Dear Shannon.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 30-year-old Shannon,

I know that you have a hard time letting things go.  You always remember the offenses against you.  You justify it saying you have a great memory, where in reality you are harboring bitterness and pent up anger.  I know that many have wronged you, and you believe that they deserve to pay for the injustice heaped upon your life.  How dare they do these things to you?

You know that the Bible says we must forgive others as we have been forgiven.  Yet you can’t seem to live out that principle.  You can sit still as your mind starts racing about this friend, that family member, and the laundry list that goes with each one.  You have a critical, fault finding spirit and are quick to blame others.  You are PROUD.  You have a hard time fighting the spiritual battle in your head as the enemy seeps discontent into your thoughts.

You don’t know how to truly forgive.

Forgiveness means that you fully release the offender from his debt.  It means fully cleaning his record.  You need to quit being everyone’s jailor!  You have kept your loved ones in bondage for too long.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as god in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

As Christ forgave you. You were once dead in your transgressions and now, through His grace, you have been extended life in Him.  Because of God’s mercy, God has forgiven everything in me so that I can look more like Christ.  And I deserve nothing, yet I have been promised paradise.  So who am I to not extend that same grace to others around me, much less believers in Christ?

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’  We are offered forgiveness on no other terms.  To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.” – C.S. Lewis

Let go of the laundry list.  You want God’s mercy, so in turn you need to extend it to others.  Be freed from bondage of holding others captive in your thoughts.  Show a lost world how to truly love one another in Christ.  You are sending the wrong message to people who are watching you.

“Right relationships – especially within the family of God – are one of the most powerful means of communicating the gospel to a lost world.  Our God is a reconciling God, and when believers cannot get along with each other or fail to resolve conflicts biblically, we actually discredit the gospel.  When God’s people are reconciled to each other, we demonstrate the power of the gospel and make it believable.”  From Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh Demoss.

I know you didn’t realize you were discrediting the gospel by your actions, but now that you are extending grace to others as you have been given, you can now exhibit the gospel more accurately.  Jesus came to save out of love, not because he wanted to keep a checklist of everyone’s right and wrongs.

“If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Psalm 130:3-4

The Lord doesn’t keep a record of my wrongs, so I shouldn’t keep a list of others.  So relax, let go, and take a deep breath.  Remember the grace that you have received daily, and you just might surprise someone, even yourself, at how easy it is to get over things.

Grace and peace,
Shannon

Some call me ‘Shannon’, others ‘Shani’, and sometimes the occasional ‘babe’.  But the word I hear the most everyday is ‘Mommy’.  I have been married to one of the tallest men I know for 11 years and have been dappling in motherhood for the last 5 years.  We are currently chartering into the world of adoption and praying for God’s Will in expanding our family.  I am one of 12 Americans that have never been on Facebook, though I do update my blog on a random whim.  I love yoga, greek yogurt, 6:30am hugs from my son, date night with the hubby, and asking complete strangers how I can pray for them.  In the meantime, I am just trying to live life to the fullest for His Glory.

Dear Izehi.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 28-year-old Izehi,

You are fresh off the plane from getting to live the life of a single twenty something overseas.  Living in a foreign country helped grow you up big time & a part of your heart will always belong to T-land.

But it’s time for a new adventure girl.  :)

Remember that prayer you prayed about not wanting to live an ordinary life with a regular 9-5 job?  Well guess what? God answered it with a yes. :)  You, young lady are going to be a business owner.  You’ve got a casual lunch date scheduled.  You think you’ll get reacquainted with an old friend and chat about the possibility of maybe working as a photographer someday.

That lunch is going to change your life.

You are about to eat, breathe, and live photography.  It’s going to be flipping unreal.  As you lay in your bed night after night staring at the edge of this huge cliff, fear will want to imprison you in its iron grip.  But I’ve got one word for you: JUMP!

Baby girl, entrepreneurship is not for the fainthearted.  Taking the leap to start your own business is the only the first of many many risks you will take.   But YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.  Adrenaline highs like you’ve never known will confirm that photography is what you were born to do.  You’ll be at a wedding photographing for 12 hours and still feel like dancing on the dance floor when that song comes on.  That’s how you’ll know you’re doing what you love.

But it won’t all be roses.

You think all you need is a “nice camera” and a laptop to run your business.  Um, you’re going to laugh at yourself later for ever thinking this!

You will hit rock bottom lows that will leave you questioning your sanity and decision…many times.  But don’t worry; God is placing the most incredible people in your life.  Amazing mentors you’ve never met will soon be on your speed dial.  And your family; oh girl your family will become even dearer to you than ever.

