dear sixteen

today I’m sitting here munching on cheerios and typing this up with stripes of sunlight crossing my computer screen. annoying? perhaps a bit. but more exciting and warm than annoying!
the sun!
the sunshine!
showing its face in dreary lancaster!
unheard of!
this is the moment I wish I were a cat and could curl up with my tail wrapped round my paws and just nap in the warm rays decorating the kitchen floor… (too weird?)

today is also happy for another reason.

today is my baby brother’s sixteenth birthday.

baby e
above: his first birthday
below: at my wedding

what even happened? he’s a giant ❤

we moved around a lot when we were kids, and several times after we moved, my baby brother was the only friend I had who was actually near me.
even though we’re five years apart, once he hit age 7 or so, we were pretty close, growing up. ❤

talking to my brother over Christmas vacation and in this new year, and the fact that he’s going to be sixteen (ahem, what.) made me reflect on my own sixteenth birthday– which was really just an introduction to quite easily the hardest year of my life.

I’ve always kind of sucked at saying things, but when I start writing them down, they sometimes fall into place as I like them to.

so I’ve decided to write a letter.
to my brother…
to my sixteen-year-old self…
to all the sixteens with years made from lava and icicles…


dear sixteen:

this year is kind of a liar.
it’s promised that it will be sweet.
it generally isn’t.

(how’s that for encouraging? 🙂 )

you’ve already felt the sting of the oncoming sixteen.
yeah, and I did, too.
the winds of change are sharp and cold and tend to bite at your face.
don’t get frostbite.
bundle up in layers of truth and certainty. drink down the warm cup of community. stay close to your truth-speakers, even when it’s uncomfortable.

you’ll feel a million merciless heartaches and learn a million beautiful lessons.
the stash of junk food is in mom’s closet, and she’s pretty much always down for a chat… if you’re really just needing to crash with a listening ear and a crinkly bag of salt and vinegar chips 😉

stay off my spinny chair though.
you think I’m kidding…
nope. 😉

you’ll doubt hard. it’s okay. doubting hard will turn to fighting hard and doing battle with demons.

you will win.
you have the Spirit.

be Jacob. hang on tight, and do not let go of the Lord… then He pours out his blessings of wisdom and mercy and understanding like rain, and you’re covered in the downpour.
get drenched. 

you’re going to be persecuted by your own kind, sixteen.
by the church-goers and the Christianese-speakers and the mis-guided Jesus-lovers.
but your holiness is not determined by your attendance or their preferences.
it’s determined by your inner you- if it seeks after God with fervency and holds His glory in the very highest regard, higher than personal happiness.
it’s determined by what your soul finds beautiful, and what your soul finds ugly.
but don’t be stupid and go doing the bold thing for the sake of being bold or needing to be right. (you will sometimes, anyway. it happens when you’re a sinner.)
brashness doesn’t honor God.

you’re going to be held in too high of regard, sixteen.
those people that honor your father will honor you, too, by default.
and it will be confusing and stressful, and downright infuriating sometimes.
because you’re just sixteen and not incredibly holy- and certainly not ready for the responsibility they’ll put on your shoulders.
but you’ll bear it anyway, because that is who you are; sometimes it will make you stronger in miraculous and marvelous ways, and sometimes it will crush you flat and broken and angry.
this is the weight I bore, too.

the reflections of it will burn in your mind forever, and someday you’ll be bittersweet thankful.

you’ll be betrayed.
sometimes it will be your fault.
because sometimes you do stupid things.
(it’s okay, I did the stupidest things of all.)
and you’ll have to own up and learn humility in a heartbeat.
it kind of sucks.

and sometimes, it won’t be your fault at all, and you’ll be the victim of a friendship crime.
and that really really sucks.
and feels like hell on earth.
it isn’t. I swear. trust me, I’ve totally been there and back again… and again and again.
this kind of stinging sucker-punch in basically half of high school.

be careful.
surround yourself with people who practice joyfulness.
the ache becomes constant and overbearing without those irritatingly joyful people who you don’t understand. 🙂

you’ll yearn to explore the great wide world, sixteen.
and maybe you will!
and when you do, those eyes of yours won’t shut- ever -to the pain and dirtiness and lostness around you.
a part of you will die. 
that’s better than okay.
that’s more of Jesus and less of you in you.

don’t be too judgmental. not everything is as black and white as it first seems.
everyone is fighting a live-or-die battle.
sometimes there is beauty and newness and self-discovery in searching through and holding up the grey to the lenses of both holiness AND mercy.
even in the wrongness, there is redemption for the wrong-doer, sixteen.

hold the purity of your soul under the heavy weight of glory.
only the pure will see God.
don’t tarnish it with hatred or jealousy or deceit or misguided trust or faithlessness or the withholding of grace from your own soul.

oh, whatever you do, sixteen, don’t take matters of grace into your own hands.
God forbid you withhold it from others.
God forbid you withhold it from yourself.
grace is the gospel of our God.

you can do this, sixteen.

I did, remember?


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