Wednesday, February 11, 2009

If I could write a letter...Age 30

What if you could write a letter to your younger self? What would you say? Would it be witty, wise, or warning? I loved the idea when Angela at Becoming Me said she was going to do it, and since she encouraged us to join in I thought I would give it a try. Would I actually change anything if I could? I don't know. Part of me knows my past has shaped me into who I am, but I can't say there aren't decisions I would change. So, if I could write a letter...

Dear 30 year old Loretta,

You did it; you made it through the past decade! And right now you are feeling stronger and more brave than you have ever felt before. You don't know what the future holds but you feel like you are finally moving forward. And you are, although there are some twists you don't know about yet...

The first thing you need to know is that no matter how things are going, whether they are going great or not, God has a plan and it is not the same as your plan. Resist the urge to take the reins into your own hands, it is going to be your biggest pitfall even now. Oh, you think you have it all figured out now; getting your accounting degree, setting out on an independent life, maybe buying a little cottage, a few cats and settling down to nothing more than being someone's 'honorary aunt'. Girl, is God ever going to knock your socks off!

Yep, this is it. This is the year you meet 'the one'. I'll give you a hint; your heart will know it from the first moment you hear his voice, it will just take a few more months for the rest of you to figure it out. And even now the thought of him will make you smile. (A word of warning...PLEASE try to keep your thoughts from wandering to him during Econ class, it is going to bring you perilously close to failing...but you'll manage to pull it off at the last minute.)

With this joy comes a caveat. Don't take him for granted just because he's so laid back. Yes, you will have a lot on your plate the first year of marriage between finishing school, working, and studying for the CPA exam. You will still be utterly focused on getting that degree, on being the best. Don't make the mistake of thinking this wonderful man is just there to tag along on the Loretta show. Treasure him, let him know how much you love him even in the midst of your busy life. Let him know that you love him MORE than your busy life. If you don't start building the idea of you as a team now it is going to be a lot harder to get there in the future.

The next ten years (or so) of your life are going to be among your best. There will be rough patches, there will be times of doubt and times where you have to REALLY work on stretching your faith. By the end of this time you will be sensing the working of God in your life in ways you never imagined.

Hang in there when you go back to work after Gates is born, I know every fiber of you longs to stay home with him; trust in God's timing on this one.

Don't be afraid to tell someone about how you are feeling and what you are thinking. It will be six more years until you hear the words post-partum OCD and although it finally frees you, you will wish for those six years back.

Go ahead, use cloth diapers from the start instead of waiting until your youngest is almost potty-trained. You'll save a boatload of money and you'll be able to get that obsession with cute prints and patterns out of your system.

Don't let the visiting nurse panic you, go find someone who really knows what she's doing. And when your second child comes along, be stronger and stand up for what you want when you go back to work.

You will lose some friends you thought would be there forever. Don't waste time on bitterness. People grow and people change, some friendships were not meant to withstand that. Yes, it will hurt. Yes, it will make you feel used. You will eventually need to move on. Give thanks for the friends who are in your life now. And give thanks for the blessing they brought into your life while they were a part of it.

It will be rough for awhile after you move; keep on believing in the call that led you there. It is easy to get angry with God when things don't go the way we think they were supposed to go, but that's the control issue again. Give the reins back to God, he knows what he's doing. That job you didn't want? It's going to be the doorway to your dream of staying home. The months spent looking for a church and doubting that you'll find one that feels like home? You'll find one when you least expect it and where you least expect it, and it will be exactly where God wants you. You will really begin learning how to build relationships and how to serve there.

Love your family with all your heart, practice grace and gentleness with them.

Cultivate a life of prayer, a life that is centered on knowing God.

Exercise more in the early part of the decade, you will thank yourself when you turn 40.

Check your neck for lumps. Yes, do it, it's important.

Go ahead, start that blog, be honest, be open, be yourself.

Don't place your identity in who your children are and what they do.

Get Gates a speech evaluation when you first start feeling that something isn't right.

Don't get that haircut at JC Penney salon, it will make you cry. (Which will probably be partly due to pregnancy hormones.)

Learn to rejoice in what you have been given...you are exceedingly blessed.

With joy, your future self.

Monday, February 9, 2009

If I could write a letter...Age 20

What if you could write a letter to your younger self? What would you say? Would it be witty, wise, or warning? I loved the idea when Angela at Becoming Me said she was going to do it, and since she encouraged us to join in I thought I would give it a try. Would I actually change anything if I could? I don't know. Part of me knows my past has shaped me into who I am, but I can't say there aren't decisions I would change. So, if I could write a letter...

Dear 20 year old Loretta,

Yes, it's me again, coming to you live from your future. First of all, let me just say that there is this really nifty thing called the internet, and you will not believe how small computers have gotten. You will also be happy to know that the floppy disks that ate your U.S. History project the day before it was due (the one you spent all semester on) only to magically resurrect it two semesters later are themselves historical artifacts now. And surprise, surprise, despite struggling to learn how to use the word processing program, ten years from now you are going to be really adept with computers and you are even going to learn the basics of several programming languages. Yes, you are.

So, that's the good news.

The bad news is, things are going to get rocky over the next number of years. It is going to feel very dark, but in your darkest times the seeds of grace are going to be planted. It will take time for them to sprout and grow, but I can promise you that they will.

