Category Archives: Misc.

The home for all the pieces that don’t belong to a series or category (yet).

On Identity & Never Fitting Quite Right

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DSC04999I am both and I am neither.

If there’s an extreme to reach, I can’t. If there’s a side to pick, I can’t. If there’s an ultimatum to meet, I can’t. I’ve looked into both; God has met me in both. I just cannot make myself believe that He only lives in one aspect of everything. I believe He is bigger than I have room to understand.

I was raised around conservative Christians. I grew up and found myself relating to liberal spirituality in some ways, too. I still don’t fit comfortably in any camp. The Bible is my firm foundation and I follow Jesus in relationship, so the latter believe I am religious and closed-minded; I talk about spiritual life on a grand scale and I practice tolerance, so the former believe I am loose and heretical. I don’t fit. I don’t think I am any of the things they think I am; I hope I’m not. I hope you don’t think I am, either. I think I’m just a person just trying to figure things out the best I can. We all are, aren’t we?

It scares me sometimes. Because when you realize no human being has it fully figured out, you don’t quite know who you can go to with your questions anymore. I can talk to someone about something and have such a deep connection with them– then we’ll take the conversation a step further. And we’ll reach a place where the connection ends, where we don’t see things the same way anymore. And I’ll feel alone again.

I realize I will ever fit into any of the categories offered to me.

I’m reading 1 Corinthians. Paul is speaking to the church there, and he mentions that the Jews were demanding signs while the Greeks were seeking wisdom. Two groups wanted two different things to answer their questions, to supply what they felt they needed. Paul then says:

“Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

In Jesus, both groups were met. Because of Jesus, they were no longer two groups, because everything each person was seeking was found in Him.

He was the deciding factor of their identity. Of their unity.

When we base our identity on what others say, on groups we can belong to, on categories to sort ourselves into– we are basing our identity on something other than Christ. And when we do that, division enters in as a natural result.

In the same chapter, Paul brings up how the church is experiencing conflict because different people in it claim to follow different apostles. His response is simple:

“Is Christ divided?”

When we follow teachings and ideologies, it’s easy to be divided, because there are so many options to choose from. But when we follow Jesus? There’s only His person. And we can shape ideas to serve us, but we cannot mold a person to fit us. When we follow someone, we serve them. We learn from them. We learn the truth about them because we are with them and we seek to know them.

I’m not choosing an extreme. I’m not picking a side. I’m not selecting a category I might fit into. I can’t.

I’m seeking Jesus. Because He is the answer I’m looking for. Always.

And… I’m loving you. Whatever you might have chosen to identify with. Because the answers you want are in Him, too. It binds us together as family.

And everyone has a place in this family.

[Listen]

On Oppressors & Love: How Our Family Does Things

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withered blackberriesWhen there is a difficult person in our lives– someone who is not kind, who upsets or oppresses us in some way, who just makes life harder– we come up with a lot of solutions and are given various pieces of advice. We can unfollow them online; we can confront them; we can tell others about them and what they’re doing; we can avoid them; we can even cut them out of our lives.

But our Father has raised us differently.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” It’s hard enough not to speak badly of these people; it’s even harder to be generous of ourselves to them. Yet that’s what He wants us to do. He asks that we do nothing but good to those who do us wrong.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” We are not to simply tolerate difficult people; we are to intentionally plan how we’re going to be good to them. It is to be a mission of ours to treat them with kindness, something we’re supposed to spend time and energy on; we make a conscious decision not to pay them back for the wounds they’ve given us, and to value and respect them instead.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We must do all we can to create peace; we have to do our part. Theirs? That’s theirs to worry about. It doesn’t matter how they behave, if our kindness affects them or if it doesn’t; their behavior has nothing to do with ours. Love has no conditions. Love doesn’t act in hopes that the person will change, it acts because that is what love does. Our kindness is because of who we are, not who they are.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” Our Father knows when we are being mistreated. He sees it and it angers Him. And He is going to take care of it for us, with His own hands. We don’t have to fix it. He will do it Himself.

It’s all right there in Romans 12, and there is no fighting it. I know, because I tried to. The very day I read these verses, I dealt with various offenses from a difficult person in my life. I wanted to avoid them; I wanted to show them that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way; I wanted them to know what they were doing wasn’t okay; I wanted them to feel guilty. Then my Father pointed me to what I had read that afternoon, and I heard His soft, knowing whisper:

“Tessa… what’s our way? How do we do things in our family?”

