To the girl I was:

Girl I Was,

This letter has taken five years to write because the woman I am is still developing. I had to realize that this was a letter for you, and not for him. I had to thank you for being the girl I was, to honor you for all that we lost.

Girl I Was, I miss you. You could make a brick wall talk to back to you and laugh. You could stand in a line of strangers and make them feel good by finding something nice to tell them – about their outfit, their kid, their order choice, a snarky comment about the line taking forever, anything. Girl I Was, you were so funny that you could diffuse a tense situation in seconds. You weren’t perfect, not by any means. You had a temper that could ignite a forest in a second. You loved too quickly and let your heart take a few too many beatings. But you were innocent. You were me. And then, you were gone.

That night stole part of you away. You went from trusting to wary. Light-hearted and happy to reserved, forcing fake smiles because no one could know that you weren’t you anymore.

I still see you curled in a ball on the floor and crying, hurting, and wondering why God didn’t protect you – why He left you the moment you needed Him to intervene the most. My heart still breaks at the feeling of abandonment and neglect. This is a weight you carried alone for far too long.

I wish I could go hold you, Girl I Was, and whisper the things that I know now. I wish I could remind you that you are more than this. I know this sent you spiraling into a mess of hating God and wishing He would save you at the same time. You can’t see it now, but He already saved you. He never promised you would be given an easy life, though it seemed that way until now. I couldn’t see it then, but He was about to use this horror for so much good.

Genesis 50:20 is now my life verse: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He put me in this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

Girl I Was, you bore this burden of guilt and shame because of what a man did, what a man stole. But when you finally start opening up to people, you’ll see how not alone you are. This was not your fault. This is not a burden of guilt and shame that is supposed to rest on your shoulders. 1 in 4 women go through similar situations, and some of those women don’t have God to lean on.

Girl I Was, when you find your faith again it is so much stronger than you could have imagined. Yes, when this week comes I still cry. But I forgive him for what he took. I forgive him repeatedly, every day this week and I pray for him – not what you thought would ever happen when you lived in fear for two years. Not what you thought would happen when you went from one bad decision to another in your spiral.

I still do not love that this happened to me, but I am thankful that I am able to use it to help save others. Girl I Was, I am a teacher now. I have the lives of students in my hands, and so many of them have struggled with this same thing – or they will struggle. I pour God’s love over them every day, and I am blessed when they trust me enough to tell me their heart hurts.

Girl I Was, purity is more than virginity. Purity is in the heart, and my heart is still pure. I know you wished to be Ruth waiting on Boaz instead of feeling like Gomer. Girl I Was, you are more than those choices. You are more than mistakes. You are worth so much more than you believe.

Girl I Was, you’re not gone completely. I still see glimpses of who you were in who I am today. I love people freely, even when it gives my heart a new bruise. I still give compliments, even though it’s hard to step out of my new comfort zone. I still have a temper that can ignite a forest, but the flames tend to be doused quickly. I’m still funny.

Girl I Was, I think you would be proud of the woman I am. I fight for the rights of others with a flame can withstand a hurricane. I turn to God more and seek His guidance, even when I make mistakes. Especially after I make huge mistakes. I know He loves me. I trust that He will never abandon me, that He never abandoned me. I trust in His protection. I trust in Him even when I feel anxious about situations. I’m still working on being more open with people, but I also trust that God will let me know who those people should be. I am not ashamed of my past anymore, though I know the enemy will throw my mistakes in my face when I feel weak. This is not something to be embarrassed about, but to know that I am strong because I walked through the fires.

I’m ready to be the woman I am meant to be because of you, Girl I Was.

Thank you,

Woman I Am

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Things They Don’t Say About Growing Up

Back when I was so excited to grow up!

I remember being a kid, being told to enjoy my life because it becomes more complex when you get older. I remember being in elementary school and developing my first (of hundreds) crush on a boy—and being told that there will be time to like boys when I’m older. I remember running to the mailbox and hoping I would receive one of those pretty envelopes that my parents received, being disappointed on an almost daily basis (thank you to my grandparents and Toys R Us for mailing me something for my birthday!), and being told that those letters weren’t fun. I remember watching my parents swipe their plastic to purchase something and being told that I should never use the creditcard for things. I remember all adults telling me I should do as they say and not as they do when it came to certain things because habits are hard to break.