I know that right now you are scared and excited.  News flash, those feelings aren’t going anywhere.  The good news is neither is God.  You learned to rely on Him alone “on the far side of the sea” and you’ll learn to rely on Him alone in this new adventure.  God will speak to you through His word, and He will confirm to you over and over that He is leading you. Trust Him.  He’s good.  I won’t lie, it’s going to be much harder than you think, but He’ll be with you.

And one more thing, please enjoy the last of your twenties.  Don’t let photography or running your business consume you.  Enjoy your family & your friends. Have fun and don’t feel guilty about it either! Take care of yourself, because at the end of the day while it’s awesome to have a job you love; it’s still just a job.  It doesn’t define you. You are a daughter of the King and that’s where your identity is.

Love you much,
Your Thirty-Year-Old self.

P.S. All that stuff about your life being over at thirty is some bull!  Honey, this is only the beginning!

Photo by Ashley Swallow of Live.Laugh.Photograph.

BIO
Izehi is a Wedding and Portrait Photographer in Texas.  She loves telling stories with her camera.

WEBSITE
www.izehiphotography.com


 


Dear Jordan.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 22-year-old Jordan,

Well, you did it. You moved across the country and you’re scared to death because it’s pretty much permanent. Until the next thing comes up, that is. I know you’re thinking that you will do this for a few years and then you can get up and leave, but I encourage you to stick around. Good things are going to happen, once you get past all the rough patches.

You are smart and independent and have such an empathetic heart, but it’s that soft heart that has gotten the best of you recently. It is going to ache more than ever this year.

You have recently come out of a very messy relationship, if you can even call it that. You have just jumped into one that you think is better and is rooted in God. But Jordan, it’s not. I know you think it is but you are trying to hold onto anything that feels right at this moment. It is just not worth it.

I am reading back on your journals and you are hurting so bad. You are being treated so badly and you don’t even recognize it. You’re a tried and true “fixer”. When someone who is less fortunate than you comes along, and usually it is in the form of some guy, you want to take them in and fix them. They are hurtful, conniving, deceitful, malicious and do not see you for who you really are. They come from broken pasts that they have yet to come to terms with and they look at you, who seemingly has it all together, to take care of them. I want you so bad to realize how much time you are wasting. You just can’t fix them at the cost of yourself.

So this new guy? Do not ditch your girlfriends to spend time with him. Do not answer every phone call or text message for the attention. And do not think that he’s as good as it gets. Because he’s not. Please trust that God has someone great for you, because He does. I am living it. I encourage you to write out a list of what you want in the man you’ll marry. This list will be transforming in more ways than one and you’ll see just how wrong this guy is for you.

Sometimes I get really sad for you. You are trying to that void of loneliness that was emptied when you moved to a new place. You do deserve better, but it’s going to take you another year to realize it. I wish it would happen sooner, but it will just have to come in time. You are going to look back on this time in your life and be so thankful for where you’ll end up.

If I can ask you anything, Jordan, will you please live the life you were born to deserve?

Hang out with your girlfriends every time they call.

Move into a different apartment because the one you’re in has very shady management. Once you do, spend more alone time in that place and soak it all in.

Go to that church you went to last Christmas and call it home.

The next few years are going to be some of the hardest in your life, but it will all turn out great. I promise. Hold onto that truth.

I love who you are going to become,
Your almost-26-year-old self

Jordan is a born ‘n raised Texan writing her way through a life out West. A God-loving newlywed, Jordan writes about her journey on her blog, Wide Open Spaces.

Dear Sarah.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 21-year-old Sarah,

Well, it’s almost time for the next step.  And, being the linear thinker that you are, let me lay it out for you:

High school  —>  College  —>  __?__

I can see why you want to put “graduate school” in that “next step” slot.

  • It’s a respectable, broadly acceptable step.
  • You’re a good student – you know how to succeed as a student.
  • It will help you get a better first job (Ha – already thinking about the next step, are you?)
  • You want to keep learning.

This all makes a lot of sense.  But, as much as you struggle and reckon with the need to be successful, to be accepted, and with maintaining your identity as a good student, you also struggle with how to define success for yourself and not just adopt other people’s definitions.

So, while I like your plan – I really do – I want to give you the opportunity to be a little braver.  I know you’veapplied to a few internships, hoping to squeeze in some dream time and exploration time in the few months before graduate school would begin.  Consider giving yourself a little more breathing room, a little more time to explore.  I know it’s so hard and scary not to plan and execute that “next step” – not to be prepared with the perfect response to the question: “so, what do you want to do with your life?” But, it might be worth it to take some time to explore and practice your dreams even if that means diverting from a timeline you prefer or taking a short-term job that might not be your first choice but might offer you the time or stability to explore other ideas (through reading, volunteering, travel, etc.).

