Dear Renea.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 19-year-old Renea,

The practical choice is not always the best choice. You’re a practical person by nature. This is a good thing in its own right, but it also has its own set of shortfalls, and in and of itself, pragmatism won’t get you the abundant life you long for which Christ came to give you. Because you often ask yourself, “What is practical here? What’s the logical choice?”, at times, better questions for you to ask yourself will be “What do I want? What do I hope for? What do I dream of?” (Just as for those who lean in the other direction the better question at times will be “What is practical?”)

You will find you need to ask yourself these questions in all areas of life from decisions about the classes you’ll take to the jobs and positions you’ll take, to your love-life and your spirituality. (In your 20s you’ll read a little book called Messy Spirituality that you’ll wish you’d read when you were 16. But that’s another letter for another day.)

You make decisions with your reason, with your head, which has lots of advantages, but these other questions are questions for the heart, the emotions. So it will feel, well, terrifying. But you’re not alone; they’re not decisions you have to make yourself. You’ve always been good at choosing friends and surrounding yourself with loving, Christ-oriented community. Lean on them. Trust them. Nine times out of ten they won’t let you down, and when they do, it’ll be okay. By God’s grace, you’ll make it through together and be stronger for it.

Don’t be afraid of failure. With the courage to fail you’ll gain the strength to succeed. As Ms. Frizzle always says, “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy!”

I’m proud of you. And don’t worry: who you are is great… even when, especially when who you are is different.

With love,
Your 29-year old self

Renea McKenzie is a student, a teacher, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a shepherd, writer, movie-lover, and Whirlyball champion. She loves God’s Word and God’s people, reading and thinking, playing and laughing, living and learning (okay so she doesn’t love to “live and learn,” but she seems to do a lot of it anyway). Sometimes she writes about it over at Speak What We Feel, sometimes in 140 characters or less:


Dear Kamille.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 18-year-old Kamille,

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I know you have prided yourself on being a bit of an outsider, taking stock in the “I don’t care what the preppy girls think” mantra.  You wear two coats.

One is lightweight & only a couple people get to see.  It’s that idealistic, dreamer side that is a hopeless romantic wanting to be swept off her feet coat.  You never feel burdened wearing it, that is, when you feel safe.  This is the coat Jesus gave you as a young girl.  He warmed your heart & you knew it was good.  He spoke often of his love for you & you believed it wholeheartedly.  He delighted in you as you twirled and sang with such boldness & joy.  No place could ever feel or be as safe as there.  He named you his daughter, his beloved little girl.  This coat is always comfortable & never, ever grows old or tattered.  It’s infinite.

Then, there’s this other coat, which is heavy & dark.  It prevents you from sharing your true heart.  Instead of the bold, joyful dancing & singing, there is a faint murmur of hidden potential.  But, this cloth prevents you from sharing that gift.  It’s out of fear.  Fear of being hurt, being judged, & simply being known for what you love (and maybe others don’t love it).  It guards your heart.  It covers your ears from hearing those words, “you are my daughter, my little girl…I delight in you.”  This coat is always burdensome, and never, ever feels comfortable.  It’s infinite…only if you let it.

Because you see Kamille, you are a daughter of the Most High God. When you sit in your one bedroom house mourning the loss of family, with your brother turning to alcohol to ease the pain, you’ve never been alone.  When you see other people enjoying their freshman year of college, you keep wondering how life could get any worse?  And your story to date does speak of misery.

Your second day of college alone felt like a nightmare with your dad being in the hospital on his way to jail & the owner of the house announcing you & your brothers needed to be out in 24 hours.  An eviction notice.

Your heart felt like it stopped & your lungs began to collapse.  Four months later, there you sit on your bed wondering how you can keep going on?  How you longed for someone to love you & take care of you.  Oh honey, I wish I could wrap you up in my arms, make you some cookies & give you a bed under my home.  Because, all along, deep inside, all you want is ‘wholeness.’

A home that is safe.  A family unbroken.  A warmth of protection, which seems so foreign. You fear that maybe your future will always be shattered & empty.  But, Kamille, cling to the hope you saw when you were a little girl.  You were free in that lightweight coat dancing with your Papa God, because his delight is in you.  Remember, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you;…rejoice over you with singing.”

He turns deserts into gardens, ashes into beauty, and he redeems the most unlikely of stories.

Nothing will be able to fill that void you long for, not a boy, not your dad out of jail, not your parents together.  You were made with a Jesus shaped hole in your heart & only he can fill it. Run to him, listen to him, allow him to woo you back.  His words are safe, true & good.  His love is unbroken & never failing. You are a daughter of the Most High King!


