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??

What I Learned in January

januaryJanuary is always the month of newness. It inspires resolutions, and then demands readjustment. By the end of thirty-one days of trying to improve everything, I’m usually ready to hibernate. Forget the New Year. I need a new bedtime.

With that first month behind us now, I’m pausing to wonder where it went. What I accomplished. What I learned.

I’ll be sincere: January did not go as I intended. I had high expectations in several areas, and I didn’t live up to them. I barely wrote a few chapters in the manuscript I planned to complete; I haven’t figured out my future yet; what I want changes at the slightest notice; when I evaluate my actions from the last month, some of them make me cringe. This year already feels like it’s off to a choppy start. Outwardly, nothing drastic has happened, but I can’t shake my inner sense of unsteadiness.

I’m tempted to delete that entire paragraph, but I’m going to leave it because I promised myself something for this year: I am going to be authentic. It’s too tempting to create a perfect persona. It’s too uncomfortable to be vulnerable and real. Yet I’m learning that I connect most truly and deeply with others when there’s a sense of sincerity. In a world of photo shop and plastic, I think we want to know what’s genuine. We want to know we aren’t the only ones who feel messy and uncertain. Every intimate detail doesn’t  need to be spread. We still need a sense of privacy. But that doesn’t mean we need to pretend we’re perfect.

So in the midst of others celebrating their life-changing resolutions, their unstoppable success, and how 2015 is the best year ever, I’m happy for those people. But I’m not going to claim I’m one of them. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

January was not the triumphant month I imagined. It had ups and downs, but I can honestly say I learned along the way. I am learning. Here is a scattering of my humble findings for last month:

  1. Even when I don’t get the results I want, there is no regret in being brave. Courage is a choice I have to make with trembling limbs and knots in my stomach, but once I do, I am free. I no longer have to wonder what would have happened if I had stepped out. Fear doesn’t deserve the final word. Faith and freedom do. It’s empowering to type those words, even though it’s a little harder to breathe seeing them.
    be brave quote birds
  2. Patience is a process. Every time I think I’ve got it mastered, I have to learn it over. And then over again.
  3. Even loners can’t always walk alone. I am an introvert through and through, and I lean towards working by myself. I’ve recently discovered the true value of teamwork, though. I used to talk a good game about it, but now I’ve played it. And on a great team, everybody really does win. I’ve been able to watch this happen in ministry, at work, and recently in writing when I joined the fantastic team of The Fangirl Initiative(Which is a super fun, nerdy blog! Here are a few posts I’ve had the pleasure of sharing there.)
  4. It’s important to make time for what makes me happy and whole. A couple of weeks ago, I stayed up reading until 4 AM, something I hadn’t done in years. It actually felt amazing. I need books to read like I need air to breathe; I need to journal and clear my head often. And I need to make that a priority, not a luxury. Rest should be a gift, not something I have to earn by doing enough work.
  5. Speaking of books, we can no longer say Harper Lee published only one! In a bizarre twist of fate, the novel she wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird is being released at last this summer. Decades later, the public will have something of a sequel to the beloved American classic… The beloved classic I have yet to read. Since To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic, I kind of felt there was no rush. Now that the buzz is all about the sequel, Go Set a Watchman, I probably need to get a move on!
  6. Bookworms share a common problem: There are so many reasons to buy books! It’s impossibly hard not to give in to all of them! Dratted budgets. Thank you all for the brilliant response to my last bookish post- I’m so glad to know I’m not alone in my struggle. 😉
  7. Words have such power. In the last month, several people spoke encouragement to me, whether through texting, over Twitter or in person. They may never realize the light those words gave me, but I’ve clung to them. Speak kindly. Lift others. You never know how you’ll inspire them.
  8. Even the best intentions may go awry. I fully intended to have this post finished in time to participate in the link-up on one of my favorite blogs, Chatting at the SkySadly, I missed the deadline. I didn’t want to miss reflecting on January, though, so here it is. And if you’d like to see what other bloggers learned in January, here is the post I was *supposed* to add my link to. 

What did you learn in January? Is there anything you’ll change for February, or do the same? How has this month started off for you?

All the best for February!

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10 Tips for Keeping Calm in Chaos

coffee on windowsill

Hello friends! Remember me? The girl who’s gone about a week and a half without a word?

When I launched the blog a month ago, I had a solid schedule, but alas, life isn’t always so tidy.

It’s a constant volley between stress and stillness, and usually, the ball stays on the stressed side of the court longer. We all have to juggle those times, when the schedules grow longer and the days shorter.

Although I like to consider myself mostly laid-back, there is an irritable, anxious side to me. When life tugs all my strings, I get wound up in tight knots. My mind races in ninety directions at a hundred miles per hour, leaving my head spinning and heart pounding. I feel like I’m trying to keep up in a marathon, which is really bad because I do not like to run.