Our family is one of grace and forgiveness. No one gets what they deserve– they are given gifts instead. We love people in ways that shouldn’t make sense. That’s what this family does.

It’s what my Father does for me every day. I deserve His wrath, yet I receive His arms.

I have to display loving acts and carry a loving attitude for the difficult people, the oppressors, the hurt-inflictors in my life. I don’t want to; my anger tells me I deserve to be upset and defensive. But I have to love. Because there is one thing I do want to do– I want grow into a way of life where I can look at myself and know: “I get this from my Father. He taught me this.”

I want to look like my Father. To love other people like He loves me.

Love is so counter-intuitive to what I’ve always known and done. I still find myself kicking and screaming about it daily, because it is so much easier to sink into my anger and self-pity than it is to love someone who doesn’t even like me. I’m learning something new, and that means I’m messing up all the time. But knowing that He has already nailed love and extends it lavishly toward me in this process? That makes me get up every day and keep trying.


[Important note I need to make: these verses do not ask us to stay in harmful, abusive relationships. They simply ask us to be kind, peaceful, honorable, and forgiving, no matter how someone treats us. If you are in a harmful relationship, you do not need to stay there, and I beg you not to. Be kind, seek peace, honor the human being, forgive them; you can do all of these things outside of the depths of that relationship.]

On Being Broken & Having Doubts

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DSC09999I’m broken.

I forget it sometimes. Sometimes, I think I’m doing okay. I do what I can with what I have during the day. Then I get into bed and start talking to Him… and I don’t want to talk for long. Because I just cannot be detached or passive with Him, and I don’t want to concede to the fact that maybe I’m still not okay. “If I just protect my joy, I’ll be fine and won’t get hurt,” I think.

I remember Ann speaking of candle flames. She said that when we desperately cup our hands around the flame of our joy in attempt to protect it, we are suffocating it; we will snuff it out. “My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy. Flames need oxygen to light. Flames need a bit of wind,” she said.

So I try to let myself feel what I feel. I try to stay out of denial when it’s an especially difficult day. I try to be kind to myself. But I still hate not being okay. I hate that hard days are more frequent for me than good days right now. And I hate feeling like a pile of broken pieces, feeling incomplete, empty, like I’m not whole.

Most of the time, I feel it’s my fault. When I recognize a mistake I’ve made or flaw I have, I feel that I should be able to change it. But I have so many flaws and wounds, and they still show up every single day.

Someone I admire once said he believes our gifts and our flaws come together to help us live our specific purpose. I keep thinking about that. And how I’m always going to have flaws as long as I live in this body. Though I’ll fight to overcome them the best I can, there are some things I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life.

I have power over my actions. But I also can’t fix myself, because the problem is that I am what’s broken. Only my Father can truly heal me, can fix what’s wrong, because He’s the one who made me. So what can I do to improve, and when is it an impossible task for me?

I want to share some beautiful answer He revealed to me. But the painful truth is that I don’t have one. I’m not even close. I’m broken over my brokenness. I’m hosting so many questions, questions I was afraid to ask Him before because I feared He would be angry with me for not trusting Him.

What I am learning is that when I have questions– ugly, difficult, sometimes angry questions– He isn’t upset with me for having them. He knows they’re in me already. When I’m honest with Him about them, He isn’t angry; He’s glad I’m coming to Him. It doesn’t mean He’ll answer the question with anything but His arms and the gentle words, “I know.” But He doesn’t love me less for asking. He doesn’t call my questions sin or mistrust.

…I doubt Him daily.

Solid theology in my head and noble intentions in my heart don’t change what’s wrong in my soul. I can know His promises and His truth and His character in my head and I can act accordingly, and I could still not be convinced of them in my soul. I know my Father loves me. I know He’s working things for my good. I know He takes care of me. I know He’s a healer. I know He makes a way where there is none. I trust Him in my head.

But, in my soul… I don’t believe it. I’m scared to.

I’m scared to surrender my vices to Him. Because I know in my head He doesn’t take things away without putting His best in their place, but in my heart I’m afraid to be left with nothing; left to myself, and now even without the little balms I’ve made for myself.

I’m scared to pursue what He points me toward. Because, in my head, I know that when He asks me to do something, He does it with me. But in my heart I know I am inadequate and not skilled enough and will fail by myself. I’m terrified He won’t come when I need Him. The enemy’s lies have been in my ears for so long that I can hardly distinguish them from my own thoughts.

I’m scared… I’m scared of who I am.