Kamille Scellick is a daughter of the Most High God.  She’s married to her stellar best friend & husband, Ben and mothers two beautiful girls.  She lives in the Pacific NW & doesn’t mind the rain (all the more reason to enjoy coffee).  She writes at Redeeming the Table, where she believes in sharing stories, hospitality & food with friend & stranger.  She says, “there are so many voices in our world telling us to lose hope; but, when we cling to Jesus & his story of redemption, we come out on the other end with a “redeemed” story we get to share.  This is part of mine.”

Dear Valerie.

A two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 17-year-old Valerie,

I know you are someone who was barely in this world for a month when you were baptized. You bowed your head to pray over your dinner before you could even talk, and the first songs you ever knew were “Jesus Loves Me” and “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” You went to Sunday school and church every Sunday, attended confirmation classes religiously (rimshot), and attended a Christian grade school for eleven years. It’s been a reality for your whole life that Jesus died for your sins and loves you and has a place for you in heaven in Jesus’ name we pray amen.

Because of this, your personal testimony will not, by the world’s standards, be flashy and impressive and full of ups and downs and drama and GLORY BE’s with extra helpings of HALLELUJAH AMEN on the side.

But that does not mean it’s not special. And it doesn’t mean God hasn’t been at work in your life.

You will go to camps and chapels and classes and church services and everywhere in between and listen to amazing, incredible stories. Stories of how the Lord brought people out of rebellion, drug abuse, promiscuity, and everything in between. Our God is indeed a God of redemption, and those mighty works He has done in the lives of His children are definitely to be praised!

But Valerie. Val. V. Please hear me on this. Just because you did not go through a time of rebellion or hellion child years or even any wild teenage years (because let’s face it, you are content with a decidedly un-wild evening watching Saturday Night Live with your friends) does not make your story invalid. And it does not make your story boring by comparison. Because the same God who made the heavens and the earth lives in YOU! And has redeemed you. And has set a path for you within His will. And will use you for His purposes.

Don’t let anyone look down on you or belittle you because of your testimony. When people call upon the other, flashier stories as examples of the amazing things God can do, don’t let yourself believe that it means your testimony is less worthy. Just because the places God has pulled other people out of may seem deeper and dirtier and more dramatic by the world’s standards does not mean that what He has done in their lives is somehow more wonderful or praiseworthy than what He has done in YOUR life!

The Bible says that we are ALL sinners (and yes that’s including you, Miss VBS) and ALL sin separates us from Him. So the fact that Christ has redeemed you from sins like picking on your little brother and cheating on your homework and being rude to your friends is no less magnificent than if the sins you needed to be redeemed from were adultery or murder! The fact that our Lord would come to this earth and die for each and every one of us most disgusting creatures is an absolute miracle! And the fact that He has done that for YOU makes your testimony the most flashy and firework-y and whiz-bang HALLELUJAH THANK YOU LORD celebration of a story that this earth ever did see!

Remember what is important: that He has redeemed you! That He loves YOU and cares for YOU and wants to use YOU to glorify Him!

I think that about covers it.

Oh! But! Also! Slightly off topic and significantly less important, but still deserves a mention: PLEASE TO STOP BUYING THE OLD NAVY FLIP FLOPS. I know they are crazy cheap but VALERIE. They are terrible shoes and they are uncomfortable and they break and it is just a FAD to buy so many in so many different colors, so please: just stop. You will only have to get rid of them later in life, so please: stop now.

Love you like a me,

It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God. 1 Peter 1:21

Bio: Valerie Morby is a professional Facebook-er and web mistress for a camp ministry in Texas. She loves movies and funny things and peanut butter. She is one of the few and the proud to be able to call Ginger “sister,” and hopes said sister will not hold it against this writer that the preceding blog post was turned in mere hours before the deadline. Said blog writer just likes to rock a deadline like that. She blogs at Saltwater Coke whenever she can remember that it’s time to write again.

Dear Carey.

A two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 16-year-old Carey,

A fumble may be small but you can learn from it. An outright mistake may be large but don’t worry, it actually helps you grow. And while you were a really good girl who strove for perfection at all times there is one thing in hindsight that I would warn you about. Try not to take this too personally. I am not criticizing, just trying to help you get the most out of your early days.

In first grade his name was Andy and he lasted all the way to 3rd grade. In 4th grade his name was Jason, in 5th grade his name was Grant. Junior High there was Chris, Matt, Lee, Alex, Bobby, and Graham. You really like liked Graham a lot and would probably consider him to be your first true heartbreak. In high school there was Matt number 2 and then Ryan. Ryan stuck. You kept him around till you left for college. Can I stop there? You get the picture, right?

Let’s talk about this. A boyfriend is nice. It is fun to say you have a boyfriend. It is nice to hold hands with someone in the movies, it is cool that you never have to walk to and from each class alone, and that you can stay up late at night sharing hopes and dreams on the phone. But let me tell you a little secret. A boyfriend is not needed for survival. I promise! There doesn’t always have to be a boyfriend. And while the Bible does speak of leaving your mother and father for a spouse there was no need to go on a quest for “the one” at age eight. That is just plain silly! I understand your love of dreaming and grand fairy tales.  You dreamed big. Dreams of marrying your childhood sweetheart, having kids, and telling stories that made peoples heart melt. You were crossing your fingers for romance, love notes, surprises, and things written for soap operas. I love that dreamer side of you. Don’t lose it, just use it in other ways.

