To my pal Jen Hatmaker,
I turned 34 yesterday and thought of this letter I once heard you read. I may be steeling the idea for today, but nothing can touch your creative prowess, so rest assured. I just think it’s important to tell the younger me some very critical things about life and weight gain and why a margarita doesn’t really taste good until you become a parent, and this letter is the perfect way to do that. So, thanks Jen. May we be forever friends…….in my head.
To the younger me……
You’re a dreamer. You always have been. As an awkward teen you lay in your bed, listening to Celine Deon and Mariah Carey and the soundtrack to The Bodyguard dreaming of all your life could be. Fair warning, it’s better than you could possibly imagine right now. You dream of exploring the world and riding horses through wheat fields bareback in the mountains(what 17 year old does that?!). That hasn’t happened yet. But a lot of other cool stuff has.
Right now you live for the next big thing. You live for horse shows and cute boys(well, just one) and driving and TCBY and senior year and college. For eating pizza and drinking Surge(enjoy it while you can, it’s only on the market for 6 years, which should tell you how terrible it is for you. But it’s all good, right now your hips can take it and you are lacking cellulite, so live it up). The dreams you have are all relatively short term. As you get older, they get deeper and more meaningful…..and bigger. Let them.
You don’t ride horses anymore. But you run. And you love it(shocking I know. Right now you’d rather eat dirt. But that changes). You still love the outdoors and have a ridiculous passion for the mountains and fresh air. It takes you a while to figure out what you want to do apart from being a mom, so you take some big leaps towards some big goals. You become a personal trainer(so totally ironic considering the Wendy’s and Chipotle era your arteries survive in a few years). You’ll get to encourage and teach and love and be sarcastic and wordy, all things you love through this weird and totally crazy thing called the internet. All you know if it right now is chatting on AOL and using Napster, but it gets even crazier in the next few years.
So dream and dream big. You’ll feel sometimes as a wife and a mom that you really don’t have any place for dreaming. That you need to focus on the dishes and the carpool and the homework and such. Just don’t stifle your dreams. God made you to dream. You’ll have so many dreams come true by the time you turn 34. And you’ll still have some on the back burner. You may struggle sometimes to leave them there, but just wait. Say yes to what God might have for you and Rob, you might be surprised what He does with it.
On College and Marriage
So, you don’t know this yet, but that cute boy you’re dating will be your husband in…wait for it…3 years. That’s right. 3. You both lose your minds and decide getting married at 20 and engaged at 19 is a smart thing to do. That all you need is love baby. You live off Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches and Chipotle(a Dallas thing you’ll learn about soon enough). You hit up 2 years of college, from which you walk away totally and utterly confused about what you want to do with your life. But that’s ok, you become a wife. You’ll work and struggle a bit in this new big city. You may cry a lot. But you’ll make life long friends. The kind that will always and forever be a part of your story. It will be your saving grace as you try to find your place as a young wife and a new city gal. You’ll gain a few lb’s. Well, more than a few. Girl, don’t wait to learn to cook until you have kids. Do it NOW! You’ll save yourself an extra 75 lbs once you find yourself pregnant and feeling(and looking……so sorry) like a beached whale.
The first few years of marriage are pretty breezy. You guys will travel some, but not enough. So I would tell you to travel. Go see places. Take some risks. Do it before you start that family. Once you have kids, you’ll be surprised at how adventuresome you become, but I think part of it is because you didn’t get to do as much as you wanted before babies. You’ll still have a life but it will change. So, go be a little crazy now. Sip some wine in Napa and hike some mountains in Colorado. Go overseas, because you’ll do it at 33 for the first time, and need medication due to the claustrophobia and fear of flying you develop as you get old. So lame. So do it now while you can sit for 8 hours without having to pee every 15 minutes.
Enjoy getting to know Rob. Don’t be afraid to get him out of those pleated jeans that aren’t even cool in 1998. Buy him a cool pair and he’ll never look back. He’ll thank you for it later.
Learn his dreams and his strengths and weaknesses. You’ll have some rough moments but overall, those first 4 years are heavenly. You’ll be homesick, but don’t put it on him to get you back to Tennessee. Trust him. Trust his leadership and that he’s doing what’s best for you. You’ll stay in Dallas a long time, so settle in sister. Learn to love it and not wish it all away to be in a different place. You’ll still crave mountains and nature and fewer shopping malls and highways, but it’s where you are planted….so grow there.
Don’t try to change your man. He’s going to have a different way of communicating, parenting, walking with Jesus, leading. But he’s wise. And God has given him vast amounts of that wisdom to lead you and your dreamer self to security and a really good place. You need him. Otherwise you’d be traveling the country in a giant RV living on love and the land, and we know that kind of thing doesn’t exactly get kids to college. Although it would be fun, and that’s sort of your MO. But you need more than fun, you need some security and a solid foundation, and he gives that to you.
