Words to My 22-year-old Self

I belong to a facebook group called Ministry Chick, which is specifically designed for women in ministry. In the short time I have been a part of that group, it has been refreshing to see women come together in support of one another. Today a young woman posted a question that really got me thinking.

Her question was “If you could go back and tell your 22 year old self anything, what would it be?”

Goodness! My 67-year-old self would have plenty to say. But here are the top 10 things in no particular order, except the first one, that I would tell my 22-year-old self.

Put your faith in God. Through the good times and the bad times your faith can sustain you. During your lifetime your faith will be tested. No if, ands, and buts. Seeking God, growing your faith, and spending time in his word; these will never come back void. Do not be afraid to express your doubts and ask your questions when you have them—and you will. God doesn’t cast you away when you have doubts. Just remember that faith does not require sight. Learn to find joy in your faith.

Live with integrity. This world makes it easy to compromise, to evade the truth, and to easily live with sin. Make sure that your word is worth something. Make sure that people who look closely into your life can see someone who lives what they believe. Integrity is reflected in who you are even when no when no one is looking.

Find your passion. God has given you gifts and talents. But you will find that in the church there are many times that you are asked to do things that do not lie in your area of giftedness. Prayerfully and considerately learn to say no to those things, so that you can serve in the areas where God has gifted you. And if the thing you are passionate about seems out of your reach, pray to God for opportunities to use the gifts he gave you. The opportunities will come, not always easily, and sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Be ready for when God calls.

Stay humble and grateful. Pride is so deceitful, and God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. It is easier to stay humble when you remember to give the glory to God for the things you accomplish. It is easy to be proud of our accomplishments rather than being grateful for them. It is easy to respond to accolades with pride rather than a sense of humility that God has allowed us the privilege of doing something good. Gratitude helps us always to remember our blessings in life. It is proven that people who live with an attitude of gratitude are happier in life.

Learn to listen. Everyone has a story. If we truly want to be a light in this world, we need to listen to the stories of others. When we learn to hear someone’s life story, it is easier to forgo judgments about people and develop a true compassion for them. I always think about Jesus and his conversation with the woman caught in adultery. He certainly knew her past and her life with sin, but he was compassionate toward her. While he told her to go and sin no more, he still treated her with dignity. He knew her story. You will meet many people throughout life, and some of them will certainly rub you the wrong way. Learning their stories and trying to see them through God’s eyes will open your heart to become a more compassionate, loving person.

Learn from mistakes. Wisdom is usually learned. It comes from mistakes made, lessons learned, and willingness to change. Everyone makes mistakes, and not all of them are sins. But along the way chances are you will sin. Sometimes you will mess up so badly you cannot see your way out of things. But being willing to step up to the plate, acknowledge your mistakes, and confess your sins, is a huge step toward learning wisdom.

Do not let the past define you. Many people dwell in the past and blame it for all the things that are wrong in their life today. We all have a past. Some are lucky enough to have a good one, but many have things that have occurred that have left scars. Our past has shaped us into the people we are today. But only let God define who you are, not your past. You are his child, beloved by Him.

Learn to use your voice. I am going to go out on a limb here and generalize that most men do not struggle as much with the issue of finding their voice. Women  sometimes tend to lose who they are because they are so invested in the lives of others. A daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, etc. It is easy to lose you sometimes. So throughout your life, in all the stages of your life, remember to stay connected to the very essence of who you are. Take time for self-care while you are taking care of the needs of others.

Learn to say no. It is easy to become derailed from the things that God wants you to accomplish by the things that others see necessary. Many of the things people ask you to do in the church (and guilt you into doing) are good things—teaching, working in the nursery, cleaning, organizing a program, and being VBS director. But not everything is in your area of giftedness or necessary for you to do. Learn to use good judgment in the things you say yes and no to in your life. Pray about opportunities when you are asked to do something. Learn gracious ways of saying no.

Develop friendships. God created us to be relational beings. First, we need to have a relationship with him, and second, we need a relationship with others. You will find a lot of your friends in life will be seasonal and with you for a time, but you will need to develop some life-long friendships with some special people in your life. The close friends will be fewer, but definitely more precious. Those friends need to be willing to talk about the hard things, hold you accountable, pray with you, laugh with you, cry with you and sometimes, just sit and be with you. They are the kind who know your heart. They are the kind who know your flaws and still love you. They are the kind that are one of the best gifts from God.

There are so many things I can really tell my younger self, but in all honestly, they have been lessons learned on this journey of life. And had I but listened, they are all things I heard from others along the way. I just had to experience them for myself. It is how I learn the best. There is a song by Mercy Me called “Dear Younger Me” that expresses just what I feel sometimes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l70C3ePyIQ

 

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What’s Her Story?

We all have them in our churches. Women whose lives are full of hurt and pain, who struggle with job loss, economic woes, health issues, parenting issues, and more. They sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, trying to trust God with their struggles and frequently wearing a mask to cover their pain. We will never know their stories unless we make the effort to invite them into our lives and discover who they are.

