Friday, October 17, 2014

Advice to our Younger Selves

We've shared monthly dinners now for more than fourteen years. One gal spearheaded this dinner club all those years ago, realizing that as our lives began splintering apart with attending different churches, the influx of babies, moving into different communities and attending various schools, we needed some sort of glue to intentionally maintain our friendships.

Last week we crowded around the coffee table on my back porch, shared a meal of mostly appetizers (we never even moved to the set table), and settled into the warmth of rooted friendships. In early years, we set themes, flocked place mats with pre-printed questions, and attempted to instill some lively formality into our get-togethers. But somewhere around year two or three, we chucked all the "extras" and streamlined the dinners to just being together.

The only rule - which I love - is that these dinners are not potluck. Meaning, the host prepares it all, but they only have to do it once a year. Of course we've jumped in and helped one another during busy seasons, but for the most part, one night of the year we have the privilege of hosting our girlfriends, and the other eleven months we just show up - make up or not - and share in great conversation and great food.

Some of us are foodies, some are not. Sometimes it's a homemade spread, other times it's Pei Wei takeout picked up on the way home from work. But every time, it's familiar friends gathered around a table. These dinners are the primary way many of us connect through the year.

So last week found us gathered on my back porch around bowls of chips and a skillet of green chili queso. Amidst catching up and enjoying the beginnings of a cool front rolling in, this question surfaced:  
"What would you tell a younger version of yourself? If you were speaking to a group of younger women in their 20s and 30s, and could share one message, what would it be?"
The responses were so great, I decided we need to take this group on the road.
Or at least to my blog.
So after our conversation died down, after the dishwasher was filled and humming late into the night, I jotted down some of what was shared. 
In no particular order, here you go:

Be prepared for God’s twists and turns. Life won’t look like you expect it to, but God has a good, perfect, and acceptable plan. You can trust him.
This from our friend who knows what day of the week March 5, 2016 will land on. It's an uncanny gift. She's type A, highly productive, highly intelligent, put together. She shared about her darling little girl. This friend wanted and expected two healthy children. Her youngest was born with some special needs, and she and her husband have deftly maneuvered their daughter's healthcare since she was born. This little one is a complete, radiant joy. But her little life has provided our friend a significant opportunity to relinquish control.

Look to elders for advice, more than peers
25-year-olds should not be leading church-type seminars.
The rest of us laughed and wholeheartedly agreed.

Love wins. The Lord will never leave you.
"When I recently looked at my driver’s license from 10 years ago, I wanted to say to that younger version of myself, “I’m so proud of you.”
This friend would have never dreamed she’d endure what she’s endured over the past decade. But love wins. The Lord never left her. She doesn’t know what’s ahead, but knows the Lord will be faithful.

Your identity must be solely in Christ.
Stay in God’s word in order to have your identity in Him. 4-5 days a week, 15 min in God's Word. Soak it in to keep your eyes and heart on Him rather than on yourself and our the world. It's the path to peace.

That early season of motherhood is difficult ~ you will get through it and find yourself again. 
Babies are just plain hard. Those years of caring for infants and young toddlers just might wipe you out; the tyranny of the urgent, constant messes, no time to yourself, always feeling scatter-brained. It seems impossible at the time, but it has an end. And you will see your familiar self one day. And you are given permission to admit that season is HARD.

Be intentional with decision making of where your time and energy goes.
The decisions just get harder and thicker with the years. Start now, know that it's a tradeoff - a yes to one thing is a no to something else. Not only that, but the choices you make now lead to directly to your future.

Compare and Despair.
We are bombarded by the temptation to constantly compare ourselves to our friends, our acquaintances, and people we don't even know through social media. Instagram, FB and Pinterest, etc. can be dangerous. Go forth with your own decisions in confidence. Love God, Love his Word.

Hold on to Bible as true, inerrant word of God.
This world is shifting. The church is shifting. But God's Word stands firm forever. Hold tightly to His truths without wavering.

Choose Jesus!
If we believe God's Word is true and believe His Word is from Him, then in doubt, struggles, etc. - all those things we question about our life when circumstances are not what we like or want - choose Jesus and what He says to us through His word.  He has proven Himself faithful EVERY SINGLE time, so why believe otherwise?  His promises are true.

The experiences of these women cover the gamut: significant financial stress, sickness, unemployment, raising lots of little children, singleness, infertility, loneliness, adoption, marital separation, moving, changing schools, difficult extended family issues, and the list continues. But the threads of what each person shared wove a radiant faith tapestry; given the wide berth of personalities, situations, and the passing of years, each woman gathered around the table last week senses an urgency to proclaim God's goodness, his nearness. And the beauty of these women is deepening, not fading. The years of growing stronger faith muscles leaves them more lovely than before.
I sought the Lord and he answered me; 
He delivered me from all my fears, 
Those who look to Him are radiant... Ps 34