Dear Me, Five Years Ago –
Happy birthday, kid.
21 years, huh? I think I remember that feeling like it sounded much too mature for you. It’s a good year, though. I know you’re wondering about that. There’s a lot going on for you, isn’t there? The past few months have been confusing…you’ve been having that stirred-up restless feeling, the one you know you get right before God makes some major change in your life. And you’ve been wanting Him to, haven’t you? Been waiting on Him to change something.
Now you think you know what that something is. You started a new job just a few days ago, didn’t you? On Monday. And now it’s Thursday. I remember our 21st birthday was a Thursday, even five years later, and I think I probably always will, because you’re working your very first benefit dinner at that new job. Those dinners are always on Thursdays. You got a birthday blessing from the priest who was speaking, and those “kids” (some of them older than you, smarty) from University of Houston who were volunteering sang “Happy Birthday” to you.
It was a fun night. You met a ton of people. You’ll know them better soon. You think this new work is going to be that big adventure God has been nudging you towards.
You’re wondering how long you’ll be doing that job.
I could tell you: four years, and four months. Almost to the day. But be glad no-one can tell you that now, because sometimes that will seem impossibly short, and other times it will seem unbearably long. Just work hard, kiddo. There is so very, very much to do.
You’re going to love that job. You’re going to loathe that job. You’re going to love it much, much more than you’ll ever loathe it. I promise. And you’ll always be grateful, even when it’s rough, that you’re the one who’s getting to do it. That counts for a lot.
You’re going into that job wanting to change lives. You’re going to meet people who change yours. You really have no idea what you’re doing, you know that much. As it turns out, that’s really about all you do know right now. You’ll learn. You actually learn a lot, and you get to learn it from incredible people.
You want to get married, you want to have kids. You’re not sure if that’s what you’re called to do.
You’re going to go through discernment. Let’s be blunt for a second: it’s gonna be miserable, kiddo. It’s gonna be awful. You hate crying and you are going to cry. A lot. But you know what? You’ll get your answer. It’s going to take a long time. You’re going to go traipsing off to Corpus Christi and California and Spain trying to wring the answer out of God’s hand and you know what? There’s going to come a moment where you are finally able to let your guard down, look at Him unafraid and say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Then you’ll be ready for the answer. And He’ll give it to you.
After that, you’re going to get impatient. Here’s the answer, where’s the action? You’re gonna wait, kid. You’re gonna wait longer than you want to. You’re going to get disappointed in people. You’re going to get frustrated. Really, really frustrated. But you’re going to make some beautiful friends in these five years, and you’re going to grow in friendship with other beautiful girls you already knew, and at just the right moment, over and over, God will send these sweet women to you with the perfect words of hope, peace, and trust. And you will be encouraged.
You’re going to be afraid. A lot. One of the things you become most afraid of in these five years is that you won’t find someone to love in the way you WANT to love. You are longing for marriage, you discern that’s what God has for you, you try to wait patiently (you fail at that a lot, but anyway)…yet over and over, you start to be afraid that maybe your heart won’t even be able to love in the way you desire so deeply to love. You’re afraid you won’t ever be able to let any man love you in the way you yearn to be loved.
Let me tell you something, kiddo…
There’s a man out there. He’s actually discerning in seminary right now so it’s pretty good you haven’t met him yet. You’re both learning to be generous in the very different places God has you. That man learns a lot more about it than you do, you’ll never be able to match that man for generosity, but that perfect smile of his will make you ache to try.
I can’t even begin to tell you how absolutely breathtaking he is.
I actually try pretty regularly to convey to people what he means to me, and there are never the right words. We love words, kid, you then and me now, but there are not enough words for this man. The love you’re longing for and the love I live with are absolutely real. It’s always inside of me like the most unbearably sweet ache. You’re going to reach a day where you look at that man and you say regularly, “I never thought I’d be able to love anybody the way I love you.” And how could you have thought it? It grows every day. Every day there is more love and every day there are fewer words to describe it. In your mind you resort to images of the saints in ecstasy and you’ll think: “Yes. That is the love inside me. That is how it feels.”
The day you marry him is perfect. More than perfect. It’s truly heavenly. You’re trying to imagine it all the time. You never come close. Except the part where you want to get married at Annunciation, because that does happen. It’s better than the best. And at the end of it you belong to that incredible man, and even if the day hadn’t gone so beautifully, you really wouldn’t have cared. But since it did go beautifully, you’re overwhelmed with gratitiude when you think about it.
But the love inside won’t just be a feeling towards this precious, precious man. That love becomes a person. God gives generously, even more generously than your sweet husband, which is truly amazing. He sends a little girl right away (and hopefully more later. I don’t know that part yet.) You’ll love being pregnant. You’ll also be crazy, and anxious, and REALLY ANXIOUS, and you’ll get overwhelmed a lot, by all kinds of things, sometimes by gratitude, and sometimes by the fact that there are two dirty dishes in the sink. I know you think now that you’re too rational for that…by the time you’re me, you won’t be. You will just be crazy.
However, you’ll marry really well, and way up. That man will know sometimes after a look at you that the only thing to do is walk you to the bedroom, set you down gently on the bed, tell you to stay where you are, then clean the kitchen and cook dinner and do all kinds of tremendously helpful things.
After he’s been working all day.
On more than one occasion.
And whenever you start fretting about not getting enough done, he’ll scoop you up, hold you close (nothing will ever heal your heart the way this man’s touch will, kid) and say with his sparkling eyes in his serious face, “Well, as long as you put the eyebrows on the baby today, you got a lot done. I can do everything else for us. Only you can put the baby together.”
Since you’re wondering, yes, he does melt your heart like that regularly. Such as when he writes you poetry on the bathroom mirror. Or sets out your hairdryer and brush while you’re in the shower, so it’s ready for you. Or discovers the perfect way to make decaf coffee (WITH CHOCOLATE) for you so it doesn’t taste decaf, because you hate the way “fake” coffee tastes.
Basically, he’s amazing.
So be encouraged.
Be not afraid.
You’re working on those things now, I’m working on them five years later. But we do learn a lot, kid. We really do. We make progress.
You’ll celebrate that 21st birthday with a surprise party thrown by an incredible friend, by working a benefit dinner, and by having a lot of questions in your wandering heart.
I’ll celebrate 26 with a heart-achingly beloved husband, a precious 30-week-old unborn daughter, a much-anticipated visit from an incredible sister and her family of gorgeous boys…and peace. A lot of peace. Still lots of questions, but they don’t itch under the skin of the heart as much. There’s too much to be amazed about. Too many people to love.
You’ll get better at that.
I will too.