Sunday, February 8, 2015

There's More

My daughter is twelve, and on the verge of the teen years. As I write this she is playing Barbies with her little sister, and I'm so thrilled by that my heart could explode. But I recognize my days are numbered. I'm bracing myself for the storm of mood swings and zits that is teenagerhood. I know that a certain degree of change, awkwardness and struggle are all a part of the years that prepare you for adulthood. My prayer is that we will walk through these upcoming days with as much grace and good hair days as possible. And deep down I wish that I could teach her all of the lessons I've had to learn the hard way, without her actually having to learn them the hard way. Most of all, I pray that of  all the lessons, she will learn that there is more. So much more to life and love and the whole human experience than what you experience in the teenage years.

For example, there is more to life than how you look. Sometimes it is hard in our culture to learn that. Commercials and movies and magazines are designed to lead you to obsess over your looks and what products you need to buy to improve them. You will probably at some point become convinced that if you were a different size or had a different hairstyle or whiter teeth, your life would be better. It's a lie. Today an elderly man remarked on how much my firstborn+- has grown and that she is "getting 
pretty". I had to reign in the Mom in me that wanted to smart back that she has always been pretty. But then he asked her something that began to consume my thoughts instead. He asked, "Have the boys started telling you that?" And rather than go into my usual "oh my gosh I'm not ready for this" train of thought, it hit me harder. Not that boys will begin to notice her. But I was reminded of how from such a young age we are taught to need validation from others. 

This, my daughter, is what I want you to know. You are beautiful, and have always been beautiful. You are beautiful because God Himself designed every feature on your face and placed every hair on your head. When you were a baby I spent hours staring at you in amazement and awe. You are beautiful because you are kind and caring and thoughtful. You are beautiful because you are nurturing and organized and creative. You are beautiful because your heart is tender and your head is hard. You are brave and fearless and stand up for what you believe in. You are wise and mature beyond your years and your faith is stronger than some adults. 

And it is nice to hear that others admire your beauty, but you do not need their words to confirm it. It is there whether anyone appreciates it or not. Don't expect middle school boys to build your self-esteem or value your worth. In fact, if you could avoid middle school boys at all costs, that would be great. :)  As someone who has lived many years replaying mean words said during the vulnerable teenage years, let me assure you that when someone speaks ugly of you it says much more about them than it does you. You choose kindness and forgiveness.

And I love clothes and make-up and girly stuff as much as the next person, but please believe me when I tell you there is more. I love to doll myself up for your Daddy and have him tell me I'm beautiful. But those times don't mean near as much to me as when he tells me, "You're funny" or that I'm his favorite person to talk to. Seek out friends who are interesting and who have hobbies and plans and daydreams. Be a little bit weird. All of the best people are. :)

Mostly, hold onto the truth that there is more. Our culture's obsessions with looks and material things, it gets exhausting and overwhelming. There's only so much we can control in the looks department and if we seek material things for happiness we'll always want more. It will never be enough. The kind of "more" I'm talking about is the realization that you have so much to offer. Your thoughts, your opinions, your heart. You are entering an age when insecurity and mean people rule. Those things go together you know, insecurity and meanness. I want you to be different. You encourage that girl with the big zit on the first day of middle school (she may still remember it when she's 34 years old :), and you laugh with your friends when you say the most horribly awkward thing to your crush, and you hug your friend that gets her heart broken and you wait (many, many years!!!) for the person who appreciates every.single.thing about you. And eat all of the pizza and ice cream. Now is the time!! Laugh and be silly and pray for the people who give you dirty looks, because self-imposed misery is a heavy load to bear. 

You can dress to impress or you can wear a smile that brightens another person's day. You can compete or you can compel others to do good things. You can perform for applause or you can perform acts of kindness. You can let others bring you down or you can bring others up. That's the real beauty. None of us can control our height or the shape of our nose or the texture of our hair. But we can choose the beauty that comes in how we treat others and the impact our life has on others. You, my child, are more than a pretty face to look at. You are an amazing soul that leads and loves and so much more!