Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dear Sweet Sixteen Emily

Each year since I was 13, on my birthday I have written a letter to myself one, five, or ten years in the future (or all three, depending on how much time I have on that particular birthday). 

Read this post from 2015 for my reply to my 13 year old self at 23: 

I'm choosing to reply to my sixteen year old self today as well, because she asked me to. 

Dear Sweet Sixteen -
You have such confidence, starting your letter with "no matter what happens, it's the way God intended it to be". That was far easier to say at sixteen in your tragedy free life. How could you know that in ten years, you'd lose your beloved Daddy? You couldn't possibly have predicted that, but I can tell you that confidence in God's control will serve you well over the next ten years, and know that God can handle it when you don't know if that's true - he's still around in those moments too.

You ask if I remember my friend Bethany from high school. Yes, little Em, I not only remember her, but her mom, who drives you home so often and challenges your thinking in a polite but firm manner, also passed out of this life in the past year. And I have held onto her friendship because she has seen much of the same grief I've seen and is there when we need her, and has poured her life in to mine as I have poured ours into hers. We went to different colleges and she traveled all over the world, but something has held us together, and she sent me postcards from all over the world and I honestly couldn't be more grateful for the friendship that we have.

You talk about love, and the "brilliant feelings" that certain young men give you when they walk by, but say that you're "waiting for true love, like Dave and Julie have". First, let me say that Dave and Julie are pretty good examples. They shared their lessons on marriage with me and Ryan when we got married, and one of the lessons was that it won't always be "brilliant feelings", or as Dave said it "there's not always going to be fireworks". Marriage is challenging, but rewarding. It's waking up every day next to the man you promised to support and partner with forever and choosing each day to continue to love and support him, as he chooses to love and support you. So while yes, sometimes he gives me the "brilliant feelings", mostly he's just a good person who takes care of me while I take care of him and we are happy together. (also, why are you so overly poetic? just say it's a crush!)

You ask about all your friends - some have naturally faded away, and that is OK. Some are closer than ever, but I talked about that when I wrote back to us at thirteen. In general, friendships are a two way street - you can put in a lot of effort, and some people just won't put the effort in back. Those people are not worth it, just let them go. The ones that put effort into relationships with you, those are worth it. Like my friend Christina (who you haven't met yet), or Lindsey, who you have - those are relationships that are easy to maintain because you both put in the effort to stay in touch.

In the end you ask about family - our siblings, our cousins, am I living with Mom and Dad - and again, I can't help but see how you take Mom and Dad for granted. You assume I'll still have the choice of being with both of them because why wouldn't I? I'm sure the day you wrote this, you and Dad had lunch or dinner together, just the two of you. I don't get to do that today, and I miss it. As I move forward, I'm going to try not to take Mom for granted.

Enjoy your teens, little Em. Daddy calls you his rosebud - I guess I'm a fully blossomed rose, with some thorns in my life, but mostly a full life, a bright rose.
- Emily at 26

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