Oh, my my my. Oh, MY MY MY.
Hello, 16-year-old self. It's me. You. Your-nearly-30-year-old self. Girl, have I got so much to tell you. Where to start?
First, it feels like 10 bazillion years since I was you. I mean, it has been nearly 15 years. But it feels like way more. More like 10 bazillion.
Right now, you live in Portland, and it's the third in a string of four moves in about six years. This is a tough time to be moving around, huh? I know you feel like it's unfair, and that always being the new girl is the worst ever, ever. It does suck pretty bad. But luckily, despite the heartache it will cause you to bring upon yourself, it will end up being something God uses. You don't know this now, but all the C-R-A-P you will wade through in the coming years will be the stuff God somehow uses to transform you into the you you are now. Baffling, I know. But it's true.
That boy you're dating, you won't marry him. I know you think you will, and that you think you are madly in love. Perhaps, it is a 16-year-old version of true love.But there's more.
Spoiler alert: Dad is going to move us again. Back to where we first moved from in fifth grade. And you are going to have an extremely dramatic melt-down on the landing on the staircase. You will scream and cry, and it will feel like your heart is being ripped out. I remember that like it was yesterday.
Honestly, I think something broke in us this day. I think a new kind of desperation was born there, an extremely intense, tunnel vision, I-will-find-acceptance-no-matter-the-cost kind of desperation.
Junior and senior year of high school and freshman year of college there will be some fun times and some good memories. You will play volleyball. You will meet Kayci. (She will end up being one of your best friends, by the way.) You will sing in choir and act in plays and musicals. You will go to SMU. You will even go to church. But honestly, sweet self, you are going to be in a lot of pain and you will cause a lot of pain. Most days, you won't really know it. It will sit there beneath the surface under the guise of normal. You will make bad decisions and fight with your parents. You won't feel like you have anyone who really knows you. You won't have any girl friends, not any real ones, that is. People will talk about you. And a lot of the time, you will have earned the gossip. But despite your carefree, party-girl exterior, your heart will be shredded inside you.
YOU ARE LOST.
I promise it gets better.
During your freshman year at SMU, you will begin to notice something about your roommate. (It's Kayci. You will meet her junior year in choir. She's in there for the fine arts credit, and senior year you will talk her into taking the class again. You'll also be in the same senior English class where she will ask you to be her roommate at SMU. While the two of you think it's the greatest idea ever, most everyone else will think it's the weirdest.thing.ever. Two things: 1.) It was. 2.) God is awesome.) She's a pastor's daughter and very committed to her church and reading her Bible every day. Your dorm room is decorated with Bible verses, and when you have some stupid fight with your boyfriend, she will write you encouragement notes with verses included. You will think this is sweet and...odd.
Kayci will hang out with you while you go out, mostly to make sure you don't get hurt or lost. She never does any of the crazy things you do, except maybe bust a move on the dance floor. You will be very impressed with her resolve and strength not to do anything "bad," but there will be something deeper that draws you in. No, it's not that she will never sleep through class, even when you've been out until 3 a.m.
It's peace. She has peace. There is a stillness, a sureness, a PEACE inside her that you can't remember having ever felt.
It will be a process, but you will come to recognize this peace is something you want. You will finally accept her invitation, and in July 2002, you will raise your hand in the sanctuary of her dad's church. It will become a turning point in your life. It is the day you decide to do a 180 and pursue Jesus.
Things are not all sunshine and roses from there (there is a specific decision between beer and Bible study that you will agonize over), but that peace I mentioned and HOPE enter the scene. Jesus is so, so, so good. That's really what it comes down to. Please remember that He won't leave you or forsake you. Even when you make terrible messes and literally scream at yourself.
Right around this time, you'll meet someone else who won't leave you. Believe it or not, girlfriend, God has a man for you. Even though you're convinced you don't deserve him (you don't), God is a showoff. He has blue eyes and blonde hair. He's tall and strong, and he will sweep.you.off.your.feet. Also, he doesn't kiss you for a month. A WHOLE MONTH! This will blow your mind because up until now, most guys kiss you before they know your last name.
This man will stick around while you learn what it means to live for Jesus. You will hurt him and your family will hurt him. But he's not going anywhere. He will ask you to marry him. You will, through sobs, say yes.
Get this: He's a pastor.
Yeah. You're gonna be a pastor's wife. I'll wait while you pick yourself up off the floor. No, I know. It doesn't make sense. It won't for awhile. A long while. But it's awesome, I promise. AWESOME. And not only do you gain a husband, you will gain another amazing family. I can't wait until you meet them. You're gonna die. (There is a niece and a nephew, too! EEEK!)
A few more things:
1.) Listen to Laura and throw away the cigarettes. She's right. They're gross.
2.) Love on Travis some more. He turns out to be a funny guy. He reminds you of Dad in all the ways that make you smile.
3.) Have hope on the nights after Kelly breaks up with Scott, and he comes to sleep in your bed in the apartment on Lovers. His heart is so broken, but guess what? They get back together. And they get married. Their first baby is due in two weeks. OMG. Yes.
4.) Mom and Dad get a divorce. Yeah. That's mind-blowing. And really messy. Everyone is doing OK now, though, believe it or not.
5.) Mom gets breast cancer. But she beats it! She's a mighty strong woman.
6.) Laura gets married. Then divorced. She goes through some very seriously hard times, and you will worry about her A LOT. But then one day you realize she's doing OK. She is doing more than OK. She is wiser now. And she's going to be a doctor.
I know I told you a lot, and there's still so much I left out. I just want so badly for you to see how while there is a ton of junk in life, God is expertly threading an incredible redemption story through it all. He is good, and you should trust Him. He will always provide everything you need. He will also continue to work on you. You're still a work in progress. Even now, there is still so far to go. Lucky for us, He promises to complete the good work He started.
Oh, also? There are babies. Three so far. They all look like their daddy only the littlest one has your brown eyes. The thing about God being a show off? Yeah. Get ready to have your mind blown.
Cling to hope, sweet girl. It gets so much better.
Your 29-and-10-months-old self
P.S. For heaven's sake, listen to your mother and stop plucking your eyebrows. Fifteen years later you will still be trying to grow them back. Both your daughters have beautifully thick eyebrows, and even at five-years- and one-year-old you are already plotting how to be sure they never get alone with tweezers.
Emily P. Freeman has written a book for teenage girls called Graceful. Check it out here.