In my head, I know that my Father loves me, but… but all of me feels so unloved. Overlooked. Tolerated. Unlovable.

No words of wisdom can fix this brokenness in me. I have a lot of them, and I believe them in my head, but they don’t reach my heart. I wish they would.

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart,” He says.

My Father is the changer of hearts. When I want to believe but still doubt, He comes in power to teach my very heart to trust and know Him and His truth. In our struggles to believe, He reorients our hearts, completely, so that we belong to Him and He belongs to us, in wholeness.

When my faith runs short, He brings my heart into His own. And He doesn’t run short on anything.

“That’s always the best place for miracles: God meets us– right where we don’t believe. When our believing runs out, God’s love runs on. . . God takes broken hearts– and gives you His.”  -Ann Voskamp [full post]

“Before you doubt Me, doubt your doubts. Doubt your doubts, and you will see that they are just as empty as the tomb that I walked from. . . Don’t you see these rings in my hands? See, we are married.” -Joseph Solomon [full video]

World Suicide Prevention Day {2015}: A Recap

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September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that I needed to engage in it somehow. The theme To Write Love On Her Arms gave for this year was “We’ll See You Tomorrow.” I saw people writing on pieces of paper why tomorrow was an important thing for them, and I decided to do the same. It was so much more interesting than I thought it would be; it made me think about a few of the specifics of how lovely life is and how much exists in it for me. I ended up with six little signs, and took photos of each one to share in some way.

I didn’t think Facebook would be that sharing platform, because I don’t really talk about my experience with sadness much to the people in my life unless they ask me about it or are struggling themselves. Maybe… maybe it’s a fear of mine that the people I love will see me as someone troubled and withered, rather than just seeing Tessa. It’s happened before. And it can wound for a long time.

But on World Suicide Prevention Day, I shared myself anyway.

I shared the photos, and I shared stories that went with them. And I’m glad I did, because I need to learn to talk about it bravely. People need to hear from those who have experienced it. I keep wanting to say here that I don’t currently wrestle with sadness, because I don’t want people to be concerned for me… but what if I was struggling right now? If I was depressed right now, what would your perception of me morph into? Why would what I’m saying be different?

I wish we didn’t have to do this. I wish we didn’t have to change our minds about people we know and love when we hear about their struggles. All of us struggle. The person we love is that same person even when they reveal their brokenness to us. We all have it. So, please, when someone courageously shares with you their most swept-under-the-rug broken pieces… listen. Listen to your friend. Love your friend. Tell them they are your friend. That’s what they need from you. They need your love, not your fear. Your love is what will help them. Walking with them is what will help them. Do nothing less.

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”    -Brené Brown

I’m going to keep sharing, despite my fear and despite the reactions that suggest to me maybe I should stay quiet. Because so much of shame’s power comes from secrecy. And I am not ashamed of my story, because I love and trust the one penning it.

Here are the photos I posted:

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And here are the stories I shared with them:

  • “A Train Ride to Life.”
  • “Seeing The Dots Connect.”
  • “100 Things to Look Forward To” and “100 More Things to Look Forward To.”
  • “I was talking with a friend, and she was telling me that she never really wanted to have kids until she realized she could change a family forever by being the generation of it that chose love and health. My family is wonderful, I love them so deeply, but there are unhealthy pieces, too. And knowing that I have a chance to heal from those pieces and pass health into my family history… it gives me shivers and makes me feel strong.”
  • Authentic Fiction‘s music.
  • “If there is love in my heart, there are recipients for it. I don’t want to deny anyone the love I have for them, even if they can’t return it. I want to keep giving it out. Because giving without payment is part of kingdom life. I’m already in eternity when I love people.”

May we all find the courage to be who we are: beloved broken people, being tenderly pieced back together.

Finding Shelter

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“Sin. When we are young it means, I have made a mistake. When we are old, it means, I have separated myself from love.”    -“A Song I Knew by Heart,” page 77.

I love that quote. I confess that I never finished the book, it was more of a romance novel than I thought it would be, but maybe I picked it up from the library in the first place because I needed to hear that line.

The word “sin” is a difficult word to say for only having three little letters. When we say we’ve made a mistake, we say it remorsefully but more like an admittance. When we say, “I’ve sinned. . .” it’s a whisper. It has to be forced out, and tears often want to come out with it. Because we understand that when we sin, we act against love. And it is so painful.

