Friday, November 2, 2012

Dear Me, at 16 Years Old

Dear 16 yr old Lisa,
What do I say to possibly prepare you for your future? Let me get one thing out of the way first, something that's been pressing: "J" is not worth it. He is not worth the obsessive phone-and-watching-and-waiting. You've been hurt and you will be hurt by him again.

But honestly, you know you search for your identity in guys, yet you do so anyway. I so wish I could go back in time and put your nose in a Bible. Ask Anne to go into detail of why she loves this God of hers.

God, in fact, opened a door in Anne and you did not take it. But don't worry - sixteen years from where you are the Great Whoosh will happen and, while I wish you came to Him another way, the truth is that you finally meet the only unconditional love you can ever have - and believe it or not, that will be enough.

Right now, nothing seems enough, does it? "J" can't call you enough, hold you tight enough; "A" can't dote on you enough, "Mr. M" doesn't think you're different and talented enough. The theatre folks can't ask you if you are okay enough and you can't seem to cry enough.

The cutting and scratching can't get enough of the pain out and trust me, girlfriend, once you start your first dose of  Prozac, any day now (if you haven't already), no medication will make you feel good enough.

Because if I could somehow get you to stop seeking out your "enough" and realize that just as you are - you are precious, beloved, treasured, and loved. Enough. Not by any man, but by God. Yes, Lisa, the Creator of the Universe thinks you are enough and He will be your Enough. Pain ends with Him. Seeking approval and validation end with Him.

All through your 20s, you will struggle with idolizing men. You will make each man you think you love into a little "god." I am sad and so sorry for the hurt that awaits you. If you thought your feelings for "J" were intense and heartbreaking, just wait.

Maybe this letter isn't as compassionate as I had hoped. I sense some resentment, probably because I'm starting to relive your teenage years in our stepdaughter.

Yes - you get your "daughter," though God gives you two girls and a boy in a very different way than you had originally imagined. But, right now, keep Caryn Eve framed if that keeps hope alive burning at least for a while.

Anyway, as I was saying, I have not one but two girls. And the eldest carries pain I cannot begin to imagine, yet, at the same time, she reacts to it identically to the way we did. I don't know if this was God's plan in allowing you to endure years of self-injury, but you now have a child who does the same. And guess what? She is as stubborn and self-absorbed as you were. She resists the help you try to offer as much as you resisted the help offered to you. That comes crashing down when you are twenty-two, by the way.

So I'm asking you to keep careful notes so that I may help this fourteen-year-old girl under my roof. Thanks for all those journals. From age eleven, I'm still going strong.

There are two things you will need to let go of. The first will feel of little consequence when I tell you what the second thing is, but I'll tell you anyway.

Right now, theatre is everything to you. You thrive on the accolades, applause, the carnations and compliments.

Don't cling; it does not last.

In college, something traumatic will steal that dream and you won't perform in another play for twelve years and even then, the acting bug will be long-squashed. But don't fret, you continue to perform and share through

 your poetry readings,

 the Alzheimer's Poetry Project

reading and singing to your stepkids, and even in church by singing worship songs with the Praise Team and when you portray Mary in a Lent monologue.

The second thing to let go of - or what you will have no choice to let go of - is...

I've been stalling. I don't want to tell you. She is your best friend and hated enemy at sixteen. And I know if I tell you she will be gone one day, I simply don't know if you can take hearing it. Even now, almost six years after, I mourn fresh and piercing. So no, I can't go into it.

Just love, Lisa. Don't worry so much about being perfect, about how much others approve of and love you because those who matter always have and those who don't never mattered.

Love your mother, but detach a little. For heaven's sake, give John a break. You will anyway in around seven years. Stop being a brat to your future stepfather. I'm now a stepparent whose oldest started treating me that way and worse this past year. Trust me, it hurts more than you ever know.

Sixteen is such a pivotal time for you, Lisa. If I didn't know there was a purpose for it all, I'd beg you to put away the tarot, crystals, the board, all of the New Age stuff that is not good for you. You were always seeking that Higher Power. Well, I found Him. If I didn't believe you needed to be molded and crafted before God flung open the shutters, I'd beg you to ask Dave what a born-again Christian is. Don't listen to others laugh and mock; these lovers of God could save you so much anguish.

I constantly wonder: what if we had been raised loving and knowing God? What if you had been curious enough to let Anne share? What if I wasn't the giant age of thirty-two before my life was so radically saved, much less altered, by God?

And yet....when I feel myself growing angry at you for all your mis-steps and idolizing, I remember Jeremiah 29:11. God has a plan for you, Lisa. A plan not to harm you, but to prosper you with a future too awesome to comprehend. And I have to believe He felt that way even when you were sixteen years old, flailing in a God-less bowl with water so high that you had to drown many times before hearing Jesus say, "Come!" and finally, after so do.

But I know it all comes down to love. It always has. You are loved, Lisa. You must feel it and then love yourself. Listen to those older and wiser than you. Yes, even at thirty-four, we don't have it all together. You have a husband who loves and adores you, but you still look for validation too much. Codependency is still your middle name. Your childhood demons continue to shake your earth and has broken through the ground you carefully laid down as a toddler to keep it hidden and covered. It's coming up now, Lisa. I know you suspect at sixteen. Keep open to the healing and let love reach you.

I understand suffering so much better now. It doesn't make it less painful, but we have a God who comforts us, redeems us, forgives us. That love is eternal, something we never knew.

So don't lose hope at sixteen. "J" will leave one day. Others will take his place. And one man will come and be the one God chose for you. In fact, this man helps bring you to God.

Wow - did you ever imagine your engagement ring? Here it is!

And stop taking the pills. Stop marking up your body. Stop the self-absorbed self-hatred and remain open to the love that knocks every so often. I know He tried to come to you many times in the next sixteen years. Don't let a near-tragedy finally open your eyes.

And one day, Lisa, you will finally rest in the One who will never leave you, who will never be taken away from you.

You have a Forever coming. Be ready, my sweet, sad girl.

God is on the horizon.

I love you. More importantly, God loves you.


Linked up with 
although I waited too long to write this and be included in her link-up, here is the url for other letters to enjoy!

To support Emily P. Freeman's wonderful book, "Graceful: letting go of your try-hard life," people have been  writing letters to their teenage selves. It's quite the undertaking! Write your own and check out her book! You will surely be blessed by it.


  1. Wow! This reminds me a little bit of a letter I wrote to you, once, that I didn't send but that you found later ... a combination of loving you and being upset, scared for you and frustrated and hopeful all at once. Being a teenager is so hard. I'm so glad for where you are now, looking back with perspective on it all, beautiful 34 year old Lisa. I loved 16 year old Lisa, too, though. Especially the way we could communicate perfectly through eye contact and an expression alone. =)

  2. Oh Annie, this brings sad-glad tears to my eyes (remember that Linda phrase?). I can (now) fully understand how upset, scared and frustrated you - everyone - must have been. I am having to deal with similar things and oh-so-much-more with my eldest girl in this season of life....God has a way of teaching....and redeeming, eh? If there is anything MY story has taught me is that there is NO ONE too far from the reach of God. I love you, Annie. And I am so blessed God put you in my life (okay, maybe God orchestrated "A" a little bit...but you know what I mean). You will always be my best memory of high school. Even more than theatre! I still want to publish our letters one day. It's one of my many writing projects I keep on the burners. Mwah!


Thank you for commenting on my blog post. Whether we agree or disagree, I hope to create a "table" where we can come together no matter who we are and be the people we were created to be. Let us comment with respect and love for each other. Thank you so much for taking the time to connect with me. Bless you!