He’s your best friend now, but just wait. It gets even better. You’ll know couples divorcing in their 20’s. Brace yourself. Marriage isn’t easy and it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. In 2015 it’s just unusual. You’ll be the weird ones. Affairs and pornography and addictions take marriages every day. Healthy ones are the rarity, but it’s worth fighting for. It takes work. It takes a choice. It takes a friendship and communication and all the things you learn in pre-marital counseling times a thousand. It’s hard. But it’s beautiful. He’ll be your very favorite person when you are 34, just as he was at 16. You’ll walk this crazy life road together navigating through some hard stuff. It gets hard. But then, it gets awesome. And hard again, and even more awesome after that. Because the more hard stuff you walk through together, the more awesome the whole oneness thing becomes. So stick with it, do the work and love him for who He is. He’ll know you better than anyone. But he’ll never pick up his shoes, and you’ll trip over them every single morning. Get over it.
So you may have an oopsy. Like, a good year before “the plan” to start a family, you’ll find out your pregnant…surprise!! Word to the unwise, the label on the birth control that ensures it is in fact ineffective when taking an antibiotic IS NOT A JOKE. It’s like a for real thing. So, you experience a fairly miserable pregnancy full of pre-term labor and swollen feet and you will wonder what all the fuss has always been about, because puking in the kitchen sink every morning is JUST NOT FUN. Pregnancy won’t be your jam. But that baby though. He’ll have your heart from the get go. He’ll be your hard one. Be patient. Don’t get angry. Just trust that God is going to use that will of his and he’ll turn into a pretty awesome 4th grader one day. He’ll be funny and witty and everyone’s friend. He will be fiercely independent and won’t even cry or look back when he goes to Kindergarten. But, you’ll appreciate that about him as he gets older. And He’ll be an amazing big brother, just wait.
Then, along comes #2. He’s blond. And it’s weird having another boy, but you adore his sweet and easy-going personality. Then he gets sick. He’ll spit up like it’s his job and you may or may not have moments of total insanity. You’ll sleep on his floor for 8 months, keeping him from choking and plugging that paci. He’ll keep it til he’s 3, and people will say that you should take it away when he’s 1…..don’t. Because who really cares. And parenting turns people all sorts of crazy.
You’ll do what it takes to sleep, and that’s ok. Don’t carry around mom guilt, let it go sister. He’s 3 surgeries in before he’s totally healthy, but he’s tough. He doesn’t let stuff phase him and he holds his own. He’s affectionate and sweet and genuine. He’s a little more sensitive so navigate gently with him at times. Let him be himself, because eventually he’ll be the middle child. Nurture his interest in Jesus and scripture and music, he genuinely does care and want to know. And on that whole middle child thing….
You decide to go for a third. Not because you must have a girl, but because you feel there is a spot missing. And to your total shock, it’s a girl. OH. CRAP. You won’t know what to do with her. She’s spunky and smart and way beyond her years. She’s an easy baby which is great, because you’ll have a 1st grader when she’s born. How crazy is that? You’ll miss parent teacher meetings and baseball games. That year is a blur. 3 rocks your world in the best way possible, but you won’t fold all your towels the same way anymore. You’ll throw them in the cabinet and shut it as fast as you can before they fall out. Because that’s what you have time for. She’s Lila. She’ll test you and challenge your intelligence, and you’ll have moments you think she may just be smarter than you. But stand firm. Hold your ground. Anger doesn’t make it better, only worse. So, decide to hold your steady ground with a firm resolve to NOT LET HER WIN. And all is well. She’ll be your delight. Your side kick. She’ll love painting nails and shopping with you and playing in the dirt with the boys. She’s a little of all of you.
On Life and Jesus
Lock it in for the long haul. As you get older you’ll become more sure of who you are and what you want from this life. You’ll start to realize that what matter’s is not having a pair of 7 Jeans and the Louis V. purse(right now, you haven’t a clue what these things are, but you will). In fact, before you know it, you’ll be over it all. Just knowing it doesn’t matter and won’t last. You’ll want depth. You’ll want relationships and for your kids to grow up a little more down to earth and less Xbox Under Armour wearing cell phone wanting entitled kids. You want more for them. So, don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Be the weird parent. It’s all good. Take them on adventures together. Do stuff as a family. Embarass them. Laugh together. Keep them close and tight but give them independence when they need it and are ready for it. It’s good for them. And for the love of all that is holy teach those boys to clean up, fold laundry and put their dishes in the sink. Their future wives will thank you.
Live in the moment. Grow where you are planted. It’ll be hard. You’ll be surrounded by wealth and material stuff. It’ll be hard to keep your focus on eternal things at times. But you’ll also learn a lot about Jesus. The real Jesus. Not just the church one. You’ll learn to love people regardless of how much they have, what they look like, where they come from, wether or not they do things you would do or go places you wouldn’t normally go. You’ll want to get in the trenches with them, because that’s what Jesus did. You’ll want to love and make a difference, so do it. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let legalism and judgements hold you back from truly living the Jesus life. Because they’ll try to. Love God. Love other’s. Everything else will fall into place.
I think that covers it. Live life. It’s short. So very short. That’ll make more sense to you in a few years, but it passes quickly. You’ll love and lose and cry and laugh. But don’t lose gratitude. Don’t lose sight of the gifts. Enjoy where you are now, you’ll never get those young carefree years back, but you’ll get some pretty amazing joy’s in the journey ahead.