I wrote about sin at the beginning of this year, and recently I had a dream that is making me think about it again. I retold the dream in my journal that morning, and I’ll share that since it had freshness and clarity. In the dream. . .

. . . I was at a conference/school assembly when I decided to get up from my seat and go down the very long flight of wrought-iron stairs. I ran into a man I’d seen earlier hanging around the same spot. He had a toddler with him so I assumed he was entertaining his son who had been loud and wiggly during the event. We made eye contact and he smiled at me with warm eagerness, which gave me a few butterflies. We made a tiny bit of small talk as the toddler roamed the hallway, but when I began to back away he came closer to me. He put his hand on my waist; I felt swept up in the attention, but when he used both hands to push me against the wall, I saw a greedy hunger in his eyes and a sinister grin. He mumbled things I can’t remember. I tried to run, but he tightly grabbed my wrist. His eyes now terrified me. The only thing I could think to do: scream. And I did scream. “Help! He’s assaulting me! HELP!” A security guard ran to us and grabbed him, who was now angrily snarling at me. The guard attached his hands to the wall and left to call the police to take him away. I stood there as the man who’d attacked me leaned his front against the wall, hands above his head. He was breathing heavily. Suddenly I noticed that the only thing keeping him there was– scotch tape. His wrists had strips of tape across them, and any second he could tear himself away. I was a personification of panic. Then I woke up.

taken May 4th, 2014When I woke up, I knew what this dream meant. I knew that the man represented sin. He seems welcoming and innocent, approachable. He gives me the feelings I want when we flirt. But suddenly, I’m trapped by him, and he is in a position where he can steal so much from me. I can cry out for help, and help will come, but I need to choose to run away from him. Not much is holding him back. When I am rescued, why would I choose to still stand next to the source of so much danger? I need to return to my community. He wouldn’t risk attacking me in the large group, that’s why he waited out in the hall. And if anyone there recognized him, saw something I didn’t, maybe they could even chase him away.

Please understand that I am not talking about real assault. If you are assaulted, it is not your fault. End of story. This dream simply said to me that leaving the safety of community is so frighteningly dangerous. It opens us up to finding an opportunity to flirt with sin. Jesus will always rescue me when I cry for Him, but I can’t just sit idly afterwards. I have to walk away from where sin likes to meet me. I have to find a place with people who will look after me and help me focus on the right things. There is safety in numbers.

We have to talk to people about what’s happening inside, to surround ourselves with relationships we feel safe in. I was going through something pretty difficult a few months ago, and the person I finally told said to me, “Tessa, look me in the eyes and say this: ‘I will not be a lone ranger.'” I did. And she and a few other people have been shelters for me ever since. I take steps every day to make sure I’m not alone with my hardships, from reading in the same room my family is in to calling my best friend when I’m hurt. When I feel alone, I feel troubled, and that’s when it’s easy for me to succumb to behaving like I can’t escape my struggles, because I fall into thinking, “It’s just how I am.”

I am painfully aware that not everyone has the ability to be someone I can go to. It’s happened to me many times, but even recently when I ended up telling a friend about something I was struggling with, it was very clear that their perception of me had immediately changed. It was even more clear that they wanted me to stop talking about it, because they said so with much discomfort in their voice. I am not angry at this person. I just know that I can’t go to them for shelter. It’s disheartening. But there are people I can go to, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

I am not troubled. You are not troubled, no matter how many people have reacted poorly to your courageous honesty. I know that with each hurtful reaction it becomes more and more scary, but please, don’t bottle up. Not everyone needs to know, but some people do. For your sake. Continue to be brave and seek a few people who can hold you up, love you no matter where you are. And as you search, never allow yourself to believe that you are troubled. You are a human being with air in your lungs and Jesus in your heart, which means a piece of heaven is in your body. Don’t let yourself forget who you are. You are precious.

Asking for help does not mean you are weak. You are strong, friend. You can make it. Sin does not have a hold on you, Jesus has rescued you! But sin still exists around you and teases you. You are safe if you don’t give yourself to it. But in moments when your mind wanders and sin flashes his eager smile– you cannot be alone. There is no shame in needing protection sometimes. Never feel that, never. You just need people with love bold enough to vocally say what Jesus is saying to your spirit: “Get away from him, he wants to hurt you!” They will make it easier for you to identify what you’re feeling so you can deal with it without feeling overwhelmed or overtaken.

I am going to promise myself daily that I will not forsake community. Will you promise yourself that, too?

To Myself at Age Thirteen (Part Two)

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[Read Part One first!]

