My daughter, Macey, turns 18 today. It seems like not too long ago that I turned 18 -- and yet, in some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. Twenty-two years worth of living life have come and gone since my own entry into "adulthood" and with this in mind, here is my letter to my 18 year old self.
Dear 18 Year Old Shelley,
I can't believe we made it! Eighteen! It seemed like 1992 would never arrive, and yet here we are. You'll get to vote for President in a few months. You still won't be allowed to rent a car for a few years and that is going to feel a little bit embarrassing on a business trip you'll take for a job in 1993. Don't sweat it too much when that happens, though. You'll be old enough to rent cars, run for Senate, run for President and much more before you know it. What the adults around you are saying is true: Life really does go by fast. But this isn't why I'm writing to you.
I am writing to you because before you know it, you're going to be 40. You'll be married soon, and although you and your husband have chosen "The 5 Year Plan" for becoming parents, you'll be surprised in the fall of 1993 to find out you'll become a mom--just before your First Anniversary. You'll barely be twenty years old when you hold your firstborn daughter in your arms. You'll fall in love in a way you never knew was possible. You'll think to yourself, "Wow- by the time she's my age now, I'll be 40." And it will seem like a long way away.
It won't be quite as long as you expect.
Not too long after that baby's birth, you'll find out you're expecting again--just as you planned: babies born two years apart. But you'll go through the pain and loss of a miscarriage and grieve for someone you never even had a chance to know. And this won't be the last time you have to endure this depth of loss and grief.
But then...you're going to have another child; another girl! What a thrill to have two little girls; because there are few friendships in life that can ever compare to what sisters share. And later on, after your world is rocked by a divorce you didn't want or ever expect, you'll love again; and give birth again; and lose 3 more babies through miscarriage; and find yourself in love with two men at the same time. (Don't freak out; I mean your husband and your son.)
You'll love adulthood, but there will be challenges:
- You'll struggle with self-image far too much and worry about the number on the scale and the size of your jeans far too often.
- You'll wonder why it takes so long to actually grow up after you've been declared a "grown up."
- You'll question your life decisions and wonder if you made the right choices regarding education, relationships, and where to live.
- You'll spend more time than you want imagining what life could or should be like - longing for a better future - and miss far too many celebration-worthy moments in the present.
- Life won't turn out like you planned.
- You'll try too hard. - Too hard to make others happy. - Too hard to please people. -Too hard to get folks to like you. - Too hard to prove yourself as a wife, mom, friend, and servant of God. -Too hard to be "enough." And once you've tried too hard too many times, God's grace will meet you and welcome you into a new and better way of living.
You'll discover things about God, life, yourself and your relationships that will make all the struggles to get there possible;
- God doesn't just love you, Shelley--He delights in YOU. He LIKES you. He ENJOYS your relationship. It'll take you a while to embrace this, and you'll have setbacks along the way from time to time; but discovering and accepting this will rock your world in the best way possible.
- You'll begin to take risks in faith knowing that God's got you no matter what. You'll see with your own eyes that His plans, while costing you more than you want to pay, will bless you in ways you wouldn't ever want to miss.
- You'll stop worrying so much about whether "she" or "he" or "they" like you for who you are and you'll celebrate sincerely and often those in your life who do. (And you'll go on to write a book about this journey to greater peace.)
- You will learn to give yourself as much grace as you can and will learn to accept grace from others when you don't seem to have any within you to draw from.
- You'll begin to live more intentionally in the present, fully engaged, embracing each moment as a gift to be experienced.
This letter could go on and on, but I realize even as I write this that I'm kind of glad I didn't have this information on my 18th Birthday. In fact, there were probably good people trying to pass along this kind of information, but my ears weren't yet tuned to hear it.
Life is about discovering and you can't discover anything if you already know everything. So, for now, I'll leave you with this: Life is hard; but God is good. Life is hard, but life is also good. Your life will be easier than someone else's life and harder than another's. This kind of reality isn't up to you. What IS up to you is how you steward the life your God has given you. The best way to do this is to take each moment as a gift, trust God with yourself and His plan, and simply obey His leading. Be nice to yourself.
You think the past 18 years have been an adventure? Buckle up, chick. It's all just getting started!