Day 18: Day 18: If You Could Have a Conversation With Your Younger Self, What Would You Say?
I started this blogging challenge over a year ago and I’ve only worked my way up to Day 18…though the timing of writing this particular blog is so perfect, I can’t help but believe that even in our busyness and forgetfulness and procrastination, God’s timetable still manages to have its way with us.
I’ve just finished reading Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty, and though she’s married with five kids, I saw so many parallels between my walk with God and hers, I literally couldn’t devour the pages fast enough. And after planning all day to write this blog, when I got to the Epilogue of the book only to discover it was Sara imparting wisdom to her younger self, tears broke free and fell from my eyes…the sweet serendipity that only a true “God Wink” can bring leaving me breathless.
You see, my birthday is tomorrow. At midnight tonight, my 35th year will officially be behind me…making today particularly reflective and a little bittersweet for me, because this year has been nothing short of amazing. If any year of our lives can be labeled our “God Year,” this one would have to be it for me. I have pursued Him endlessly over this past year…through heartbreak and triumph, through dark seasons and joyfully light ones, through obedience and moments of stubborn rebellion. I (literally) pursued Him clear across the country in an RV. I pursued His hand in a long-suffering relationship that I desperately needed closure in until, after eight years, He delivered closure. I threw my biggest dream down at His feet with such voracity and surrender that I finally left room for Him to make it come true (hitting the New York Times Bestseller List with Never Been to Vegas).
Yes, if 33 was my “Jesus Year,” then 35 was most definitely my “God Year.” A year in which I sought Him, questioned Him, cried out to Him, yelled at Him, begged for more of Him, challenged Him, and ultimately surrendered to Him. Which puts me in an entirely different head and heart space to talk to my younger self than I was in a year ago, or even a few weeks ago when I dusted off my Blogging Challenge and committed to finishing it.
My mom posted some baby pictures of me earlier today in celebration of my birthday tomorrow, and as I looked at the pictures of that smiling, innocent baby, I thought to myself:
You’re going to know pain. You’re going to be bullied in your teens, suffer from debilitating depression that feels like it will never end in your 20’s, and question whether or not you are meant to wander the earth alone in your 30’s.
You won’t always smile like you’re smiling now.
You will question God. You will doubt His existence at times. You will run from Him. You will flagrantly disobey Him. You will wrestle with Him and His will for your life. Once you figure out the great calling you were put on this earth for, it will overwhelm you at times and you’ll try to hand it back to Him. Ultimately, though…through all the wrestling and the fighting and the rebelling and the questioning, you will come to know Him and His heart in such a beautiful way. You will fall in love with Him. He will be your hiding place, your safe refuge. He will be your strength, because girl…you aren’t known for your strength. The only way you will be able to stand on stages and write books and open your heart to the world and face fears and battle back against deep feelings of insecurity and inadequacy is through Him. (It’s not going to be through you, just in case you ever try and get big-headed.)
You will know loneliness. Oh, young Mandy…this is the part that I wish I could spare you from, but I can’t…because to spare you from loneliness is to spare you from the very intimacy with God that the loneliness will cultivate. You will feel, quite often, actually…as though you are cursed with loneliness, plagued by it. You will live alone, learn to go to movies and dine alone, worship alone, even travel alone. You will have friends, beautiful, wonderful ones…but your life will be marked by a certain solitude that will make you feel set apart from other people… “Normal” people.
But here’s the good news.
You ARE set apart from other people, “normal” people. Normal lost your address, boo. Your life will tell many stories, but NORMAL isn’t one of them. So when you are tempted over the years to try and squeeze yourself into boxes and molds and labels to hide the proportions of your life in order to make others feel safe …DON’T. It will be futile. You won’t ever fit those molds. YOU WON’T EVER FIT. This feels like a curse, but is one of the most beautiful blessings God bestowed upon your life.
Somewhere in your 30’s, you’ll start to accept yourself and your awkward aloneness. And out of the ashes of trying for years to be someone you’re not will rise everything that you ARE. And the most unexpected spark will light a most unexpected fire…a fire that will inspire and encourage other women like you to stop apologizing for who they are, too. To walk bravely in their brokenness. To sashay through their solitude. To leap for joy in the midst of their loneliness.
So keep smiling, beautiful Mandy. You can’t possibly see now how much your life will matter. It won’t matter because of something YOU do or something YOU accomplish but because of something God will do and accomplish THROUGH you. The very weakness that will often make you feel like a failure will be your most shining asset. Because that God that you question and wrestle with and love and pursue and cry out to will be able to use that weakness as a vessel for His strength. And it will be beautiful.
To paraphrase a quote by Stephen King, I will close with this: “Will I tell you that Mandy lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And she did live.”
Here’s to 36. I’m ready for you.
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