Learn who your friends are. Understand that people sometimes make mistakes when they are trying to help. Learn to recognize the difference between someone who is concerned for you and someone who  wants to use you. You are going to want to push away those who are trying to help you, while turning to those who don't have your best interests at heart. Be careful, friendships are sometimes fragile and easily broken, and once broken you lose that support. The good news is that you will emerge with one friendship still intact, and 20 years from now she will still be your best friend.

Learn about depression and the warning signs, and then don't ignore them. You will save yourself a lot of heartache if you do. (But you won't...just know that down the road a lot of what you are feeling will make sense.) You are going to make decisions out of this that you will regret. Just remember that God is faithful even when we aren't. You may feel that you've ended your life by dropping out in your last semester, but God has a plan for that path, and it will end (or begin?) with finding the love of your life. Yes, you WILL eventually find him!

God is near. Always remember that. God is near. Nothing you do will send him away from you. His grace covers everything. Everything.

Don't let other people define you. Don't let them tell you that they know you better than you know yourself.

When your best friend gets ready to move out of state you are going to feel like you hate her, you are going to think that you are glad she is going, and you are going to feel guilty for feeling that. It's all a cover-up to keep yourself from hurting because you think you're losing her; try to realize that a little sooner than before you are sobbing as she drives away. And then see above about just how long-lasting that friendship is really going to be.

I said it five years ago and I will say it again, you are stronger than you think you are. You will realize that eventually. There will come a day when you stand up and say 'no'. You just have to believe that you are worth standing up for.

Live your own life, not the lives of those you envy. God has given you your own unique style, your own personality and your own gifts. Trying to put on someone else's is only going to make you miserable.

Climb Massanutten peak; you're going to regret it if you move away without doing it.

PLEASE stop writing that awful, emo poetry. You are better than that and you are never going to show it to anyone anyhow. Hang onto the dream of writing, though. It's going to come in useful one day.

Don't get your heart set on guys who barely realize you are alive. The number of dates you have been on is no indication of your future love life. In fact, you are going to end up marrying the first guy to ask you out more than once. (Well, actually you are going to end up working for the first guy to ask you out more than once, and you are going to thank your lucky stars you were smart enough to turn him down for the second date, although you are going to eat your words about accountants being boring by becoming one yourself.) Hang in there, God has the most amazing man in store for you.

Remember the words of Jeremiah 29:11. God has a plan for you, he WILL give you hope and he WILL give you a future. Hang on to that promise. His heart will ache for every hurt you feel, his grace will be there waiting to catch you when you fall.

With love and pain, your older self.

If I could write a letter - Age 15

What if you could write a letter to your younger self? What would you say? Would it be witty, wise, or warning? I am unabashedly stealing this idea from Angela at Becoming Me...but she encouraged us to join in so I guess it isn't really stealing, right? Just want to be clear that it isn't my original idea. Like Angela, I'm going to start at age 15, there was so much I needed to know then. So, if I could write a letter...

Dear 15 year old Loretta,

This is your older, hopefully wiser self speaking. Creepy? Yeah, a little, but listen up because this is important.

First of all, embrace your name. It isn't going to change, you will always and forever be Loretta, just go with it. It can either be an old lady name or the name of a unique, creative young woman...you get to choose. Try not to wait another 25 years to come to terms with it.

There is so much I could say to you, but it really boils down to one thing. Appearances aren't everything. Your status and what others say about you aren't everything. I know you are trying to make up for a lot of hurts, a lot of insults and teasing, but you aren't going to get over it until you realize that they were wrong. One day you will begin to see yourself as Christ's beautiful bride and you WILL realize that in the face of that all of the old hurts begin to slowly fall away. Until that day comes, hang in there.

Listen to your mother when she says that clothes aren't everything, that anyone who judges you based on what you wear is not worth your time. No, she shouldn't have brought home that awful peach polyester shirt and expected you just to like it; she had some learning to do about letting you express your individuality, as well as learning that peach is really, really not your color at all. But you could have handled that discussion better, and she was right. You may find it hard to believe, but 25 years from now you will have realized that it is more important to be yourself than it is to follow the crowd, and yes, you will actually begin to embrace shopping in thrift shops and consignment stores. No really, it's true. Trust me, I'm sitting here in awesome jeans and shirt, both from a thrift store and loving it.

Be yourself. Let others see the zany side that peeks out from behind your quiet, introspective front a little more often. Don't wait until your senior year to do it.

It will seem like the end of the world every time you don't get the lead or sometimes even a part in the school plays. Try not to cry too many tears over it. You will eventually realize that you were never born to be a leading lady, but you will make one heck of a director and stage manager. (And that persistance that kept you trying out every single time? That's a good trait, embrace it. It will pay off when it comes to getting into concert choir...trust me on this.)

Learn this lesson now; revenge and holding grudges are weapons that cut those who wield them, sometimes worse than the ones you use them on. Let it go.

Open your heart and let people in.

Don't get that spiral perm.

Don't let others steal your dreams.

The Color Purple is not a good movie to go see by yourself on the day your little brother comes home from soccer practice to tell you that the first guy ever to ask you out has changed his mind.

Faith is not a set of rules.

You have more strength in you than you realize.

Oh, and all that daydreaming you do? There's a bigger plan behind that, one that goes beyond just trying to escape from where you are. You'll figure it out one day, trust me!

With love, your older self.