My Dears,

I’ve been wrestling with the “if onlys” for the last couple of days. Does that ever happen to you, and does it catch you by surprise? Do you ever find that, when you least expect it, ghosts that you believed long exorcised pop their heads out of some dusty corner and whisper “boo” at you? And not only do you jump, but you let a little bit of something else creep back into your consciousness? Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s anger, maybe it’s regret. And if you’re like me, you let that little bit of creepiness control you for a while. Sigh.

You see, I have this amazing group of young girls that I teach on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. In these young faces, I see so much promise. I want to take all that I’ve learned in life and open their heads and just pour it in. I want to tell them about the hard stuff, the mistakes I’ve made, and all of my regrets. I want to warn them to guard their hearts above all, to stay true to their beliefs and stand firm. But I know that it doesn’t work that way. I never had someone to tell me those things, but, chances are, if I did, I wouldn’t have listened anyway. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way. So I have restrained myself. Instead of telling the girls the history of my world, I buy curriculum.

Yesterday, I went out looking for curriculum. We needed a new direction. I found this lovely series on inner beauty. It was about how we are all beautiful in God’s eyes. I got so excited just reading the lesson plans. I imagined us doing our nails and discussing Jesus (humor me, I have two sons). I so want for these girls to have an intimate relationship with our Lord. So, in the first lesson, I’m supposed to take a Polaroid of each girl, and we do a little craft with the photo. I thought it would be fun to share a preteen picture of myself with my girls. After much scavenging, I stumbled upon a small snapshot of me at the tender age of twelve.

I was not prepared for the emotions stirred within me at that image of the little girl I used to be. The picture was taken at a very difficult time in my life. I was trying to make sense of some excruciatingly painful things with the wisdom of a twelve year old. I was not a pretty pre-teen. Skinny, with long stringy hair, freckled pale skin, and big teeth. Yet, I had these eyes. Big and blue. And in those eyes, this old version of me saw the same promise reflected; the same promise that I see in the eyes of the girls that I teach. But I knew that little girl’s future. I knew of all the mistakes she would make, all the wrong choices and concessions. And I let that grief and that regret creep in.

I needed to live with it for a little while, I guess. The Lord tells us that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Tonight, when I was tucking my youngest son in, he asked me a peculiar question: If there was never a you, would there have ever been a me? Carefully, we traced all the requirements that came into play for my little man to be born, just the wonderful way that he is. In the quiet of my mind, I remembered many more variables. Every wrong choice made, every missed opportunity, every hurtful rejection; all of these things have brought me to where I am today: tucking in my beautiful boy.

If I could tell my girls one thing, it would be this: You are loved with a love that is greater than anything in this world.

If we know this with every ounce of our being, we act accordingly. When we are assured of our value, we act as one who is valuable.

I’m holding that picture of the blue-eyed girl close to my heart. She is beautiful. And in her eyes, I see so much promise.

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