Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing."

To "My Shorties,"

I can still remember the day that each of you were born. I can remember feeling an extreme sense of excitement for your lives, and the overwhelming love I had for each of you. I remember thinking, this little, precious kid in my life, whether cousin, or niece, will forever change the way I view the world. To think that you are all growing up before me, faster than I can blink, is truly throwing me for a loop.

Time is a very valuable and precious gift. Before you know it, you will be about to enter into high school, or graduate and start college. While I know this sounds amazing now, please, heed my warning: slow down. Growing up happens faster than you can even imagine, and one day, you will look back on your life and wonder what happened to your youth. I know that as I sit here writing this to you, I am overwhelmed by just how rapidly my own youth has passed me by. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was playing on my Nintendo 64, listening to Backstreet Boys and N'SYNC. Yet, time marches on, and you will, just like I did, trade in your youth for your teenage years. You will trade your family time for time spent with your peers to develop your independence.

Take this time and grow up at your own pace. Do not let society's view of what you should or should not be doing at your own age influence your morals. Follow your truth, and follow Jesus. He knows the way and is righteous above all else. When those other kids in your class tell you that you are not cool if you do not play spin the bottle at your first "boy-girl" party, who cares? I promise you, that when you look back, you will value yourself more for honoring yourself than falling into peer pressure. The world will try and influence you to grow up faster than you want, so push back, stand your ground. You truly are only young once, and once your youth is over, you begin that "big kid" life of bills, marriage, parenting, and actually being an adult.

I promise you all, that one day, you will get there. You will blink and you'll be graduating and starting college. So do not waste this time away. Do not be like me and regret some of the choices you've made in your life.

Know I will love you through all your flaws and your mistakes. I have made mistakes in my life but they have made me the person I am today, a person who loves you with her entire heart. I cannot wait to see how you all grow up and the type of people God molds you to be.

Love Always,

Your Aunt/Cousin,

Ashleigh