November 19, 2014

Dear Me: a Letter to My Teenage Self

Sep14

Dear Teenage Self Me,

In one week, you will turn 16.

I just love that you are so full of  life, and innocent enough to believe that this magical birthday will suddenly allow life to explode with possibilities.

I know, I know, you are rolling your eyes wondering why it’s necessary to glean a few words of advice from your older,wiser self, but I know you. I know what you are going through, and while I wouldn’t go back and change much because these significant times made you the woman you are today, there are moments I want you to embrace, to really feel, to learn from and share.

So pour some coffee, since we both know you just started drinking it, and for once, try to listen before responding.

A lot of hype and expectation occurred with this magic birthday because it meant being free on the road. Next week, dad makes you take the drivers test on a stick shift car, and while you were furious with that decision, he always did know best. We didn’t know about texting and driving then, but when you have a few teens of your own, you will decide to buy one for your own children because they need something better to do with their hands.

Your 16th marked a glorious day. Your family threw a surprise birthday party for you. You felt loved and surrounded by family and friends you could trust, but most importantly, it marked the day you could date! Yes, your dad coined 16 as the year when you could first go to Homecoming, (which you didn’t because no one asked), the Junior Prom, (which you did, but it was a disaster), and have your first real car date (oh, the pressure with three older brothers scaring that poor boy to death. You just have no idea how much fun they had grilling him; it’s still talked about today.)

I know you won’t believe me, but ask dad to change that dating age to 18 or 20.  Yes, I realize you will be an adult then with your own decisions, but he was really on to something by allowing  himself to be the bad guy. You will waste much too much time worrying about what those silly boys think of you, and their words will affect you more than you care to admit.

Guard your heart. Guard your heart. Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.

This is the year you will make a life altering decision.

At the peak of your swimming career, you’ve set state and national records. I know that life has revolved around the possibility of the Olympic try outs, but you know deep down you don’t want to swim through college. You’re losing that drive and discipline. When your coach finally gives the ultimatum between swimming or the fine arts, not both, you will choose that school musical, and live with no regrets because worship will become an integral part of who you are.

But here’s the painful part of that same decision; over the next few years, you will gain nearly 40 pounds. (Yes, I know you want pictures, but they are all over at Mom’s and I didn’t plan ahead. That’s a problem you will continue to have for the new few decades.)

Without all that physical exercise, compounded by your struggle with food, you’ll carry that weight for years. Even though you are surrounded by people who speak truth into your life, it will be the source of deep hurt. It will consume you at times and each day your mind will swirl around food, how much you’ve eaten, and pondering ways to get rid of the food you’ve consumed.

I know this is making you uncomfortable. It’s  just not something people talk about, but it needs to be addressed in teenage girl circles.

What are you thinking?

Last year, when the girls on your swim team introduced you to their “solution” to help with the constant stress on physical performance, why didn’t you RUN AWAY??  Throwing up leads to a cycle of addiction to food that you don’t want to deal with through high school. Let your parents help.

I know the pressure to be thin and it’s painful. I still feel the ache decades later, but short term fixes are never the answer.

You are beautiful and worthy exactly as you are, and nothing anyone can say or do will change that truth.

Do you hear me? Your body type does not dictate your worth, no matter what society tells us.

You are amazing!

In a few years, you will have a dear guy friend mention, “If you would just lose weight, you’d be so beautiful.” I’m sure he thought he was encouraging us in some “guy way,” as if we could flip a magic switch and just have it happen. Maybe it was his motivational speech to let me know that I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Those words will haunt you for decades.

In college, you will be every guys best friend. They all want to hang out with you because you’re fun, and make them cookies.  They’ll use you as a sounding board because you listen well, and will even complement you with words like, “Jen, you are exactly the kind of girl we all want to marry.”

You will hear it for what it is,  “Jen, you are great, but we just wouldn’t want to date you until you lose weight.” (But if it makes you feel any better, you’ll run into all those guys again at your reunion, in your size 6 jeans, and try not to gloat because you know it’s not the most humble attitude to have, but it does help old wounds…just a bit.)

You’ll soon understand that the Lord carved those years specifically for a reason. Your heart for youth ministry blossomed, and you experienced oversea cultures, embracing the third world with abandon. These unique opportunities may not have come about if you were constantly thinking about dating relationships.

