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Letter to my 12-year-old self

Dear 12-year-old me,

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write this. It’s been a really long journey to realize that I needed to write. Plus I’ve been learning a lot lately, so I might have to write you again in a few more years. I hope you’ll forgive me if I forget anything important.

The first thing I want to tell you is that Jesus is real and he’s wildly in love with you. I know right now for you, He mostly lives in a 90-minute block of time on Sundays in an ornate Colonial off of Franklin Highway, but He is so much more! Yes, there have been lots of times you thought He’d abandoned you, and there will be a few more. But I can’t wait for you to experience what He has in store for you! His Dad thinks you’re pretty special, too. More about Him and Jesus a little later.

The second thing I want to tell you is how proud I am of you. As a poor redneck southern Baptist girl thrust into a rich northeast Italian Catholic town, you have managed to find your footing pretty well. Even now it’s evident that you’re blessed with good discernment, so, good job seeing what many others can’t (or won’t) see. By the way, those cliques you desperately want to be in right now? Most of their lives aren’t going turn out as you imagine they will. I don’t mean to patronize, but it’s a huge blessing that you’re not in some of those circles.

If I remember correctly, I think you’re pretty ticked at your folks right now, and for good reason. You’re in some really hard stuff. Now I’m not asking you to pretend all is Pleasantville, but I do want to let you in on some things you might not know. Truth is, they’re both pretty broken. A lot of the stuff that’s gone on in your house, it started way before now. That thing that happened to your Dad when he was a little kid, he doesn’t realize it but it’s still impacting him today. And that family tragedy that your mom had to see as a teenager, it’s a huge part of why she is the way she is. She doesn’t recognize it; that would mean having to unlock the basement cellar where her demons are tucked away. It’s just easier for her not to go there. And you’ve already seen the (let’s call it) “interesting” dynamics coming out of both sets of your grandparents. So I hope that seeing your parents not just as you see them right now, but seeing them for all of the unpacked and stinky baggage they’re living out of every day, I hope that can soften your heart towards them and allow for Grace to come in. They really do love you, though it doesn’t always seem like it to you. They’re loving the best that they can for now, and the love of God will fill in the gaps if you let it.

I probably don’t need to point out that you’re carrying around a few unpacked and stinky bags of your own. I wanted to talk to you about a few of those. I know a lot of this stuff brings up feelings that are truly awful, so I want you to know that you’re safe and I won’t let anything happen to you, because I’m with Jesus and we both love you very much.

First of all, that pornography that you found in the woods when you were so young, I’m so sorry someone had to leave that for you to find. Your little eyes were never meant to see that. I’m sorry your innocence was stolen and that those pictures continue to haunt your mind. I know it seems the world wants you to think porn is a normal, acceptable part of adult life, but you know in your heart that isn’t true. I want you to know that I’ve taken the liberty of forgiving whoever left that stuff there, and I’ve also asked Jesus to cleanse all of those mental images with His blood so that they don’t torment you any longer. You can leave that baggage with Him now.

I also want to tell you how sorry I am for what the bullies said and did at school. I’m sorry the teachers were always somewhere else, and I’m sorry that other kids thought it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. I’m not sure if you know this yet, but it turns out the parents of those bullies were doing some really bad things to their kids. The taller one, her dad landed himself in prison before she was in third grade. She only gets to see him through 5-inch-thick glass. She’s not just angry at you. She’s angry at living. The meaner one, her mom has been in and out of drug rehab more times than I can count, and her dad doesn’t know how to cope so he just hides at work all the time. These things don’t mean that what they did to you is okay, because it isn’t. But it may help you to know that it wasn’t about you. I want you to know that I’ve taken the liberty of forgiving both of them, as well as their parents and the teachers, and I’ve also asked Jesus to erase the awful words they spoke over you so that you don’t believe those lies anymore. You can leave those lies with Jesus.

Speaking of lies, you don’t recognize it now, but you’re being lied to. A LOT. Every magazine ad and television commercial is designed to make you feel “less than” so you’ll buy their product and chase their idea of perfection (which changes every season). All of the romance novels and chick flick movies and oversexed love songs are designed to make you believe that love should look and feel a certain way, while reality is so very different. The kids at school who are doing anything and everything to fit in, and they’re prescribing the same things for you so that you’ll fit in, they’re all just masking their own inadequacies because they’re also buying all of the lies that they’re “less than”. Don’t buy what they’re selling. I’ve taken the liberty of forgiving all of that, and I’ve asked Jesus to replace every lie with truth from the mind of Christ. This truth says you are enough. You are made in the image of God. You are worth dying for. You are beautiful. You have a destiny written by God himself.

