[this piece was written on december 26, 2011 as a guest post for a blog called 20-somethings. it's not online yet there but will be soon. it was really fun to have the challenge of a structured topic: "note to self." enjoy.]
every year for the past five years, i have left a simple little note to myself on the huge tupperware we store christmas supplies in. hey jamie in december 2006: you’re sixteen now. congrats. hope you’re doing good & that you learned a lot this year. you’re fun. every christmas season i pull the container out of the storage room & without fail, the note catches me off guard. hey 21-year old jamie. i don’t know what this year held for you: but i pray that it was full of growth and joy and life. love, 20-year old jamie. i love silly little milestones. thinking back to who the girl that wrote december 2010’s note was… and who the girl reading them is now.
due to the unfortunate laws of time [he's always in a rush, won't slow down for anything] the only girl i can write for is next year’s jamie. but wouldn’t it be a gift to draft a letter to my sixteen year old self? oh, the things i could share with her over an americano. not tea. an americano, because she recently taught herself to like coffee & she’s on a roll.
merry christmas. you’re almost halfway through your grade eleven year — the year you swore you’d never make it through. staring at two more full years of high school in september seemed overwhelming — but you’ll be glad you persevered. your last couple years on that private school campus, with it’s impressive-looking brick buildings and the bustle of plaid kilts in the hallways will soon be a distant memory. you are starting to realize that you are different than the others… the thoughts that consume your brain aren’t on the minds of other teens. the launch of your photography business, longing to travel the world, wishing for the year where you could wake up and organize your time how you felt like it. it feels like a lonely road… and it is. some days will be harder than others. i understand why you count down every day of put on my uniform, grab my books, see how much class i can appropriately skip, wait until three o’ clock. desperately longing for your graduation date of june 2008.
life will start when i graduate. that was the thought you held onto — and although many well-meaning people will tell you these are the best days of your life! responsibility and hard work comes after graduation! enjoy the teen years! they were wrong. your best days did start after high school and surprise! responsibility & hard work are not to be shied away from… but as you envisioned, they are to be enjoyed, celebrated, as you steward your God-given gifts.
the photography business you will start six months from now, in june 2007, will flourish beyond what you could imagine. you have a small dream right now — i see you reading forums and books for hours a day, soaking up every bit of knowledge you can find. keep at it. you will enjoy the process of determining what success is to you — not what it is to your friend circle, within the photo industry, or even your parents — but what success means in the context of how you feel called to live your life.
for the first two years, you’ll work too much. graduating at seventeen, you’ll spend your first summer building your business full-force. you’ll breathe your business, the photography industry, the “next step.” but soon, some incredible photographers will become a part of your life — women like sarah barlow and kristen snyder — that inspire you, challenge you, balance you… in a way that you have never known before.
nineteen will be a year of change. you’ll make the difficult decision [but such an incredible one] to move churches — a big step, but one that will be confirmed in your spirit with every passing month. it will be a year of building true friendships… and you’ll learn to stop hiding your differences. yes, you’re type-A. yes, you can be a little intense, a little analytical — but these friends will love you and sharpen you and challenge you. no, they won’t be like you [praise the Lord for that, sometimes i feel like two of our personality would be too much] but they will accept you.
get your bible & journal ready; be prepared to soul search. in 2010, God will start breaking your heart for the things that break His — and you will never be the same. your years of businessbusinessbusiness thinking will quickly turn to ministryministryministry, as you grasp that He is the only thing worth living for. it will be a giant pile of paradoxes: beautiful & ugly, enjoyable & frustrating, difficult & effortless — as God shapes your heart from the ages of nineteen to twenty-one.
growth is not achieved through comfortable situations. how could God point us to Him and Him only if everything was turning out exactly the way we always imagined? we wouldn’t need Him. look upon hard situations & unideal outcomes in light of His plan: His plan that is beautiful beyond our dreams. in His incredible goodness, He will allow trials into your life: criticism of your character, unforeseen challenges in your business, relationships conflicts, big life changes.
face these trials with the wisdom spoken of in James 1: when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. so let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. you’ll learn that you can have great joy regardless of your circumstances. as you cling to joy, you’ll learn that God delights in ordaining peace for you [Isaiah 26:12] — and peace is the greatest gift.
sitting at starbucks with a coffee, thinking about the boxing day wedding i am about to photograph this afternoon… i suppose it’s time for me to wrap this letter up. [and yes, isn't that great that we get to drive alone and make decisions like showing up at starbucks at 8am on a holiday before the world is awake just because we feel like it? your day is coming.]
my final piece of advice: don’t rush your teenage years — i won’t claim being sixteen is better than being twenty-one — because it wasn’t. but i will promise you that God is good, His timing is perfect and where He has you right now is where He desire you to be. as you walk through the walls of your high school, look outside yourself. i know it’s hard — you have your own plans — and compassion is not your strong suit, but get your face into the Bible and ask God to transform your mind with His Word. pray for the people around you that don’t “get it,” even if many of them are Christians in claim — but they don’t understand the life and joy and love and peace and salvation we have in Jesus.
God has some beautiful things ahead of you, sixteen-year-old girl.
and some beautiful things ahead of me, twenty-one-year old woman.
choose joy. He is soooo faithful.