Dear Anna,

I turned 21 on May 4. There, I said it. Deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out.

Okay, we’re good. Several people have come up to me and asked how it feels to be “entirely” an adult now. And my answer? I’m still working on it. See, in a way it’s different, but in a way it’s not. It’s hard to explain. Either way, though, it was an important birthday for me. When I was younger, I couldn’t imagine turning sixteen and being able to drive. Then, I couldn’t imagine graduating and starting college. Then, turning 21…etc.

So that’s why, the night before my birthday, I sat down and wrote a letter to my younger self. I wrote it to a girl with long hair and braces; a girl trying to find her place in the world, while simultaneously dealing with the woes of Algebra. It’s a letter of reflection, mostly. It’s written as though I could reach back in time and give my younger self some advice, like a heads up of what will take place between age 13 and age 21. A “take heart” kind of message.

Usually, I keep my journal and my blog separate. Similarly, there are many areas of my life that I only discuss in face-to-face conversations with friends, or in quiet, sacred secrets with my Savior. But technically, I typed this letter, so it’s on a hard drive, not in my journal.

Even still, this is the abridged version. I’ve cut out some details, but this is pretty much the outline.

After you read it, think about yourself. What would you tell yourself if you could go back a few years? If you’re still in your teens, maybe this will encourage you that, yes, you really will make it. And yes, there are hard lessons to learn, but they’re so very worth it if you learn to seek God in the middle of those tough moments. I absolutely loved being a teenager (well, besides the math part…), and it’s such an exciting few years that fly by before you know it.

Or maybe you’re several years older than I am. If so, what’s something you’d tell yourself when you were my age? Food for thought.

In His love,

Anna

————-

Dear Younger Anna,

It’s 10:00 pm the night before you turn thirteen. I know you’re excited about becoming a teenager, and now you only have two more years before you can start driving. A lot of times, I joke with thirteen-year-olds that they are about to experience the worst years of their lives…but also the best. And it’s true. Hold on, Younger Anna. You’ve got a lot coming your way between now and when you turn twenty-one.

Right now, you’re frustrated when people refer to you as a little kid. You want them to see you as someone who is mature and responsible. Which basically means you never want anyone to see you during a math lesson. Over the next couple of years, you’ll do a lot of doubting yourself. You’ll argue with your sisters, you’ll disrespect your parents, and your self-esteem will take some self-inflicted hits.  You haven’t yet learned just how priceless and treasured you are.

One night, a few months from now, you’ll realize something: You’ve been a Christian since you were little, but you’ll realize salvation is about so much more than going to Heaven one day. So late one night, after your bedtime that is totally too early, you’ll kneel beside your bed and ask God to be the Lord of your life. You’ll tell him you can’t do it on your own; you need help. You’ll ask him to forgive you for all of the times you mess up, and you’ll ask Him to really, truly, come into your heart. Your young heart will cry out because, for the first time in your life, you’ll be scared of a life without Jesus. The next day, you’ll go get lunch with your family, and while you’re in the car, your favorite song will come on. It’s about believing in God no matter what, and you’ll smile and tell yourself that’s pretty much the coolest reassurance from God, ever.

During one of the most uncertain nights of your life, you’ll sit down at your desk, turn on your laptop, and start typing. Before you know it, you’ve written the lyrics to a song: a song that honestly says, “Jesus, I need You.” It will be the only way you know how to express the pain you’re feeling; the only way to say what you so desperately need to say to your Heavenly Father; the only way to ask for a miracle. You won’t know it at the time, but through that one song, God will light a spark in your heart that burns with the desire to worship Him through writing. From that dark winter’s night onward, you’ll begin writing songs, poetry, stories. Sure, you’ve written all of your life, but it’ll be different now. It’ll be proof that God can bring beauty out of even the most hopeless situations. And by the way, He’ll provide that miracle.

Over the next couple of years, you’ll learn what friendship really is. You’ll learn age really is just a number when it comes to people who care about your heart. Speaking of your heart, you’ll have to feel the sting of a broken one. But you’ll learn to surrender the broken pieces—the shards of a shattered heart—to God and allow Him to make the hurt beautiful. Once again, He’ll prove light shines brightest amid the darkness.

Eventually, you’ll start to learn your worth comes from Christ alone. In Him you are made beautiful, and when God looks at you, He doesn’t see all of the mistakes. No, He sees the blood of His perfect Son.

You’ll also get to experience several miracles. Seriously, Younger Anna, you have no idea. They’re gonna be incredible. One of them will be a little sister you prayed about for years until you decided God answered all of those prayers with a “No.” Have I mentioned you’ll also learn to let God be God and not try to answer for Him?

Right after that, your high school years will come to a close. I know it’s hard for you to imagine ever making it out of high school, but it will happen sooner than you think. I promise. You’ll go to prom, take the SAT (the morning after prom, with bobby pins and hairspray still on your head), graduate, and start college. Yes you, a kid who’s never been anything but homeschooled, will go to college. And although you’ll initially take offense when people talk about how “sheltered” you were, soon you’ll learn to be thankful that you have parents who loved you enough to protect you from parts of the world. College will be another chance for you to learn to rely on Jesus with everything you’ve got. And every time you entrust your situation to Him, He will prove faithful. Every single time. Somehow over the years, you’ll stop being such a ridiculous perfectionist, and learn that your best is the best when you commit to reaching for God’s best.

