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Alright, this one is for you. Youth, young ones, teenagers, mostly. Settle in, this might take a minute, but I want to tell you something: This is just the beginning of the story.

Guest Letter by Kate Schaber

Alright, this one is for you. Youth, young ones, teenagers, mostly. Settle in, this might take a minute, but I want to tell you something:

This is just the beginning of the story.

PHOTO BY KELLINAHANDBASKET ON FLICKR - 'Just the Beginning' by Kate Schaber

And yes, you're right, sometimes a book starts with a tragedy in the first couple pages. Sometimes many tragedies.

Sometimes you wonder how this story could ever turn around. It doesn't make sense. Why would you even want to make it through the rest of this book?

Sometimes the beginning feels so unbearable that it would seem more worthwhile to just call it and throw the book in the fire.

Sometimes you're numbly flipping through the pages, thinking that feeling nothing is more of a nightmare than feeling pain could ever be.

Sometimes it seems like a cruel joke of a story, like the author is a terrible writer.

But let me tell you something.

Come here, lean in close, look me in the eyes. This I know to be true, down to my bones:

There is no book, no story, just like yours. It's not just a rare edition, it's the only one.

Please, keep reading it.

Because few pages ahead?

Breathtaking beauty.

Plot twists.

The impossible, made possible.

Opportunities that you thought you'd never see, work only you can do, things only you can create, skills that only you can master.

People so loving and kind, people who change everything, who have been waiting their whole lives to meet YOU.

There are early morning hikes to see the sunrise, and standing on ocean beaches watching the sun fade into the horizon. There are travels to the far corners of the world, exotic foods to taste, incredible strangers to meet.

There's standing on mountaintops and under waterfalls and laughter that comes from somewhere deeper than your lungs, as if your heart and soul bursting could turn into sound spilling out of your mouth.

There's realizing that you actually do matter, realizing that only you can play your gloriously unique part with power and purpose, no matter how big or small.

There is love that makes you understand yourself and makes you want to give everything you have to take care of another person. There are people who truly, finally see you, include you, surround you, support you.

There are challenges for you to conquer, hard lessons to learn, and hope (real, true hope) for you to see with your very own eyes. There are people who need that hope, the very hope you're fighting to find right now.

There are kids to talk to, half your own age, who need to hear your story. The story of how you kept going, and through it all found yourself in the middle of a life you love so deeply it makes you cry.

I could keep adding to this list, on and on...but you want to know one of the best parts? You will always be surprised. If you turn the pages long enough to see it, you will. I have been entirely surprised by my own story, over and over, and in good and bad ways, but I do not regret reading it.

And while we're talking about surprises, here's something you may not know: There were times I hated my life as a young teenager. There were times the loneliness crushed me. There were (many) times I was convinced I didn't matter. There were times existence was excruciating. There were times I wasn't sure living was the best idea.

Oh, but it has been.

I have found friendships, had healed relationships, seen wonders of the world, held a baby I made in my arms. I have learned to love myself and to receive love. I have discovered that I am capable and strong and unique and profoundly necessary. I have felt the wildness and senselessness and beauty of this life. I have seen God in places I least expected to find Him.

I am so sorry you hurt.

I ache when I think of what you're experiencing that makes you want to end your story. I don't belittle your pain or hopelessness. I am so sorry you hurt. There are people who love you and think the world of you, that you know right now, that may have never said it. If they have, please, please believe them. There are people who want to help you. There are phone numbers and doctors and counselors and resources to be used without shame. There is another way forward. There is always another way.

I wish you could see all the brilliance and beauty and strength and possibility that I see when I look at you. There are not enough words in all the books in all the world to describe it.

It doesn't make sense right now, this life. But please, read a few more chapters.

Your story is just beginning.

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