Friday, June 25, 2010
Belated Open Letter to my Neice on her 18th Birthday
I wanted to take a minute to write you a letter for your birthday, and let you know just how much you mean to me. You have grown into such an amazing, precious young woman, burgeoning at the threshold of your adult life. The future is full of possibility and wonder, especially for one as smart, talented, and unique as yourself. I want to encourage you, and give you the heartfelt words that I wish I had heard at your age.
1. Have faith in yourself, but have even more in God. He can forgive anything, and will. He will aide you in your heart's desires, and He can bring anything about- even more than you can imagine. Never doubt that He is holding you in the palm of His hand, lovingly cradled, protected and provided for. He already knows and has made provision for every step of your journey through this life, and He will be working through all of this for your good. Life might not always be pleasant, and there will be a lot of pain. Have faith that there is a purpose to everything. You won't always get what you pray for, but God will always hear you and answer. Unmet requests, even those delivered in heart-wrenching cries, are not really a "no" as some want to characterize it- they're more like an "I love you too much to give you that." You might not understand why things are happening the way they are at the time, but hopefully you will come to appreciate hindsight greatly.
2. Never give your power away to anyone else. Never hang your happiness and success upon what someone else does or says. When you make your happiness dependent upon what someone else thinks of you, you might win a battle or two, but you will lose the war, and a whole lot more. You can choose to be happy, even if the world is falling apart around you. That's not to say that others have no affect upon our feelings- it is possible to be hurt by others. Your choice is how long the hurt will be your number one feeling. Also, it is important to honor your sadness when you have it. Invite it in for tea, and before long it will decide to be on its way again. I want to commend you on your skill at feeling already. I have to say that I greatly admire your access to your tears- mine are not so accessible to me, and I have had to expend a lot of effort in learning to let myself cry sometimes. What a blessing that you have such a sensitive heart!
3. If you never ask, the answer will always be no. If you do ask, you risk hearing the word no, but you also might just get what you want! There are no iron-clad rules for how you must live your life. (Aside from the law of the land and Biblical morality) Once you are out on your own, you get to decide how much time you spend playing, and how much time you spend working, and how clean your living space is. Others will always have their opinions about how you "should" be conducting your life, but I've learned over the years that what others think of me really is not my business. Let them think what they want; you get to make up your own mind. If it's Godly, legal, and you like it, then go for it!
4. Be assured of your salvation. Never underestimate the power of grace, and the fact that when God looks at you, He sees His love for you. You are infinitely lovable, and 100% likable. You are beautiful, talented, smart, and kind, and you have a million reasons to hold your head high. It is necessary in this life to get really good at a few of your favorite skills, but don't stress about being perfect, or being the best. At the end of life, it won't matter how much money you made or how famous you were- what will matter is how well you loved, and how much joy you experienced. And, it will matter what you did with your talents. A talent doesn't necessarily need to make you money or become a profession as much as it needs to be used to bless others and glorify God.
5. Focus on what you like about everything, and let go of the things you don't like. Don't talk about the negative. Accentuate the positive. Expect nothing, and appreciate everything. Gratitude is the name of the game if you want to have a happy life.
6. Always walk into relationships. Unhealthy relationships are those begat by people running to or away from someone or something. Be confident in your ability to meet all of your needs yourself (with the strength imparted by God), so that when someone else comes into your life platonically or romantically they can be enjoyed and appreciated without the weight of expectations.
7. Do everything you can to stay out of debt. Credit cards and the companies behind them will eat you alive if you let them. If you feel you must have a credit card, pay the balance off immediately if you ever use it. The best option is to use cash. There's just something psychologically significant about feeling the dollars in your sweaty palms before you spend them. Holding physical money before spending it makes letting go of it harder; you want it to be as hard as possible. If it's a good idea to buy something, then it will still be a good idea in a week. Always wait at least two days before buying something that costs more than 10 dollars. Do your best to owe nothing to anyone but kindness and love.
8. Keep a plant alive for at least 6 months before getting a pet, and especially before getting married. The fantasy of having a pet or spouse is very different from the reality of having one. Cacti don't count, either (or any other kind of plant in the family of desert plants). Cats can learn to open doors of all kinds, so you have to make sure you're up to the task of caging Houdini before you enter into that bag of fun.
9. Don't stress over being like anyone else in your walk with God. Your faith is between you and God, and no one else. Beware of those who act like they already have it all figured out- that just means that they walk closely with denial. It's okay to be wrong, and to make mistakes. Being wrong and making mistakes are both great opportunities for growth. Never, never, never, never explain yourself to anyone, unless they ask. If they want to know, they'll ask. If they don't ask, they won't hear you even if you do your best. If they do ask, keep it short and simple. "Because that's what I wanted to do" is sufficient in most cases. Now that you are an adult, I reiterate that there are very few iron-clad rules about what you must do with your life, and as long as it's moral, legal, and you enjoy it, then more power to you to go for it! I also must say that I admire you already for your strength of personality, and your ability to do what you like without explanation. I like your confidence in yourself- well done!
I know that this open letter has been more didactic in nature than my other open letters to people. Perhaps this is because you are still young, and in writing this to you I am also reminding myself of these things, and revisiting my hard-headed and stubborn 18-year-old self. I hope that you find some of my thoughts helpful, and whatever you disagree with or know already you will set aside, and forgive me for redundancy.
I want you to know that you are an absolutely scrumptious young woman. You are superb and delightful. I love your thoughtfulness and feeling, and the way that you absorb what's going on around you like a sponge before adding your input. You are beautiful, smart, and conscientious. You are careful, deliberate, and absolutely precious. I love you so much, and I am so delighted with how intelligent, mature, and fantastic you are. I love how you accept people for who they are, and for the confidence with which you face the world. I love your passion, and your artistic pursuits. You have a beautiful heart and soul. I truly loved your paintings you showed me the last time I was in your room. You have a gift with the paintbrush. I love how creative and expressive you are with your writing and artwork. Do everything you can to hold onto and nurture your talents. Only you can speak the words in your mind, and express the feelings in your heart. Your spirit is a priceless treasure. I can only praise God for the blessing of putting you in this world as my wonderful neice. Before the beginning of time He knew who you are, and finely crafted you with your unique skills, abilities, and soul. I will continue to pray for you, your life, and your future, and thank God for you.
I love you dearly, my E-.
Your loving Aunt