Fresh college graduate!

Now that I belong in the young adult category, I must say that all of those pieces of advice were actually useful. Things are definitely more complex now. Boys have become men, but I’m still trying to figure out when the time is right to like them. And while they don’t throw a crayon to tell you they like you, they also don’t just tell you that they like you (at least the ones you wish would… long story). Those letters that arrive in pretty envelopes, those are bills. Those are not fun. I miss my Toys R Us and grandparent’s letters, although now I get ones from Starbucks and Joanne’s. Credit cards are a beautiful evil, and when you’re tempted to buy something you should always make sure you can pay it off that same month/week/day. I’m also glad that I didn’t pick up some bad habits, although coffee is an addiction I’m okay with.

 

However, with all the advice about growing up I received, I was never told a few important things.

My little brother before he started school

Number one: it hurts. When you finally get grown up enough to move out of your parents’ house and receive the pretty envelopes, it is so exciting. You have daily phone calls with your parents, sometimes talking on the phone two or three times a day. It’s not quite the same as being there, but it helps. After a while though, the phone calls aren’t as long or as often. And you’re a little sadder when you hang up because you weren’t there to get that goodnight hug or kiss. Then come the days that you’re not feeling well. All you want to do is lay on the couch and have dad bring you soup and have mom rub your head while your little brother goes and picks some flowers and says he hopes you feel better. Then comes the day that you meet a boy and things were great but then they’re not so great. And all you want to do is have your mom hug you and your dad get you chocolate and your brother make a house in Minecraft, dedicate it to said boy, and throw in so many explosives that the world has a huge crater in it (in the game, that is). And you want your friends from back home to come, make you get dressed up, take you out, and show you all the much more attractive boys the world has to offer the way they did the last time you had your heart broken. Then comes your first birthday without your family. And you miss them so much that you practically spend the whole month crying—at your desk at work, in the car on the way home, curled up on the couch on the weekend, etc.. Every time you notice the countdown to your birthday, you die a little inside and wish you could postpone it. Growing up hurts.

Favorite home-cooked meal

Number two: it’s beautiful. Yes, it hurts. It hurts a lot and you have days that hurt more and days that hurt less. However, you also have these beautiful moments when you do things you never thought you could. You buy your first bed, first couch, first dining room set. Your apartment starts feeling like a place you really can call home. Then it becomes messy and it is just like your room back home (sorry, Mom and Dad). The first time you make a meal from a random recipe you found online and it tastes incredible, for instance. You take pictures, post it all over Facebook and Instagram, and call your mom to tell her. And your dad, and your aunts and grandparents. And your friends back home click the like buttons and you are so incredibly proud of yourself. Granted, it took a few months and some really terrible meals to get to this place, but you had a kitchen all to yourself to experiment in. Then come the second and third meals, and soon enough your Facebook and Instagram is full of pictures of home-cooked meals. You get your own animal and start training him and feel a sense of pride in that. You play with him, walk him, have a companion that licks your face when you’re crying, and you don’t feel so lonely. You go back home often enough  (it’s so fun to surprise your family and just show up when you miss them a lot!) and make it a point to see some of your old friends. Those moments are even more special because they’re rare. You start making friends at work, you get introduced to their friends, and you start hanging out with them outside of the office. Granted, these people are not the same friends you had back home—no one can replace that group—but it’s time to accept that. It’s time to see how you are growing up and how beautiful that really is.

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My fluff ball, Rupert, and I.

Number three: it’s an ongoing process. This part is kind of annoying. Growing up comes in phases, and when one is finishing the next one is beginning—and it’s hard to tell when that moment is occurring. Writing things down on a never-ending to-do list is important. Doing laundry is important. Forgetting to do laundry sucks. Forgetting to make a payment/change the account number on payments sucks. You find a new apartment, maybe with your spouse, maybe alone but less expensive than your first place. You get to make the new apartment start feeling like home. You learn what events and holidays need to become priorities in your life, and sometimes you change those around. You meet the new guy who makes you smile and want to get dressed up, and you thank God that the last relationship didn’t work out. We are constantly changing, learning, relearning, meeting people, feeling sad, feeling happy… We’re constantly growing (up).