Do Not Merely Exist BLESSED SINGLENESS + FORSAKING IT ALL SAIL THE HIGH SEAS + BIBLE MAN ARMOR

// dear teenaged self

November 16, 2014

Ah. I remember Christmas of 2009 like it was yesterday. Okay. Not really. Actually, I barely remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday, so...I really have no clue what Christmas of 2009 was like, except for the pictures. 



Sorry, my dear! I had to embarrass you somehow! Just think, though, in 2009 you were seventeen. Holy cow! I bet you don't even know how special you are. Probably don't even realize that one day you're gonna experience the worst times of your life, accompanied by many of the best. Hang in there, girl! I am gonna give you a heads up on this so-called LIFE you're about to encounter. Buckle your seat belt. You're gonna want to hang on, because I promise you're gonna be BLOWN away!

Y O U R   N A M E 

Hey, Emily. Do you know what your name means? Have you ever stopped to actually look the meaning up? What does it say about you? In the Urban Dictionary it states that:
She is the most beautiful person in the world. Often referred to as a Goddess. Has eyes that one can easily get lost in. A great friend that cares about people and makes the world a better place. Easy to love, too. 
Apparently, my dear. You're HOT stuff. Okay, I won't embarrass you. I'll stop poking at you for the fun of it. But, seriously! Have you ever thought about what the name EMILY means? Apparently, other people have. Other people know something about you that you never would have guessed. And, here's the kicker, it's all TRUE. 

For a more accurate depiction of the name, it has Teutonic (meaning "hard working") + English (meaning "rival") roots. Also, the German+French+Latin roots to your name mean "industrious". 

From my own experience, little one, the name Emily means far more than what was stated above (we'll get to that in a moment), but first let me tell you some of the things I have learned about being an Emily.
We tend to take the initiative. To be leaders rather than followers. And we have powerful personalities. We tend to be focused on specific goals. Experience a wealth of creative new ideas, and have the ability to implement these ideas with efficiency and determination. We tend to be (in spurts) courageous and sometimes aggressive. We are unique, creative individuals. And we tend to resent authority, and are sometimes stubborn, proud, and impatient.
There you have it, love. That's us in a human nutshell. We're imperfect. Impatient. Rivals. And focused. (Sometimes). However, that's not what I want you to wholly get out of this. I want you to know the deeper meaning behind your name, behind the person you are becoming. 

W H O   I S   E M I L Y ?

I wonder. Has anyone ever asked you this question? Who are you, Emily? What is it that makes you unique and one-of-a-kind? Aside from the apparent, answer: JESUS, what are your likes and dislikes? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Angry? Favorite foods? Movies? Places to visit? Books? Colors? 

Here's what I have learned about US:
You are unique in the songs that you sing.  Meaning, you're a long way from being perfect, but still very much our own person. You are you because you are very sensitive to people's needs. Don't try to hide this. Period. It's a strength. You are simple, but very complex. You're favorite flavor of gum is Spearmint. You're favorite color is a toss between yellow, green, and blue (always has been). You're favorite movie has consistently been Lord of the Rings and The Patriot; and more recently, The Hobbit Trilogy. You're favorite book, by far, is Last of the Mohicans (because you have a crush on Hawkeye). And you adore Pizza, mint ice cream, peanut butter fudge, and cherry Twizzlers. 
Nature makes you happy. So do Starbucks Frappuccinos, blueberry-anything, long walks (no kidding!), cats, photography and blogging. You have a way with capturing the moment with your camera and a way with capturing hearts with your words. You are wise beyond your years. You are braver than you think. Stronger than you may seem. But have many fears that betray you. Don't give up! Fight!
Injustice makes you angry. You are a black and white thinker, so this comes as no surprise.  You are all about fairness. And getting credit where it's due. But crazy as it may seem, you are also very introverted, with a dash of extroversion that is your confidence trying to bloom (let it!).
Emily, apparently you are a very lucky girl to have so many blessings and aspirations in life. You have a heart overflowing in love and kindness. And one day someone is going to be mighty lucky to call you theirs. Which brings me to my next point. 

THE WORLD OF DATING

Oh, boy. Where do I even begin? 

Want a piece of advice? Don't ever listen to your counselor about online dating. It's a cruel thing to convince someone to partake of, and you'll only come away empty handed with a hamburger heart. So, just a word of caution, leave online dating well alone and continue to be content in being single. Because, trust me, you're first boyfriend will break your heart, and you'll just struggle afterwards because all other guys do not compare to his looks or his personality. 

However, since you have never dated, let me inform you on the ways of this foreign thing called dating. It's fun, sure. You get a few free means, maybe see a cute movie, and have some ice cream. But the reality of dating, unless you are serious about finding your spouse, is that its one big game of dodge ball. You either get hit by the love-bug and are set for life, or, get hit by heartache and get knocked down (and it takes a while to get back up again). Especially for you, dear. You are so tenderhearted. And the rejection, well, it really crushes you in the end. 

My dear, because you decide to follow your counselor's advice, you will have dated several guys from the age of twenty to the age of twenty-one. You'll only have had one boyfriend, and the rest you'll fine are duds that you willingly, but regrettably, go out with due to your desperation to find love. Don't be desperate. I will be honest and tell you that after your relationship with your boyfriend ends, you're going to struggle. You're going to feel lost. You're heart is going to ache. And you are going to be very discontent with the single life. I am saying this because I am still struggling with some of those things! 