(FYI: With these heart changes, you switch your major from Mass Communications (Radio and TV) to full time ministry. You might want to choose a slightly less expensive university. Debt for private school when going into ministry is not advisable.)

With your own kids, those teen boys will see your mama bear roar when they dare elude snarky comments about chubby  girls, and they will get an hour long lecture about the worth of those girls, and how they need to cherish them and encourage them. You will help them understand they better NOT mess with mama when it comes to women and their weight.

Embracing these emotions are painful, but they are your springboard to cultivating a heart for the underdog.  You’ve already begun that, but you will be a master champion for those who don’t quite fit in. You have a sense of justice. A true sense of standing up for what’s right and wrong, but get your eyes off yourself right now and look around for those who are hurting. Embrace them now.

High school is a scary place when many don’t have any kind of safety net. Be that net for others, and let them know it’s ok to be themselves; to be who God made them to be.  Continue to encourage them it’s ok not to drink, and be a bit more vocal at how much fun one can have completely sober. Assure them that others like yourself are waiting to have sex until they’re married, even when adults are whispering to you that you have unreasonable expectations. In health class next year, we will take a stand against your teacher and just know, you will be stronger for it.

Can I tell you a little secret right now -  you did it!

You waited for your amazing Prince Charming and you gave him that gift on your wedding night. It was hard. really hard, but those who say it’s impossible, don’t listen to them.

Whew – I never knew how much I had to say to you, and I am feel like I am just starting to unpack it.

I want to hug you tightly, my sweet 16 year old self because life is so easy for you right now, but the Lord is laying the foundation for some tough years ahead.

I think that needs to be another letter.

The letter where I tell you to watch your parents actions closely these next few years. Today, you don’t have a care in the world about money. Your dad owns a country club for goodness sakes, but it’s all going away. Every last penny, and it won’t ever come back. Watch mom and dad. See how they interact and cling to the Lord, and then cling to each other when most couples run. They model this life changing disaster with grace, goodness and character.

You will learn biblical life lessons about dealing with your enemies, and your justice oriented nature will rear its ugly head. You won’t understand any of this. You will question how the Lord can let something like this happen to people who serve Him faithfully. You will learn that not every wrong can be righted, and that ones reputation is in the hands of the Lord. But more importantly, you will learn that He has it all under control, even in the most painful of circumstances.

This will be the single biggest factor that impacts your life, so embrace it with eyes, wide open and learn from it.

Share your experience.

Yes, you definitely need another letter from me because I didn’t even get to ask you about the fashion statement we were known for. How did we think that pearls go with everything, and that we had permission to wear them every day with sweat pants and sweat shirts?

I’ll save the rest for later. This is  a lot to digest, but today, I’m sending you a gift, and it’s better than pearls.

My sweet friend, Emily, has written an amazing book just for you and your teenage girl friends. You need to read it! NOW!

It’s called Graceful and Emily shares:  

For the good test taker and the strict list maker. For the rule follower, the fear wallower, the messy, and the misunderstood. For the self-critic, the silent judge, and the girl who feels invisible.

For the girl who is tired of trying and the one afraid to fail.

You don’t have to be perfect, but do you trust the One who is? The God who came to save you also came to live with you, in you, today.

I have the privilege of calling  the author of Graceful, Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky, a dear friend. We attend the same church, and her husband has been the youth pastor for our three high school aged sons (and soon will have our daughter in there too.) You know how important that ministry is in our lives and you can just imagine how much Emily loves teen girls.

We are in this together, and I am cheering you on to live Life on purpose for Him.

Let go of the tried hard life,
Your much older self

I’ve written this letter to myself to celebrate my sweet friend’s new book .

I would love to hear what is ONE thing you would tell your teenage self?


Comments

  1. I would tell myself that those friends, that make you question if what your doing is right, are not true friends. Years down the road they will not be there for you, or even thought of, more than likely. Go for the friends that are REAL.

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    Jen Reply:

    Oh, April, why couldn’t we figure that out earlier, right? I so want my children to get that lesson early on and save so much heartache.

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  2. I would tell myself to pray more and worry less. A relationship with God gives courage and hope and belonging. That’s all I ever needed.

