Happy 18th birthday. Today you are in the mountains of Colorado, serving students in the dining hall at Young Life camp. This will be one of the best birthdays you will recall – surrounded by the beauty in a place that feels like God created it for kids to run towards Him. These few weeks are so special. Soak them in and keep that mountaintop high – feeling like you can reach out and touch God’s presence – for as long as possible.
Soon you will be headed off to the College of Charleston. Your first few months won’t be the easiest, but you find your way in a mix of sorority recruitment and falling into the beat of school.
Rush will be a difficult experience. You will be judged before you have walked into the door. Other women will try to keep you out of the houses that their sacred letters hang on. You will cringe over the way that younger women are judged after you have become a part of, and become friends with, those that judged you before. While you find a home, you would have survived without it. Those that you are friends with in the long run would have loved you regardless of the letters emblazoned across your jersey. And no one will remember what you wore to winter formal, so let’s let that go as well.
Fall semester continues and you will be hit with a ton of bricks – your first experience of loss. Seven beautiful souls will pass in a beach house fire, bringing together your community like never before. It’s your first realization of how precious and short life can be. You will watch friends fall apart, and not know how to begin to recover. You will return home shortly after, to learn that your father no longer lives at home. Your parents have separated, but you won’t process any of these feelings for quite some time. You have developed an incredible bounce back rate that allows everyone to believe that you are just fine. ‘I’m okay’ you will say to those that ask. And you’ll march on, adding new sisters to your life and your heart.
Freshman year comes with relationships that change you. All just trying to find your way. But you have the tendency to settle. No one will measure up to what is in your heart. Know that, and we have somewhere to start. There is a deep part of your soul that can only be completed by the Lord. It was meant to be that way, because He built you to long for Him. No one can ever compete with your Father in heaven. Every man will fall short because they are human. But there is a love that was meant for you to feel with your husband – the one that God intended you to find. He’s coming, and I urge you to wait for that moment when He will deliver on a promise for you to be loved on this Earth. And at that moment, I need you to have all of the energy to run full speed for the path that has been set for you. You weren’t intended to trip over these boys when you were made to be with a man who can love you as a husband should.
You will succeed in school, just as you always have. You will fall in love with a major during an Interpersonal Communication 101 class. But coming out of college with a communication major is one of the hardest things that you will do. What to Google? Who to reach out to? It’s impossible to find a direction. There are skills being taught at CofC that are harder to come by once you leave school. So get the education while you can. If you want to be your artsy, creative self, then choose Graphic Design. At least learn how to edit the photos that you will one day get your husband to take. (Thanks babe).
You are worth far more than you would ever believe – from your heart to your creativity. Use all of it and spread your kindness like it’s your job. A person once told you that you are only using the creativity contained within your pinky finger. What would it mean to use it to your entire capacity?
Sometimes I feel as if your passions are scattered about. My greatest fear for you is that when your time here has ended, you will stand before your God and He will show you where your true limits lied – tell you the grand plans He had in mind when He first spoke your name. Instead strive to hear, “Well done my child. You used everything I gave you – every ounce of creativity from your fingertips down to your toes, every drop of ability in your body. You created kindness, and loved boldly until the last beat of your heart. You were a light, and you are now welcome to shine among my stars.” We were all put on this Earth for a reason. I pray that you live out your reason.
Friendships. Your friends will change many times in your life. They will change after high school. They will change after college. And they will probably change after you have children. Some will stick around for the long haul, but those can be counted on one hand. You will also have people that will surprise you – those that enter into your life and hang on. Those people are far and few between, but you will recognize them when they come. They truly care about your life and your well being. They are like tiny friend unicorns sprinkled about, and they become a light in your life. You will also learn a lot about what it means to be a friend. You’ll mess up some, let a few go, and be burned by others. But you will recognize each when they come later on in your life. You’ll get to see through the crap that others try to use to put you down. Don’t let them. And remember that your heart is too beautiful to hold onto any form of hate.
What’s coming. You are going to marry the most amazing man that you could have dreamt up. Even not really, because this man that is planned for you came completely out of left field and is no where near what you have ever imagined. He is so much better. He loves you for who you are and that capable of thing I was talking about before. He knows what you can do. And he believes in you. He will continue to push you until you are proud of yourself. Don’t mistake this with him being proud – because he already is. He loves you more than you ever thought possible.
But this love and fullness does not come without trials. Outside of normal stresses, you will be hit with medical problems like you would not believe. And the one thing that you want to give your husband more than anything in the world, will not come easy. You will cuss. You will cry. And you will not understand why it’s all happening. But don’t doubt the reason. God knows and He has a plan for the rest of this.
You won’t see it at 18, but it will be as clear as day on birthday 28. God always delivers. He always has a plan.
When I look back now, I can see that He has been faithful through it all. Faithful through the hardest parts of your life, or you wouldn’t still be standing to see this day. He knows you fully and completely, to the point where you never have anything to fear. He is with you today at 18, and He will be with you more still at 28.
So enjoy these ten years, young self. But don’t doubt who you are. There will be times in your life where people will challenge you to forget your being. They will try to break you down into nothing. But you are full of fire and flame and those that you surround yourself with should only fuel it. Be a light to others, but don’t forget to be the light in your own life.
You are loved.