Posted by: Eric and Heidi | November 18, 2013

A Birthday Letter to Me

A couple weeks back our church- Cheyenne Hills, which we love, by the way- celebrated their twentieth anniversary.  The associate pastor was preaching and, just in passing, really, tossed out the question- “What were you doing twenty years ago?”  I thought for a second, leaned over to Eric, and whispered, “Twenty years ago?  I was busy turning fifteen.”  It has been TWENTY years since I was fifteen.  That’s pretty crazy, actually.  Over the last couple weeks my mind has gone back time and again to Fifteen Year Old Heidi.  She was a good kid, but man!,  there was a lot she didn’t know.  I’ve done a little thinking about what I would say to that girl if I could pop a birthday card in the mail and send it back twenty years.  I think it might go something like this…

Dear Heidi,

Happy fifteenth birthday!  I know you’re celebrating this year with your closest friends.  You guys are having tacos for dinner.  happy birthday, heidi!Dad will eat too many beans, pass gas, and blame it on Stacey.  Mom will reprimand him, but twenty years later, he’ll still call Stace “Beans” from time to time.  Later you guys will go to Meijers (I have no idea why) and end up having a perfume fight.  The fact that I still remember what you’ll do tonight is testament to the fact that this birthday is a good one.  Before you get to all that, I wanted to talk to you about a few things.  In honor of your fifteenth birthday, here are fifteen things that I’d like you to know…

1.) Take your time.  You only get to do this once.  I know that high school is uncomfortable for you.  I know you feel like you don’t fit there and I know you told Mom that you’re already counting down till you can go to a college where you “fit.”  Slow down, Sweetie.  You’ll get there.  Don’t rush these teenage years.  Enjoy them.

2.) Lighten up.  The reason that you’re not enjoying high school is because you aren’t even giving it a chance.  Open your eyes a little; open your heart.  You’re missing out on some really great people because you’re only focusing on how you are different.  The kids around you aren’t nearly as different from you as you think they are.   And besides, different is good!  Different makes you grow.  Different challenges you.  Different expands your horizons.  The world is full of “different”…and that’s what makes it beautiful.

3.) Believe in yourself.  I know, I know.  Blah, blah, blah.  I’m serious, though.  You may talk a big game about how confident you are in yourself and what you believe, but you don’t fool me.  I know that you are afraid.  You’re afraid of being real.  You’re afraid of failing.  You’re afraid of not being perfect.  You’re afraid for anyone to actually see you because you’re not sure what they’re going to see.  Fight that fear, Heidi.  Let people see you.  No, not everyone will like what they see, but you know what?  You’ll survive.  Being real, flaws and all, is so much better than being a sanitized plastic version of yourself.  And guess what?  When you let your walls down and start being you…you’re pretty great!

4.)  Have some self-respect.  Yes, I’m talking about boys here.  If you can somehow follow my previous bit of advice, believe me on this, it will save you a whole lot of embarrassment in the relationship department.  Do not hide who you are.  Do not change who you are.  Do not apologize for who you are.  You are a beautiful, smart, talented young woman.  Do not beg someone else to assign you value- you have your own value.  And another thing?  Listen to the people who love you.  Mom, Dad, and Justin know what they’re talking about.  So do your really good friends.  If they see red flags, run!  And never, ever, ever let a boy come between you and the people who love you most.

5.) Consider broadening your circle of friends.  This one is tricky.  I know you prefer a couple really close friends to a room full of nominal friends.  I get that.  Honestly, twenty years later you still have that tendency.  I’m going to be honest with you, though.  Investing so heavily in only a couple people is risky.  When those friendships end (and I know you probably won’t believe me, but most of them will end) you’re not going to have many friends left.  Don’t abandon your close friends (a couple of them are still going to be around twenty years later and those friendships are rare and precious treasures) but push yourself to reach beyond your comfort zone and develop more real relationships with people.

6.) Do your homework.  No, not your actual homework.  You’re already great at that.  I mean, do your homework when it comes to the big things.  Don’t blindly set your allegiance to the mission organization that your church supports.  Don’t you think an organization with a focus on service rather than evangelism would be a better fit for you?  Yeah, I do too.  Visit more than two colleges.  Yes, you might end up at that first one anyway, but do your homework.  Take the time to really look into it.

7.) Practice driving.  I know you aren’t starting Driver’s Ed quite yet and you’ve still got a year till your test, but have Dad take you out now to practice.  Trust me on this.  That’s all I’m going to say.

8.) Eat.  Eat whatever you want.  Eat whenever you want.  You have the metabolism of a hummingbird and it is awesome!  You know those annoying people who tell you that your metabolism won’t always be like that?  I am so sorry to tell you- they are right.  So, for the love of all that is delicious, eat!

9.) Don’t hide.  Honestly, girl, step away from the baggy sweaters and the jeans that are three sizes too big.  I am all for modesty, but there is a difference between being modest and being afraid of your body.  Your life will not end if people see that you have a waist.

10.) Get ready to work.  You’re going to start your first job very soon.  It will be such a blessing to you.  Your bosses will invest in you and genuinely care for you.  That is rare.  You will make amazing friends who will influence you and shape you in profound ways.  You will develop a lifelong appreciation of people in the food service industry.  You will realize that the food service industry is not what you want to do for a living.  Your job will help you to travel and give generously to causes you believe in.  You’ll help pay for college and you’ll have a nest egg for when you live on your own.  But first?  Buy some decent shoes.  Seriously.  Those $10 shoes that you bought are so pitiful that your feet will ache twenty years later when you even think about those shoes.  Buy some real shoes.

11.) Spend as much time as you can with your grandmothers.  Listen to them.  Talk to them.  Ask them lots of questions.  Cook with them.  Hug them and hold their hands.  Twenty years later they will all three be gone.  You will miss them every single day.

12.) Study abroad.  I know this is getting a bit ahead, but I’m going to say it while I’ve got your attention.  Take a semester in college and study abroad.  Yes, it’ll postpone your graduation a bit, but it’ll be worth it.  You are this close to being fluent.  Go live abroad for a semester and you’ll have fluency in the bag.  Do it.

heidi is 15!13.) Rush.  Yes, again with the college advice.  I’m not saying that you need to actually pledge a sorority, but you really should at least rush.  It’s all about expanding your horizons, stepping out of your comfort zone, and being open to new experiences.  I think it would be really good for you.

14.) Turn the light on when you get dressed in the morning.  Getting dressed in the dark makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  You’re already up.  Keeping the lights off does not change the fact that you’re awake.  All it does is cause you to go to school mismatched more often than you should.  Don’t be ridiculous.  Turn the light on.

15.) Go to the pool on June 19th, 2004.  There will be a guy there who will change your life forever.  Yes, he will be the most attractive man you’ve ever laid eyes on.  Yes, you’ll sneak a cell phone picture of him to show your roommate later.  Yes, you’ll assume that he’s a jerk because guys who look like that usually are.  He’s not a jerk.  He’s the love of your life.  Mark your calendar and do not miss the pool that day.

Ok, go eat some tacos and get back to your friends.  Enjoy being fifteen, Heidi.  Hold onto being a kid as long as you can.  But know this…your best days lie ahead of you.  You’ve got an amazing life waiting for you.  You’re going to love it!




  1. That made me cry. I should do obe of these but I am afraid I will cry through the entire thing and feel so sad at the end. Love your openness and uthenticity!

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