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  3. I would tell myself that what may look like the “easy way” sometimes isn’t. Shortcuts aren’t always the shorter way. Sometimes the road is hard and long for a reason…that reason is worth every step.

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    Jen Reply:

    SO true, Rachel – the most growing times in my life were the long, painful routes I had to take.

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  4. I would tell myself to not worry so much, go off to college, and that your are beautiful just the way you are!

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  5. I would tell my teenage self to not stress so much, not sweat the small stuff, and have a little more fun! Yes you heard right, have a little more fun, I was such an introverted and pretty serious! I should have been a mud vs. Trying to be grownup

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  6. I’d tell myself to be the one who smiles first. I spent high school thinking that a whole bunch of people didn’t like me, but in reality, it’s probably because I went around with a glum face most of the time and didn’t make too much effort! Thankful to have changed that in college :)

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  7. I would tell myself to let go of perfection. It is more important to enjoy the journey and be mindful that God is in control – so practice faith and patience.

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  8. I would tell my 16 year old self to not be in such a hurry! For heaven’s sake quit thinking about marriage – you’ll get married at 20, and never finish school.

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  9. I would tell my teenage self : YOU are the only person you need to impress!

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  10. wendy welch says:

    I would tell my younger self to slow down and appreciate each day more. Because, 20 years from now, I’ll be wishing I were back in high school living it up and loving the teen years!

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  11. I would tell teenage self to study more, go to college and find God!

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  12. I would tell myself that years of boys telling you that your beautiful will never make up for the void left by a dad that never did. You will marry a wonderful man but for bow don’t be so serious!

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  13. I would tell myself that what everyone else thinks of me, doesn’t matter at all. I would tell myself to follow what I know is right in my own heart and not to worry about trying to impress others… one day, one day way too long from now, you will realize that you can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you try, no matter how exhausted you become trying, some people you just can’t please.

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  14. Jen, I loved your letter and all of its beautiful honesty. I wrote my own letter {because I have SO much advice} so I’ll just say one thing: “You be you.” It was the best advice my mom gave me but I was too busy already knowing everything to listen. : ) I wish I’d unpacked it more then. I spent years chasing down who I thought I should be instead of appreciating who God had already created me to be.

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  15. Wendy Dente says:

    Breathe. This too shall pass. It’s ok. Life is short. Be happy.

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  16. One thing? Be the friend you want to have. Don’t always wait for someone else to make the first move. I’ve always struggled with that.

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  17. The one thing I would tell my younger self is that I am good enough and that I needn’t compare myself to my classmates. I am only seeing their outside and I have no idea what struggles they face.

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  18. Girl, don’t be sad about “being the only girl at 16″ that hasn’t had your “1st kiss”. It’s really not that “you’re not pretty enough” like you think, but that Jesus is really protecting you from a whole lot of hurt many of your friends go through. None of these high school guys is your future husband…and out of all of your friends dating right now, only 1 of them marrys this “high school sweetheart”. And here’s a fun secret–your husband is 19 almost 20 and is a sophomore in COLLEGE! So instead of spending your time asking “what’s wrong with me?” encourage those around you feeling the same.

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  19. Mamato4Sweeties says:

    I would tell myself dating is overrated. Wait for the one because he will be there soon!

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  20. Hannah Rhiew says:

    I would tell my teenage self to never lose hope, to stay faithful to yourself, and to not give into peer pressure. Don’t give up your true friends for a chance to be “popular.” Don’t listen to what the world around you is telling you whats “in” or “out” but to believe in yourself, keep family close, and know that God always forgives.

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  21. I would tell myself that the body I thought was fat is really skinny compared to at age 56. I would also tell myself finishing college is more important than getting married too early. (although it has lasted 38 yrs….it would have probably been better if I had finished college.)

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  22. I would tell myself to stop being self conscious of my height, to go to sleep earlier, to smile more, and think more of what I want to do with my future. I’d also add that I should listen more to what my father had to say. Looking back, he had such words of wisdom that my teenage ears didn’t want to hear.

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  23. I would tell her to guard her heart, to cherish her friends, be nice to her mom and to hang out with her dad more because he passed away all too soon.

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  24. I wrote a whole post of things to tell my teenage self :D purposefullychosen.blogspot.com DYING to get my hands on this book now!

