Learning How To Live, Love and Pursue Happiness: Letter To My Younger Self

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I couldn’t be more grateful for all that life has taught, and boy has there been some lessons. At 26, I’m basically a grandmother of twenty somethings, and although 30-something year old Hope will teach me a thing or two today, I think I have some pretty good hindsight advice for the girl who lived a decade before me. If I could go back in time and give myself just a few of the many life lessons that I desperately needed (or to anyone who may catch a glimpse of this), they would be something along the lines of said letter, below.

Oh, dear and sweet crazy younger me:

You are incredible. Truly. I know your world is crazy and intense and consistently spinning off its axis at any moment, however, hold tight – there is so much ahead of you, and so many things that I know will make it easier. The good thing is that you’re a good listener. You take advice and you soak it in and you’re eager for someone to show you what the right way is. However, if there is anything I can share with you from this end of our life it would be the following (in a nutshell, of course):

  1. FIRST AND FOREMOST – You are worthy. Of respect. Of love. Of confidence. Live that way, and be selective. Even if only because you can, not because you think it’ll keep them chasing you. The guy who is showing you a little attention right now… girl, grody. You’ll be over it soon enough but really and truly, just trust me when I say it doesn’t end good and it is sooooo not worth it. Do yourself a favor and walk away now. You won’t even remember his name later in life, and when you do you’ll throw up in your mouth a little bit.
  1. IT IS SO NOT THAT DEEP. Just take it down a notch with all that unnecessary anxiety over your future. I know it is so unknown and so scary and so ‘what if’, but all of that pressure that you put on yourself to achieve perfection is not only impossible, but also really exhausting. I won’t say that it’ll get easier with all the unknowns, Cus well, ask me now if I’m good at it… but I will say that you will get better at trusting that God knows what He’s doing. Promise.

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  1. THIS IS A TWO PARTER… Your whole entire being revolves around the inner workings of your small town, upcoming sporting events, friend circle drama, and weekend plans. Live in that season. Don’t rush it. Even next year, when you’re ready to throw it to the wind and get to college… enjoy being a teenager and not having the responsibility of an adult. Trust me – it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. You don’t need to know all the details of everything you’re doing in your entire life right this second. When you go to Europe – soak it in. When you travel with your family – be present. When you run around TP-ing the neighborhood – be better at not getting caught.

HOWEVER, although your whole entire being revolves around you right now… I know it’s hard to believe but you will barely even remember those tiny little details of high school that are stressing you out to the max right now. Not because HS isn’t great but because everything else is that much better. The world is so much bigger than your little town. Just you wait. And when you get to that season… soak it in, too. It’s gonna be awesome. So do me a favor – stop rushing away your life and relax.

  1. BE AWARE OF OTHERS. Always. I know sometimes you’re scared of rejection so you act all super cool, but here is a secret for you: You’re all insecure, you’re all nervous, you’re all trying to find your way. Eventually you’re all gonna look at each other’s lives and realize you’re the same. So look at those people now and embrace your likeness and differences. It’ll make it all so much better.
  1. FORGIVE QUICKLY. There are so many things that I know suck. They aren’t fair and you have no control over them. And you know what, over the next 10 years there will be some even worse hurt and pain, and you won’t be able to control that either. People are people and they will always make mistakes. But let me help you with something – keeping it inside for the next 10 years is gonna make for a real heavy clean up. Which brings me to the next one…

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  1. LEARN TO CRY. Girrrllll – Learn. To. Cry. Don’t ALWAYS guard. It will help you process life’s hard moments. Process them and then walk away. Again with the cleanup. I know you’re getting good at being the strong one, but dang girl, it gets heavy in there. And then when you finally break down you ugly cry for like a bunch of hours and then your face is all red and puffy, and well that’s just not a good look on anyone. And it’s unnecessary.

In the end, it’s rare that you won’t know what the right thing to do is. The challenge will be – having the courage to do it. So stay honest (at least you’re getting something right), and make the hard choices. They pay off. Oh ya, and all those crazy midnight shenanigans that you and your best friend swear to take to the grave with you… keep ‘em up – they will provide you with great laughter long into your future.

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Grace, Gratitude and Punching People in the Nose.

“Be faithful in small lessons because it is in them that your true strength lies.”
– Mother Teresa

My heart is overwhelmed – truly overwhelmed – with gratitude today. Tears have filled my eyes because my soul is so stirred with gratitude – I feel grateful again – and I have nothing but a joyful heart, because that hasn’t been genuinely and truly felt in a long time.

I haven’t mixed tears with smiles in quite a few months, and the past two or so years have been the hardest and darkest place that God has walked with me through in all of my young years. Was I depressed? No, I don’t think so. But, just another chapter in a cycle of my story that has been in rotation for most of my life. I always hear that hind sight is 20/20, and I also always thought when I heard it, that I didn’t want to hear that cliche crap in the middle of my mess.

However, I guess I owe those people an apology, because each day in the after-math of this tornado, I am seeing effects of my decisions and purpose in the lessons (most of them anyways… they continue to come to pass, good days mixed with bad, as a situation struggles to take it’s last dying breaths; it brings such a new meaning to “where sin abounds, grace that much more abounds” and I am believing that God is sovereign and brings restoration to all things).

So, with that being said..

When I have one of these moments, I cry almost every time; and when I say almost every time, I mean absolutely every time.

I cry because I never thought it was possible.

I never truly believed that there would be a day when I was grateful for the pain of people walking away.

(Even when a certain person would tell me it would be different eventually.)

I didn’t think I would ever see the purpose in it, and

I didn’t understand why I had to experience this pain to such an extreme.

