Friday, September 14, 2012

Dear Teenage Me: Don't Worry that She's not Happy

(We're gearing up for The PURSE-onality Challenge holiday edition"A Holiday-Ready Heart"–in October! Stay tuned for full details...Warm-Up Week starts September 24!)

September 5-23, I'll be blogging through Mary DeMuth's soon-to-be-released book Everything: What you Give and What you Gain to Become Like Jesus. Each week, I'll be giving way a copy of the book. You can enter the drawing via the Rafflecopter at the end of each Everything blog post!

* * * * *

Don't let the smile fool you. I worried about
my "horns" (feathered hair). I worried
about my teeth. I worried about my
thick glasses. I worried about...
"Worry is a weighty monster with poisoned tentacles. It clutches at our minds, steals our breath, our will. It lurks. It pounces. It colors how we perceive the world. 

But God whispers peace in the midst. 

Me? I listen to my frenetic shouting, preferring my self-imposed rants, and I don't hear the Almighty's peace."

Incessant worry and overwhelming anxiety were normal for me growing up. The women in my family modeled this self-perpetuating control cycle, and I learned it well at an early age:

1.  fear the dozens of ways things could go wrong; 
2.  work to exhaustion to prevent them; 
3.  congratulate self when everything turns out fine;
4.  repeat.

In honor of this week's release of Graceful {for young women}Emily Freeman (author of Grace for the Good Girl) has invited bloggers to write letters to their teenage selves

Here is mine:

Early in my eating disorder;
I went on to lose another
20+ pounds.
Oh Sweetheart,

Stop trying so hard.

I know that’s hard to hear. You pride yourself in being a do-er. A hard worker. An achiever.

But you’re trying to achieve the impossible.

Trust me on this one:

Nothing you do will make Mother happy.

Your A+++ grades won’t make her happy.

Your becoming a teacher won’t make her happy.

Your marriage won’t make her happy. (In fact, she’ll be so unhappy that she’ll refuse to participate at all. You’ll plan your wedding all by yourself.)

Your children won’t even make her happy. 

Oh, she’ll enjoy them. And you’ll have a few years during which you’ll feel like you’ve finally earned her approval.

Wearing my mother's dress,
gloves, shoes, and belt.
(The hat was my idea!)
But then they’ll grow past the “cute” stage, become teenagers, and about the time you’re launching your firstborn to college, Mother will start losing her memory.

And then, for the first time in your life, you will see her happy. She will not know you, but she will be happy.

As Daddy and John comfort each other by saying that she’s “the happiest she’s been in 45 years,” it will occur to you that they knew her when she knew them and was still happy. 

You will realize then what you can not suspect right now:  Mother has been depressed for your entire life.

Her unhappiness is not your fault. 

You did not cause it. You can not fix it.

You can not make her happy. No matter what you do. No matter how hard you try. 

I left home shortly after this photo
was taken, but my craving to make
my mother happy followed
right after me.
Nothing you do will make Mother happy.

Stop trying so hard. 

Start seeking refuge. 

Learn now–when you long for the love she can not offer–to run to Him.

Learn now–when you cry for the comfort she can not give–to hide in Him.

Stop trying so hard.

Stop trying.


Be still.

Know Him.

Know that He delights in you;

He always has, and He always will.

In His Delight,

Your 45-year-old self

Your Turn:
  • What worries are at the top of your worry list?
  • What would you say to your teenage self?
  • Anything else on your heart!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Saw your link at ChattingAtTheSky. Girl, I can sooo relate! So glad you found your peace and acceptance in Him, too... it lasts and it never changes.

  2. I'm a teacher and pastor's wife too. I know the pain of trying to please until your heart hurts and scars. Glad to have met a soul sister today. Thankful for our Father who loves us and is pleased with our imperfection.

  3. Cheri,

    This is such a cool post. I love the letter to a teenaged self. I'll have to work on writing my own. Mine wouldn't be about trying to make my parents happy. It would be about knowing they loved me, even though it didn't seem like it all the time.

  4. I also found you at ChattingAtTheSky... this was beautiful.

  5. Oh Cheri

    This post was heartbreaking. I can relate somewhat since I also tried hard to make my parents, my father mostly, proud of me and love me. Taking part in this was very enlightening for me with my four daughters. I think I can let my mother mantle slip a little and step into their shoes a bit now. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Cheri,

    I think our moms were related, in many ways. I felt like I was the only one who woke up happy in our home. I love that He has stilled your heart and that you know that He adores you.

  7. Wow! This is very good and very powerful Cheri! Such a sweet face for so many worries! So glad you realized how much you are loved! By Him and by us! :)

  8. Cheri,

    This is so powerful and so good. Thank you for the reminder that we can run to Him! Also thanks for linking this up at Rethinking My Thinking!