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  25. Kerri Dahlgren says:

    Don’t be deceived by any charmers who try to win your heart with flattery, gifts, flowers, etc. Don’t settle for any guy just because your biggest dream is to get married and be a mom. You are worth more. Wait for the guy who loves you like Christ loves His church and encourages you to have a closer relationship with the Lord-not the opposite. Tolerating any form of control, verbal put-downs, false accusations, etc will eventually lead to physical abuse. You will be thankful to get out of this terrible situation alive. The isolation and shame will only keep you from going to your parents or others who love you and want to protect you. Wait for the right Godly man and don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.

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  26. Celeste Hill says:

    Dear Self,

    Your parents divorce was not your fault! They were two people who should have acted like adults and because of there actions you felt compelled to protect your sisters and assume the mom role. This role was never your calling and you were a child and should have been able to have a childhood. You used to laugh at your friends as they kiddingly marked you with the nick name “Mama Celeste” (they thought they were very clever grabbing the name from a frozen pizza line).
    However inside you screamed to be released from the responsibilites that you were not equipped to handle. It didn’t happen however and you continued on in that role as it seemed to consume you. Being the first born had it’s advantages and then it felt as if it was a curse. How you longed for an older brother (all girl family) some how you envisioned him protecting you.

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  27. Relax – many of the things that worry you now won’t even be on your radar in a year or two. Trust God to reveal His plans for your future.

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  28. One thing? “It’s going to be OK.” Oh, and way to ruin the surprise for your/her 16th birthday party, Jen! :)

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    Jen Reply:

    OH my word!! I TOTALLY DID! I ruined the whole thing. hahaha Well, I really don’t like surprises anyhow. I like just fooling everyone into thinking I was surprised. ;)

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  29. One thing…..The next 16 years will shape you in ways you never imagined. Through marriage, infidelity, 3 beautiful children, and ultimately divorce; God is designing you to be stronger than you ever thought possible. I would tell myself to really build a stronger faith foundation and not wait cause that’s the only thing that will get you through any situation. To truly LEAN on Him when all around you falls away.

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  30. Always be yourself as you are now and not be presuaded by others to do wrong.

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  31. I would tell myself that there will always be someone out there who doesn’t agree with what you are wearing, doing, etc. Be true to who you are because that is where you will find true happiness and peace.

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    Jen Reply:

    Isn’t that so true? It’s so easy to be tempted to be all things to all people, but we’ll never please everyone.

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  32. I would tell myself that life won’t always be so lonely and that I DO have value and worth! I would tell me that one day, after many hardships and bad decisions, that God would heal my heart and give me a man that would love me the way God intended a man to love a woman and that the world would feel level and right. I would tell myself not to give up during those hard times because without them I will not be the woman I am today. They will make me more compassionate and loving and understanding. And without the pain, I could never have known the presence of Grace, and Healing, and Forgiveness. I would affirm that God is real and that a relationship with Him is the foundation for all that matters. And someday, before it’s too late, Mom will finally love you.

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    Jen Reply:

    Mary – Thank you for sharing how your struggles have molded you. It’s never easy to go through that pain, but through it He was revealed as our Jehovah Jirah, and Healer. And what ever led to reconciliation with your mother, I am overjoyed to hear that.

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  33. I was a very serious swimmer, too, though not record setting like you. :-) I phased it out around the same age as it sounds like you did, but a lot of days I still miss it (though I doubt I would say that if I were still getting up early in the mornings for practice year-round!). I, too, struggled with my weight and body image after I quit, though thankfully I made it through unscathed. I am very thankful for the healthful foundation those many years in the water gave my body!

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  34. I would tell myself not to worry about those stupid boys in your small hometown. It doesn’t matter what they think because when you go to college you will meet the guy that you will eventually (after 4 years of dating!) marry. And he’s more wonderful than ALL of those stupid guys you crushed on rolled in to one. :)

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  35. I would tell myself to listen to what my mother has to say and take it to heart. Don’t take it as criticism..she is just trying to help me out. However, when your that age you don’t want to listen :(

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  36. To my 10-year old self, even though your mother and brother call you ugly, and even though your bi-polar mother ignores you, rejects you, despises you, you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are a child of God. And one day you will meet the man of your dreams, who will let you know that you are beautiful!

