I’m 38. My daughters are 7 and 10. When I think back over a lifetime of life lessons and what I have learned so far, there is so much that I want to share with my girls. I want them to have an easy road and not have to come up with all this stuff the way I did, the hard way, full of heartache and trauma and tears.
I want my girls to learn and know now what it has taken me 38 years to discover. I want to avoid heartache and big mistakes for them.
They won’t take my advice most likely, but I figure if most of these stick, they will have been worth the time it took me to write them out.
- I will love you forever and ever no matter what you ever do. Tell me that you hate me, actually hate me, get in trouble, even get arrested. I will still love you. (But please don’t do anything that will get you arrested.)
- You are one of a kind. I know we say this sometimes as a sort of left-handed compliment, but it is undeniably true and makes you special and worthy. Always be yourself and you will be beloved for it.
- Never compare yourself to others. You will always come out ahead and feel smug or come out behind and feel inferior. It’s all unhealthy. Just do your own thing and measure yourself by your own progress.
- You do you. Don’t try to do what other people are doing it just because they’re doing it, even if they’re cool and exciting. Do your own thing and stick to what you know is right and you will come out ahead.
- Make lists. It feels good to cross items off when they’re done, and you will feel like you have accomplished something.
- Step outside your comfort zone. Your comfort zone holds you hostage and prevents you from reaching your goals. You have to move out to grow and learn, so get started now.
- You are beautiful because God made you. You were made in His image, and that makes you special and perfect. All those flaws you see in yourself? Not important to God, and not important to me either.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27
- True beauty only comes from a beautiful heart.
Makeup only makes you look pretty on the outside, but it doesn’t help if you are ugly on the inside. Unless you eat that makeup. – Audrey Hepburn (And not even then!)
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
You are beautiful on the outside, and you will likely hear it throughout your life. Don’t let it make you proud or boastful. What you should be concerned about is the state of your heart. Are you showing the fruit of the spirit? Are you loving? Joyful? Peaceful? Patient? Kind? Good? Faithful? Gentle? Self-controlled? Those are the things that will make you truly beautiful and attractive to others.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! – Galatians 5:22-23
- Take pride in your appearance. Make yourself look as nice as possible. Keep your hair is clean and tidy. Wash your face. Bathe regularly. Put on a little lipstick. Make sure your clothes are unwrinkled, clean, neat, and matching. We know that your true beauty is on the inside, but the fact remains that most people in this world will pre-judge you based on your appearance. Make sure you make a good first impression.
- Kindness matters, so always be kind. Give everyone your best even when you’re tired or frustrated or grumpy. Especially your family members, with whom it is very easy to let your guard down and be on your worst behavior.
Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. – Henry James
- When you mess up, apologize sincerely. An apology doesn’t cost you anything, and it almost always makes a difference to the person you’ve wronged. Especially get in the habit of apologizing to those closest to you, your sister, your parents, your husband, and your children.
- Dream BIG and set goals to make those dreams come true. Make plans for how to achieve them and work your plans. Compare yourself to where you started. Whether your goals are big or small, if you are making progress towards them, you are winning.
- Step away from the screens. You can’t live a beautiful life with your nose pressed onto the glass of a phone, tablet, computer, or tv. Practice being present in your life now by turning off the screens and tuning into your real life.
- Everything is always okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end yet.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28
- You’re never too old for Disney or Jesus or a kitten.
- It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how much talent you have. What will get you ahead in life is hard work, so be prepared to put your head down and get the job done.
- Read and study the Bible. It has an answer to every problem you will ever have. If you think you can’t find an answer, then you haven’t looked hard enough. Talk to your pastor, talk to me, talk to your dad, or Google “Bible verses about…” but keep looking until you find what you need.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
- We don’t stop playing when we get old. We get old because we stop playing.
- The world is a lonely place if you don’t have friends. Invest in your friendships and give them your best. Make regular dates with your girlfriends, and don’t let anything (especially boys) get in the way of your dear friendships. Be the kind of friend you want for yourself.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
- Make sure you’re choosing the kind of friends who will lift you up and influence you in a good way, and then bend over backwards to keep them. We are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with, so make sure you’re keeping friends who will sway you towards Jesus and not away from Him.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33
Don’t befriend angry people
or associate with hot-tempered people,
or you will learn to be like them
and endanger your soul. – Proverbs 22:24-25
- When you start feeling sorry for yourself, find someone to serve. Doing good will make you feel immensely better, and it will help you to remember that everything’s not all about you.
- Be generous. Stuff is just stuff, but people and relationships are what life is about. Give freely when others are in need without expecting anything in return.
And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. – Hebrews 13:16
- God created a beautiful world, and He wants you to enjoy it. Look around. Smell the flowers. Appreciate the world you live in.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31
- Don’t be a people pleaser. Be honest and do what’s right, whether it is popular or unpopular.
