Dear Teresa ~ Jen
Happy 21st birthday, sweet girl.
I could get all misty eyed about the four year old you, screaming out my name when I walked into church every Sunday; or the seven year old you, in my mom’s apron, standing over the sink cleaning the silver a few days before Thanksgiving; or the eleven year old you walking down the aisle at my wedding.
But here you are, standing in the doorway of your childhood, so this is it. Time to leave those things behind. The rubber meets the road, and not just for you. For all of us who participated in your growing up, now we see if we did it “right”. If we gave you all the love and tools and advice that you need to move on to the next part.
You can’t go back. What’s done—great, good, bad, ugly—is done. We can’t any of us do it over. Some adults your age get stuck in the place of what might have been. Those folks, they never grow up. They stay angry little children inside, always throwing tantrums and blaming others for what goes wrong in their lives.
Their moms never taught them “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. But yours did. And we did. So if you think you are missing parts and pieces—and maybe you are—it’s not an excuse. You’re resourceful. If you need something, find it. If a space is empty, fill it. Don’t walk around hollow in your heart and your spirit and blame that on someone else.
You’re an adult now. You make your own way. Which is good news and bad news.
You make your own choices.
You face their consequences on your own.
So before you cross that threshold from childhood to adulthood, let me offer some last gifts of wisdom.
Life is much easier if you are patient, kind and truthful. Society doesn’t seem to value these traits, but society is wrong. It’s only a dog eat dog world if you agree to be a dog. You are a child of God. And no one earns points in life for being a jerk.
Speak up for what is right. Stand up for those who are weaker. Always give a part of your time, talent or treasure to someone who needs it more. These things keep us connected and humble.
Remember that God is inside you and everyone else, too. Always be nice to God.
If the people in your life are not nice to the God in you, move on. Give them space and pray for their healing. There is too much love out there to spend time with those who won’t or can’t give it.
I hope you travel around this country. I hope you travel around other countries. I hope you spend most of your twenties getting your wiggle out, physically, culturally, spiritually, before you settle down for marriage and motherhood.
I hope you form your own Committee and go on Sunday Benders with them. A smart person knows they don’t make it through life alone.
Grow your life with Jesus, too. You’ll need Him.
In England, when young adults come of age, it’s tradition to give them a key. It hearkens back to the time when it was an accomplishment to reach this age, and as a mark of maturity and responsibility, 21 year olds were given the key to the home.
Shea and I like the symbolism of this gift. You hold the key to your life in your hand and in your heart. You can make your life what you want, no matter the trials and tribulations that come along. You have a lot of support. You can ask for help.
But you can never be a child again. St. Paul reminds us “When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways” (1 Cor 13:11).
It’s time. Step out into the light and wide open space of the rest of your life. You’re ready.
We love you!
Shea, Jen, Gabe, Kate, Annie, Sugar and Lizzie