At the end of this week I (finally) turn twenty-one!
Twenty-one has always felt elusive. With a late summer birthday, I have always been young for my grade. Coupled with graduating early from college, I have often been younger than many of my peers and enviously watched as they reached adulthood before me. To add to the anticipation, I am also the oldest of four children and the first to reach this “milestone,” which has my whole family pretty excited too!
Twenty-one feels grown up — like I can finally claim adult status with a simple number change. So, this new adulthood begs the question: am I any wiser? Probably not as much as I would like to think, but in reflecting on what I have learned in my two decades + one year, there is a lot of wisdom that I have been given and gained that I wish I could tell my younger self — lessons learned, truths believed, failures by the dozen, etc.
So this post is an open letter, so to speak, to me, to you, to whoever needs to read them, of what the Lord has taught me in twenty-one short years.
(1) Give yourself more grace than you think you need to.
Failure is what has made me grow the most and I promise you, you are going to survive it. When you give yourself grace to fail, these shortcomings prune you, sanctify you, and make you more like Jesus if you let them. Lean into Jesus with your shortcomings and you will be met with more grace than you can imagine.
(2) Listening to your body is important.
Oftentimes your body knows before your brain that you are on the edge of burnout. Listen to your body. Rest. Build margin into your routine. Take a nap. Go for a walk. Move or sit still — whatever helps to restore you.
(3) Worrying about tomorrow does not provide any joy for today.
Been there done that and then been there and done that some more and trust me you do not gain anything from worrying. Yes, make that schedule and be a good steward of your time, but do not let your fears of the future keep you from enjoying what is right in front of you.
(4) Wait for the man who pursues God more than he pursues you.
Yes, you can learn from heartbreak, but you will save yourself so much trouble by waiting for the man who loves Jesus more than he could ever love you.
(5) Friends come and go and that is okay.
It is easy to look back at my life and wonder what happened with some of my friendships, but I’ve come to the understanding that some relationships are meant for specific seasons. Instead of being bitter, continue to pray for those friends and thank God for the role they played in your life.
(6) You are fearfully and wonderfully made regardless of what the scale says or the number on the tag in your favorite dress.
Do not let your weight or size impact your joy. Life is so much more than that number and at the end of the day it does not change how loved you are and how much value you have.
(7) Your life probably isn’t gonna go as planned.
This one ties back to my point about worrying. Literally no long term plan I have ever made has gone according to plan. And do I usually throw a fit about it? Yup! And yes, this is a lesson I am STILL learning! God has a plan for your life and knows exactly how things are supposed to play out!
(8) Chick flicks do in fact make everything better.
I don’t think this needs much explaining. They make you laugh. They make you cry. They make you feel things and that’s a good thing.
(9) You’re allowed to be mad at God. He wants you to cry out to Him even if it is messy.
Girl, there is a WHOLE book in the Bible about lamenting. Yes, it is called Lamentations and it was written by the prophet Jeremiah as he cried out to God because of the sinfulness of the people of Israel and the destruction and death around him. Jeremiah was depressed and he didn’t sing happy songs or dance for joy — he cried out to God and it was ugly.
(10) Say yes to that adventure, the spontaneous ice cream outing, or a last minute hang out with friends.
You can always come with an excuse to stay home or in your dorm room and not go out, but I promise you it is not worth it. Invest in the relationships around you and in the place you are living. Explore what it has to offer and make memories.
(11) Take care of your body — it is a temple.
Be mindful of what you are putting into your body and I do not just mean food. What are you letting infiltrate your mind in the movies and tvs shows you watch and the music you listen to?
(12) Watch out for idols.
Idols are a funny thing and usually unrecognizable because at face value they seem harmless, even good. Remember, that anything you are putting before God in your life to bring you joy and satisfaction, is an idol and it will ultimately fail you.
(13) It is okay to cry and to not be okay.
Tears are not a sign of weakness and crying is actually good for you. Holding your tears back will only make you feel worse.
(14) Social media is not a measure of someone’s happiness. It is all a highlight real.
Life is never as perfect as someone’s picture makes it out to be. If you’re going to compare yourself to the images you see, you have to ask yourself, “Do I really want their life too? What are they not showing here that is actually really hard?”
(15) Community is important. Seek it out.
We were not meant to do life on our own. God created us to be in community with one other, encouraging one another and carrying each other’s burdens.
(16) Praying will not necessarily take your anxiety away but it will give you a direct outlet to the One who loves you more than anything and who is always listening.
Anxiety is real. Depression is real. Clinical diagnoses and the need for medication are both real. Friend, I promise you, that your battle will be easier when you bring it to Jesus.
(17) Ben & Jerry’s will always have the best ice cream and Chik-fil-A will always have the best fries.
Again, this one needs little explanation. Eat that ice cream. Go buy some fries. Enjoy your life. Life is too short to spend worrying about every single thing that you are eating.
(18) Work hard and be a good steward of your time and resources.
God has blessed you with opportunities and resources. Take advantage of them. Do not grow apathetic. Work hard and glorify God in the process.
(19) There is no shame in asking for help.
Even writing this one still makes me squirm a little bit because I love to be self-sufficient. Asking for help shows your weaknesses but this allows for vulnerability and deeper relationships. It is so worth it. Plus you really can’t do everything on your own.
(20) Attaining perfection is impossible. Let go of your expectations.
Unmet expectations just breed anger and resentment. Be honest about what you expect of yourself and others and then throw some grace on top of all of it. Ask God to show you if you are being unrealistic and to help align your perspective with His.
(21) God is faithful above all else.
Last but certainly not least and without a doubt the most important lesson on this list. God will always show up. He will not fail you and the proof is in his character. You are living a life with God’s handprints all over it. He has brought you through your highest highs and lowest lows and he has never once left your side. He is faithful in the dark nights when your mental health seems too much to bear. He is faithful when life is lonely and your community feels far away. He is faithful in his plans for you and nothing will happen in your life that he has not already ordained.
For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:5 NLT