Dear body… It’s been a rough season for us, hasn’t it? I haven’t loved you very well lately. I haven’t felt proud of you, haven’t felt good about you, haven’t really known how to address you or see you or appreciate you…
My homework for counseling this past week after telling my story publicly was to write a letter to that former version of myself, back when everything happened and I felt like all hope was lost. This is what I wrote.
It's no surprise that I adore writing letters and sending mail. I think it's a lost art and a beautiful, tangible way to express love in a way that can be held on to forever and ever.
Today's Blog-tember prompt: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any advice or funny stories?
This is about to get real, so get ready.
Dear 16-year-old me,
Oh, sweet girl. I have so many things to tell you. High school is so hard, I know. You feel alone and your heart is broken. You moved all the way across the country last year and it totally rocked your whole world-- everything and everyone you knew and loved is so far away and it's really hard to be the new girl in a school full of cliques.
I know it's hard to be in hallways full of people and feel alone. I know it's hard to hear the hateful words they are whispering as they pass you and to remember those words aren't truth. I know it's hard to see the vicious threats come through to your inbox, to realize that even church girls can be bullies. I know it's hard to rise above it, to try to be the bigger person, to let the words roll off your back when they're cutting into you like daggers. I know it's hard to feel like there is any good in your world right now.
Sweet girl, if only I could dry your tears and whisper words of love to you. If only I could go back and make all the bad go away, take the hurt away, and wrap you up in a bubble so the bullies can't get to you. They are cruel. They are hurtful. They are in the wrong.
I'm so proud of you. I'm proud of how you keep falling back on your faith, even when it feels like the whole world was falling apart. I'm proud of how you keep opening your heart, even though it has been so badly broken. I'm proud of the words you spill onto pages and pages of journals, because they are honest and true and raw and you are brave enough to write them down.
The rest of high school will be hard, I can't lie to you about that. You will get through it. You will come home crying and collapse on the couch more times than I can count, but you will make it through.
You will make new friends that you will still talk to even six years later. You will fall in love with a boy for the first time and it will be life-changing to spend two years with him. You will find your passions and pursue them, through leading worship at your church, and through the school newspaper, and through your own writing.
Those years are the hardest ones. They're full of more heartache and heartbreak than any teenager should have to endure. But those years are the ones that set the stage for a glorious story of redemption that your Creator is writing through your life. Those years are the darkness, but the light is coming, and it's going to be radiant. People will see a change in you and they will know it's only Jesus. That's a good, good thing, love. That's what this life is all about.
I know you don't understand why anyone in the world likes high school, and why any adult ever says that it's the best time of your life. Even when you're 23, you won't understand that. That's okay. High school was hell for you, but the rest of your life? Girl, it gets GOOD. Really good.
Hold tight to your faith and your family. Know that your parents are always going to be your biggest fans, your rock-solid foundation, your best friends, and your most trusted confidantes. They love you. Let them. Be good to them, even though you're moody and hurting and you want to lash out. Know that it won't always feel like life is a battle of you against the world. There are good, trustworthy, honest, kind people, and you'll meet them soon. They'll love you relentlessly and you'll learn to trust friends and community again. It will be the best thing that ever happens to you.
Hear me when I say this, sixteen-year-old self: You are brave. You are beautiful. You are beloved. You are going through hard times, but they are not in vain. You are worthy of love. You have been created by a God who loves everything about you, even when the people around you don't. You are where you are for a purpose, because it's part of a bigger story that is better than you ever dared to hope. You are hurt, but you will heal. You are struggling, but you will rejoice soon.
It's always darkest before the dawn. Hold tight. Hold on to hope. I'm so proud of you.
All my love and more,
It's been a year now. It's strange to realize that, to wrap my head around how a whole 365 days have passed. A year since I told a circle table full of new faces about this project I was launching, this desire to share stories. A year since you eagerly jumped in before I had finished clumsily trying to explain it and said you wanted to dive in. A year since we sat at Panera just a few days later, in a booth I can't sit in again, and I heard you talk about your life in a way that drew me in. A year since I tried to avoid looking at your eyes, thinking "don't fall, don't fall, don't fall."
A year since I did.
But you left. I always knew the leaving was coming, it was the very first thing I learned about you. The paperwork had been done, the plans had been set, and you would be moving to Africa. It seemed wild, exotic, romantic.
But you left. And I broke. I had fallen, against my better judgment. I tried to hold on to the fraying end of a rope, but there was nothing left to cling to with so many miles and so much ocean between us.
You were the last one I said I loved. You were the last one I called mine. You were the last one I fell for. I don't know who will be next, if there will be somebody to be next. I hope there will be, someday.
Because of you, I learned something I needed badly to grasp. It is good to let others in, and it is good to let others go.
From the start, what we had was honesty and vulnerability and words and nothing held back. We got to a place of depth quickly, and it was both terrifying and exhilarating. You showed me people don't always run when true colors come out.
You showed me people aren't always for forever, but that even short seasons of togetherness can be beautiful and life-changing. My life was changed by the three months I spent getting to know you and letting you get to know me. It was changed even more by the weeks after you left, and the process of me learning that I'm okay on my own, strong on my own, capable on my own, alive on my own.
I've never been good at letting down my guard, at letting people see the twisted, tangled mess of my heart. You showed me it's worth it, no matter how it ends. You proved you were trustworthy and you were real with me in return. I've never been good at letting people go, at loosening my grip and cutting ties and moving on. Because of you, I've learned sometimes that's best.
