Bless your soul. I’m so sorry that I’m your older sister and that you’ve had to put up with me for 19 years. I know I haven’t always been the perfect big sister you needed. But over my short years, I feel like I’ve learned a lot that I want to share with you. This is what you need to know.

1. Don’t grow up too fast

I know by having older siblings it can be easy to want to grow up quickly and do all the cool things us older kids are doing, but that time will come. For now, enjoy the times when worrying is irrelevant and the real world is at bay. Growing up comes with many changes and responsibilities that aren’t as fun as when mom buys you ice cream for good grades.

2. Talk to mom and dad

More than anything, I’ve learned these are our people. They are for us, always. If I’ve ever messed up, they have been the ones to call me out, but also the ones who taught me how to fix it. They love you and want the best for you. Nothing you could say could make them love you less. They are a great resource for growing up; they are old and wise (sorry mom and dad). Take advantage of the fact God gave us great parents.

3. To have good friends, you have to be a good friend

Be kind. Love unconditionally. Be there for people, even when they may not return the favor. Being a good friend is important. It is hard to be around bitter, mean people. Most people are looking for someone who can be there always, someone who is easy to get along with and fun. Be that person for others.

4. Love the Lord with all your heart

This is the most important one. God loves you so much, He desires for you to know him. He will be the rock in your life, the one thing that won’t change even if the world around you does. You can trust him. It truly is worth your life. So read your bible daily, pray, and invest time in your relationship with him.

5. Laugh, a lot

Don’t take life too seriously. It is not worth it, because in the end we will all be dead. It is okay if you walk out of the bathroom with toilet paper on your shoe, if you forget the words when you are on stage, and if you fall while dancing. It is okay to be the goofiest person in the room. It is okay to laugh so hard you pee your pants. My favorite memories are the ones where someone made me laugh; those are the times where I am the happiest and I remember why life is worth living.

6. Serve others

Never forget this: People are what is most important. Not money, not opportunities, not power, not traveling. People are the heart and soul of this world. They matter, their race, gender, size, and status do not. Serve people. Be the one to show them that they matter, that they are valuable in this world. You may be the only person who ever does. I can’t explain to you the joy I have received in my life by helping others to see their worth.

7. Do what makes you happy

It does not matter if you are the only person doing it. In the end, you’ll regret trying to please others rather than doing what brings joy to your life. Being the most popular won’t always matter. Guess what? In the next stage of life, who is popular will change. So instead of living to please others, do what the Lord has called you to do. His plan will be what makes you the happiest. This is different than serving others, you should always serve others, but that’s independent of pleasing others.

8. Boys

I don’t know what to say about this one except the right one is worth the wait. It’s hard. Some will break your heart, no doubt, but you don’t have to let that consume you. Not all boys are bad like some people think. Some have great hearts and will truly look out for you – I have many guys in my life who do that for me. Find them and hold on to them. Sometimes you’ll need a big bear hug or you’ll need your tire changed and Dad may not answer his phone. But, those boys who are mean, the ones who may break your heart, kick them to the curb. Don’t allow them the pleasure of being in your life until they have changed. That’s not to say you shouldn’t forgive them, you should. Bitterness and the inability to forgive is no one’s friend, but they don’t have to continue to be in your life.

9. It’s okay to skip school on purpose sometimes.

Yes, I said it. That perfect attendance medal at graduation is not worth what you give up. Some days, you need to enjoy the outdoors when it is absolutely beautiful. Sometimes you should go shopping to relieve some stress. If your favorite author, band, politician, or artist is coming to town, go meet them or go to their event. If you get the opportunity to go on the trip of a lifetime, go. If our grandparents come to visit, stay home and see them. Don’t miss out on the great things of life because of school or other things you “have” to do. I think experiences are more important.

10. Life will be hard.

It’s not always easy. I have cried many tears and felt a lot of hurt in my few short years. My life hasn’t always been what I wanted it to be. I haven’t always been who I wanted to be. Some days you’ll want to give up and others, you will feel on top of the world. Some days will hit you so unexpectedly and your life could change in an instant. But, no matter what, don’t give up. God has a plan and he reigns. I know one thing, it will get better and you’ll always have me.

11. These are the best things about life:

Love, good books, great speakers, sunny days, a perfect cup of coffee, a song that speaks to your soul, the voice of God, the word of God, a friend that knows your heart, the beach, finishing a race, accomplishing your goals, doing something hard, ice cream, hugs, kisses, poems that describe life, flowers, and football.

I love you forever,

Your sister