- If you stick to your own moral compass, it won’t matter whether people like you or don’t like you or talk about you or don’t talk about you. If you know you are doing right, treating people with kindness and love, and making Jesus proud, don’t let the opinions of people get in your way.
- Laugh every day. There is wisdom in the saying, “laughter is the best medicine.”
- Exercise every day. After laughter, nothing (not even anti depressants) will make you feel better than a good workout. Go for a walk, dance in the kitchen, or lift some weights. Whatever you do, get sweaty and breathe hard for at least 30 minutes and do it at least 5 days a week but preferably every day.
- Live alone at least once in your life. It’s good for you to spend time by yourself and do what you want to do when you want to do it and walk around in your underwear if that’s what you feel like. You will get to know yourself in a way that no other experience will offer.
- No one likes a complainer. Be a problem solver and not a whiner. When you don’t like how things are shaping up, figure out a way to change the things. If you can’t figure out a way to change them, get wise advice. And then change them.
- When you’re having a bad day, cuddle a kitty. Kitties make everything better.
- Mean every word you say. Don’t talk just to talk, and don’t be mealymouthed. (Don’t know what that means? Google it.)
- Remember that great minds discuss ideas and small minds discuss people. You were born with a great mind, so use it to solve problems not to tear others down.
- Have adventures. There are good adventures and less good ones, but they will always grow and stretch you. Don’t walk away from them, even when they scare you.
- God knows what He’s doing, and He has a great plan for you. When times get hard (and they will)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
you can rest in the knowledge that God will make even the worst situation work for your good. Try to keep that perspective and you will find endless joy in this life.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11
- Write in a journal. It’s like free therapy, and you don’t have to show anyone ever, but the act of writing will lift your heart.
- Walk away from drama and ruckus. Drama and ruckus and strife are everywhere, especially among girls and women, but you don’t have to take part. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t tell tales or spread gossip. Be a light.
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
- Find a Christian therapist you like, and go to see her as often as you can. Every human being can benefit from therapy, to learn how to process emotions and experience life in her best way. So get a therapist and talk to her freely and learn more about yourself.
- Pray and write your prayers in a journal. When things are hard, it is comforting to look back at your old prayer requests and see how they were answered. God is faithful, but we all need reminders of his faithfulness when it’s hard to remember.
- Nobody likes a know-it-all. Be open to the opinions and suggestions of other people, and don’t try to have all the answers.
- Your dad works so hard for us. There is almost no end to his service to our family, and if you can find someone half as eager to help and support you, you will have found a great man.
- Be independent and learn how to do most things for yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all remember the day I had to ask Grace’s art teacher to change our tire because I didn’t know how. There’s no shame in not knowing some things and asking for help. Just make sure it doesn’t happen every day.
- People will always disappoint you despite their best intentions. There was only ever one perfect person on this earth, and that was Jesus who lived over 2,000 years ago. The rest of the billions and billions of people on the planet are sinners, beautiful and messy and inherently flawed. You will have to depend on others throughout your life, but understand that they will often disappoint you, even though they don’t mean to, even though they want to do their best for you. It’s just part of living in a fallen world.
- Don’t let your emotions rule your life. Feel your feelings, explore them and trust them for the feedback they can give you. But then you have to move on and trust the Word of God and your prayer life and the wise advice of others. Don’t wallow in your emotions or allow them to dictate your path.
- Our God is not a God of confusion or fear. When you struggle with not knowing what to do and when you are afraid (of the future, of a decision, of life), you need to pray and read the Bible. Our God has promised us that He is not a God of confusion or of fear, so if you don’t know what to do, you need to seek Him more.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:33
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities for learning, and they can usually be fixed. If you don’t make them, you will miss out on important lessons. Jump in, mess up, and then sort out the details.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein
- You never know who is watching and looking up to you. Be an example worth following.
- When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Yes, people can change, and the Bible is full of examples of men and women who repented and made miraculous changes in their lives, but these examples are few and far between. When someone hurts you or lies to you or cheats you, it is very likely that they will do it again and again. Be very wary.
You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. – Matthew 7:16-20
- Most of the things you worry about never happen.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” – Matthew 6:34
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
- Fight when it’s necessary. There will be times in your life when you have to stand up for something you believe in. You should have ideals worth fighting over, and you should not be afraid to defend them. Pray for wisdom to know when it’s the right time.
- Go on lots of vacations. Travel is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer. Even little weekend trips can be rejuvenating and refreshing. I hope your dad and I have set a good example for you in this regard. Please travel and see the world God made.
- Debt will steal your joy. Borrow money to buy a house and maybe a car, but stay far, far away from credit cards and other forms of debt.