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    Jen Reply:

    MElissa – I know those are hurts that run deep. I love to hear you speak truth about your worth!! You are a child of God and SO very beautiful!

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  37. Dawnette Thomas says:

    Dear Me,
    Believe in yourself! God believes in you and He doesn’t create junk; therefore, embrace what He has already given you and run with it. Believe you are worth it! Believe you matter! Believe you are here for a reason! Believe!

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  38. I would tell myself that even though you don’t have a boyfriend now (and really won’t for many years) you ARE beautiful and your prince charming will come by in about seven or eight years and will be better than anything you can imagine. :)

    And also, stop worrying. All the things you worry about over the next ten years or so will turn out just fine.

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  39. I would tell myself not to spend so much time on the agenda I set for myself but rather to step back, look around, look deep into my heart, and spend more time out in the world before narrowing my goals so much.

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  40. My advice to myself would be to never let a guy belittle and allow you to think you are nothing without HIM. He is the one who is insecure without you. Boyfriends will come and go but true friends will always be there well into adulthood and they will be the treasures of your life. He will barely be a memory.

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  41. Jessica Beard says:

    Pray about everything and you will get through.

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  42. This is just beautiful, Jen! Thank you for pouring your heart out…I loved your letter :)

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  43. To enjoy the ride and not focus on the next milestone. And to be brave.

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  44. I would say “guard your heart” also. Guard it by staying in the Word daily, praying constantly, and associating with people who will help you grow in the Lord and be prepared to receive the very best that He has for you.

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  45. I would tell my teen self to focus on what I find important — to do the things I want to do, not the things that are “cool” to do. To the friend who invited you to church, ask her if she’ll take you again. She doesn’t know how much it meant to you. Last, spend more time making friends with girls than trying to impress boys. When no boy asks for a date, it’s awfully lonely with no girlfriends.

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  46. I would tell my teen age self that forgiveness is the key to peace in the heart. God’s forgiveness for my sin, and my immediate forgiveness of others before they ask and even when they don’t admit their wrongs against others.

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  47. Dear 16 year old Susan—-

    Enjoy the time with your best friends. You know who they are. They are the ones you meet at age 8 and have spent many hours laughing and talking with. You three will grow up together, go to college together, be in each others weddings and be there when one of you loses not one, but two babies. The sun will shine again when your friend has two more healthly babies and you and your other best friend are there to witness the miracle. They will share in the joy of your healthy children and will be a strong shoulder for you during dark times. Tell them over and over how much you love them and thank God for blessing you with such wonderful friends. One of those friends will leave you too soon and you don’t want to have any regrets about the time you spent together. You will be attending “Becoming” with your other best friend and you will still be laughing, talking, and enjoying your friendship even into your late 40s!

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  48. Dear 16 year old me,

    Relax! (you see by 16 I was a mother and married) I tried to find love anywhere because I didn’t have it at home. So I was trying hard to prove to everyone that I wasn’t to young and I could care for a baby. He wasn’t planned I wasn’t trying to have a baby. But God gave me him for a reason. Only God knows what would of happened if he didn’t give me my precious child. Now 15 years later I wouldn’t give my son back or take back my teenage years for anything. I wish I would of looked to God for all the love I was looking for. But now I get to pass all Gods love onto my children! I’ve always been the one that learns the hard way! HAHA

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  49. I would tell my 16 year old self to invest more time into my six younger brothers and sisters. I would tell myself to stop seeing them as bothers, and look for ways to wrap my life around theirs. I live across the United States from them, and have for most of married life… and it hurts to not have strong connections with them. I would remind myself those last months at home are exciting for me, but for them they are loosing the sis they had at home. I would encourage myself to reach out more to my parents and help them by being a friend.

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  50. I would tell my 16 year old self to not worry so much what others may think of me, but focus more on those close to me. I wish I spent more time with my grandmothers…. too late now :( I love this quote I saw the other day “Don’t try to fit in so hard, when you were born to stand out.”

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  51. I would tell my teenage self that things will get so much better in many ways.

    I had such a chaotic life starting at age 13 when my mother left the family and I was the oldest child so it fell to me to try to keep the house going as best as I could and take care of a younger sister and brother.

