Tori, my dear:
I need you to take a deep breath.
Just—pause everything for a second, okay? I know it’s all spinning and heaving right now. I know it’s hard to see and hard to breathe, hard to do anything other than curl up into a ball with your hands over your ears and scream.
This is worth it. I promise. Just take a breath.
I called you my dear because you are dear to me. You are dear to so many people around you, and to God, but first and foremost right now, you are dear to me.
Sure, I didn’t exactly choose you. This mind and body has been yours—mine—from day one. And there are so many things I didn’t choose, things you pick apart if you get the chance.
You’re quick to see all the things you don’t want—all the things you label “un-want-able.” Physical things, like your nose, which you’re certain is too long. Mental things—like how you always have to check your rearview mirror to make sure that you ran over a pothole and not a child. Even habits, like slouching or rubbing your nose or checking the contents of your purse just one more time.
And of course there are always a million silly, awkward things you say and do that you question or regret later.
But guess what? You are still dear to me.
Yeah, so you might not like your nose, but I still like you. Yeah, so your OCD shifts, stops and starts, the way you think, and sometimes you wonder if it’s everything you are—but it’s not, and even if it is? I still like you.
Yeah, maybe you aren’t always super attractive—but who cares? I mean, seriously. Does it matter more what that guy behind the register or across the street thinks of you based on your body, or does it matter more what you think of you based on your heart?
You know what I think of you?
I think that you’re beautiful and quirky and special. I don’t think it matters a whit that you don’t dress like everyone else. I think it’s awesome that you sometimes choose to wear makeup because you can and sometimes you don’t because you don’t want to see anyone else differently. And your hair is always exciting, ponytail, headband, “doorknob” bun, or messy waves.
I look at you and I say, wow. She’s brave to just be her.
And just by being you, my dear, you make a difference every day.
I know that sometimes it all gets blurred. But I don’t feel brave. But I don’t even know who I am.
First of all, you’re not the only one who feels that way. Lots of people put on faces so you think they’ve got it all together—but you’re not the only one who’s a bit of a mess deep down. And if you’re willing to live a messy life, people will be drawn to it. So have some grace for yourself, okay? You’ll be giving grace to others in the process.
Second… every day that you are alive, you are simply brave for living. It’s hard to be alive. There’s so much to do, so many choices to make, and so many burdens you put on yourself. And there’s a lot going on behind those beautiful eyes.
You aren’t empty, no matter how empty you feel—you’re brimming with ideas and doubts and beliefs and thoughts and passions and hopes and dreams and emotions and stories and loves. It’s all part of what makes you you, but don’t forget that it doesn’t end there.
It’s not just one emotion that defines you, or one dream, or one failure. You’re a whole lot more than that. You’re a beautiful work of art that God’s been painting for the past sixteen years. And he’s not finished yet. There’s more painting to be done, and you’re brave for sticking around, even though you can’t quite see or understand the whole picture.
So this all-consuming emotion, this emptiness, this anger or panic or depression—it’s really hard right now, and you can’t see a way out. But it’s blinding you to the bigger picture—that there will be more emotions: joy, hope, love. Stick around to feel them.
So this love fell apart, and you’re still loving even though you’re broken time and time again, and you’re just about ready to shut down from all of it because if he doesn’t love me, why should I love me? But there will be more loves. There will be more people who love you. There already are people who love you.
Don’t settle and don’t shut yourself away. Love yourself—treat yourself, encourage yourself, respect yourself, laugh at yourself, enjoy your time with you—and you won’t find yourself needing to beg for love from half-hearted people. Make yourself a priority—stick around just to be with you—and you’ll see that there are people who are willing to do that, too. And you won’t settle for anything less.
But how can I love me? you ask. I know other people love me, but they don’t see the deepest, darkest places, the thoughts and emotions I keep hidden.
That isn’t all of you, my dear. You’re an artist, a dreamer, a writer, a lover. You’re a passionate person with a heart for the broken. You’re imperfect and that’s part of what makes you beautiful.
And I know about your doubts. I know that right now, you only talk to God to tell him how far away he feels—and you don’t even do that often, because it makes you feel more alone. I know you hardly believe he’s there in the first place. I know you’re exhausted, and I know that sometimes, you wonder if all Christians are delusional.
You’re only sixteen. It’s okay to have questions. You’re a tiny person with a short life on a huge planet. That doesn’t make you less important, it doesn’t make your problems insignificant, it doesn’t mean you can’t have impact—but just remember some things are bigger than you can see or understand, and that’s okay. I’m okay with the fact that you doubt. Believe it or not, it’s helping you become the gracious, understanding, empathetic person you are. Instead of letting it harden you, let it open you up—to others and their questions, even to yourself.
And even if you still have questions when you’re fifty, sixty, seventy—I will still love you. Because it’s not about being the strongest Christian with the biggest faith—it’s about being you and loving you as you bravely face all the very real questions and heartache of this earth. So be willing to let go a little.
Maybe you don’t need to reason through the apologetics of faith so much as you just need to step back and see who God is.
See the ever-changing blue of the sky veiled by the lace of clouds, hear the laughter in a child’s throat, let the music of the rain stir you to dance and to sink deep into sleep. Remember that your God is one who paints and laughs and creates music. Remember that he is the Word and the Life.
Remember that he loves to see you living. He loves to see you craft words from your heart, like he does from his. He loves to see you dance and laugh and fall in love. He loves watching your bare feet skitter across the grass, he loves the wispy, wild curl of your hair behind your ear, he loves to see you squealing and laughing and hugging friends. He loves to see you beaming despite your sweat from the stage and your smeared makeup. He loves you at the end of a full day as you sink into your unmade bed in a room practically drowning in dirty clothes and paper cuttings and receipts and books.
This is life, and he loves to see you live.
And don’t forget, he loves you just as much when you cry—because he is a God who cries and mourns. His heart breaks when yours does. He doesn’t condemn you for asking questions or for feeling empty or weepy or angry. He hears your thoughts, he knows your heart, and when you are suffering, all he wants to do is scoop you up into his arms.
I don’t know why you can’t feel his arms. But I think that if you go sit outside under the sky for a little while, you will feel this burden on your shoulders begin to lift.
So go. Take a breath and then just… release it. Begin to let go of all the expectations and worries that weren’t yours to carry in the first place.
Lay in the grass and watch the clouds tiptoe in their breathtaking awe of the sun. Swing and let your feet touch the sky. Enjoy the taste of coffee and chocolate. Curl up in bed and sleep for a while. Take a breath.
Because life isn’t dragging you to this place or that place, screaming at you to get it all done, to be all right for once. Life is this gentle rhythm, life is the quiet song of your pulse saying, I am alive, I am here, I am right now, and this is enough.
If you skin breaks—the blood will show and remind you that though there is pain, there is healing.
If your heart breaks—these quiet breaths, this stillness, will remind you that though this hurts, there is more under the sky for you to seek and rejoice over and love. Because you are more than this pain. You are a lifetime of beauty and discovery. You are the hands and feet; you are the glory of God in a real and precious human soul. This is you, this is how he made you, this is who you are. How could that ever not be enough?
So don’t give up. Sometimes, you have to choose peace, despite all the screaming voices. Sometimes, you have to choose to love yourself, despite all those that have left you behind.
And on the other side of this—you will find a life you couldn’t see moments before, blinded by your fear.
I promise you—it will be worth it. Because you are worth it.