Dear 18-Year-Old me,

Happy birthday, honey. It’s okay for me to call you “honey,” because I’m quite a bit older than you, now, and that’s what I call the young people in my life. Especially those I care about, which obviously includes you.

You’ve been waiting for this birthday, haven’t you? So excited to be 18, since the rest of your class has already turned that magical number, and you, being one of the youngest, are finally bringing up the rear. In fact, there you are celebrating on campus at Southwest Texas, the week before classes start. (You won’t believe this, but they don’t call it that now. Texas State. Go figure.) You’re there, out on your own, and the world is your oyster. I’ll give you a little warning here, though. Eat a little something today, out on the river with your friends, because they’re going to take you to Goodtime Charlie’s for your first taste of alcohol tonight. Oh, and when they bring out the 2nd (3rd, and 4th) Everclear margarita, you’re going to want to politely decline. Trust me. You’ll thank me in the morning. 🙂

Now, before I get into the meat of this letter, I’d like to ask you to do two things, so I won’t forget later (sadly, that happens often): 1) Enjoy the way you look. That little tummy bump you think you have going is NOTHING. Take in the smooth contours of your skin and give thanks. 2) Learn to love exercise. Figure out how to make yourself crave it for both of our sakes. Okay, moving on.

Keep your eyes open on that campus, honey. This is where your education begins, and I’m not talking about your classes. You will start seeing more hurting people that come from different backgrounds and upbringings than you’ve ever seen in your life. They are not all going to come from a nice middle-class family, living in a modest brick ranch. You will begin to see different value systems, and people acting out of their pain, and one of them will be your roommate. No, not Beth. She’s going home next semester. Carole. Start getting yourself ready for Carole, right now, because although it will be very difficult to live with her, she will give you an understanding for hurting people that you’ll use all your life. Really, that God will use.

Speaking of next semester, you’re going to start dating the man you’ll marry. I’m not going to give it all away, but stop scanning the campus for Mr. Wonderful, because you already know him, and you won’t believe who it is. Actually, once you start dating, NO ONE will believe the two of you ended up together. You were both pretty different from each other in high school (oops, gave a little more away!), but when he asks you out, don’t think of any of that. Just go with it. I can tell you that, after your decision to ask Jesus into your heart when you were 10, this will be the best decision of your life. He’s as wonderful, now, as he was then. In fact we celebrated 30 years just last month, so you do the math. Wedding bells are in your future a lot sooner than you think.

You’re struggling a little with choosing a field of study in school, aren’t you? Hanging on to that claim that as a freshman, you don’t have to declare a major? You’re going to bounce around a little with it, toying with English/Lit, Education, Interior Design/Architecture, but you’re going to finally settle on Home Economics. And you’re going to be a little embarrassed by that, in 1983. You’ll feel like a bit of a throwback to the 50’s and like you have to justify it, but it will mesh with your deepest desire of wanting to be a wife and mother.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

You want to be a wife and mother, don’t you? While other girls are branching out in new career opportunities, you want to raise a family, but you haven’t really allowed that desire its due. I’m telling you right now that it’s okay. It’s who you are to your core. You were knit together 18 years ago for this very purpose, and you need to walk confidently in it. Honestly, there will be a few times in the future when you’ll question and you’ll struggle over this, but that’s okay. God will use this, too, to help others coming behind you. Building a strong marriage and family is every bit as world-changing a career as anything else out there. I think you’ll come to view it as possibly even more.

On a different note, now is the time to figure out some boundaries. That’s not a buzz word there in 1981, but I sure wish it was. You are what is now known as a people-pleaser. Makes sense doesn’t it? You care SO MUCH about what other people think that it will really trip you up and make you into a door mat in some of your friendships. Start considering what God wants for you OVER what others say, and people will stop wiping their shoes on you. It will save you a lot of trouble later, and possibly help you avoid some really painful times.

Above all though, honey, just love. Remember that those hurting ones, all around you, will include you from time to time. People will disappoint you – even your family – and you will disappoint them. You have a natural ease in forgiving; develop that. Then, just love everyone around you, whether they deserve it or not. It’s how God will use you and your talents, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. You can trust Him to do it.

Really, you can JUST TRUST HIM.

God is going to knock your socks off with blessing. Really, you won’t believe it. He’s got a big plan for you that involves using everything He’s given you to turn others to Him. If you can keep your eyes on Him all the time, and live from a thankful heart, you’ll feel a deep fulfillment of your purpose. And that…that’s possibly the best birthday gift of all.

I love you. Take good care of yourself (and remember about the margaritas!),

50-year-old Me