Dear Young Lady (And The Rest Of Us)
DEAREST YOUNG LADY:
Dear College Girl, Dear high school student, dear whole-life-ahead-of-you-young-Lady. As fall brings the rhythm of school starting, or maybe for you this year new beginnings, I want to tell you some things. Some things I know now, but wish I would have known then.
I wrote this letter on the day I fully gave up on the career path I worked incredibly hard for and envisioned for myself. At your age, I was a planner and a dreamer. I had it all figured out, and my choices were calculated for the best possible outcomes. I went to college and did well, got into the competitive program I wanted, and then poured my blood, sweat, and tears into finishing that program. I graduated and got the job I wanted, and made the money I wanted.
And then I got sick. Too sick to work. And here I am, three years later, fully realizing that I may never be able to go back to the life I had planned and worked hard to make for myself.
So here, young lady (can I call you that without you thinking I’m old? Probably not), is where it gets good. Here, sister, is where you need to lean in. This is what you need to hear:
You need to dream bigger.
Your dreams have to be bigger than a career. They have to be wider than a dot on the map. They have to grow in beauty and change for the better and morph into kingdom purpose.
Lean in, sister, and take these words to heart. Your life is powerful. Your life is short. And your life has meaning. Making good, concrete choices to set you up for a better future is important. Just don’t mix up better for best.
When I was in high school we met periodically to determine what the best steps to take for a “bright” future. This future was a job, or school options that fit our grades, personalities, and ambitions.
Let me tell you, if you are like me, and you believe the noise that a career is how you will measure success and completing goals is equal to increasing self worth, THAT IS A BUNCH OF NONSENSE.
Here, sister, is what I wish I would have used as the roadmap for the future:
What do I love to do? Where does my passion lie? How can I serve others through this? What ways can I maintain a pure heart? How does God seem to use me? If I was not afraid, what big dream would I pursue? How can I work hard for a purpose?
And here, sister, is what I wish I would have used as the roadmap for living in the present:
Right where I am is ok and for a purpose. Let God’s voice be loudest. Trends change. Ideas change. But hope and abundant life does not change if it is founded in God.
You need to fail.
I thought it was the end of the world to fail anything, until my body completely failed me. I mean COMPLETELY, total disaster, change everything type of failure. And guess what? Life went on.
Failure is ok, but it’s beautiful when you learn from it. You failed a huge test? Yes, it will affect your grade, and that stinks. But why did you fail? And what are you going to do about it?
I heard a pastor (Craig Groeschel) say “If you want a life like no one else, you have to live like no one else.” That’s always stuck with me. I want to give you permission right now to live differently than your peers.
People laughing at you may seem like a big deal, but what really is there to be afraid of in being made fun of? I mean really?
I still get made fun of, just in a more adult and snarky way. For choices that myself and my husband make that are “different”. For clothes I wear. For my passion for God. For the way we raise our daughter.
The amazing thing is I do not care anymore.
Because the life my husband and I are building is different, and that may make people uncomfortable and want to hurt us for it (that’s all bullying is), BUT IT HAS KINGDOM PURPOSE. The stuff we do matters and is amazing. And different.
You need to love yourself.
God is not a liar. He is not stupid. He made you to look the way you do for a reason, and called your face and your hair and your body BEAUTIFUL.
The prettiest girl you follow on Instagram is as insecure about some things as you are. And by today’s standards, maybe she is gorgeous. A 10.
But someday she’s going to get old. Her butt will be saggy. That cool tattoo will be all wrinkly, and her skin will have brown dots all over from all the tanning she does on her parents yacht.
Beauty is fleeting. But a woman who loves the Lord will be praised. And when you love God, you can’t help but love yourself. His delight in you is infectious.
And when you live differently than everyone else, you don’t have to subscribe to the rules anymore. You can love your gap in your teeth. You can love your curves, or your cowlick or your complexion. Because society has NO SAY in who you are because of how you look.
God took care of that already. And nobody and nothing trumps what God says about you.b
You need to reject the lies.
From when we played with barbies as a young girl, we have been dreaming of what we would be when we grew up.
Let me tell you something now: you don’t own the future. All you own is now.
And your now will always be stressful if you are only worried about the future.
You cannot spend your life trying to tiptoe on the tight rope of “perfect”. All of my biggest life decisions that I was completely in control of I made in the most “perfect” and calculated way I could. Here’s the problem when you are seeking “perfect”: you still fall. Hard stuff still happens. You still get disappointed even though you made the “perfect” choice. But when you see it as your perfect plan not working out, you don’t get to reap the priceless reward of failure or heartache.
But when you realize that God is orchestrating your falls and triumphs for a beautiful, powerful story, then each day is an adventure. There is not “finally, I’ve arrived”. Trust me, I’ve “arrived” at those places, and the problem is you always have something else to arrive at next. There is no “arrival”. And every day you live is one less you have on the earth, and one step closer to eternity.
What you do here matters. Who you are kind to matters. How you give away your heart and your time matters. What you fill your brain with, and the noise you consume matters. Your time is precious and so are your heart, soul, and mind.
If you focus on the right things, a common thread throughout your whole life no matter your circumstances will be peace and meaning and love.
You can live outside of the ups and downs. You can walk on the water.
Here is what I have realized, and what I realized when I got rid of my last pairs of scrubs I had been holding onto for hope of gaining the career back I worked so hard for: my life is so much more beautiful because of that loss.
Don’t for a second think that God will let you miss out on the absolute best for your life when you follow him. He has bigger plans for you sister than you could ever dream up for yourself. Don’t take as long as I did to trust the Creator of beauty, and the author of Love to work things out in a magnificent way.