Dear Twenty-One-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the fifth and final installment, for my twenty-one-year-old self.

Dear twenty-one-year-old me,

Breathe. Just breathe. And then let go. Let go of your expectations. Let go of your agenda. Let go of your timeline. You are not God. You are not in control. He is. His timing is perfect. His plan is perfect. Relax. And breathe once more for good measure.

Preparing to leave such a rich community is heartbreaking, I know. But what you can’t see is that there is a wonderful opportunity for you to build a new community in a place that desperately needs it, if only you will keep moving forward instead of getting stuck in the despair of leaving your current home.

I know you’re agonizing over the fact that you still don’t have a job lined up for after graduation. I know that tortures you. I know it keeps you up at night as your mind continues spinning long into the night, trying to devise a new plan of attack to provide your own safety net in what feels like a free-fall with no view of the ground. But take heart; the moment you let go of your will in this is the very moment that the pieces will start to fall together without your interference.

God is going to do far greater things that what you can even imagine. There will certainly be a lot of painful goodbyes involved, but there will also be times of joyous celebration as you see how He will graciously provide for all of your needs. You will later be able to look back and see how He was working all the while, putting the pieces together to create something beautiful.

Life won’t unfold just the way you want; it’s not your story to plot out. You focus too much on what you alone are capable of, putting God and what He can do inside a box of your limitations. Lay down your expectations, and you will be surprised with what wonderfully amazing things come up that weren’t possible while you were holding so tightly to your own agenda.

Expect great things, but don’t tell God how or when to do them. Know that you will make a difference, but leave margin for the when and the how. Explore your passions, giving God room to work with them and fashion them into a meaningful way to spend your time and invest your life. And don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

All my love,

Jessie

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Dear Eighteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the fourth installment, for my eighteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear eighteen-year-old me,

You are about to embark on a grand adventure that has the potential to dramatically change your life. This is your chance for a fresh start. Be bold. Be courageous. Be a little crazy.

I know you don’t want to let go of the world behind you and the life you’ve lived until now, but you can’t hold onto it and move forward at the same time. Acknowledge that you will have to let go of what you’re trying to desperately to cling to in order to embrace the better things that lie before you. You will be okay. You will make new friends– some of the best friends of your life. You will find work. You will find a major that you love. You will find an amazing community of people to live life with. But you must start by letting go of what’s behind you.

You will never again have so much free time, so make the most of it. This is a unique stage of life– one in which you have the freedom to build your own schedule, live in close quarters with some amazing people, and have opportunities at every turn to do crazy things with them. Don’t miss out on it because you’re too busy trying to get everything on your to-do list crossed off.

Although schoolwork is important, don’t forsake relationships in the name of academics. Your homework will always be there; opportunities to build your friendships and create memories may not. My hope for you is that you will invest more in people than in things, so that you will be able to look back in three years and see that you gained more than a diploma, that you were able to accomplish far more in the way of life experiences.

Don’t be afraid to try things you’re not good at for fear of looking foolish. Join the dance party. Play sand volleyball. Throw a Frisbee around. Don’t allow fear to hold you back from living your life. Some of the craziest things that push you outside of your comfort zone will turn out to be the most memorable experiences. Don’t sacrifice those in the name of your responsible reputation and comfort with doing only familiar things.

You will meet and get to know some of the sweetest, boldest, most genuine people in the next few years. Let them get to know you in return. Don’t hold back just because you know this season of life is temporary. Your entire life is temporary. Live fully every day, as if it were your last. Cherish the friendships that come your way, for some of them will prove to stand the test of time and distance.

All my love,

Jessie

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the third installment, for my sixteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear sixteen-year-old me,

I know responsibility is beginning to creep into your wonderful life, and it will come in many forms. Resist the temptation to say yes to every opportunity to get involved with the things that vie for your attention. Remember what’s most important, and make sure you set aside time for those things above all else.

I know it hurts when you say goodbye to friends, and making new ones isn’t always easy for you. But one day you’ll look back and see that these experiences and relationships paved the way for much fuller ones later on. Seek out people who will bring out the best in you, challenge you to continually grow, and never stop encouraging you. Those are the real keepers in life, the friendships that will be worth fighting for when distance comes between you.

I know you’re starting to stress about your future, especially life beyond high school. Not knowing what you want to do with your life seems really daunting, and people don’t seem to stop asking. Relax and rest in the knowledge that you don’t have to pick your lifelong career at sixteen. Spend time discovering what it is that makes you feel most alive, and do that for now. Don’t worry about whether you’ll still like it in ten years. You can always change your mind later. Do what you love, and do it to the glory of God.

Choose joy, my dear. Every day, choose joy. Choose life, love, and peace. Wake up every day with the determination to shine for your God wherever you go, bringing desperately needed light to those around you.

Praise Him always. In the good and in the bad, in the light and in the dark, worship God in His infinite goodness. He never changes. There is always a reason to praise Him. And guess what? When you’re focusing on His goodness and holiness, the obstacles of life suddenly grow far smaller and less significant in light of how great your God is.

All my love,

Jessie

Dear Thirteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the second installment, for my thirteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear thirteen-year-old me,

Junior high is awkward for everyone. Just embrace that fact, and things will go much more smoothly for you. Don’t be afraid of looking foolish or making mistakes. Those things are inevitable. Celebrate them. Take joy in the courage it takes to be your awesome self– awkwardness, big glasses, crooked teeth, bad hair days, and all.

I know moving to a new city threw a wrench in your friendships, and now moving from elementary school to junior high is full of unfamiliar faces, leaving you feeling like a small fish drowning in what’s really more like an ocean than a bigger pond. But you’ll learn to navigate the currents here, too.

Don’t be afraid to be exactly who you are– crazy outfit days in the name of school spirit needn’t be the only times you choose to let your oddball side shine. Stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to sing loud in choir and give your next art project your all– you are capable of far more than you think.

Love yourself just the way you are. Fight the urge to compare yourself to others. Live your unique life, resisting the temptation to spend your precious time trying to fit in. Nobody else can be you. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

I promise you’ll make new friends who will carry you through these strange years. Take them up on their invitations to slumber parties, school dances, and football games. You will grow out of some of your awkwardness, and embrace other parts of it, in time. Love yourself for it and others will, too.

All my love,

Jessie

Dear Ten-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the first installment, for my ten-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear ten-year-old me,

Oh, how quickly time flies! Enjoy the freedom of your youth. Don’t take all of those open nights and weekends for granted, for they will soon be filled with various responsibilities. Don’t fret over friends who move or pets who pass away, for there will be even more friends and pets down the road to lessen the blow.

Let go of worry, and live in the moment. Enjoy the present without being so concerned about the future.You are far too young to let your time and energy go to something so useless and consuming as worry and tension. Most of what you worry about won’t happen anyway, so don’t waste your energy focusing on it.

Don’t listen to what others might say or spend your time worrying about what they might think. You are a precious daughter of the Living God, a princess loved by the King of Kings. That matters far more than what anyone else might think or say about you, and His opinion of you will never change because He never changes. Take comfort in that, little one.

Read all the books. Develop a lifelong love of learning from an early age, and it will follow you. Do what you love. Develop passions and talents, and pursue them relentlessly. Draw, write, play. And don’t be afraid to share your heart and creative side with others.

Never stop dreaming. Don’t let people tell you the things you want aren’t realistic or attainable. Don’t let that little voice inside your head tell you that dreams are foolish things only for little children, things to be abandoned as we grow older. Dreams ought to grow with us. So dream. Dream big, knowing that your dreams matter and can be attained. And don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise, my dear.

All my love,

Jessie