Dear Me: A Letter for the End of 2014

{Instead of writing a list of resolutions I probably wouldn’t actually keep, I’m writing a letter to myself for the end of 2014.}

Well hi there self,

I’ve written to you before–to the 16-year-old version and the 28-year-old version, but never the you only a year away. It seems more intimidating this way, to write to the you only 363ish days away.

I wonder what you’ve seen in those days. You’re going places soon–Denver, New York City, Nashville–the dates are on your calendar, your new suitcase waiting to be broken in. But maybe that’s just the beginning of the list. What other places will that suitcase see this year?

Photo Credit: Flickr User Muffet, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Muffet, Creative Commons

More important than where you went, though, is who you became. What have you learned in this past year? Have you let go of some lies? Have you held onto truths? Have you loved as well as you can?

Have you let God be the center of it all?

Whatever goals you did or didn’t accomplish this year, whatever good or bad happened to you that you could or couldn’t control, I hope you know that who you’re becoming matters more than all of it.

 

Maybe 2014 was the year it all seemed to go wrong, and you were left hanging onto shreds of what you thought you knew.

Or maybe it all (or mostly) went right, and you stand looking into 2015 from a mountaintop of glee.

Whatever the case, I’m wishing you well for wherever you are.

 

I think we both know that your biggest hope for 2014, as it has been for several years now, is that you will find a Somebody. A Jesus-loving boy who will help you love God more each day; not somebody who will “complete” you, because you are not incomplete, but somebody who will encourage you to be more you than you’ve ever been before, who gets that God is always my aim because God is always his aim too.

If that hasn’t happened, I hope you still know that you’re completely wonderful, excellent, and worthy all on your own.

 

Maybe in this past year you’ve gotten better about comparing yourself to others, but if you haven’t yet, here’s a reminder: It’s not worth it. Your story is not theirs, and that’s okay. Look for the goodness in your own, and let them have theirs. Life, and especially this funny time of young adulthood, looks different for everyone. Embrace it. Learn from it.

 

Most of all, I hope you’ve held onto hope.

 

Happy 2015, self.

Sincerely,

Me

p.s. What would you like to tell yourself for the end of 2014?

 

A Letter to 28-Year-Old Me

A year ago at this time, only a couple of months after graduating from college, the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” could send me into a tailspin of uncertainty, doubt, frustration, angst, and melancholy. My answer was usually some cobbled together and hopefully-slightly-prettier version of “I don’t know.” Even now, it’s not a question I can answer with certainty.

As I’ve been getting ready to move though, I’ve been thinking about what the next 5 years might hold for me. Though they’re not quite as uncertain as the last 5 were, there are no guarantees in life–of where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, who will or won’t be in my life. I’ve written to past me, but there are things about this time that future me needs to know and be reminded of. There is good here to be held onto.

 

Dear 28-year-old me,

Hi there. I wonder where you are; where you’re living, who you’re living with, what you’re doing for a living, if your interests have broadened or changed since now. You’re different now, perhaps in ways both good and bad, but there are traces of past you there too–I hope they’re the good ones. So, 28-year-old me, this is what 23-year-old you needed to say.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Muffet, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Muffet, Creative Commons

You don’t know it all. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot in the past 5 years, but remember what it was like to feel like you had the world to learn. There will always be people around you can learn from, both those who are older and more experienced than you and those you are younger and less experienced. Let them bring their gifts to the table, and learn from those gifts. Appreciate the beauty of always having more to learn.

Remember the meetings, the phone calls, the emails that reminded you your job has meaning. You might not be at the same place or doing the same thing, but right now, there are moments you know you are doing good work that matters, to other people and to God. And it is lovely. Wherever you are, in whatever you’re doing, find those moments. They will be there, even if you have to search long and hard for them.

Read through your old journals. See how far you’ve come? I don’t know what you’ll be dealing with, but be reminded of what you’ve gotten through before. See the ways you’ve been wounded and then surprised by the redemption God works sometimes. Use what you have learned to do things differently. Take the better path, even when it’s more difficult. Look back and see the places you didn’t notice God working at the time, and marvel at what he’s done.

Embrace the unexpected. Seek it out when necessary. Maybe you have an incredibly stable living situation, job, relationships, finances, transportation, and everything else, so the unexpected isn’t playing a prominent role in your life. Go find some. Do something crazy. Be spontaneous. Don’t get stuck in a rut. You will always be too young to be boring. It doesn’t have to be big or grandiose to be exciting.  

Keep writing. If you have stopped, I fear that something in you may have broken, that you have believed the lies whispering, “Your words don’t matter.” They do. Even if their only value comes in the sorting of your thoughts and emotions as you write them, there is goodness and worth in that. Remember the time people have told you your words gave voice to what they were feeling or thinking but couldn’t quite express. Maybe you haven’t heard that at all between now and then, but you did once. Use your words well.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whoever is or isn’t around, no matter what has happened to you–God is there.

And future self? I hope we’re doing well.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What would you tell future you?

Dear Me: Go To Church

The topic of church has come up a lot lately: in my own blog posts, in other articles I’ve been reading, in a class I’m the teaching assistant for, in conversations, and more. I intended to write about why I think church is so important, until I found something in an old notebook. This is a snippet of an un-eloquent, rambling prayer I wrote my freshman year of college.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Vik Nanda, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Vik Nanda, Creative Commons

It’s hard for me to go to church, honestly. Lately I’ve just really been wondering what good it is. Like [we talked about in some of my classes], why have so many Sundays of preaching produced so few spiritually mature Christians? I feel like I’m getting more out of writing all this than I may have gotten out of a sermon. I don’t know that for sure, of course, but I feel more like I’m talking to you. Maybe church is the right thing, and I’m sorry for not doing the right thing.