And then before you know it, you’ll blink and it’ll be the eve of your twenty-first birthday, just one hour until your feet are planted firmly, finally, completely in the adult world. You’ll be sitting down, late at night, reflecting over those wonderfully defining teen years. You’ll allow yourself to relive memories you haven’t thought about in a while; allow yourself to feel them all over again so that you can remember just how good God really is. You’ll cry a little, but it won’t be the frustrated tears of a young girl trying to figure out who she is. Instead, they’ll be the grateful tears of an almost-twenty-one-year-old remembering Whose she is.

No, you won’t have it all figured out. You’ll still have moments of doubt, countless mistakes, and many questions. But see, if there’s a common theme woven throughout this letter, it’s this: You are loved. Fully, completely, totally, and with abandon by your Creator. He has good, good plans for you. And I have a feeling that, even as you write this letter, you’ve only just begun to taste and see the beauty of life in Christ. It’s only the beginning.

As I look back, is there sadness about leaving this chapter of life behind? Some. But it’s mostly excitement; excitement for all that the Lord has planned in the days, weeks, months, years to come. You’re so blessed, Younger Anna, and don’t you ever forget it.

From my heart,

Anna 

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10 thoughts on “Dear Anna,

  1. Awwww. This made me cry.

    I agree with the 13 part. Seriously, that was…the best year of my life, with some pretty “worst” parts (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say the worst, period).

    And now, I’m 14, and I think I’ve made it to the friendship paragraph. ;) It’s really pretty amazing how much those first 5 paragraphs actually sound like my life over the past year/year and a half.

    So, thank you, once again. :)

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  2. So, as I read this, the last 7 or 8 years of my life flashed through my mind. I am glad I was along for the ride. (even tho I wanted to bail on some of the math days) This was also my first attempt at navigating a person through her teen years. I’m sure there were many areas that could have been handled better, but I, like you, learned that God is faithful and forgiving. I am thankful that you have turned the controls of your life over to Him. I look forward to watching you continue to grow and be all that He has for you. You are an amazing young woman, precious in God’s sight and in mine. I love you oh so much!

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  3. Pingback: Au Revoir, 2013 | Anna Schaeffer

  4. So, it’s been over two years since you shared this, and I just thought I’d come back and read it today. There was a line I remembered that’s been coming to mind so often lately but I couldn’t remember quite how it went. It’s this one: “Have I mentioned you’ll also learn to let God be God and not try to answer for Him?”

    Two years ago I was amazed how much this looked like a general overview of my life up until the friendship paragraph. Now it’s interesting to find out that I’ve been smack-dab in the middle of the next two paragraphs over the past year or so. I’ve been learning about grace and also how to not “figure everything out.” There have been several times recently where God took something I consciously or unconsciously decided was fact and flipped it around. Like He’s reminding me not to assume things without even asking Him, or to give up and decide the answer must’ve been no. One of these examples, I can share.

    I had a friend who lived in the Chicago area up until last fall, when she moved to Nova Scotia. Somehow, sometime, I decided that meant I’d never visit her. Not that it couldn’t happen, oh, of course not–God can do anything! But that it wouldn’t happen. (Silly Amanda, that’s saying the same thing…) Then on the way back from summer camp last month, the people in my group’s car were talking about mission trips. My youth pastor was driving, and he said, “Well, I just heard that next year, we’re going to Nova Scotia.”

    I think I almost choked right there in the car. Thankfully, I didn’t. But I immediately thought, “God? What…what are You doing, here? I thought…” and then I stopped. I thought. Wow.

    But it gets better. The next day in church, my main pastor was telling the church about this very topic, the mission teams’ target for next year. He mentioned the name of the town we’d be serving in. I looked it up at home and I was sitting there with tears in my eyes, because it was the town right next to the one my friend moved to.

    The way God works is so amazing, isn’t it? I’ve remembered this letter you wrote to your younger self so many times in the past two years. It’s meant a lot, and I even wrote my own last year. Thank you so much for sharing yours.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know. :)

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    • Amanda, this is so sweet! Thank you, thank you for sharing. It had been a while since I’d read this letter, so it was really crazy re-reading it today and realizing I wrote it a little over two years ago. I was turning 21 when I wrote it, and now I’ve recently turned 23, so as I reread it I couldn’t help but think of all the things I could say to my 21-year-old self that have happened since then. Some of the things in the letter that I’d mentioned I’d learned since I was 13? Yeah, turns out I’ve learned even more about those things over the past two years. And then as I read I would find myself wondering why I hadn’t mentioned some big things that have happened in my life, only to realize they’ve happened since this post was written. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’ll be like in a few years looking back on this time in my life.

      Your example you shared is incredible! That is most definitely a God thing! It reminds me of Isaiah 55:8-9 (which has been on my heart a lot recently):

      “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

      I’m planning to blog a little more about this later, but God has been showing me over and over to stop trying to figure things out as well. Sometimes it takes a while before things sink into us ;) Your story encouraged me so much!

      -Anna

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