It’s also important for you to know that Jesus really is with you. He promised in the Bible that He would never leave you, and He meant what He said.

When that person you loved so much died and you were so heartbroken, Jesus was there. He wept beside you at the funeral when you decided in your little heart that crying was stupid. Jesus wants you to know that crying is good for your soul, even if others get annoyed by it, so don’t keep the tears inside. Bottled up tears can end up erupting later when you don’t even know why, and your young tummy aches can grow into real adult sicknesses if they’re not cleaned out. I’ve taken the liberty of weeping for you over this death because I know you couldn’t do it, so you can give your tears to Jesus now.

When that really scary car accident happened in the rain, Jesus was there. He wants you to know he shielded and protected you. The firemen said when they saw the car, they were amazed anyone survived. It was Jesus who steered the wheel in the opposite direction so the car hit the trees instead of hitting the big trucks passing by. I know the sound of the impact was something you’ve said you’ll never forget, and that you still feel anxious when riding in a car in the rain. I’ve taken the liberty of praying through all of that for you, asking Jesus to take your terror and to replace the scary sounds with His voice of peace. You don’t have to carry the trauma anymore; you can give all that trauma to Jesus now.

When you let your friend talk you into stealing that makeup and jewelry from the mall, Jesus was there. He was angry at how you have been used and manipulated, and he was also grieved by the guilt you have wrestled with (because remember, He bore our guilt). Jesus saw your heart. He sees how you have hated yourself for it, and He sees how even now this comes back to your mind every Sunday. He sees that you want to run down the aisle to confess to somebody, and He sees the fear of the consequences rise up and push you back down into your seat to carry the guilt another week. Jesus also sees the label you’ve given yourself. So I’ve taken the liberty of confessing this sin for you, asking Jesus to forgive it and to wash its effects away. Your identity is not that of a thief. You can leave that label with Jesus because it doesn’t describe who you are.

When your friend’s uncle did what he did to you that time in his basement, Jesus was there, begging that man not to do what he did. Jesus was furious at what happened, and He was grieved that man’s free will in a fallen world still means that terrible things happen to innocent children this side of heaven. Jesus wept when you decided not to tell anybody because you believed that man when he said you brought it on yourself. Jesus sent angels and kittens and butterflies and rainbows to speak to you otherwise, but it was hard for you to hear His voice above the roar of shame. You couldn’t have known that this man was acting out what his uncle did to him as a kid, so I’ve taken the liberty of forgiving that man for you, and I’ve asked Jesus to restore what was stolen from you and to whisper to you every day until you believe, it wasn’t your fault. You don’t have to walk under a cloak of shame any longer. You can give that cloak to Jesus now because He has something much prettier for you to wear.

When you gave half of your lunch to the nerdy new kid who forgot his, Jesus was there. When you helped your Nonna pull weeds from her garden instead of going swimming with your friends, Jesus was there. When you picked up your Bible after an angry fight with your bff instead of blasting back with hurtful words about how you really felt, Jesus was there. When you gave your babysitting money to the visiting missionary at church, and when you said no to the nicotine going around at school, and when you decided not to cheat in algebra class even though you ended up with a C on the test, Jesus was there. He was rooting for you, cheering for you, and celebrating for you. And he was so very proud.

I wish I could spare you from some of the pain that’s coming in your future. You’ll make some really amazing decisions and accomplish some pretty incredible things. You’ll also make quite a few really terrible choices, and those choices will have consequences not only for you but for some people you love a lot. The enemy of your soul wants nothing but bad things for you, but Father God has a way of never wasting a hurt. So even in the bad decisions, God says that what the enemy means for evil God will find a way to use it for good if you let Him.

So I give you permission to lay down every single piece of baggage at the feet of Jesus. To run free and chase your dreams. To be young and silly and lighthearted and creative. To love yourself and accept yourself and smile back at your own reflection in the mirror. I give you permission to recognize that you were designed by God for greatness, for laughter, for worship, and for love.

I bless you in love.

Your much older self.

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