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Twenty Life Lessons: A Letter to My Baby Sister

Baby JulieI suppose you’re not actually a baby anymore… at the age of twenty, you are indeed a beautiful young woman. Yet, I will always have a vivid picture of you in my mind as a rambunctious ten year old girl… that was the age you were when I left the house for college, and somehow you will always be that age in my memories.  When I finished college, I remember clearly telling myself that I never wanted to move back home… I was afraid that I would get stuck in a comfortable environment and would miss out on life and never be able to get myself out of our hometown again.  But then I had a conversation with a dear friend that inspired me to recognize that these next couple of years could be precious moments to spend getting to know my baby sister… to interact with and become a friend to and perhaps even provide some encouragement or wisdom at times.  I’ve certainly struggled with being a friend rather than another “mom” to you and I don’t think I’ve always been great at offering up encouraging words, but this letter is my attempt at sharing with you some of the greatest lessons that I have learned in life… in hopes that you might gain some insight, wisdom, encouragement… or better yet, that perhaps you can learn from some of my mistakes so that you don’t have to make so many of your own.  I’m certain there are many more nuggets of wisdom that I could share, but since you have just turned twenty, I will share (in no particular order) twenty of my greatest (and no-so-greatest) life lessons:

  1. Put on a pair of heels and walk with confidence.  Every girl should own a great pair of comfortable heels.  You’re a beautiful young woman, and it’s ok to be confident.  Boys will find you intimidating and girls will want to be like you.  Own your confidence, but own it with humility.  Be proud of your accomplishments, but don’t be stuck up.
  2. Don’t post your ambiguous emotions on social media.  Be careful what you post to the world.  And if you think you’re in a bad mood or upset about something… it’s usually a good idea to never post anything.  Even when you say it’s just a general statement, someone will always see past the ambiguous words and know exactly who or what you are talking about.  This will get you in more trouble than you ever truly want to be in.
  3. Taste the rainbow.  Don’t be such a picky eater!  It has certainly taken me a long time to learn this lesson. We all know that I used to find creative ways to throw my vegetables away when mom and dad would finally leave the dinner table, fed up that my stubbornness was lasting hours longer than they would have liked.  But eventually, sometime during college, I learned to enjoy new foods.  Even scary foods.  Not that you need to like everything that you try, but certainly give yourself some room to be adventurous and certainly never ever complain about the food that you have in front of you.  Being fed physically is a blessing we too easily take for granted.
  4. Get a job! And be thankful for it!  You’re not going to love every job that you have in life.  So don’t expect to wait to get one until you think your dream job has come along.  You’ll never get that dream job if you don’t have the resume and experience to prove that you deserve those dreams.  You can do anything you want to do… but usually it’s going to require doing a bunch of things that you don’t want to do first.  That’s no reason to grumble about a job you dislike, though.  It doesn’t have to be your favorite, but you can still strive to be good at whatever you do… and this will bring great joy to the people that work around you.  And if you really dislike your job, then start looking for something new while you are still working the current one and building your resume.  There’s no reason to be miserable… but always give your best.
  5. Start saving nowIt’s never too late to start saving.  I know, usually people say it’s never too early to start saving, but somehow I didn’t have that wisdom when I was younger.  There is a sense of security in knowing that you have a financial “back up plan” for the occasional last-minute road trip or highly desired concert tickets that a friend just told you about.  And despite popular belief, your parents’ pockets won’t always be that savings account that you are currently so accustomed to… get a job and save most of your paychecks while you can.
  6. Travel the world.  Home is certainly where the heart is, but the world is where you will meet your soul.  There is a great big beautiful world out there that holds lots of new adventures and a multitude of new experiences.  Don’t pass up an opportunity to visit new places!
  7. Write out your goals.  One of the best things I’ve ever done in life was figure out my mission and purpose in life.  This sounds daunting, but just remember that this can change over time.  Your purpose doesn’t have to be unchanging, but it should speak to the core of who you are, who you once were and who you want to be.
  8. Laughter = Joy.  You are so unique and creative and beautiful.  You have a crazy sense of humor that most of the time I don’t even understand.  But your laughter shows how much you love life.  And this is infectious to those who are around you.  Don’t be ashamed of being different or feeling too crazy, because you truly are the life of the party.
  9. Step away from the screens.  The TV and the computer screens… learn to step away.  They shouldn’t consume so much of your life.  You’re lucky to live in a generation where you can pull up anything you want to watch, whenever you want to watch it.  But you don’t need to watch everything.  And you don’t need to spend multiple hours in a row glued to those screens.  There’s a lot of life outside of those screens.  Enjoy it.
