A letter to my little girl self…
Dear Little Stefanie,
Your mom calls you T.H.E. Bean and Sunshine Girl. Your sister calls you Scooter. Your hair is white and usually an untamed mess; you don’t have time for things like hair. There is a creek full of minnows in your back yard to be splashed in, there are trees to climb, bikes to ride, and skating routines to create in your long driveway. You love to swim…in a pool or in a lake, you have no preference. You love the sun and you love the water. Would it surprise you to know that you still feel that way? You are at peace with your face in the sun and your feet at the water’s edge.
You have a really sweet childhood. You move a lot, but mom makes every house a home that is safe and full of love. She becomes so much more to you as you get older…she will show you what unconditional love looks like, and you are going to need this. You will wander really far; so far that you will think there is no way home. Cling to her love. Cling to her. Remember always that there is a way back. Your sister is your best friend. Guess what? She still is. She is still beautiful and her makeup is still flawless, and she loves you very much. She will wander, too. You will be sad when she’s gone, but know that she will be back. And dad? You love him so much. You long to be daddy’s little girl, but this precious title seems just out of reach. I’m sorry. He loves you. He really does. Sometimes, though, people can’t love you the way you need them to. This isn’t about you or your worth. You are worthy of love. It’s just that he can’t give love the way your heart needs to receive it.
You have an amazing church and your life is filled with incredible friends. Hold them close in your heart, for you will move away and things will never be the same. You love Jesus, and I think this is the coolest thing about you. Your faith is crazy and fun. I will never forget how you would spend summers at Kim’s pool trying to walk on water. You never could, but that never shook your faith. You just assumed that Jesus didn’t need for you to walk on water…but you always believed that if He needed you to, then you would. Never doubt that night when you saw Jesus in mom and dad’s bedroom. Allow this image to be burned into your soul…you are going to need this precious memory. You will sit on the couch, staring at the fireplace, and you will beg Jesus to show Himself again. I promise you this…you will see Him in a million more ways; it just won’t look the same. He is going to speak to you in ways that your heart understands. So listen. Keep looking for Him. You will find Him every time.
Little Stefanie, things are going to change. It will feel as if the most wonderful parts of you and your life are ripped right out of your heart. Your heart is so tender. You cry at other people’s pain and God has given you a gift of empathy. You will want to harden your heart soon; and you will. Your own pain will be too much to bear. Never forget, though, that beneath all of the steel around your heart lies a heart that beats for Jesus and for others. I know that it’s hard and that it will hurt. Sweet child, it will be ok.
I wish I could stop what’s coming. When I first began this letter, I thought that maybe if I warned you then together we could change all of the mistakes, the hurt, the pain. I can’t. You are going to leave the most perfect childhood behind. You will say goodbye to your friends and to your church. You are leaving the warmth of the Carolinas, so close to the beach and the mountains (two places you love so much) and you will head to Indiana. It is cold and flat there, but one day it will feel like home. It will just take a really long time. Be patient. The friends you leave behind? You will find them again! They will remind you of who you were, and they will love you for who you are.
You won’t be in your new Indiana house for very long when everything changes. Dad is going to leave, and you will question everything you think you know about love, family, and Jesus. You can’t get his attention in this new place. He will hide in his office and he will show love to other people, but you won’t be able to feel his love here. I’m so sorry. You are going to think that God-the-Father is like Dad. So you will turn away from Him. Little one, this isn’t true. God’s love never changes. He will never leave you. He will not abandon you. He will not make you prove anything to Him. You don’t have to smoke, sneak out of windows, have sex too young, try drugs, get really lost, or any of the other things you will do to get attention from God. And when you do all these things in an attempt to get Dad’s attention, it will fail. He will leave anyway. It is not your fault. You didn’t cause this split in your family. It’s not about you…YOU are enough. Dad just doesn’t see you. But God does. He will see you on the floor after dad kicks you around your bedroom. He will see you watch in horror as dad breaks your records and tears your posters off the wall. Dad is trying to remove what he thinks is bad in you. God sees only the best in you. And He loves you.
You will fall in love more than once. You want the love of boys and men to replace in you what is lost. It won’t. You will sacrifice yourself over and over in vain attempts to get men to see something of value in you. You will lose your virginity and one day your first child. Remember picketing that abortion clinic; holding a sign and not understanding what any of it means? In your teens you will be on the other side of things. You will walk into a clinic with a child inside of you, and you will walk out broken and empty. You will think this is unforgivable. This will change you. You will create a big distance between you and Jesus, but you are doing this…God hasn’t left you. You are ashamed. You are lost. You are sad. And still…you are loved. Please, try and remember this. It will matter, and you will need to understand that the true love that comes from God will change your life and the lives of others.
You will become a mother someday. Three more times. You will lose one of your children before your child is born. You will get married. Two times. You will feel love and you will experience abuse. You will think somewhere deep inside of your soul that you deserve the abuse. You will take it and you will fight to keep it going. I know that sounds crazy. You will believe that you are crazy. You aren’t.
When you lose your second baby, it will set things in motion that you will think you can’t escape from. You will have difficulty separating losing your baby because of abuse from killing your unborn child as a teenage girl. It will break something in you. You will see this as well-deserved punishment for a lifetime of sin. You don’t see God as loving anymore, so you don’t see yourself as someone worthy of love. You will walk away from everything that is good and you will spend years in darkness. You will do things you never dreamed you could do. You will put a price on yourself and you will never come up with a dollar amount that makes you feel worth anything. You will lose everything. You will think that your life is over. It isn’t.
It took me so many years, but I found you again Little Stefanie. I found the person God created you to be. You are so strong. You are stubborn. You love hard and you are fearless. Your faith is HUGE. I asked myself hundreds of times over the years the same question: where did the little girl go who once loved Jesus so fiercely? I didn’t think it was possible to find you again. I wanted to find you because I wanted to rescue you. But you rescued me. What was in you all along…that fire, that fight, that love…came back to me. After all the years of running, I turned back to Jesus. All of the hurt, the horror, the shame, the sin, the pain, the hardness of heart is gone. And who did I find underneath all of the rubble? I found you, Little Stefanie.
Hold on, little one. The Light comes again, and it is incredible. You and me, together we get out of the boat and we walk on water all of the time. We see Jesus. He has taken all that we have been through and He uses it to love other people…to show them His love. It is fun and scary and crazy…it is a perfect life for us. It is hard, and there will be times you want to give up…to be normal. But we never were normal, were we? Embrace who you are, keep breathing, keep walking, keep fighting, and keep your eyes on Jesus.
I sit here at the age of 47 and I picture you…your white hair in pigtails wearing something not nearly as cute as what our sister is wearing. I love you, Little Stefanie. You are worthy of love. You have been created by a God who IS loving. You are precious in His sight. You are seen. You are whole. You are clean. You are new. You are a child of a God who will never leave you, never forsake you, never abandon you, never hurt you. He will not hold your past against you, so you don’t need to try and hide from Him. He is not ashamed of you. He loves you. I love you. Gear up for the fight of your life…there is victory on the other side.
P.S. Writing this letter has brought some things to the surface that I am trying to process. But know this, Little One. It doesn’t change who you are. It doesn’t change who God created you to be. And no matter what, you are still a warrior and God still goes before you in every battle.
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.