As the school year draws to a close, and summer thoughts dazzle the senses, I wanted to remind any of you teens or tweens who had a less than great year that there is life and meaning and hope even in the worst years. It’s super hard to see this when you’re young, but one of the benefits of getting older is developing a telescoping lens where I can see now that things that really were the hardest for me in childhood have helped me and shaped my life’s directions. Especially with how I handle challenges and adversity.
After someone asked me about our year, I actually made a list of all the things that happened this school year. I was shocked to see that we had 37 life-changing difficulties or crises in that list! Some involved life and death, some threatened our home, others were very personal and health-related. It has felt like I was Dorothy in caught in the tornado as we faced each one.
The cumulative effect is pretty exhausting to consider. As I’ve faced our summer plans I finally realized why—we’re in recovery!
But why should you care about that as a kid? I hope you don’t have to. However, I suspect that several, maybe many of you, had a difficult year. Maybe you lost a friend, or a heart-interest. Maybe you moved and lost your whole world, it seems. Maybe something more difficult has arrived like a new sibling, or parent who’s left the scene. Or something’s not right medically for someone you love. Or you, too. Again, I hope not. But if it is…just know this isn’t it.
This moment you’re barely breathing in, or want to crawl under the covers to hide from, isn’t who you really are. Not at your core. Not where that pulse of light is nearest your heart. You are loved and cherished by God and are so special to Him. You are worth so much in His eyes.
How do you know?
When I was a preteen, I had very painful feet due to an extra bone in each one by my ankles, and it limited my mobility. While my PE sessions were exempted and I had to walk the field instead, I truly wanted to evaporate or just become invisible. Can you imagine having to be different every day in a very public way, each year of sixth through eighth grade? Hearing unkind comments or enduring stares as I rounded the field once again. And to add to that, a bully broke my front teeth while playing on the playground when I was eleven years old. So every time I smiled, you could see small lines on my front teeth from the bonding. Every smile said, “she’s injured, she’s different.”
Dealing with this as well as regular pressures most kids face could have really harmed my extra sensitive heart. Over the years I’ve discovered that there was kindling to something immense and strong that happened while pacing around that gofer-hole ridden soccer field daily, and facing the bully who lived two doors down the block each morning. Yes, I was sensitive. I could teach baby ducks to eat from my hand on the waterfront near my home. I could imagine wonderful stories about the wildlife I’d see daily. Later, I became skilled at art and writing and speaking. But in another sense, I learned how to be strong. Eventually, I discovered how to fold faith into that equation as well.
I would notice small beauty in the everyday moments. Being detail-oriented and sensitive were valued skills when I became a gemologist, looking at gems in a microscope. And as a writer. And a communicator helping clients and companies achieve goals. And now, as a wildfire survivor, who’s lost every possession and yet is okay, I’ve become someone who likes to carry hope to share a sense of beauty and newness from the darkest corners of life.
But does He still see us?
My son Joey had a rough year. We recently moved and he misses friends and our easy way of life in a smaller town. Now we are in the outskirts of a big city where people move fast, school is super challenging, and even traffic carries real concerns. The pressures got worse when he fell ill off and on for almost a whole month this spring, and even was sick and feverish on his birthday. Then, he had to make up weeks and weeks of cumulative work and struggled to even pass core classes on top of some learning challenges he’s dealing with as well.
Joey had just joined Scouts and was able to attend his first few campouts. He loves being in nature and the adventures he’s had so far. But there was a special moment when he picked up a bow and arrow for the first time. Ever. He’s always been great at shooting baskets, throwing a ball, and the like. But something amazing happened when he nocked the arrow and shot one, then another arrow.
He scored a rare, one in three-thousand for the best kinds of archers, “Robin Hood” type of shot. The end of his second arrow pierced the first, making one very long arrow. Here’s a photo.
Wow! What a rare and fun moment to remember, forever! As his mom, I felt like God was saying, “I see you. You aren’t forgotten and I’m in this with you. I may even be able to make something special out of this time for you, Joey. Don’t forget your true value. It isn’t all about grades or activities, it’s just you.” He was able to pull up his grades with a lot of hard work, but I’m hoping his sense of value is based on something deeper, and truly lasting.
And today, I’m saying it’s just you. You are important. You never know how something you’re pressing through will help someone else someday. Or help you face the bully that lives on your block and keep your face held high. Or give you hidden strength you may need later in life. Watch out for your own Robin Hood moments, too!
Have you ever had anything amazing happen when you least expected it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!