Dear younger me,
We just had another birthday. It’s probably hard for you to believe (it’s hard for me to believe too), but this was number 58!
What a life we’ve had so far. I look back at you and think of how much you have left to learn and to experience.
In many ways, life has been harder than you would have ever known. Your marriage almost doesn’t make it. You get cancer. Parenting doesn’t come easy. You have to navigate loss. And you have to make some really hard choices.
At the same time, life has been even more beautiful than you could have expected. Your kids have grown up into incredible people who live into their uniqueness and gifting. You have grandchildren you love so deeply. God leads you to unexpectedly start a ministry that influences thousands of people. Your marriage is saved. You grow into a person that you can truly be proud of.
As we’ve crossed another year of life, I’ve been reflecting on a lot of the lessons you have yet to learn in life and I wanted to share some of those with you:
On emotional maturity…
This may seem foreign to you now, but emotional maturity is one of the most important goals you can have. Your physical maturity doesn’t indicate your emotional maturity, and the emotional side takes work. You can be 41 and still deal with conflict like you’re 12.
One of the things you don’t know right now is that your tendency is to squash emotion. There have been times in your life where you coped with very difficult situations by learning to believe that feelings don’t matter. Pushing the feelings side of you over has helped you handle some very difficult circumstances in your life. This won’t serve you well as you become an adult but you don’t know that yet. You’re going to need to learn to reconnect to the emotional side of you so you can be a more compassionate wife, mother, and friend.
Get counseling sooner rather than later. Be willing to look at what you bring to the party in your relationships. This is a part of maturing and becoming more like Jesus because Jesus embraced His emotions, and you will need to learn how to do that as well.
As of writing this, you have been married 38 years! 38! It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but it has been so worth it.
When it comes to marriage, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s okay, but it’s really important that you have a life-long desire to learn about relationships, about yourself, and to learn about your spouse. You will never arrive, so don’t ever stop growing. Don’t ever stop learning.
Also when it comes to marriage, it’s important that you understand that your past affects your present. You need to be willing to look at the good parts of your upbringing and how they prepared you for adulthood. You also need to be willing to look at some of the hard parts, the unhealthy parts, and possibly the traumatic parts of our upbringing that might affect you negatively in your adulthood and particularly in your adult relationships. That’s a really important part of maturing.
Finally, it only takes something like 30 years to figure it out, but marriage becomes really special when you accept each other rather than try to change each other. That’s when you become a team, and your connection deepens.
Parenting hasn’t always been easy. As with any family, there have been challenges along the way and moments you want to resign as a mother. (You can give yourself grace for those moments!)
Yet in spite of it all, your kids are fantastic. It’s been so fun to see them develop into the adults that they are. You have 5 of them! One is creative and nothing online overwhelms her. One lives in Australia and is a talented musician. One is an artist who has shipped her art all over the world. One can build most anything with his hands. And one is a foster parent who loves to write.
But here’s what you have yet to learn:
When it comes to parenting, your children are never meant to determine your identity. Don’t put that kind of pressure on them. It’s easy to want them to make you look good and feel good about yourself, but that will only make you an ineffective parent.
While we’re on that subject, don’t take their behavior personally. Don’t make it about you. Jesus is the only one who gives you your identity. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Your children’s behavior is not that way. Basing how you feel about yourself on the decisions your children make is not healthy for you or for them.
Through all of your life, your faith is the thread that holds it together. That holds you together. Don’t let it go.
When it comes to faith, you learn not to mistake going to church with following Jesus. Going to church and being encouraged in spiritual matters is an important part of following Jesus, but you have to move from being spoon-fed to being a self-feeder in your personal faith. You learn to dig into God’s Word for yourself and talk to Him throughout the day, discovering the truth of what He calls you to and how He wants you to live. Religion isn’t the goal; relationship with the living God is what you want and what you have to chase after.
Life is going to be hard. Harder than you can even imagine right now, including cancer, hard seasons in your marriage, and challenges in your parenting. This side of Heaven is messy and that will all be very overwhelming if you try to handle it on your own. You don’t have to handle it on your own, though. That’s where faith comes in. God is reaching out His hand and saying, “I won’t force myself on you, but I’m here to walk this with you and show you the way.”
Be sure to take His hand and walk that journey with Him.
On your career…
God uses your talents and passions in some really special, unexpected ways. We get a Music Education degree from Butler University and expect to become a music teacher for a career. We did that for a while, and continued to offer piano and voice lessons, but at 30 a lot of that changed. On a whim, God leads you to create a conference for moms. You expected hundreds, but thousands showed up. This led you to launching a ministry, speaking across the world, writing 14 books, and eventually doing marriage intensives alongside your husband.
And it’s hard. Really hard.
This is the journey of discovering that leadership is messy, and that growing in both humility and confidence is a daily exercise.
As you begin this journey of leadership, there are two pieces of advice I have for you:
Stay in prayer every day, and all throughout the day. That is where you get your marching orders, and where you receive the wisdom to navigate daily decisions for your team, for your organization, and for yourself.
Learn to make the hard calls. Your biggest mistakes will be able to be traced back to being afraid to make those hard calls. You can make hard decisions in humility and grace, but you can’t avoid them. That’s how issues grow.
You don’t know this now, but you’re an introvert and introverts tend to be refueled by being alone. They also have a smaller group of friends. As an introvert, you’re going to be tempted to not invest in relationships. Don’t do it. Set up time to spend with those people in your life that make you a better person and that are in your corner and encourage you.
Make sure that you also take the time to find those relationships when something changes. You don’t know this now, but you will invest in friendships that will hurt you and you will invest in friendships with people that move away and are no longer able to be there for you in the day-to-day. In those times, it will feel like you have to start over again, and that’s okay.
You’re going to be tempted to say, “I don’t have the energy for this,” but you will need those relationships when life gets hard. You will need people in your corner that both love you well, and hold you accountable. They are also the ones that will help lift you up when you’re too tired to take one more step. Don’t neglect the time for them. Jesus lived in community with others and you need to do that as well.
You have an incredible journey ahead, and I’m choosing to believe I still do too. ❤️
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