At my church, members of the youth group are matched with older mentors who meet with them regularly as they prepare for confirmation. My mentee is in middle school. Every month, we go out for tea or ice cream, play games, and chat. Last night, we got together for dinner and gelato. As I drove home, I couldn’t help wondering what I would say to my middle school self if I could take her out to K’tizo. She doesn’t drink tea, but I think she would enjoy a scone. So in the spirit of one of my new favorite songs:
this is a letter to the girl I used to be.
Dear me, there are some things that you should know…
[“Dear Me,” Nicole Nordeman]
Laugh at yourself.
I know you’re afraid to fail—you don’t want to disappoint yourself or the people who matter to you—but I promise you don’t have to be good at something to try it.
It’s ok to fall when you’re learning to ice skate.
It’s ok if you still can’t serve a volleyball after a week of summer camp.
It’s ok to lose your place in the music during orchestra rehearsal.
It’s ok to come in last in the AWANA games. Every. Single. Time.
Not everything has to be a calculated risk. You have my permission to be bad at things. There are lots of inspirational quotes about how failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s a part of success. And sometimes that’s true. But there will also be times when success just isn’t in the picture. I don’t think athletics will ever come naturally to you. And some relationships will never see the restoration you hope for. But whenever you learn something and you give something, it’s worth it. So be willing to be wrong, be willing to fail, and be willing to laugh. Success is overrated.
You’ve always believed that the oldest is responsible—don’t forget that God is older than you.
All your life, you’ve taken your responsibilities very seriously. You work hard and you don’t want help if it means giving up your autonomy. While you don’t believe that anyone should have to take care of you, you’re deeply emotionally invested in caring for the people you love. You want to pour yourself out sacrificially because you know that’s what Jesus did for you.
In college, you’ll tape a quote on your cement-block wall. It says, “You can’t save people. You can only love them.” But I don’t think you’ve ever really believed that. So this is a friendly reminder: saving is Jesus’ job. Not yours. When you’re beginning to buckle under the weight of another’s wounds, do your best to bring the burden to Jesus, trusting that he loves each person more than you do.
Don’t take your sisters for granted.
Sisters are friends for life—it sounds cliche but it’s true. You got lucky because your sisters are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. For a while you might be tempted to push them away in your quest for autonomy. Try not to. Do your best to keep reaching out even when you’re craving your own space and your own friends. Trust me, sisters are the ones you’ll want to keep around.
Till next time,
your twenty-three year old self
P.S. If there’s any way for you to discover the mountains a little bit sooner, that would be awesome.