My teenage niece is growing up faster than I’d like to realize. Kids: one minute they’re six, the next minute they’re driving and dating and rolling their eyes—in a bad way.
My oldest niece turned 14 last month. She’s beautiful, tall, innocent, sweet and thoughtful. It’s a beautiful time to watch her grow. It’s also probably a nerve-wracking time for her parents. As I wonder what she’ll experience as she grows and matures, there are a few things I’d like to tell my teenage niece. . . .
Madison, I am so proud of who you are—your effort in school, your compassion, your musical talent, and the development of your friendships.
You should know, above all things, that you have a heavenly Father who made you, who loves you and who wants to be your friend forever. You can know Him and communicate with Him personally. He will not fail you. There will be many times when you’ll wonder what He’s doing in your life, or why something did or didn’t happen. Trust that He is good, and He fulfills His promises. Remember the times in your life when His power, goodness, grace, mercy and love were evident to you—you’ll need to remember those times when your world gets rocked. Until that time, be grateful, abounding in joy—He is constantly moving to be closer to you. Let Him in to every part of your life—school, dating, family, health, finances, all of it. Read the Bible cover to cover, and read books about Him. Ask that He will reveal Himself to you. He will! Ask Him to speak to you and He will! Ask Him for wisdom, discernment and mercy. He will give them! And learn to wait on Him well. Wait on Him with an attitude of positivity, not one of a petulant, pouting child as I have often done. Resist temptation; and when you don’t know how, call His name. There is power in the name of Jesus.
Know your worth. You are a child of the most-high God. You were chosen, hand-picked to be who you are. Your name is written on the palms of His hands; you are His. You are worthy of love, respect and honor. Resist those who knowingly or unknowingly try to bring you down, to make you less than you are. Create boundaries physically and emotionally of what you will allow in your life and what you will keep out of your life. Any pressure you feel from others to be less than you are or want to be is only that—a feeling. It is not real. What’s real is what God says about you. Ask Him what He thinks of you. He will tell you!
Remember that you are in charge of the way you think. You can choose things that bring life—hope, love, faith, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, etc.—or you can choose things that bring despair, like anger, doubt, insecurity, and greed. You have the ability to train your mind to think good thoughts, to dwell on good things. Practice now to think on good things.
Do not follow your heart willy-nilly. You’ll hear the “follow your heart” mantra again and again. Instead, follow your heart when you’re sure that there are good things in your heart that are leading you. These good things get into your heart when you put them there. Read Scripture, talk to God, worship, share with others, and practice serving, giving, and loving in the context of community.
Scripture says that the heart of man is deceitful. Time and again the Bible talks about guarding your heart or putting the right things in your heart. When your heart pulls you one way, examine it, even if for only a moment. Check the pull of your heart against what the Holy Spirit says about the situation. Then follow, or don’t. Don’t rely solely on emotions in any situation. Make it a practice to incorporate your brain. You’ll miss experiencing a lot of craziness if you balance yourself.
Be spontaneous and grasp opportunities! Now is the time to think about what you want your life to be about—even though you’re only 14. If you start thinking about it in college or even after you’ve graduated from college, then you may have missed some things. I’m not talking about being some super-focused brainiac who racks up scholastic achievements (though that’s not a bad thing). I’m simply talking about deciding whether you want to take time off from college and travel, or study abroad or start your own business. Decide if you want to be a daredevil and pursue kayaking, sky diving, scuba diving, rock climbing or hang gliding. If you have some things in mind that you want to do before you die, I suggest writing them down and trying to do them before you get married, or before you have kids, or before your kids graduate from college. Get some fun life events under your belt early and often—they will develop your personality and interests.
And finally, your family and I love you more than you’ll ever fully grasp—and that’s how it’s supposed to be. When you crash and burn or get in trouble or make a bad choice, we’ll all be there to pick you up, comfort you and move you back to functioning. It’s what families do. Don’t feel guilty about it or uncomfortable. Lean on us when you’re in need. We are your support and your resources. What we have, you have. There is no end to our love and our belief in you.
With all peace, love and hope, your aunt,
©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.