Dear 11 year old me: the things I wish I’d known

Dear 11 Year Old Me,

So you’re about to start high school. What an eventful six years.

This is when it starts for a lot of people, the wishing and waiting, so don’t feel bad about it. It’s a common trap. You want to be older, so you can be independent, can date, drive. Whatever. But think about this. If now at 11, you wish to be 16, and then once you get to be 16, you’re hanging out for 18. Then when you can finally drive, you wish you were married, then kids, then retirement. Then you’re at the end of your life and you spent the whole time wishing to be somewhere else. What a waste.

Be present. Spend time with special people around you and really listen to them. Find out what your younger sister’s favourite colour is. Really connect. Appreciate the season you’re in because, news flash, you can never be in any season apart from the one you’re in. And you can never get this season back. Ever. So you can either go through life with a dissatisfied soul, making the people around you feel like they’re not quite enough and ripping them off from having you really there, or you can engage. Don’t rob people of the joy of your presence.

Some people take decades to learn this lesson, and I know you learn it eventually, but learning it as quick as possible saves you a lot of regret.

I know you think your life will really start when you become an adult but don’t wait until you’re older to serve Jesus. Allow him to use you now. The bible talks about good works that God has planned in advance for us to do (Ephesisans 2:10). I used to think of that as over the course of my whole life. Thanks to a great book I’ve read recently by Lysa TerKeurst called The Best Yes I now wake up in the morning and think, “Jesus, which works do you have prepared for me to walk in today?” And then I actively look for them. I do it this way because I don’t want to miss God’s opportunities. I want to be present at all the appointments He’s set up for me. How exciting to walk with Him in this creative, immediate way, and I feel more alive than ever as I accept these invitations from my Heavenly Father.

Before I sign off, parents. Do yours bug you sometimes and seem not to get you?
Just so you remember, here is a short list of some of the things they do for you:
-love you
-cook
-clean
-pay for everything
-help you with homework
-laundry
-drive you everywhere you need to go
-take care of you when you’re sick
-do the grocery shopping

I promise Mum and Dad didn’t pay me off to say this, but appreciate your parents.
A time will come where you have to do all this yourself and trust me, at 22, I realise living at home was absolute luxury.

Your parents are looking out for your best, and they are probably the two people in the world who most want you to do well. So listen to them. They are your biggest fans. If they’re telling you something, it can only be for your good. The bible says that the Lord disciplines those he loves, just as a father (parent) does (Proverbs 3:12).

Good luck finishing primary school!

Sincerely,

22 Year Old You

 

Image: http://36.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_may9atBqZz1qkyzjpo1_1280.jpg
Sourced 28 March 2016

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Dear 8 year old me: the things I wish I’d known

So last week I wrote an article primarily to encourage parents to speak life over their kids. I’ve decided to do a series of letters to myself at different ages, from 2016 me, giving some sisterly-type advice for kids that age to read. If you feel like it would help or encourage your kids in any way, please feel free to give it to them. Sometimes the message needs to come from a different angle for people to receive it, and I feel this might be a key God has given me, using creativity and letters to speak directly to the heart of things we face in our younger years.

 

Dear 8 Year Old Me,

So you’re in Grade 3. How’s that going for you? I’m sure you’re aware of the word ‘peer pressure’ by now.

I know the easy thing to do is just go along with the crowd, but learn to think independently. In case that word hasn’t been in your vocabulary tests yet, it means ‘for yourself’. God gave you an amazing brain. Think about what you’re doing. If the only reason you’re doing it is because everybody else is, ask yourself if that is a good enough reason.

I know you may have heard this a few times before from mum or dad but what’s popular is not always right and what’s right is not always popular. If you see other kids doing the wrong thing, it doesn’t mean you have to.

If you see other people, even if it’s your best friend, being mean to someone, think: would I like someone else treating me this way? It’s called bullying and if you develop a habit of it, it will lead your life in a direction that you don’t want it going in. Trust me. Wouldn’t you rather be known as the person who’s kind to everyone? So when the other girls start teasing that girl for having curly, wiry black hair in eight braids all over her head, don’t join in. Even if it does remind you of a spider. Seven years later, you will have to eat your words and apologise to that girl, who later left the school.

If you have older sisters and brothers, don’t listen to everything they say. Listen to some of it, but don’t make the mistake of assuming all of it is true. If they tell you you’re weak, or stupid, or fat, or any of those things, assume those are lies. While we’re on the topic of siblings, just because they don’t say they love you, doesn’t mean they don’t. They do; they might just not have learnt how to show it yet. The good news is you can teach them by being an amazing example.

The bible says not to let anyone think less of you because you’re young, but to be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity (1 Tim 4:12).

Before I sign off, one last thing. If you have something that you love to do—reading, playing sport, music . . . don’t let anyone’s comments or loud opinions stop you from doing that. God gave you gifts and talents and He wants you to use them, not just sit them on the shelf like an old toy left to gather dust.