The last word that applies to me in all the chaos is calm. How can I keep calm when there’s enough to fill my calendar until Easter? Yet the more I worry and work myself up, the harder it is to accomplish anything. The more I flail, the faster I sink.

I’m not writing this so you pity me or excuse my sporadic blogging habits. I don’t mean to vent or whine. In fact, I’m not trying to write this for me at all, even though it is sort of therapeutic. I’m sharing this because I think you understand. I think you’ve had those drowning times, when the tide keeps rising and your energy keeps waning; you know how it feels to fight the waves but lose sight of the shore.

I’m sharing it because I think we can reach the surface together.

I’m not the best qualified to offer advice on the subject; I still have trouble breathing from impending panic. But I have found ways that help me get a lungful of air, so I’d like to share those in case they can help you breathe again too. And if you have any other methods, please do share! Here are some of the things that help me keep my head above water:

  • Write it down. I can’t remember everything, although my friends tell me I have a knack for recollecting old, mostly pointless details. To handle more practical matters, I make a lot of lists. About a month ago, I finally bought a planner and it’s been the best $2 I ever spent. It allows me to see what’s happening each day, week and month, which helps me balance the big picture and the present. It’s also rewarding to cross off events and tasks as I accomplish them.
  • Simplify. This message is on plaques in every gift shop, but this year I’ve been truly learning the blessing of that little word. It’s okay to evaluate priorities and rearrange or remove some. Having less to do means less to stress over. Even having less clutter makes me feel more focused and in control. Simplicity = sanity.
  • Make time for personal care. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming; just the basics, such as a cool shower, sweet-smelling shampoo and smooth moisturizer are enough to make me feel better. It seems easier to face the world when I’ve taken care of my face first.
  • Don’t worry about keeping up appearances. While I do need time to take care of myself, I don’t like to exaggerate it. When I am pressured, I try to keep my routine simple and both comfortable and presentable. I have a few hairstyles I can do in under a minute, and some go-to outfits at the ready. Having limited options boosts my confidence under stress, because I still get to look nice but I don’t have to try too hard.
  • Healthiness helps happiness. When I’m stressed, it’s so easy to reach for the comfort food; when I feel like I’ve been running around all day, the last thing I want is to move more; when there’s so much to do, sleep is hardly a priority. However, when I do put a little effort into my health, my energy is boosted and I feel better. Just like personal care, I try not to expect too much of myself. I’ve missed plenty of workouts, I don’t always get to sleep on time, and sometimes a girl needs chocolate! But I have been better about drinking water, eating vegetables, sitting less and sleeping a bit more, and those little things make me feel a little better.
  • Schedule time to unwind. At least half the time, I don’t do this, but on the nights I do, I feel so much calmer. I’ll listen to soft music (Josh Groban’s voice is seriously the most soothing thing on Spotify), watch a happy movie, or do some reading. Although I generally prefer books with suspense, when I’m worrying about work, moving and deadlines, I don’t want to worry about a fictional murder investigation too, so I try to stick to lighter genres. As a side note, I’m always open to recommendations!
  • Be kind. When I’m pressured, I evolve into Grumpy Cat. As much as Grumpy Cat amuses me, being cynical does nothing for me or anyone around me. I need to work on it more, but I’m trying my best to be kind to others when my natural tendency is snappishness. And I’m trying to be gentle with myself, too. After all, it’s hard to be nice to others when I bully myself. Especially under stress, it’s important for me to cut myself some slack and find a smile.
  • Avoid isolation. Hibernation looks appealing sometimes. While I certainly do need time alone to recharge, I have to make sure I don’t avoid everyone I love when I feel low on energy. As much as I pride myself on independence, I need people. God has placed some of the best in my life, and difficult times become easier when I don’t face them alone.
  • Carve out quiet time. Can I be honest? I’ve barely had a devotional time lately, because I can’t seem to slow down and focus my mind long enough. Every time I look at my devotion app, with its dozen notifications, I feel a twinge. My soul is dry and I desperately need a drink of Living Water. I’m going to finish this post and do my best to quiet my mind before God tonight, even if only for a few minutes. In other stressful times, spending time with Jesus has been the best source of strength. Even when I don’t understand how it happens, He offers me peace in His presence. I desperately need that.
  • Remember it’s going to be okay. No matter how overwhelming and chaotic things are, it really is going to work out.

I could go on and on with this list, but I’m afraid I must stop there for tonight and take my own advice. I could use some quiet time and then a good long rest! Since I didn’t cover anything, please continue the discussion in the comments. Let me know what I missed, and what helps you keep calm in the chaos of life.

Chin up, buttercup!

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