    I often felt overwhelmed at the time; but looking back after many years I am actaully proud of what I did. I even managed to stay on the honor roll. Eventually I met and married a wonderful man and had a happy marriage for 43 years until he passed away.

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  52. I would tell myself to hold on, keep breathing, and know that your dreams will come true. Try to enjoy the ride as best as you can knowing that God will take care of it all, and it will be better than you ever hoped it could be. People will change, and in time, they will “get” you. Don’t let them get the best of you in the process. Don’t let them steal your joy- you have much to be proud of and no reason to be ashamed of that. Your hard work is not in vain. Stay the course. I love you.

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  53. One of the things that I would tell my teenage self would be don’t be afraid to take risks in terms of what you want to do in life. In other words, don’t play it “safe” and pick a career that is what you think will be solid or monetarily rewarding. Rather, pray about where God is leading you and ask for Him to show you your strengths, and ask for His enabling in the pursuit of what you are PASSIONATE about (I LOVE your phrase… in Passionate Pursuit!).

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  54. Loved your letter!! Thanks for sharing your heart so openly and honestly. I too would tell my 16-year-old self “Guard your heart, guard your heart, guard your heart.” There’s an old song by Steve Green that says that line, and it is so true. I have a daughter now who is 15, and I am going to order this book for her. I loved Emily’s book Grace for the Good Girl – I’ve already read it twice myself.

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  55. I wrote a letter myself…oh to learn to love who God created you to be…the strengths and the weakness…that she is not less than or a mistake. great post…blessings~

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  56. Your letter brought tears to my eyes! I would tell myself to recognize her passions for what they are and take her interest in them in higher learning, to make a career of them. I would also tell her to stop listening to the bullying from her father, that she is beautiful, smart, and is more than capable of doing whatever she wants to do. That she is just as important and worthy as any guy.

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  57. Great thoughts! I would say to myself, ” spend more time at home. Squeeze in as much as you can because your family is forever and your friends are fleeting. (just like your youth). Oh, and guard your heart and love yourself. You have the head knowledge that God made you beautiful, but take time to connect that to your heart so you truly believe it!”

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  58. I’d tell my teenage self to just let go. Embrace yourself, take a step forward, and fly.

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  59. I could write a whole journal about what I would tell my teenage self…
    I am too bashful to say a few of the things, because they are so personal!
    “You are truly one of a kind, you are worthy of true love and despite it all,
    you are a kind and caring person.
    Many thanks, Cindi

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  60. Kelly Sullivan says:

    Don’t worry so much about what other people are thinking of you and just do what you want!

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  61. If I could tell my teenage self one thing, it would be…..”Hold your head up high sweet girl, for why should you care what anyone else thinks of you? You are beautiful, You are loved, You are a daughter of the KING and you can’t get any better than that!”

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  62. I would tell myself to never worry about the future – my life would turn out exactly as I’d hoped. But I would also warn myself that it will never get easier!!!

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  63. Respect yourself and never compromise your integrity.

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  64. “It’s going to be OK.”

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  65. Wow! This was great for me to read, especially after I wrote my own letter…Jen I was so insecure as a teenager I was jealous of girls like you. I would look at your life with two parents and ‘country club’ life and sweet 16 parties and be yucky. I never was outwardly mean but my heart was. And to think you really needed a friend and I was too busy being jealous that it paralyzed me to reach out and love. :(

    Reading other letters just confirms how much we all need a Savior. We each have our own trials and tribulations that should lead us to the cross. Thank you for sharing!

    The one thing I would tell myself: LOVE God and others (but you can’t apart from Him John 15:5)

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  66. I would tell my teenage self to not compare myself with my skinny friends. I come from a line of bigger-boned, bigger breasted women, and that’s fine because God made me that way. NO type of diet will ever change my genetics. BE THANKFUL!!

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  67. I would tell myself to pursue every passion and give it your all. No matter if they seem contradictory to each other (pursue a college degree, be a full-time mom, and still somehow feel that you have fully retained who you truly are). No regrets! If you want it, go for it (guided by God’s word and a pure heart). I would tell myself to choose early the ONE who REALLY does matter and give him your life, your heart and your future….you will never regret a life lived for the Lord.