I don’t want to discuss the pain, because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. You would think I was exaggerating, or that something so complex could happen to one person, at one time; but mostly because that’s not the juicy part of the story. The best part, what I want to talk about, is about God’s grace, and how He has allowed me to see with His eyes, just a little bit – to extend grace and forgiveness – and even more so, to actually feel it in my heart, and to actually want the best for a people who, to say the least, did not consider the best for me.

To be honest, for a long time I had to dig to a very deep place in my spirit to find grace… fake it ‘til you make it, I guess, because most days – I wanted to punch someone in the nose.

I never openly shared (see #7 – even only a month ago this blog post would have read VERY differently… isn’t it funny how God can truly turn the heart of kings like a river? Must work for young girls, too.) but finally I am to a place where my heart has some perspective.

And this is what I have learned:

1. People are people. They are made in the image of Christ, but they are not Christ. They are human and will always reflect human characteristics (aka will ALWAYS mess up) and fall short of the glory of God… just like me. That is humanity.

2. God loves them just as much as he loves me. (hard to believe, I know.)

3. Give people the benefit of the doubt… even when they use and abuse it… 7 x 70. Let them spell it out, and when they still do, allow God to do the fighting. He will certainly do so, AND he will bring people around to genuinely protect and cushion the blows, with no benefit to themselves. (hard to believe, I know.)

4. Never retaliate – When someone chooses to hurt (intentionally or un) turn the other cheek. Even when there are things to be said that are deserved to say, and have every right to be said, and would be justified, and no one would be mad if it were said, because they all want to say it too. These Biblical principles have never been so practical and/or real to me. Almost makes me laugh. Because how many times have I heard ‘turn the other cheek’, and when it comes to it, I have to remind myself (aka force myself) to walk it out.. call it spicy or just human, but it is definitely not in my nature… then read Genesis 38, and fall into line, because truth will ALWAYS be revealed, and where you fall within that is up to you.

5. Speaking of cushioning blows – it is in these dark moments that true character is revealed (personally and in others), true relationships are made, and people are qualified, as they see a very intimate and raw place. It is to these people, that I am so truly and beyond words grateful for; and can honestly say, without a doubt that it would be worth walking through the deepest depths if that means creating those relationships again in such an intimate place.

6. In every hard day – every night that I cried, every morning that I cried, every time I wanted to punch someone in the nose, every time someone gossiped about me, hurt me (intentionally or un), hurt people close to me, used me or blatantly took the sharpest jabs into my heart – there was a lesson for ME to learn about ME, about ministry, about people and about the world we live it. So, to but it simply, it is not about me at all (hard to believe, I know) It has been a series of heavy crash courses (to say the least) and, like much of my life, deserving or not, it just takes learning the steps of this new dance.

7. Qualify people – Be careful where you bleed. Even when things are good. It’s a small world. Allow your relationship with Christ to become your refuge. It will strengthen it, which may be a lesson in itself.

8. Be grateful for the trials. If there is always something to be learned, then that means – the bigger the trial, the bigger the necessity that the lesson is learned. There is a song we sing, “For every mountain, you brought me over.. for every trial, you’ve seen me through.. for this I give you praisssseeee!” and I would reach for every spec of thanks I felt (or didn’t feel) and force myself to say these words, crying or not, out loud.

9. No matter how bad it seems, His promises really are true.. yes and amen.. absolute.. all the rest of the ways you wanna put it – He really will give no more that what can be handled (His eye is on the sparrow type thing..), He truly has our best interests at heart, and it WILL all work out for the good of those WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM. Because He promised.

10. Although you know what you have in people determined by the fruit in their lives, give them the grace that you consistently ask for. I saved this one for last, because I want it to be the last point you dwell on. And because it is when I truly grasped this, that my heart was set free. It will allow for restoration to take place (don’t determine what this will look like) and my mind is absolutely – absolutely – boggled at the fact that when I pass these people in the world, I smile, my heart is warm, I want good things for their lives, and I feel so grateful for being a part of a continuum of great days that I get to call my life.

I know what it’s like to not notice the brightness of the sun anymore, to not smell the sweetness of the flowers and to not marvel at the stars. to wake up each day to another battle with people who are supposed to love you. To feel hurt and betrayed and confused. I get it. And on those days when you want to punch someone in the nose – when you’re over it, you’re sick of fighting it, sick of holding it, sick of being the responsible one, sick of not replying back, sick of not calling people out, sick of not getting in your say so, sick of people lying, sick of watching people believe the lies, so sick and darn tired of having to hold it all together when you feel like your falling apart – go grab a treat from Starbucks and a pedicure (or whatever boys do to relax, watch ESPN or something?) and remember these things:

You want more from your life, and I’m telling you like I know my name – It gets better. Just hold on. With tears in your eyes every time you hear it and frustration in your heart because you don’t deserve it. Hold on. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but when it does, the sun is so much brighter, the flowers are so much sweeter and the stars are like a blazing glory. This I KNOW to be true; and from that day forward, the good always seems to out weigh the bad, and every other trial that comes after that first, just seems like softball.

AND

just for what it’s worth – not only will you have cute toes from all of “those” days, but you will be so much more grateful, even if just for the fact that when it’s all over you aren’t standing in the ruins with your foot in your mouth. Humble pie is not very good in that moment, and it’s served in large portions.

P.S. There is a handful of people (one in particular, you know who you are) that walked with me through these life lessons, pointed them out when I couldn’t see them, kept things in perspective, spent too much time allowing me to hurt, didn’t let me feel sorry for myself and stepped into the ring when my burden appeared too heavy. To them (and you in particular – you taught me so much about grace and what that does not have to look like), I would like to say thank you and what you mean to me will never remain the same.