On your birthday, you have the tendency to be sad. It’s weird, isn’t it? I still don’t quite get it. But I know it doesn’t have to be that way. Just remember that ANYTHING can happen– but not everything. Accept and enjoy what comes. You lead a blessed life.

There will be a few people you’ll need to forgive. The good news? You’ll do it! The bad news? It will take years. It’s deeply buried inside you and you won’t even notice it for a long time. But once you do, you will have people that you can go to for advice. Utilize that!

There’s an element of your life that becomes your ENTIRE life, and I cannot wait for you to realize it! I just can’t give any of this away, it’s too perfect! I have no desire to change it. None at all. I’ll say this: camp is going to be amazing this year. You’ll see. Not right away, but when you’re about fifteen you’ll realize what it meant. And the pieces will come together, and your life will actually FEEL like it means something!

In a few years, in the SAME year, two people you love from two areas of your life will let you and a lot of people down. And it will be okay. Your reaction will be perfect; I still cannot believe how strong you were, or understand why. I wish I was still reacting to things that way; I could learn a thing or two from you! Things will mend, especially in one area. I’m excited for you to see that unfold. You will meet some of the best people in your life.

taken December 2009When you get your hair cut in 2011, make sure she knows exactly how short you want it. Or it won’t be pretty. Everyone else will say otherwise, but I still am not so sure!

I’m not sure what to say about this. I don’t know how my life would change if I told you all the details, since I don’t see the entire purpose behind it yet. I guess I will just say that feelings are a gift, but aren’t always telling you the truth. Sometimes you will feel nothing at all but pain, and you will survive. Things will get better. It’s not a dark room, it’s a tunnel, and God is there. He will never leave. You will leave the tunnel together and be in a better place than before, because you will know Him more intimately. It hurts so badly, but it will get better. There is hope. Journal about everything you have inside you everyday, or you’ll get bottled up.

In high school you’ll meet a group of girls that will become a sisterhood for you, and it will be AWESOME. They will love you and you will love them, and you will grow together. They will hold you accountable, they will pray over you as you sob, they will make you belly laugh, and they will simply LOVE you. It’s going to be very hard to feel lonely!

You will be rejected by something you thought would help you live your dreams, and it will affect you quite a bit for a while. But here’s this piece of advice: don’t take it personality, and don’t be bitter about it. You can feel mistreated, or you can feel protected. I promise, Jesus uses it. You’ll come out of it with more confidence than before, and better grasp on what you really want from yourself. He believes in you.

College is not the land of perfection you imagine it to be. It’s overwhelming and stressful and you have to ask a boatload of questions daily. But it’s a good thing, I’m still adjusting; just be ready for the unexpected. You might want to start looking for a job the month before you start. Oh, and have a good attitude about graduating high school. Treasure your years of homeschooling. Believe it or not, you’ll miss it.

You’re allergic to penicillin. I learned that after a week of taking it three times a day. You’re welcome.

When someone asks if you want to watch “The Notebook”, RUN! Actually, just say no. They will respect you, it won’t be embarrassing.

The side hug. Look into it. People make fun of it now, but it still has purpose!

You get to travel! I mean, to a super near-by state, and only for a week (twice, though! at least!), but you’ll still have so much fun! And who knows where else you’ll get to go, I’m just out of high school!

You have a spiritual gift. I promise. And it’s unique, so it’ll take a little time to figure it out. Don’t rely on what you’ll read in that Charisma article.

Your best friend will always live in a house. Tell her that when you can tell she needs it. You will know. But, really, don’t try to comfort her or anyone with words very often. You’ll learn how futile that usually is. Just be there.

I think I’ve covered enough; I’m sure it’s overwhelming and barely makes sense. Just one more thing: there is a lot I COULD tell you, but won’t. Why? Because there are so many wonderful surprises coming your way! And just as many lessons that you need to learn. I cannot steal them from you. You need them. I see that Jesus does the same thing– He likes to give me hints on how to react and tell me the general outcome, but rarely is He very specific. Why? He wants to surprise me, to see my face when He blesses me. And He knows the things I’ll need to learn in order to live better. Trust Him. If you will, I will. Literally.

You are being loved and taken care of!

