Yes, you read that right.
I love 'em. And nope, I'm not crazy. (At least, not certifiably.)
I have three younger cousins who are all in their teens. Their parents have dubbed them, “The Whirly Girls,” because (you guessed it), having three daughters is a whirlwind. I see them a few times a year, and I cherish every second of it. I only wish I could spend more time with them!
It seems like I blinked and my cousins were teenagers. They’re all remarkable, and they defy stereotypes. (More and more, I believe each teenager defies stereotypes once you get to know them.)
The oldest of my cousins is about to turn 18. I’d love nothing more than to spend some quality time with her before then. But since she lives multiple states away and that’s not likely to happen, here’s what I would say to my cousin, and to all the teens I love:
Be a leader—even at home. The Great Commission applies to all of us, regardless of age. You’re never too young to be a leader. Making disciples starts at home! If you have younger siblings, think of them as the first people you have the opportunity to lead. I know younger siblings can be annoying (believe me, my little brother was no angel!), but the truth is, how you treat your younger siblings says more about you than it does about them.
It’s (not) your time to shine. I know, I know. This one sounds like a downer. But hear me out. The world has told you that it’s important to follow your dreams and make a name for yourself. But the truth is, you’re a part of God’s story; He’s the main character and the star of the show—not you. I know a lot of adults who believe that the meaning of life is to be happy, and they pursue happiness at all costs. And guess what? Those are some of the most unfulfilled people I know! The key to a happy and successful life is seeking His will, and giving glory to the One who gave you life in the first place.
There’s one thing you WON’T regret. Oh, sweet thing. You are going to regret so much about your teen years. It’s inevitable. We all do. If you don’t believe me, ask your mom what she thinks of those gigantic glasses she sported back in the day! We all regret terrible fashion choices, boyfriend choices, and studying choices. But there’s one thing you will never regret, and that’s serving others. You know as well as I do that teenagers get a bad rap for being self-centered. If you really want to be unique and stand apart, serve other people. Go the extra mile. It starts with simple things, like letting your sisters take the first showers of the day. And those little things add up. They matter. Small acts of service impact others for the better, and they help take you from a girl to a woman.
You're not too much. As a teenager, I felt like I was just... too much. Too loud. Too awkward. Too weird. Too stocky. Too short. Too much! And yet, at the same time, I felt like I wasn't enough of the things that counted. I wasn't funny enough, talented enough, cool enough, flirty enough. It was maddening to feel like I was too much and not enough at the same time. The most freeing realization I've ever had came the moment it dawned on me that God didn't make a mistake when He designed me. He doesn't have a one-size-fits-all template. He created people to be diverse. He loves variety, and you are an expression of that. Whatever you are, whoever you are, is just right. He has a plan that involves using you just as you are.
Womanhood is earned. We live in a culture that believes a ton of lies about womanhood. The most obvious (and dangerous) lie is that in order to be a woman, you must portray yourself as sensually and sexually as possible. That’s why every Disney Channel star eventually poses on the cover of a scandalous magazine, or releases a shocking video on YouTube. It’s an attempt to show the world that she’s not a child anymore. But that’s taking the easy route. Becoming a woman is not so easy as stripping off your clothes. Becoming a woman is a process. It happens over time. It’s not an age, or an X on a map.
So, if it’s not so clearly defined, how will you know you’re a woman? The answer is this: When your worth is not measured in “likes,” but rather is firmly rooted in the contents of your character, you’ll know you’re a woman. When you have learned to serve those in need, you’ll know you’re a woman. When you have learned to speak up (and when to pipe down), you’ll know you’re a woman. When you can take care of yourself (which means asking for help when you need it), you’ll know you’re a woman. When you can admit your mistakes and take compliments graciously, you’ll know you’re a woman. When you use your words for building others up rather than cutting them down, you’ll know you’re a woman.
And sweet cousin, the final thing I’d tell you is this: I’m proud of you, and amazed that I get to be a witness to your life. You are already an incredible young woman, with wisdom and maturity beyond your years.
If there’s a teen in your life who you love, share this with her today. Heaven knows, teens (especially teenage girls) could use more champions and fewer critics!