- There is more to life than money. Yes, you need money to be and do what you want. But don’t let the pursuit of money keep you from God, from quality relationships, or from living a valuable life.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
- Learn contentment. As Hebrews 13:5 says (above), be content with what you have. As Oprah has said:
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey
If Oprah, one of the richest women in the entire world, can feel like she never, ever had enough, then there is no hope for the rest of us. With limited resources, we could look forever at the things we don’t have or we can look past what we don’t have to appreciate and be thankful for what we do have.
- Practice gratitude. Write in a gratitude journal or write in a gratitude jar or simply say a prayer of gratitude every night. Whatever you do, make sure you do it regularly to remind yourself and God of all the wonderfulness in your life.
- Learn something from everyone you meet. Every human being from the richest executive to the most wayward criminal has something to teach you. As I’ve said elsewhere in this list, you don’t have to let everyone into your private bubble, but you can extend love to them and learn from their life lessons.
- Learn how to get along with people. There will always be people you like and people you don’t like. Be kind to all of them and treat them as God sees them – valuable and special. Go out of your way to be kind and compassionate and try to understand where they’re coming from.
Do to others as you would like them to do to you. – Luke 6:31
- Don’t let anything or anyone steal your joy. We as Christians find joy in Jesus and salvation, and nothing can ever take that away. Circumstances may be hard, and you may feel like things are hopeless, but you are still a precious child of God, and Jesus is still on your side.
Always be joyful. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16
- Always eat a protein-filled breakfast.
- Stay away from candy, chocolate, and processed food. No good can come of it.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Be the first one to volunteer when someone needs help.
- Be your sister’s best friend. Some day, you will be all each other has left of our family. You will want to have a great relationship with her, built on a lifetime of good memories, when that time comes.
- You are no one’s savior. Be a sister, a friend, an inspiration. Love people and listen to them and accept them, but leave the saving to Jesus.
- Use your library card weekly.
- Represent Jesus well. Love God and love people. You will be successful if you make people feel absurdly loved, completely welcomed, and unconditionally cherished just by being in your presence. I am aware at how difficult this can be, but work hard at it.
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. – John 15:12
- Forgive freely, even if they don’t apologize. People are going to hurt you. You can choose to hold a grudge or to forgive them and get past it. Some people will hurt you badly, but holding on to your anger and hurt is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Refusing to forgive is poison to your soul.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13
- Be detail oriented.
- Live in the present. You can’t drive forward if you’re staring at the rearview mirror; you will crash. Live where you are, and remember the past fondly and occasionally without dwelling on it. Keep your face forward.
- The painful truth is always preferable to a messy lie. And lies are always messy.
- Take time to take care of yourself. Self-care is a fundamental need to your mental health, now and as you grow up. Make sure you learn what renews your spirit and do that thing as often as possible.
- Don’t make excuses. If someone is asking you to do something you don’t want to do, say “I can’t.” or “No, that won’t work for me.” or simply “No.” If you’ve messed up, own it and apologize. But don’t make excuses.
- When you apologize, just say you’re sorry. Never, ever, ever follow “I’m sorry” with “but.” That totally negates the apology and makes you sound insincere.
- Wear comfortable shoes. In the year 2018, there are lots of comfortable shoes which are also very stylish. Have your feet fitted by a professional shoe person, buy very good quality shoes, and wear them daily. You don’t need 10 pairs of crappy shoes. Buy 2-3 really good, comfy ones, and wear them out.
- Trust takes a long time to build, so be very careful not to break it with the people who are truly important to you.
- Being passive aggressive is immature. If you have a problem with someone, go straight to them and talk about it. It is hard, and sometimes it’s downright miserable, but it is always better to be direct.
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” – Matthew 18:15
- Make things happen, don’t wait for them to happen. Read Proverbs 31 which offers a picture of a godly woman. Notice it doesn’t say that she sits around and waits for the world to come to her. She is active and assertive and strong and capable. She makes things happen.
- A good man isn’t threatened by a strong, independent, intelligent woman. In fact, he is looking for one and will respect and cherish her.
- Be an adventurous eater. Try new foods frequently. Make new recipes and don’t be afraid to dump a whole pot of something in the trash if you hate it. Don’t waste food if you can help it, but don’t be a martyr either.
- Good communication skills will be an asset to you for life. Bosses love people who can communicate with anyone and everyone in their organizations. Become a great speaker and an even better writer. You will need to communicate in writing every day for your entire adult life, so get good at it now while it doesn’t matter so much.
- Never stop jumping in rain puddles. There’s a reason I like to drive fast through deep puddles; it makes me feel young and exciting and alive.
- Despite what you may have heard, you cannot have it all, at least not all at the same time. You will have to make hard choices and then be content with the consequences of your decisions. I gave up my teaching career and dream of a PhD to work at home and be with you and your sister, and I have never looked back. Maybe some day, I’ll go back to school for something else, but I am content for now to let it be a far away dream. You too will have to be happy with dreams deferred.