    I would also tell myself to SAVE LIKE THE DICKENS because it will make life a little easier when those “reality bills” come due…… life changes quickly and often brings some financial curve balls.

    But no matter what, remember: “HE always provides, sure as the sun will rise…”. No matter if it’s money, love, security, emotional healing, spiritual needs or whatever life will warrant, God will provide. Don’t forget our favorite verses: “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 AND “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

    Remember you are beautiful and uniquely made by God. Let him shine in your whole life!

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  68. I would tell her that 18 is too young to know what love is and you dont have to marry the first guy that says I love you because regardless of her thinking hes the only one that ever will…there will be others!

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  69. I would tell myself to stop being in such a rush to grow up. You will have plenty of time to be an adult. Enjoy your life as a teenager.

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  70. The one thing that I would tell myself is that it’s okay to mourn your mothers death. And that the fact that she told you goodbye instead of good night, the night she committed suicide, was not something that should have tipped you off to what she was doing. You couldn’t have saved her. It’s not your fault.

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  71. One thing I would tell my 16 yo self — don’t do it! Don’t start smoking to be with the “in” crowd. It doesn’t seem like it now, but it will give you wrinkles, stain your teeth and affect your whole body. The longer you “enjoy” the cigarettes, the harder it will be to quit. Just don’t do it!

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  72. I would tell myself it is ok to be me, I am a good person. I don’t have to follow the crowd. I can say no and feel good about it. I can have fun and laugh and dance.

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  73. Two things: 1. Choose your friends more carefully 2. Your parents really are smart, so listen!

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  74. I’d tell myself: You are like a fine wine. Today you may be a childish version of grape juice but you WILL mature and grow rich in flavor and experience like an expensive wine. You will grow to become more beautiful like the ugly duckling into a swan. Unlike the fairy tales where this occurs in high school it will happen later but at the perfect time.

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  75. I’d say “You think you are fat as a cow, but you are not. You are perfect. You are beautiful and you are worthy of the very best. Don’t settle for anything less.”

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  76. Cultivate a deep relationship with your parents. They may not be perfect, but they have more wisdom than you give them credit for.

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  77. I LOVED this column; thank you! If I were going to pick one simple comment, I would say – Hold firmly to what really matters. Hold onto your Rock and let everything else wash away!

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  78. Michelle Young says:

    I would tell my 16 year old self to stop worrying about the fact that only one guy has asked her out now that she can date. Stop being on that constant hunt for a boyfriend. Spend more time with your sister and get to know her better that way you will have memories to share when you are older. Get ready for next year, its a good one. Go ahead and ask that fourth guy to the prom first because the other three can’t go!!!

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  79. Heather Freeman says:

    I would tell myself to get in shape now because it’s so much harder later.

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  80. Resist temptation.

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  81. I would tell myself: In 10 years, you will look back and see the amazing hand of God in your life, don’t let fear stop you from living. Keep trusting Him!

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  82. Ask Jesus into your heart. Then find an evangelical church. You will find the answers that no one around you is giving you, you won’t feel lonely anymore, and you will meet people like yourself. You are valuable.

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  83. Spend more time writing down cherished stories from your grandparents and spend more time learning even more about their hopes & dreams and more stories from their lives.

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  84. Thank you so much for the beautiful post (although it should have had a warning on it ;..) ) and for showing us this precious book and the offer to win it. You are a true inspiration and we REALLY REALLY appreciate you!

    I would tell myself to just love me! Be healthy! Trying to lose those 5lbs will put you in an unhealthy dieting cycle that probably contributes to the extra 45lbs I am carrying right now.

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  85. I would tell myself about Christ and how much better it is with Him as the center of my life.

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  86. I would say remember that all the days are in His hands and to know that he has a perfect plan.

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  87. I would tell myself to “REST” — I have always been a do-er, a worker, a try-er, an overachiever. It’s exhausting, as we all know. And to no end. But to rest, really rest, in Jesus and to let Him woo me — that’s an accomplishment. :)

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  88. I would tell myself not to let others define who I am – that self esteem is such a fragile thing and can be damaged beyond repair.

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  89. Debbie Lazic says:

    I would tell my young self not to give away my dignity; not to throw my pearls before swine

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