However, I will say this: not all of those things are bad. Struggle is good. It will teach you perseverance. And heartache, while it doesn't feel good, will be your best friend during this season of singleness. Not in a bad way, I assure you! This aching will serve to help you keep your dreams and desires alive. And as you grow closer to the Lord (which you will), dating will become less, you'll become filled with an original, precious, holy love that will flood your heart and create a sense of peace that you've never known before. During this time you will grow closer to your family, to your friends. And during this season, you will also grow content in this season. You will start to love being single and embrace the freedom you have to serve Christ and love others without distraction from a significant other. 

Emily, I wish we had skipped the dating scene like we'd planned. But, I am glad we didn't. Instead of being a hermit for the rest of your life, you will be awakened to a desire to be loved, cared for, and to captivate. I can honestly say that this season of singleness I would never have been able to experience if it weren't God's way of telling me that He has something/someone better in store! If it weren't for this season of aching and desiring, I wouldn't have had the chance to grow and know God's heart. And I definitely would not have guessed the lessons He would teach me along the way about my identity in Him! Are yo ready to be BLOWN away?

YOUR IDENTITY IN CHRIST

Emily, I am writing this letter in pieces. Lots of little pieces. One, because writing all this in one segment is exhausting. And two, because as I write all that's going on in my head (that I want to say to you), I either get distracted by those thoughts, or become overwhelmed by the things I am continually learning as I write this letter to you. My dear, there is something wildly intoxicating about you. You have a fire within you driven by a fear of merely existing. Driven by a desire to love and leave a lasting and impactful legacy. You didn't know any of this at the age of seventeen, but you do now! You didn't feel this way at such a young age, but as you've grown closer to God, you have developed these things with time and perseverance. And as you continue to grow closer to the Lord (as I can assure you that you are!), I want to share with you a few things that I have learned that will hopefully help you help me in the long run. 

Dear one, the matters of a woman's heart are tricky. Any man will tell you that, but most women won't admit to this. It's true. You are complicated. To a fault. And sometimes (as in the words of Tammy Wynette) "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman". But blessed you are to be a complicated creature! Want to know why? All your life you have felt invisible-unseen by those who are closest to you. You've felt unsought- as though no one cares to pursue you. And uncertain-of what it even means to be a woman. Let me tell you something, love! While I can vouch for the legitimacy of these feelings, you have the choice to let them overcome you, or for you to overcome them. Which will you choose? At first your choice was destructive. Deadly. I encourage you to go another path. Choose God! Not food!

Because of your longing to belong and be loved on a deeper level, you caged yourself in, downplayed your emotions until they were so numb you could barely even breathe. And then...all at once, these emotions came to life and exploded. Bringing you down with them. You could have chosen a different path, but you didn't. You decided to control your future, your body, your experiences by the way of food-very little of it. And while it hasn't caused you any long-lasting aftereffects, it did do one thing (that may not have happened quite so magically as it came to pass)...it brought you closer to God. 

You see, during your struggle with food, and all those emotions that had you like a caged bird, you learned what it was to have the heart of a woman. To have an identity so enmeshed in Christ that people must seek Him first to know you. But why? Because God is the core of who you are. He is the source of all your creativity, courage, and convictions. I mean, just think about it- "Your feminine heart as been created with the greatest of all possible dignities-as a reflection of God's own heart" (Captivating, 8). Whoa. 

In addition to that, you will also learn your value is in God...not man. You may not get it now, but I want you to be ready for it: Satin is going to attack you left and right because of your faith. I want you to know why: because you are the crescendo of creation, the final work of God. THE CROWN OF CREATION. And you hold so much power within you that it scares the heck out of the devil. 

You're beautiful soul matters. It's a powerful thing, beauty. Wield it with great care and accuracy. For good, never evil. It speaks. It inspires. It transcends. It invites. It nourishes. It comforts. Your womanhood is only the beginning of who God is, but it speaks to his feminine side-which is full of grace, mercy, love, and care.   

ON BECOMING YOU 

You have so much to learn. About life. About God. About guys. About dating. About expression. About living. Just living. Living every single day to the fullest. If you can manage to live your life well lived, using your precious time to further the Kingdom of God, then you'll do just fine.

I will say this. You haven't always been good at LIVING. You used to merely exist. However, I want you to start living NOW before you waste any more time. God doesn't want you wasting what He gave you on wishing, hoping, and waiting. Go. Move. Breathe. Live!

I remember reading the last chapter of Paper Dolls thinking, "Whoa. What an amazing depiction of the way a girl feels. I sure do feel that way a LOT. The Samaritan Woman was loved by God regardless of who she was and who society claimed her to be. She's beautiful. Different. Alive. A paper heart coming to life." 

Emily, look here, see. There's more to becoming you than getting through your teen years, overcoming your awkwardness, and successfully defeating that blasted acne. You are more than what and who the world defines you as. You're smart. I mean, you're going to college to become a teacher for crying out loud! That takes courage and smarts. You're also a preschool teacher. Dang, girl! Brave soul. But through these things, you are recovering from heartbreak and returning to a love that is alive and and like water! You're encouraged to love. To live. To think. To become. To wish. To hope. To believe. 

Take time, Emily, to take advantage of your alone time with the Lord. Build your prayer life. Get rooted in His unchanging word. Live life based on how God views you, not the world. Stand strong in His mercy and forgiveness, for He has covered all your sins! Strive to be authentic in your relationship with God. Reach out to your community and share the love of God!Live a life of true, intimate worship. Show evidence of God's love in your relationships. Trust God's timing-in everything. And GET OVER yourself and out into the community, and world, and show them what love really means. 

All-in-all Emily, I say you've done a good job at becoming you. But if you follow my tips and stay authentic and yourself, the rest of your young adult years won't be so bad. And one more thing....I mean it when I say DON"T DATE. Just let God control that area of your life. Most guys are duds, anyway!

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