-Tessa

To Myself at Age Thirteen (Part One)

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Dear Tessa,

I am you, at nearly nineteen. I have been thinking of you lately– which means I’ve been remembering what it was like to be thirteen. I know those numbers don’t seem very far apart, but trust me, a lot can happen in just ONE year, let alone six. But, again, I’ve been thinking of you. I know many of the things in your heart and your head right now (but still not all of them; you’re a wonderfully complex person), and from where I am I can see them better. I know that a lot of the seemingly small things will impact you intensely, and that a few of those big things aren’t really that big. But sometimes, they are. Sometimes you will just know. You’re a discerning person, too.

I wanted to write this to you because life has become a lot different than you thought it would. A lot of things you didn’t even dream would come true actually ARE, so be excited about that! Jesus believes in your dreams! But… some things don’t look quite as you imagined. And that’s okay. I just want to make sure you dearly treasure what you have right now.

One thing that you don’t expect right now is who one of your dearest friends is going to be, someone you will have a sweet affection for. I’ll leave it a surprise, but here’s a hint: love your family. I know you have a heart that wants to do great things, but you don’t have to go anywhere for that. You can do it right at home. In a few years, Jesus will say the same thing. Try listening right away. And also remember that a loving relationship with compromise is better than a bitter one with a few “won” arguments. Having the last say in an argument doesn’t even feel good. Love your family.

Don’t believe for a second that you are overweight. I’ve looked at pictures and seen how big of a lie that is!

taken September 2008You’re a daydreamer, and many of your daydreams are sweet and beautiful. But, Tessa– you don’t need them. Enjoy them now, because someday you’ll see what they really are: your way of trying to fill a void. And it won’t work. The best way to romance your husband right now is to give him exclusive rights to being the man of your dreams. You don’t have to imagine one, he’s coming! I say this still not knowing who he is, but let me tell you: boys are pretty pointless until you’re older. Really, it’s true! The boys you’ll be interested in soon are silly compared to the young men you’ll know later. I mean, these young men are still silly, but in a good way. And they’re kind and respectful and more wise than those boys. Set high standards! Oh, one more thing: in about two years, you’ll see an amazingly handsome man and not be able to forget it for a long time. Please listen to me when I say you don’t have to be interested in him just because he’s so much like your mind picture. Just enjoy what comes.

This is going to be a little hard to hear, but… I know you have secrets. I can’t make you stop from where I am now, but I can tell you: it ends. It does. Tessa, you don’t need it. What you feel is normal, but you’re reacting differently than you should. Let go. Consciously saying yes to temptation is saying yes to the enemy. You are being attacked, and you need to fight back with prayer! Someday you’ll be free, with no need for shame. You are pure, Tessa, you don’t need to clean yourself up to be loved. He already loves you, and He’ll tell you very soon.

You should paint and write more. You love it, and you won’t always have a lot of time for it, but right now you do! Go, go, go! Do it while you’re passionate, or it won’t be as good! Especially with songs. I don’t have to tell you to sing all the time; I know you always do. It’s part of you. You have great taste in music, by the way. Here’s a helpful piece of information: your favorite genre is defined as “folksy.” It took forever to realize that!

In a few years, you’ll make a friend. She will become your treasure, but she’ll break your heart, too. But, Tessa, it’s worth it. This girl needs to be loved, and you can do it. I wish I could change what you’ll do to her, but I know I can’t. I wish you could actually hear this letter and I could stop you from making such a mistake. Tessa– she falls deeply into sin. And you will condemn her and try forcing change onto her. It will become your biggest regret, and when she lies to you about nearly everything and moves away and starts following the enemy, you won’t feel that you did all you could; you will feel that you drove her there with your condemnation. You’re going to learn a lot about her struggle and grow a burden for those caught in it, but that’s the only fruit I can see, at least right now. If I knew this letter could change things? I would tell you to make yourself clear, but just once. Don’t tell her over and over, because she’ll already know what you think, and don’t try fixing her. Love her, love her, love her, love her. Please. That’s all you have to do. That’s all you CAN do.

Treasure your karate family. Talk to them more and don’t feel inferior to them, because they really do love you. Focus on them, not your belt color. Black belt will come with time, but the time spent with your friends cannot be made up.

Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but I want to let you know that someday you’ll be free from irrational fears. You will be within two feet of your greatest fear and you will feel nothing, instead Jesus will be using you to fight it! It’s going to be incredible. You don’t have to be afraid. He’s on your side.

Oh, at the Brandon Heath concert (you don’t know who he is yet, but you will!)– stay for the meet-and-greet! Mom will not object, she’s sad we missed it, too! On a related note, concerts are fun. You’ll get to go to one soon!

[The letter was so long that I needed to split it up! Now go read Part Two!]