Not everyone is meant to stay on stage for the entire play, some are just supporting characters whose roles are short and sweet in the spotlight. Their names will still be mentioned in the program, but they don't need to be in bold, they don't need to be highlighted, they don't need to have an encore. Their part was enough as it was, and the play better because they participated, but the show must go on and I must keep playing my own role once others fade behind the curtain.
Thank you for sharing your story and your summer with me, 365 days ago. Thank you for showing me the best kinds of Malbec wine, for dancing with me even when I was half asleep, for the game nights and the road trips, for teaching me your signature sultry-eye stare, for crushing me in bowling games and wearing monogrammed dress shirts, for never letting me win in a debate, and for always reading my words and my letters. Thank you for teaching me more in three months than I've still fully realized. It was a wild ride and I'm grateful for all of it.
Wishing you well always,
"I love you" never means the same thing twice. So this is me, saying "I love you" in the form of little letters to the ones that hold slivers of my heart, in all the different ways those three little words take form.
Dear You, all four of you, our family has come out of your love. On both sides, you anchor us all, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins. That you once lived next door to each other on Flint Tavern Place is one of my favorite stories to tell. That my parents met because you four were first friendly neighbors is such a sweet story. That all four of you are alive and well and making your seventies look younger than ever is such a blessing. That all four of you never cease to remind me I am loved is such a gift. I'm so grateful for you. I'm grateful for every memory throughout all the years of my life made better by your love for our family.
Dear You, I can picture all of your faces now. I can just vaguely remember what it felt like to hug you, to hold your hand, to call you mine. I said I love you, and I know that I meant it, but I know that it was different than what I know love to be now. But I'm thankful for you, for all of you. For the months I spent by your side over the years, for the things you opened my eyes to, for the ways you helped my understanding of love to grow. I'll always be fond of all of you. Little parts of my heart will always be yours.
Dear You, for three years (and ever since), you have been an anchor for me. You loved me at my messiest, held me accountable, drew me back to Jesus time and time again, and made my life brighter and more full with your boundless joy and endless wisdom. You once told me I was a mirror, and I've never forgotten those words. You speak so much truth into my life and I'm so deeply thankful for your friendship and how it changes me.
Dear You, I'm proud of you. I don't say that enough. Ever since I can remember, you've been right there next to me, making everyone laugh with your antics, stealing the spotlight (and also my candy), making life infinitely more fun, and reminding me to just live a little. You'll always be little to me, even though you've shot up to be so much taller than me. You're smart, you're hilarious, you're talented, you're loyal, you're full of fun facts, and you make our family better in every way. I'm so, so proud you're part of us.
Dear You, you three make working feel so much more like fun. That I haven't ever met two of you face-to-face seems hilarious considering how close we all are. It's been a joy to be part of this team from the very beginning, even when it was hard too. You all are so talented and driven, and the work you do really is changing the world little by little. I'm proud to call you friends and co-workers and brothers in Christ.
Dear You, where would I be without You? Who would I be? I don't even want to think about that, don't ever want to go there. You saved me and You keep saving me. You loved me and You keep loving me. You redeemed me and You keep redeeming me. You gave me life and transform what it looks like day by day, breath by breath. My little heart full of love for You will never be enough, but I want to pour it all out at Your feet every day in every way anyway. Every bone in my body and every beat of my heart sing out "I love You, I love You, I love You."
The world around you spins at warp speed. Days fly by like the calendar can't hold them all together. The clock on your wall tick-tick-ticks loud and steady and never pausing in hesitation. It all just keeps moving onward and it's enough to make you want to panic sometimes.
Sweet, sweet soul...breathe. Breathe in slow. Breathe out slow. Inhale, and let all the goodness of this life and all the blessings from your Creator fill up every ounce of your body and your bones. Exhale, and let all the worry and doubt and fear and anxiety leave you. Inhale, and take it all in. Receive. Absorb. Exhale, and whisper words of praise and thankfulness. This is selah. This is what it means to pause and praise.
Sweet, sweet soul...slow down. You weren't created to keep up with the craziness. You weren't built to endlessly run and run and run, frantic and frazzled and weary. Your bones can't handle it, and you know full well that your heart can't either. You need to be still. You need to let the noise fade away. You need to let silence envelop you. You need to let every muscle relax, let every ounce of you stop fighting, let every bone just be.
Sweet, sweet soul...do you feel how refreshing this is? You were knitted together, stitch by stitch in love, by a Creator who knows every little bit of you intimately. He wants what is so perfectly best for you. None of that includes hurry, or worry, or stress, or fear. None of that includes pushing yourself to the brink of breakdown and total exhaustion just because the world is egging you on.
In the best way He could, Jesus showed us we need rest. He, as a human just like you, sweet soul, rested. Time and time again. He got away from the crowds, from the demands, from the work, from the noise...and He rested. He was still. He was silent. He worshipped, prayed, and was still with His Father.
He showed us how badly we need this. We need this stillness, this silence, this slowing down. How refreshing is it all, sweet soul? Can you feel it wash over you, even just the words? Can you feel it all begin to settle? Can you feel your heartbeat calm? Can you feel your breath fill you with peace?
That's Him, dear one. That's the Spirit. That's the peace that we can't understand, coming from the One who knows us and knows our souls so need this. This, all of this, is refreshment. And it's so good. Let it in. Let it wash over you. Carve out time for it, every day. Create space for your soul to breathe and just be.
Sweet, sweet soul...you are beloved. Let that refresh you.
All my love,
This letter is the first of what I know will be many letters written with The Letter Link-Up by Mr. Thomas & Me. Amber's heart for community and authenticity is beautiful and radiant, and every time she has a new idea (like this one), I jump on board instantly. If you're new here through this link-up, welcome! It's great to have you here. I can't wait to get to know you.