I can’t help expressing that feeling of where has the time gone? Christmas is in less than two weeks. (Don’t panic!) Just a couple of years ago, that wouldn’t have surprised me. I would have been anxiously counting down, practically to the hour. I could have belonged in Dr. Seuss’s WhoVille, with the massive Christmas Clock and bedecked everything.

In recent seasons, though, I’ve lost track. I don’t have a countdown, and I’m not wishing away days until the 25th. I still love Christmas, just not in quite the same way.

You see, for most of my life, I’ve equated Christmas with a glittering celebration and an entire season devoted to decking the halls with mistletoe and holly, belting out slightly-louder-than-necessary songs, and watching reruns of the same sappy, seasonal movies. It couldn’t fully be Christmas if every surface didn’t have a decoration, if I didn’t devote time daily to planning the season, and if – heaven forbid! – I listened to anything besides Christmas music.

All of that was so fun, until I got a little older. Then Christmas began to come and I would feel joy but also a twinge of melancholy. Why? This was the most wonderful time of the year, and everything was going wonderfully! What right did I have to be sad? I couldn’t be a humbug, for shame!

So I charged ahead, fa-la-la-la-la-ing and hustling and bustling. I could not slow down or give anything up, or I would have no Christmas cheer. Right up until last year, I made Christmas happen as I thought it should, even when I didn’t feel like going all out. Even when it wasn’t fun, or didn’t feel so jolly, I pushed through as if plowing fresh snow.

I expected to do it again this year, but I haven’t.

This Christmas season, I’ve actually allowed myself to slow down, to stop, think and simply breathe. Seasonal stress is no longer filling up my heart, so I have more capacity for joy. My calendar isn’t crammed with extra Christmas festivities; my gift wrapping doesn’t measure up to Pinterest; I haven’t set a record for mailing cards; and I’ve even listened to non-holiday music from time to time. (Shocking, isn’t it?)

And you know something? It’s still Christmas. It seems so simple, and it has been said before, but this feels like the first year I’ve believed it. Maybe more than ever, this year I am starting to realize what Christmas truly is. Not chaos and pressure, but a celebration of a Silent, Holy Night. Even when traditions are overlooked, the meal is a little simpler, or there are fewer gifts under the tree, it is still Christmas.

Jesus still arrived in an overlooked stable, and was bundled in a plain scrap of cloth. Yet in that simple, unimpressive wrapping, the greatest gift ever was given. It is God’s incomparable gift we celebrate at Christmastime! I can’t help but wonder, though, would I have more time to truly celebrate and reflect on that first silent night if I made my life a little quieter this Christmas? How many Decembers have I spent anxiously preparing for one day, instead of embracing each step of Advent and focusing on what- and Who- I truly want to celebrate?

If you feel more stressed than silent this year, may I encourage you to pause for a moment? It will still be Christmas, even if some bows are untied or not all the decorations are hung. Christmas memories don’t consist of what the house looked like or what was under the tree. For me, my most treasured holiday memories are about the people I enjoyed it with; the blessings I experienced, and the ones I shared.

So this Christmas, even though I love festivities and lights, I want to focus on one thing even more: A Silent Night.

What are you focusing on this season? How do you feel about the holiday hustle and bustle? Is there anything you would like to set aside to spend more time in silent joy?

Wishing you a calm, bright Christmas!

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