“Our worst mistakes occur when we mistakenly think we don’t need anyone else’s thoughts.” This was the bottom line message of a month-long series our church just finished called Dear Me. It was simple yet brilliant. Each Sunday 4 or 5 members were invited to share a letter they had written to themselves, starting with high school/college age and ending up with those over 65. An intimate glimpse of stories remembered, advice to heed and hopes for the future.
It was a beautiful community building experience. The purpose not only being to learn from others’ insight but also the chance to make connections based on commonly shared stories. The altar was opened each week to the target generation. We were given the chance to pray for people simply because they were in a particular season of life. Precious wisdom poured all over this exercise.
Serendipity is one of my favorite words. It’s fun to roll around on the tongue and tickles my ear when I say it. It means “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” It was serendipitous that my in-laws happened to be in town to hear the last Dear Me letters. We were able to sit around a fire in the lodge and talk about the seasons of life and dream of our future stories together. Those letters filled with the stories of others gave us the opportunity to talk about some hard topics with a smile and glad heart. We continue to learn and grow from those that go before us, if we only have ears to hear. Stories heard prompts us to share our own.
I just love my people. Hearing the wide variety of words written in a month of Sundays has made me love my church family even more than before. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to share a letter to my mid20s-30s year old self during this series. Take some time this week and write yourself a letter. You might be surprised at what you have to say. I know I did.
Can you please put the dish towel and laundry basket aside, sit down for a minute and take a deep breath? I’m writing to you from the ripe old age of 47 to share some memories and wisdom from down the road.
I hesitate to tell you what to do or not do differently because all the mistakes you make during these years end up serving a greater purpose, even though they hurt at the time. Well, other than the short haircut and perm of the 90s, which to this day your children still call the “bird nest hairdo”. I beg you to just say no to that cut.
I remember the 20s and 30s as mainly being days filled with the hard work of a farmer. You were sowing seeds as hard and fast as you could, almost feverishly so and sweat dripped daily with the work of it all and your very soul was weary. You were working as if earning your way. Your motor ran fast in those years almost frantic in the activity of life. Be all. Do all. You farmed seeds into your children and your marriage and your friendships and your church and in the quiet of so many nights you cried yourself to sleep and wondered if anyone ever saw the work you did. You wondered if it really mattered. You wondered if YOU mattered. You felt, for so many years, invisible.
I am here to tell you that your story matters. The life you are living will grow much fruit in the years ahead. You are not invisible. Take heart exhausted one. Do not be discouraged for the work you are doing will have lasting and very real rewards.
May I give you some advice that might make these years a little more joyful?
First, give yourself a break. The grace you so freely extend to others needs to overflow into your own life some. Grace….even good girls need it. God is and never was disappointed in you. Life does not have to be perfect. The pressure you place on yourself to perform is literally fracturing your heart. Please be kinder to your soul. You can trust the way that God perfectly designed it and more striving and yearning for control isn’t the answer. Rest more intentionally. Trust me…you don’t function well when you are spiritually and physically tired. It’s not a luxury but an essential. Your life would go better if you would slow down and give your body and heart a rest. God desires your heart much more than your works.
And speaking of rest. How about giving that tongue a rest? Some of the trouble and challenges you face during these years is directly related to indiscretions when it comes to your mouth. When your soul is weary, when your heart is bruised and hurting, you lack the energy to restrain your tone and words. Be careful self.
Words you need to be more mindful of are your yeses and nos. As it turns out, your children don’t turn out to be athletic or musical prodigies. You could say No to some of those activities so that you have margin to say Yes to games of Uno and impromptu picnics. Say No to some, not all, but some churchy activities so you have margin to say Yes to the spirit of God in the moment.
All the things you learned about God in these years? Yep, Turns out it’s all true. You can trust him. Fully and completely. So far he has not let you down. Not once. I would encourage you to chase a little harder those things of the Spirit and a little less the things of the mall and places like Target. Turns out spirit things last and everything else ultimately ends up in a garage sale. Be brave and live more against the grain of culture. Culture will tell you some lies you will believe in these years. Be careful.
These years are ones of immense purification and refining, and so much of that happens through your marriage. Don’t take your commitment to Todd for granted and let this relationship take a back burner because of the sheer loudness of life. Nurture and prioritize it. Protect it fiercely. I promise, the best years of marriage are waiting on you in the future. Don’t be ashamed to seek counsel from godly people. In this area or any other. Mentors don’t just fall in your lap. They are waiting, you just need to ask!
Remember those rare nights when you would put the kids to bed and meet your three best friends after 10:00 to process and pray? Pay attention because you are on holy ground.
Also pay attention to the whispers that you hear sometimes when the world gets quiet and God nudges you toward passions. You won’t regret the times you swung those legs over the side of the boat, but believe me you will regret the times you let FEAR keep you from moving toward invitations from God.
Your life is messy and loud and full. Embrace it. Look around and savor the ordinary moments of your life. Don’t strive for something better, something more. Whatever you do, don’t compare. You are loved and you are enough.
P.S. Just a heads up. That big, fat, hairy decision in 2005 to move to Kansas? Turns out it was a good one.