Friday, September 11, 2015

LETTER TO 16 YEAR OLD CAROL

I'm at Camp Create in Kansas which is every bit as amazing and wonderful as you might imagine.  Our wonderful speaker, Stephanie Holden, challenged us to write a letter to our 16 year old selves.  Since I recently wrote a letter from my past to my present, it was fun and tearful to do it in reverse.  I read it out loud to the group last night and punctuated it with tears.  It's a great exercise if you want to be reminded of God's faithfulness.  I thought I'd share it here as well!

Dearest 16 year old Carol,

You are so cute and sweet and naive.  Bless your heart.  The hardest thing you have ever done in your little life is move to Kansas, and it felt so very H.A.R.D.  Why are there no trees or hills?  To be honest, you were 14, so it was hard.  And you glasses were awkward and the sweaters that you wore weren't exactly on point.  Or anywhere near it.  But - look at you now - you are flourishing!  You have friends and are headed towards being valedictorian and are good at being good.  You do love Jesus, and life seems to be so simple.  So black and white.  You have been handed most things in life, because you were born into a family with parents that love you and teach you about Christ, and these are such gifts.  You will always be so grateful for this.

But - 18 years later, I've got some advice for you - so listen up, sister.

Because you have been handed so many things and were born into such privilege, you make the assumption that most other people have a similar foundation.  I mean - you can sort of assent to the fact that sometimes hard things happen, but you just cannot understand why people don't get their stuff together.  Do the right thing already, people.

Carol - you have so much to learn about God's grace and how unfair life actually is.  You will come to understand your depravity as the next few years progress.  You will treat people poorly, and you won't even realize that you did until years later.  You are so very self-centered.  You know life is supposed to be about God, and you can make it look like you are living for him, but really, so much of your life is about how it looks.  You are a work in progress, and you have good intentions, but so much of it is about making yourself look good.  Unfortunately, we are still struggling with this years later.

I hate to break this to you, but much harder things lie in store.  In 4 years, Dad will be diagnosed with cancer, and you won't understand that it is the really bad terminal kind until someone finally looks you in the eyes and tells you that it doesn't look good.  That he might have weeks or months.  Being the Daddy's girl that you are - this will break your heart and your spirit for a while.  You get almost 2 years with him after the diagnosis, but it will never feel like enough time.  Never ever.  Hug Dad now - no time with him is ever wasted.

But - guess what, Carol?  Though you would NEVER choose to have your father die, God uses this to shape you into someone with compassion for others.  You desperately need this and don't know it yet.  In the midst of the unimaginable darkness, God gives you so many gifts and shows up in amazing ways.  And you meet your husband.  Even when you are "just friends", he comes home to meet your dad, though it is brief, and he is there with you when your dad passes into eternity.  It is not the love story you are dreaming of, but it is so much richer and deeper and truer and better, because it is from God, and he is so very good.

There are so many wild adventures in front of you!  It makes me a little giddy just thinking of the fun ahead of you that you cannot even imagine.  That travel bug that you are just getting bit by - it takes you all over the world with your husband and children.  Enjoy every trip that you take without kids, because even when you think you are tired - you only have to take care of you.  Savor it.

Pay attention to the passions that God is laying on your heart.  You love people and want to serve God, and it seems so straightforward in high school.  Real life is infinitely harder than your high school existence.  I wish you would cultivate a spirit of hard work instead of looking for the short cuts, because when you grow up - you can't skip the hard parts.  There is no over, under or around - there is only through, and that is a hard reality that you will still struggle with for years to come.  Do the hard work - it is worth it.

Speaking of hard work, though you cannot fathom adoption as a care-free 16 year old, it will come to play a major role in your life.  God shows up over and over and makes himself bigger in your heart and life when you say Yes to dreams that were never yours.  When you have four kids four and under at home for endless days, he gives you the strength.  And because he so miraculously puts your children in your family, you can look back and know that it is all right, even though it is all hard.

I'm also not sure that I can really prepare you for the fact that you will make a career selling chicken.  All I can say is that God knows what is up and how to use you and your husband in the best ways.  Hold onto that picture of you in the Chick-fil-A sweatshirt and jingle bell necklace from childhood so you don't have to steal it off your sister's fridge years later.  You know how she can be about stuff like that.

Before I finish this, I want you to know for the short run that when you get to college, you shouldn't go on a bread and dessert only diet.  It does not go well, and you end up really sick by Thanksgiving. For the long run, I want you to know that your life ends up much better and harder than you can even imagine.  God is SO very good, and he walks with you.  You are blessed to live for his glory, which is always for your good.

XOXO

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