A friend and I listened as a woman shared her story of a son who is struggling with paranoid schizophrenia. She lived in fear as she watched his hallucinations and bizarre behaviors become increasingly more frequent. The hours leading to his involuntary hospitalization were something I would never wish for anyone. My heart ached for her and her pain. We held hands as we prayed for her family. My friend and I both prayed that God’s healing hand would be on this family, but it was her prayer that made me cry as I truly saw the heart of a mother who loved God. Continue reading “What’s Her Story?”

Living with Brokenness

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a Fresh Grounded Faith conference. I heard Ann Voskamp, Laura Story, and Jennifer Rothschild share their stories and their challenges as women of God. I loved listening to these women because they were authentic and real. They didn’t paint a “rah, rah, everything is good in our lives” picture! Instead, they talked about our wounds and our challenges and our pain–our brokenness.

thAs I listened this weekend I thought about the multitude of women I know who have shared their stories with me through the years. Stories they have never shared with anyone, secrets so deep and painful they affected the rest of their lives. And I have been a keeper of the stories that have been told to me in confidence. My heart breaks every time I hear one of them. Continue reading “Living with Brokenness”

Surviving Transition

ChangeTransitions. We all have them. Some transitions fill us with expectation and excitement, others fill us with dread and uncertainty.  Some transitions are of our own making, others are sometimes forced upon us.  But there is no doubt, good or bad, we all need to learn how to adjust to transition in our lives.  It is especially difficult to make a smooth transition when change comes our way, not through our own choosing, but through circumstances–sometimes beyond our control or understanding. Continue reading “Surviving Transition”

The Man on the Honor Flight

10686785_10203126098255503_2263128286258544606_nToday is a very special day for a very special man. My brother-in-law, Steve, will be boarding a plane for an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. If you are not familiar with an honor flight, these flights take a veteran to Washington DC, where they can see memorials honoring those who have gone before. What Steve will see today includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Vietnam Wall, both of which will be moving experiences for him. This blog is a letter to a man who is not only my brother-in-law, but also a brother to me.

Dear Steve, Little did we know how big a part of our lives you would be when Sharron brought you home for the first time. I remember looking up and seeing all 6’4″ of you and being amazed at how tall you were. What I have discovered since then is that not only are you tall in height, you are tall in spirit. We have shared a lot of memories through the years. Continue reading “The Man on the Honor Flight”

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

Cast Your Bread upon the Waters

I have been going through the daunting task of selling my home. Literally, months of preparation have taken place. The house was suffering from years of neglect simply because financially things have been difficult for me, especially since my husband’s death six years ago. The interior was dark with dark brown doors on all of the rooms, a tired kitchen and gold and blue bathrooms. The exterior? Well, that is a long, complicated story. Suffice it to say, in this house every time I turned around, some new issue had reared its ugly head. But this is where I can truly say, God is in control. Continue reading “Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters”

Sometimes Life Is Hard

tearsSometimes life is just hard. My heart has been full of sadness for some of my friends and family lately. I cannot tell you how many of them have been going through crisis mode.  The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, the loss of a child, the heartbreak of a broken marriage, the pain of broken confidences, a diagnosis of cancer, and the list goes on.  Each one of them are precious individuals who are reeling from their hurt and pain. I wish I could fix it for them. But I can’t. Continue reading “Sometimes Life Is Hard”

Being Enough

Sometimes I struggle in life with the futility of being enough.  I want to stop being “ordinary” and do something special with my life. You may know what I mean. I think if I am just a better person, or if I work just a little harder, or if I do just a little more, or if I am just a little smarter–I can be loved more, recognized more, rewarded more, respected more . . . and, you get the picture.  In all honesty, that kind of thinking is futile and leads to discouragement and disappointment.  Because I am searching for significance in the wrong things and the wrong people.

That’s why I love God’s grace. Continue reading “Being Enough”

The Throne of Grace

Today I will be perfectly candid with you.  If you are looking for a feel-good, inspirational blog post, you may want to just stop reading now.  This is not it.  This is the real truth, probably one that more people identify with than even I could imagine.

In all honesty, when I was reading everyone’s “Thanks for a great 2014” post on Facebook, I wanted to post “2014 sucked (a word I intensely dislike yet found myself using) and I will be glad when it is over.” Continue reading “The Throne of Grace”

Leaving a Legacy

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at our annual ladies’ tea and talked about leaving a legacy.  This was actually prompted by the recent death of my mother and knowing what a wonderful legacy she has left. She has touched more lives than anyone can possibly know and the ripple effect will continue on for generations.  As I thought about this, I also thought about how my life is being lived and what kind of legacy I am leaving for my family and friends.

Here are some of my conclusions on leaving a legacy. Shannon Adler said, “Carve you name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” We want to leave a positive legacy. But how do we get there? Here are some areas we need to think about.

Continue reading “Leaving a Legacy”