I sat in the coffee shop, wondering what to write, when I had the idea to make a list of things I wanted to tell my girls.
Looking back, I know I was told many of these things when I was young, but some lessons just go over your head. I wish these things had grabbed hold of me. I wish I knew how strong I could be. I wish I had that fearlessness that I see flash in my little girls’ eyes. I write this list for them. These are the things I want them to know deep down. We could all make our own list, and each would be different, but here is mine, in all of its imperfections and lacking.
You are loved. You are loved you are loved you are loved. Your parents love you more than you can imagine, but more than that God loves you. Walking with God isn’t about following a list of rules and trying not to mess up. Walking with God is waking up each day and realizing a little bit more how much He loves you. There are things you should do/shouldn’t do, yes. But you are only able to really do that list when you recognize how much He loves you. Remember that love when you make decisions and choices. You are living your life out of love, not out of fear of consequences or anger. Soak in His love and reflect that love to others. It’s that simple.
Use your voice. God gave it to you for a reason. Speak up for yourself. Speak up for the ones whose voices have grown hoarse from trying to get people to hear them. Speak out against injustice. Speak up when you see beautiful Kingdom goodness seeping into the everyday. Speak about love. Speak about hope. Speak on anything that beats wildly in your heart. Speak about the whispers in your soul. Speak it, sing it, yell it, call it out, whisper it, declare it, proclaim it. Do it however you want to, just do it. Let your voice be used. Make them hear.
Push through, even when it’s unbelievably hard and painful. You’ll be tired. You’ll second guess yourself. Just keep going. Life is a hard and you’ll want to take breaks, but if you push through you’ll see magic. You’ll see yourself do things you never thought you could. You’ll amaze yourself and then you’ll try more hard things and you’ll manage to do them too.
Do things you aren’t good at. Perfection is overrated. Play a sport you absolutely suck at. Try some form of art that you haven’t done before. Attempt a musical instrument you don’t know or a language you’ve never spoken. Allow yourself to perform horribly. Be able to have fun doing it. And if you find that you enjoy it, keep doing it, you’ll get better, promise.
You don’t ask, you don’t get. Your Dad taught me this. And while it might not hold itself to be universally true, remember these words. Don’t wait for someone to pick you or notice you. Find opportunities. Use that voice we talked about. Advocate for yourself (advocate for others while you’re at it). Seek out chances to use your gifts and do what you love. And keep going. Put yourself out there. We are cheering wildly for you.
Pastors, ministers, and mentors do not have perfect communication with God. They don’t have a crystal ball or a special hotline that gives them information you aren’t privy to. They aren’t always right. If you are given counsel that doesn’t sit well in your spirit, pray about it and follow your gut. There are so many wonderful, God-fearing people out there who want to help, but they are human. And sadly sometimes there are motivations behind those words of wisdom that are less than perfect. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
Fear is the enemy of everything. Seriously. Fear of sin, fear of others, fear of different opinions. There is so much fear. Fear turns you ugly. Fear ruins things. Fear breaks down communication. Fear can be traced back to so much of the bad in the world. Don’t be afraid to hear dissenting opinions. Don’t let yourself be ruled by fear. Don’t let it be your primary go to default emotion. When people lash out, when horrible things happen, take a minute and reflect – is fear in play here? It probably is. You’ll get through life so much easier if you learn to see when others are acting out in fear. It doesn’t make what they are doing right, but it helps you see their motivation.
Be brave always, but remember that brave doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid; it just means you are doing it anyway. Keep going. Keep trying, even if you are scared and trembling. You can’t get through this list I’m giving you without being brave. Life is scary. You need to find your brave. You were created for a reason. You have Kingdom stuff to do. Push back the fear that we talked about and find yourself in the center of the brave.
Being broken isn’t all bad. You will work hard, you’ll try your best. You’ll say no to fear and walk in brave. But no matter what you do, at some point you are going to feel broken. When that happens, don’t try to hide it. Let yourself be broken. Don’t put up a façade. There is beauty in that brokenness. Lean into it. Learn from it. And find the beauty in the brokenness of others. Brokenness isn’t an ending, it’s just a part of the journey.
Boundaries are your friend. It’s up to you who you let in, who you share with, who you do life with. It’s okay to show weaknesses to others. But you control who gets to see what. You are the one to decide who to trust, who is worthy of seeing all of you. Don’t let people push you into anything else. Listen to the Holy Spirit and make your own choices. We’re here if you need to talk it out.
Your value does not lie in your virginity. Whatever decisions you make and whatever may happen, your intrinsic worth does not change based on your “purity.” You are more than hemlines and skirt lengths. You are a child of God. People will spend hours discussing on behalf of you and a generation of girls what is appropriate from your dating behavior to whether or not you can wear a bikini. Sweethearts, don’t listen to them. It’s not their business. Keep your ear to the Holy Spirit. Also, if and when men ogle you or say inappropriate things, it’s not your fault. Men have this thing called a mind, and God gave them self-control, just like He gave it to you. Their choices are on them. Period.
Do what you love – God gave you these desires. See where they take you. You don’t have to decide your freshman year of college what you are going to spend your life doing. Take your time, step back if you need to, and ask God to reveal to you your true passions. See how your skills and passions meet up and do it.
Keep your eyes open to those around you. Don’t look away when you see sickness, homelessness, poverty, racism, inequity, and loneliness. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. You will cry. You will get angry. You’ll want to turn away for at least a little while. This is might be the hardest one, but you need to do it. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. See the image of God in each of them. It will make the world a better place.
There are more than thirteen things I want you to know. I’m going to keep telling them to you and you’ll probably get sick of it. But there are things I learn every day and we are in this thing together. And there are things you need to teach me. So you keep telling me too, okay? Don’t be afraid to let me know when my fear is showing. Don’t be afraid to tell me I messed up. That’s what this whole family thing is about – making each other stronger and better, so stick with me, we’ve got this.
(Photos courtesy of the amazing Alison Luna)
What are the things you want your children to know?