- Know your worth. If a friend or a boy isn’t willing to treat you like the beloved daughter of God that you are, run away. Don’t ever settle for less just to avoid being alone. There’s nothing wrong with being alone and learning more about yourself.
- Eat what’s in season. Food tastes so much better when it’s grown locally and in the right season. Strawberries from California or Mexico can’t hold a candle to the ones grown 5 miles down the road and picked by your own hands. Tomatoes from Florida won’t taste as good as the one from your own raised bed. Join a CSA or find a farmer’s market and eat from that and your garden.
- Never, ever adopt a victim mentality. You are not a victim. You are an overcomer, a conqueror. You are living out God’s plan in His timing. Even when bad things happen, you can rest assured that God is working out the details of your life for great things. See #34 above.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. -Romans 8:37
- Don’t judge people. Judging people is another form of comparison, and comparison is the thief of joy. You aren’t better or worse than anyone you meet. We’re all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. – Romans 3:23
None of us deserves Jesus, and yet, He died for all of us. Love people, no matter what they do or have done. Note, this does not mean become bosom friends with people who make choices you don’t agree with. You can love them without letting them into your bubble.
- It never hurts to ask. You may get told no, but you may not. You won’t know until you try.
- The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Ask for what you want, and if you aren’t happy with the outcome, ask again. Be assertive and stand up for yourself.
- Don’t ever rely on someone else to make you happy. If you’re not happy now, you won’t be happy with a boyfriend or a husband or a best friend or a new cat or new shoes. Be happy with yourself and your Jesus and your cats and the things you already have.
- Keep your word. You are only as good as your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you commit to help someone, help them. Don’t back out once you’ve agreed and given your word.
- You can’t control what people think of you. Do your best, be a good person, love Jesus, and let the chips fall where they fall. If someone spreads lying rumors about you, then they do. You know what’s true, and the people who love you know what’s true, and that’s about all you have any control over.
- Never say you’re bored. If you think you’re bored, go clean something or help someone.
- Marry someone who is fun to be around and who makes you laugh. If you can’t laugh together, you will never weather the storm of life. Get to know him so well that you have inside jokes, and then don’t explain them to anyone. It’s good to have secrets with your husband (but not from your husband!).
- God put you on earth for a reason. He has a great plan for you, and there is a role waiting for you that only you can fill. He made me just to be your mother, and He made you for something good, too. No one but Him knows what it is, and it is your job to find out. Look for opportunities to help others and do good, and you will eventually discover what it is He wants from you.
Never walk away from someone who deserves help;
your hand is God’s hand for that person. – Proverbs 3:27 (The Message)
- Love yourself. You are lovely and kind and worthy just the way you are. God made you in His image, and your dad and I have raised you to be a good and faithful person. Get to know yourself and love what you find.
- Take lots of pictures. I am so sad that I don’t have more pictures of the two of you with Grandma. We were always together, but I never stopped to document it, and then she was gone. You never know when it’s the last time you’ll see your sister or hug your friend or roller skate with your kids. Take lots of pictures of everything and carefully delete the bad ones so that you have a beautiful memory of a life well lived. You will cherish those photographs some day.
You never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. – Dr. Seuss
- Love the sinner, hate the sin. There are all kinds of dividing issues in the church and in our world. You can love the people without condoning their sins.
There is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:22b-23
And remember that you’re a sinner, too.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5
- Set up all your bills on autopay. Your dad and I once had a car insurance policy canceled because we paid it late so many times. Autopay is a lifesaver.
- Buy a good scanner, and get rid of all the paper clutter. I have used Evernote and a ScanSnap scanner for a while now, and I have records of everything I have ever needed right there on my phone and computer. It’s easy and quick and organized, way more organized than when I tried to hold on to every scrap of paper statements, bills, invoices, etc. Throw out all the paper and you’ll save your sanity.
- Your attitude is the most important thing you have. You always have a choice whether you’re going to be positive or negative. You can choose to find the good or the bad. Whether you think the world is inherently good or inherently bad is all in your outlook. You get to see it however you want.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. – Philippians 2:14-15
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9
- Know that everyone you meet is fighting an unseen battle. It can be hard to extend kindness to strangers, especially those who are rude or nasty, but the Bible calls us to be kind and good to all people, even our enemies.
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. -Luke 6:35
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:13-14
- I will never get tired of hearing your voice. Remember, especially when you’re a grown up lady with a husband and her own kids, that I want to talk to you and will always welcome your call.
So that’s what I came up with. I think, given time and a little more prayer, I could have come up with more. There’s just so much in this rich, amazing, beautiful, messy life to impart to my kids. There’s so much wisdom in the Bible and so much fighting against our beautiful daughters.
What life lessons do you want to teach your daughters?
© 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.