There’s a few things younger me should hear about church.

 

Dear College Freshman Brianna,

You’re right. Going to church is really, really hard sometimes. You’re busy, and honestly, there may be occasional Sundays when sleeping in is more beneficial to your overall well-being than going to church (but not nearly as many as you might think right now.)

Having the advantage of a few years, you should know this about your church-going experience: It will get worse before it gets better. I wish I could say otherwise, but it’s true.

Yet, even in the “worse” time, you should still go. Even though you will walk into church nervous and scared, coming in through the back entrance because the main one is far too intimidating, you will hear good messages. The style of worship will be different than you grew up with, and it will expand your understanding of the world and Christianity and God. You will attend a really awkward “young people” lunch, feel ignored and overlooked, and wonder why on earth you bother with church.

I’ve yet to find a direct command in the Bible saying, “Thou shalt go to church.” It’s not one of the Ten Commandments, and Jesus doesn’t specifically talk about “church” in the way we know it now.

But, younger me, there’s this: Jesus spent a lot of time with people, which is a large part of what church is about. It’s absolutely important to worship God, and you will do that in church (and elsewhere), but you will meet and experience the body of believers in church as well. Growing up, you’ve seen some of the bad parts of church, as well as some of the beautiful parts, and you will see those in the next few years too, but in new ways. The brokenness, the humanness, the imperfectness of the body; and the beautiful, the divine, the glory in the body.

You wrote, “Maybe church is the right thing, and I’m sorry for not doing the right thing.” I’m not sure God wants us to feel guilty for not going to church, but I think church is his design for how he wants believers to learn and grow together and from each other. Part of going to church isn’t about seeing what you can get from it (though it is important to listen to the sermons), but seeing what you can give to it.

Yup. You.

Even though you feel too young and uneducated and inadequate, you have gifts. Discover them. Use them to serve your fellow church-goers. Just like you have tons of things to learn from them, they can probably learn a few things from you as well.

So get out of bed. Go to church.

And hang in there. There is beauty in the broken, even when the broken is the body of believers.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What would you say to younger you about church?

Dear Me

(This post is part of a link up at the blog Chatting at the Sky. You can find the full list of participants here.)

From Emily Freeman:

This younger generation is all around us, but sometimes we forget the types of things they are thinking and walking through. As a way to introduce my new book, Graceful, I wanted to encourage my peers to remember what it was like to be sixteen again.

Perhaps writing a letter to ourselves will help us to see the people who are sixteen still. And maybe be moved with compassion on their behalf. 

To me, at 16:

Hey there younger me.

First, I have to answer a question you’d probably ask right away: at the age of 22, you will still be single. You’ll also have 3 fun, adorable niece and nephews, a rockin’ rest of your family, quality friends, a church you love, a college degree, and some great stories to tell. Your singleness will not define you.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I have some other things you should probably know.

You’re going to make a really difficult, but necessary choice about some friendships in the near future. I’m still proud of you for that. It’s going to suck a whole lot at the time, but trust me–it gets better. And because of your choice, you’re going to become friends with some incredible people, who you will make wonderful memories with. Be excited.

Though your college decision process will feel more like an UNdecision, it’s going to land you exactly where you’re supposed to be. Your four years there will be so full of joy at times you’ll think you might explode, and, truthfully, so full of sadness and disappointment you’ll think you might shatter. Neither of these things will happen; they will work together to make you a better person. You will learn SO. MUCH. In the classroom, but even more out of it. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself, like that you don’t like change but handle it better when you personally have a say in it, and that you value loyalty and honesty very highly, which can lead to disappointment. These may feel like flaws sometimes, but it’s how you handle them that counts.

You’ll do some stupid stuff, like staying up far too late and bailing on studying for exams to go sledding. You’ll do some really cool stuff, like visiting London and Edinburgh. (You’re going to love it. You’ll also throw up at the South Kensington tube station, your plane will get delayed 6 hours and another flight will get cancelled, yet you will count the trip as one of the best experiences of your life. As you should) You’ll do some boring, tedious stuff, like hours of data entry because you need the money. And you’ll love some of it, and hate some of it. You’ll learn from some of it, and be completely baffled by some of it. And that’s ok.

Now, some things I wish I would’ve known when I was your age:

Keep writing. It may not be necessary to post every thought and frustration on your Xanga, but write them somewhere. When you abandon Xanga for Facebook, write somewhere else. Even if no one else will ever read it.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Get over the little annoyances and take a look at the bigger picture. When you’re 22, a lot of that stuff won’t matter.

Read read read. Not just the fluffy, entertaining stuff–read the stuff you have to slog through at times, but will expand your mind and teach you things you need to know.

Learn to let go. It’s okay that some of those friendships from high school and college won’t last; the ones that DO last are the ones that really matter.

Pay attention now; this is the most important thing to know:

Even when things suck, God is at work. You might not always see it, but I’ve seen things you won’t know when you’re in the thick of a mess. He’s working it out.

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” ~Colossians 1:17

Really; they do. It’ll tick you off sometimes when people throw Bible verses at you, but know why they do it? Cause those Bible verses are true. And sometimes you need it.

It’s all working together.

Sincerely,

The older, hopefully wiser,

~Brianna!~