Have a great day, and try not to make the mistakes I did.

Sincerely,
22 Year Old You

 

Image: http://www.kairoshsp.com/letters.htm (sourced 20 March 2016).

Watch your mouth: how to develop healthy mindsets in your kids

Hand over mouth

Watch your mouth. You’ve often heard it from a mother whose kid has just said a naughty word. Or from someone becoming aggressive. The phrase has aggressive overtones and it makes me think about the way we view aggression. A lot of the time in Western society we tend to avoid it, assuming that it’s bad, and it often is. But maybe not in every situation.

Before you start thinking that I’m a hostile person who just likes to go round whacking people for fun, I’ll explain.

There are times when most people would agree that some aggression is necessary. An armed robber breaks into your house while your family’s asleep. Should you get the cricket bat? Well, you don’t want to be mean. You want to be thought of as a nice person. Maybe the nice thing to do would be to just do nothing. If any men are reading, who of you would be okay with this non-reaction? It’s your family at stake, for goodness sake.

It seems obvious in a black and white scenario like this but in our lives we allow insidious things right into our homes. Through the front door, the iPad, the TV. Come on in, we say. We’re a nice family and we won’t kick you out.

When it comes to our children’s identity, self-esteem and freedom from fear, we simply allow it to be attacked, stolen or distorted.

Jesus says in John 10:10 says that this is what Satan seeks to do—steal, kill and destroy, but He has come so that we might have life, and have it abundantly.
Life. Say it a couple of times in your head. A powerful word.

LIFE.

Late at night, in the life you imagine for yourself, is your family crippled by insecurity, wandering around with no sense of identity and purpose? No. And that’s not the life Jesus has in mind for you either.

By doing nothing, what is our response to things seeking to destroy us? Come at my child in any way you like; I’m not going to stop you.

When our children are told by an ad on TV or a page of a glossy magazine, “If only you were a little skinnier, you would be happy. Buy this one great product (twice a month for the next 10 years) and you’ll be the weight you desire,” what does that tell them. You are not enough.

What message do we send when we buy that product?

The problem with this is that we develop this addiction to ‘self-improvement’, chasing this ideal that doesn’t exist (hello, the models in the ad are photo shopped), and we are never satisfied, our progress is never enough. We strive and in doing so teach others to strive, which is a distortion of the way life was meant to be lived. We are trying to get our fulfilment from the way we look, what people think of us, our achievements . . . basically anything other than Jesus.

When our friends come into our homes with negative words or influences, what do we do about it? Asking them to stop doesn’t seem nice.

It’s more obvious when children are young, but what about your teenagers? Probably at the most vulnerable age and they learn to hide their pain down deep. And that is a dangerous thing. Instead of just sniffing the poison of the world’s message, or rubbing a little on their skin, which can cause temporary damage, they ingest it into the deepest parts of themselves. I know this sounds morbid, but I wouldn’t be saying it if it wasn’t happening. A slow and painful poisoning of the soul.

We need to deal aggressively with these little foxes, little tumours, little bits of soul cancer that seek a way to burrow into our family’s minds and hearts, causing untold damage if left to fester and grow. These different poisons when reaching maturity grow into things like depression, eating disorders, anxiety.

How can we defend our families from these things?

1) Our words
Speak life.
(Prov 18:21)

Avoid saying negative things to your kids, especially your daughters, about their bodies. What does God say about them? That their bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), that they are beautiful beyond words (Song of Songs 4:1).

Speak positively to them, as well as about yourself and your spouse. Also, don’t speak negatively about others in front of them, because you’re teaching them to do the same. Develop a culture of encouragement in your household, and watch the fruit unfold for years to come.

2) Followed by our actions
Practice what you preach.

This week at youth group I shared an example with my kids saying if I tell you I have measles but I actually have the mumps, what are you going to catch if you spend too much time around me?

Consider this. A mother smiles at her daughter in a pretty dress and tells her she’s beautiful. Then turns back to the mirror and says, “I hate the way I look. If I could just lose some weight, this dress would look a lot better” (and my husband would love me more. And I would be happy). And so the list goes on.

What message has the daughter just received? Mind sets are caught not taught. What are your children catching from you?

3) Covered by our prayers
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray continually. As a recent Christian movie War Room has reminded me, we need to fight in the way that really counts. Do your fighting on your knees, rather than with your spouse or your kids. Or the TV set. They are not your enemy. The real enemy knows that we start losing when we take our eyes off Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), so don’t give him that satisfaction. Lift your family up to Jesus daily and trust them into his care.

The devil wants us to run after other things, counterfeit ways to momentary fulfilment, but how do you teach your kids to spot a fake? You display the genuine, abundant life in Jesus, in your home, in your life.

Let them “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) and see them come running back for more.

Sincerely, Lil

 

Image: https://hankeylorna.wordpress.com/category/a2-graphics/
Sourced 13 March 2016