Here is what I know now. Enjoy friends! Enjoy your girlfriends. Have sleepovers, stay up all night, talk on the phone, giggle, go to the mall, and bask in the sun (with sunscreen, of course). Hang out with your family! Go to church together, have lunch with them, go on road trips with a smile on your face, play with your siblings, appreciate that they are there. Don’t let boys make you so nervous! I know now that you always liked having a boyfriend because it kept you safe. You didn’t have to put yourself out there because you were “taken.” They may be boys but they are just human beings that you can learn from and have as just friends. I say all this because I know without a shadow of a doubt no matter how much you try to fashion “the one” for you it won’t do you any good. You are not the one in charge. God has to pick him for you.

16-year-old Carey, your style led to heartbreaks. You experienced more heartbreaks than needed because you were trying to control the boyfriend situation, make it work, and ignore the stop signs that God was throwing in your way. The thing you can be certain of is this: don’t worry! Don’t worry about the future. It will come.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act” Psalm 37:7a

It just won’t be in your time. It will be in God’s time. And it certainly won’t look as you planned. It will look as God desires. And this Carey, allowing your life to look as God designed for you, is the grandest storybook story that can ever be told.

Enjoy the journey.

With Joy, Carey

Bio: Carey C Bailey

I am a lover of grace through Christ, a wife to the hilarious Mr. Bailey, and a mother to two precious children of God. I host an online community for mothers called Cravings: desiring God in the midst of motherhood. After having kids, I realized I had to make a shift in my personal devotional time. The days of chillin in my comfy chair reading my Bible, journaling, and sipping hot tea were gone. I had to make it easier not less meaningful, just easier.

My goal at Cravings is to walk with moms in creating a powerful relationship with God in the midst of motherhood. My promise is that Cravings is a place of inspiration, encouragement, and community. I want you to be able to walk in and out of each day satisfied because The Bible, not cupcakes, filled you up.

Cravings first product, daily devotional flashcards, will be in stores in August. Stop by and stay awhile.

Stay connected with Carey: website / blog / facebook / twitter

Dear Dani.

A two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 15-year-old Dani,

You just got back from a mission trip to Mexico, you’re experiencing your first taste of falling into “like” and you are growing up, faster than you know how. Your family is building a house themselves and you are sometimes frustrated by lack of space.

You are tough, determined, and you see things your way. This can be good: you’re not a pushover, you hold to your convictions with an iron grip and you are fearlessly headstrong and loyal. Just don’t forget to give a little.

I know. I KNOW. You feel pushed around and, never one to take an insult lying down, you push back. But the people who love you the most – who will love you unconditionally FOREVER – are not trying to be pushy for pushy’s sake. They’re not trying to control you or hurt you or keep you locked up forever. Yes, we’re talking about mom and dad, and they are trying to protect you.

Grace is something you struggle with, and you always will. But only if you grant it to those you love will you start to experience it yourself.

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret, from more than a decade later: your parents aren’t perfect. Nobody knows how to have a teenage daughter and you sure didn’t come with manual.

But they LOVE you. They deserve your grace and respect because they aren’t perfect, because they love you and because you can only find grace for yourself when you give it to others.

2 Corinthians 12:9 reads: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Grace is your weakness, and Christ will only amplify it as you grow in Him. It seems impossible now, but He will use this very thing to give you hope and strength when you need it, when all the bull-headed determination in the world can’t accomplish what a small dose of His Grace can. His power dwells in you!

You already have so many fabulous memories with your mom and dad and so many more to come. Embrace their love and extend grace to them when they need it, and to yourself when you fall. You’ll learn how to wire electrical outlets from Dad, you’ll make home-made chili for the first time with Mom. You’ll laugh together, getting the giggles from Mom’s outrageous stories, and you’ll sit outside with Dad and eat ice cream, resting on a soon-to-be-used lumber pile and learning the tricks of the house-building trade. Don’t lose these moments to frustration. Embrace the joys of an unconventional family life – one built on time together, enduring principles, hard work and Grace.

His Grace, extended to you that you may extend it to others.

Go ahead and grow up – in Grace, in love, and in the knowledge that your mom and dad are, and always will be, your biggest cheerleaders and the foremost purveyors of God’s Grace to you.


Dani Nichols is a writer and editor from the backwoods of Oregon, currently residing by the beach in Southern California with her hot and Godly husband and an assortment of tents, kayaks, snowshoes and at least half the contents of any well-stocked REI. She loves trying new recipes, burning candles, debating politics and chasing food trucks. She also writes about her (mis)adventures at