No more a little girl.
All grown up and legal now. Today you’re 21, my sweet niece! Happy Birthday!
And those years in between seemed to vanish like so many dandelion seeds blowing in a summer breeze.
And on Saturday SURPRISE!
Tiki torches flamed, music sounded and we were all were smiles and hugs celebrating you!
You have grown into a fine and beautiful young woman. A precious soul who works tirelessly to promote an end to child abuse, who studies hard at college, and works harder to help pay her tuition. You are kind, helpful and loving, giving graciously of yourself even in challenging situations.
And we all love you so much!
And Cousin Charlene she remembered a long ago summer luau. She and a handful of us at your luau were there all those years ago.
And as I sat in Gram’s yard my mind drifted back in time. I was just a wee bit older than you are now when I planned and hosted that party that lingers sweetly in memory.
All of us then waved good bye to those decades past — seemingly in the twinkling of an eye.
And when an older soul like me reflects like this, well you think about all the choices made and situations and people that have brought you to where you are in life today.
I’ve learned many lessons, Stefanie. Mostly the hard way.
And He has certainly gifted me in my present life but greater blessings come when we follow God’s way the first time round, sparing ourselves and others great heartache and loss.
I pray that your journey, Stef, will not be as scarred as mine.
May God bless you abundantly through all the years ahead as He helps you make this world a better place. And never forget I love you with all my heart for all my days.
And now for all the young women just starting out in life here are 21 things I wish I knew when I was twenty-something.
1. You don’t have to be so hard on yourself. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. You just need to do your very best. Lighten up and laugh more. Mistakes happen. You are loved anyway.
2. Enjoy the journey and find the magic in every single day. Sometimes we live at a future destination, striving hard to get there. And it’s great to work diligently towards goals, but don’t miss the moments and the day-to-day glories that surround you along the way.
3. Stop worrying and stressing. Less than 4% of our worries ever come to pass. And stress — it really does tear a body down and make you sick. Relax and exhale. God’s got this! And in His mysterious ways all things work for good eventually.
4. Let go of the fears that haunt you and trust God more. Living in fear keeps you a prisoner. Say yes more often to new opportunities. Be daring and adventurous.
5. Understand that God — in all His almighty bigness — loves you intimately. He even knows the number of hairs on your head. And He loves you No. Matter. What! Even when you may make a poor choice God still loves you. But like a good parent He loves you so much He will let you learn from the natural consequences of your words and actions.
6. So choose wisely. Not impulsively. Think deeply. Don’t just blindly accept what someone tells you. Chew it over. Sleep on it. Pray about it. Your choices today determine the course of all your tomorrows.
7. Obedience to God and His ways truly brings blessing. Although He is kind and merciful and even blesses us after we have done wrong and hurt His Father heart, it is so much better to do things right the first time instead of back tracking.
8. Maintain strong healthy boundaries. It protects you from toxic people. But don’t be surprised if it makes them unhappy.
9. Forgive those that have or will hurt you. Let go of grudges. Unforgiveness makes you ugly and bitter and unhappy. Choosing to forgive sets you free.
10. Practice being positive. No one enjoys being around a Negative Nellie. Those who choose to be consistently negative are like vampires who will suck the life from you if you let them. So don’t.
11. Don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love but just make sure you do it gently and respectfully. Sometimes honest words to someone who is struggling with an issue or who has hurt you can help them see the error of their ways.
12. Love. Love God. Love people. Love is the greatest healer in the universe. Love goes the extra mile for others. And Love even hung on a cross that we might be saved from our sins and have abundant life, now and later. Love and do unto others as you would like to be loved and treated. And remember that love is a verb. Practice love daily according to the actions listed in 1 Corinthians 13.
13. Being afraid all the time is a waste of time. Moments and days are precious yet they pass quickly when you fritter them away shaking in fear. And you’ll miss out on joy, peace and other blessings.
14. Your worth is intrinsic because God created you in love and has good plans for your life. So don’t fuss about appearance and accomplishments. Yes, work with excellence to be all you can be but rest knowing that you are a blessing to all around you. Don’t be afraid to share the unique gift you are.
15. Save sex for marriage. It creates a stronger bond of trust between you and your husband. With less shame, guilt and regret to work through. I’ve done it both ways. Waiting really is best.
16. Take good care of your health even though your young body can get by with little sleep, no exercise, too much sugar or too many beers. You are what you eat. Establishing a healthy lifestyle now will help you to age well.
17. And guard your thought life. Being overly pessimistic or focused solely on what’s wrong in your life or the world at large, can bring you and those around you down while raising your fear quotient.
18. Stop being so controlling. Those who control are those who live very afraid. Relax your grip and let others live their lives.
19. When you are ready to marry don’t just think about and plan for the Big Day. Set your heart on planning for a lifetime with the man you love, the man who will be the father of your babies. And then protect, nurture and grow your marriage daily. The best thing you can ever do for your children is to respect and love their daddy well.
20. What you do will always speak more loudly than what you say.
21. Be grateful for everything. Big and small. Goals achieved as well as unexpected surprises and detours. Look for the gifts God sends everyday. Count your blessings one by one.