  10. Find the blessings in being single.  It’s easy to want what you don’t have.  Right now you might feel like being single is the hardest and least desirable thing you could ever imagine.  But someday you will find yourself looking back and wishing you had more days where you could determine your own schedule, choose your own activities, and sleep in as late as you want.  It’s ok to be sad some days, but you should also take time to recognize what things you have in your life that you are only able to do because of this stage of life that you are in, and appreciate those things.  Whenever I get sad about being unmarried or not yet being a mom, I learn to enjoy even more those days that I get to sleep in, and drink coffee while it’s still hot, and go out to the dog park or run errands whenever I would like.  Look for those blessings, and thank the Lord for the place He has you in life.
  11. Iron sharpens iron.  Choose your friends carefully.  But more importantly, be the kind of friend you want to be around.  Quality is far more important than quantity.  And it’s ok to “break up” with friends.  It’s not easy and honestly, it really sucks, but when you’re asking the Lord to guide your friendships, He won’t let you down.
  12. Serve selflessly.  Look for ways to help others without expecting anything in return.  There is greater joy in serving than in wanting.  And the more that you are able to serve others, the less you will want for yourself.  It’s a beautiful thing.
  13. Failure is hard.  Avoid it.  But don’t fear it.  Most likely you will fail at something in life at some point in a big way.  This failure will not define you.  But it will strengthen your character, if you are able to embrace it and learn from it.  Know your weaknesses and work hard to strengthen them.
  14. It’s OK to have crushes on boys.  Cute boys give us hope for the future!  Especially when they are cute boys who love Jesus and are passionate about something in life!  Don’t get too boy-crazy, though.  Cute boys aren’t everything and certainly shouldn’t be your focus above time with your girlfriends.
  15. At some point, you have to let that cute boy know that you like him.  Be bold.  Boys like to say and act like they are tough, but deep down they get intimidated by strong, confident, beautiful women.  This doesn’t mean that they are weak… they just need some encouragement to know that they have the freedom to ask you to hang out.  And when a boy asks you on a date (or just to “hang out”)… you can say ‘Yes’ – this doesn’t mean that the two of you are going to get married.  It also doesn’t mean that you’re going to end up in an exclusive relationship.  And don’t be afraid to tell a boy that you’re not interested. There’s no need to play silly games: honesty and communication is key!
  16. Kissing boys is dangerous.  Make them wait for it… I promise, it’s worth the wait.  Don’t let a boy kiss you until he has made a commitment to you.  I’m not saying you need to wait until you are exchanging vows, certainly you will kiss boys before that day.  But hopefully not too many boys.  You will save yourself a lot of unwanted heartache if you save those kisses for the boy who enjoys your company without expecting a kiss.
  17. Guard your heart.  Again, there may be several boys that come along and sweep you off of your feet, only to eventually break your heart someday.  I don’t look forward to these days for you.  I pray these days will actually stay far away and that you may never know the pains of a lost love.  If there is one thing that I can pass along from my own experience of heartache, it would be this: the desires of your heart are a precious thing, but hold on to them tightly.  The Lord already knows what those desires are and as long as you are asking Him to lead, He will make it clear when the right boy (or man) has come along for you to share your heart with.  Until that day, enjoy the simple moments… the fun dates and light-hearted every day conversations.  But don’t be shallow.  And don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
  18. Give where it hurts.  I’m not always very good at this – but our middle sister is!  Follow her example… she is so generous when it comes to her “things” and is always willing to let someone borrow or use something that she has.  Don’t hold on to your material possessions like museum treasures.  But also protect the things that you value and have worked hard for.  This goes for your money, too.  Be ready and willing to give above and beyond to help others.  And don’t always expect recognition for your giving.
  19. Hold your tongue.  Always strive to be a good listener.  I still remember the day when I had to make a conscious decision to shut my mouth and walk away from an argument… ever since then, it’s my desire to know when to hold my tongue when I disagree and when to have a respectful conversation if I don’t agree.  This will take you far in life.  Be slow to speak… and quick to listen.  People will notice and they will want to be around you more because of it!
  20. Respect your parents.  It’s going to take you a long time to realize how much they have truly sacrificed for you to be where you are at today… to have the things that you have and to be able to experience life to the fullest.  You’re not always going to agree with them.  And you’re not always going to like their rules.  But as long as you are living under their roof, respect their rules.  And if you don’t like their rules, then get a job and move out.  There’s no room for disrespect in their house now… you’re not a teenager anymore!

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