With the current graduate school plan, you will learn a lot and you will set yourself up for a good job.  But you will also suffer from a lack of passion and a weak internal compass.  You come to realize that the continuing on your path into the “real world” requires passion, creativity and vision.  And you don’t quite know how to practice those things.  Over time, you will start giving weight and thought to an idea that has been on your heart for years.  And, as you consider some big life decisions, you will face the familiar challenge of security versus boldness, and then you will read this:

Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar and watch for fire to descend. (Psalm 5:3, The Message)

The clarity of this message will ring in your ears.  As you are examining the many pieces of your life – pieces you have planned for and worked for – you know that they all belong to God, and when you offer them to Him, it is his righteous fire that will separate the wheat from the chaff.  Part of the lesson for you is simply to remember that your life is not your own.  You are called to lay down your life daily in response to God’s will and everything is on the offering table.  In some ways this is a huge relief – that important job you’ve been so stressed about?  It goes up on the table just the same as your free time.

Another lesson is to learn to love the fire – learn to love the power that renews your spirit by breaking things down to what is essential.  Be brave enough to offer God everything you have carefully planned, and when you let go you will find the space to meet God within the unique experiences that He has prepared for you.

So, my advice to you is, take your time.  Ask yourself whether you are clinging to a plan because it has been placed on your heart or because it is “safe.”  Let God’s word be a “lamp to your feet and a light to your path” (Psalm 119:105), revealing His beautiful, non-linear will for your life one step at a time starting from exactly where you are.  And know that time spent envisioning, exploring and practicing is just as important as time spent actually executing a plan.

As I write you this letter, I have moved many steps beyond college, and I still struggle with the challenge of security versus boldness.  But I try to remember to offer the pieces of my life to God so that even though I may experience a little less security, I trust I will find rest for my soul.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)

Still learning, step-by-step,
Sarah

Sarah Darley is now living and learning in Fort Worth, Texas after several years spent outside of her home state as a student, a young professional and even as a farmer.  She is passionate about learning from nature, building community, growing (and eating!) good food, and loving her sweet niece and nephews.  Her professional path has taken her to REAL School Gardens, a non-profit that partners with elementary schools to create outdoor classrooms to engage children and teachers.  Sarah knows Ginger from high school, and she treasures this friendship that has continued across so many of the steps on her path, from high school crushes to navigating success as a grown-up.

 

Dear Abby.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 20-year-old Abby,

I know you don’t think you have done anything wrong, but usually when you feel that way it means you probably have. If you are worried about a friend or your friendship do something about it before it’s too late. Now, you have a friend standing in front of you and you have two choices. Fight back with hurtful words and actions or take a step back. Think. Why is she really acting this way? Try to find some perspective and understanding in all this. Try to somehow (even in the heat of the moment) set aside your own feelings for someone else’s.

In Peter’s first letter he wrote:

“Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it.” (1 Peter: 8-11)

When I read this I think I can and am trying to 100% live my life this way. Then I think back of a time when I didn’t. My junior year of college I had a falling out with not one, but two close friends. It was two separate instances and the girls didn’t know one another. It was really hard for me to work through the why’s and what-if’s of all that happened that year. I tend to attribute my thought process at that time as naïve, but really I think most of the problem was that I was being self-centered. I didn’t care enough about my friends’ feelings. I tried to talk to them and work it out, but when you are only hoping to fix problems on your own terms things aren’t going to work out.  Before I knew it some of the meanest things anyone has ever said to me were coming my way. I didn’t do as Jesus would have. I returned the insults. I didn’t turn and do good. I really wish I had.

There are two more things I wish I had done. I wish I had realized sooner there were as serious of problems as there were. With one friend, I found out several months later there was so much more going on in her personal life than I knew about. She didn’t tell me or ask for my support. As a friend, I feel like I should have known anyway, but she was shutting me out. One of the main reasons God gave us friends was so we could support and lift each other up. Sometimes we can fall a bit short. Just because a friend doesn’t realize something is wrong does not mean you can’t still reach out to them.

I wish I had realized then more of the type of friend I was being. It was not my intention in any way to not be as good of a friend as I should have. One thing that some of my closest friends and I remind each other of is that we all have the same best friend. We can call on him anywhere at any time of day. You know who I am talking about! God always listens and he always provides guidance in his written words. He is the best example of a true friend. Forgiving, loving, caring, fair, kind, gentle… and the list could go on for days. We’re asked to be his disciples and by being a good friend, I feel closer to him. I feel I am doing something he has put me here on earth to do. To act as he would and provide support and love like he does is what my goal is. I now know how much of a blessing friends truly are. I am so thankful for my friends and I ask God to continue to help me to be as good of a friend to them as he is to me.

-Abby

Hey there! I’m Abby Ingle. I’m so happy to get to share a little something with you today. I currently live in Phoenix with my husband and two super cute beagles. I met Ginger from playing bunco together, yes- Bunco. [It’s not just for old ladies :)] She is such an inspiring person and I love this website. I check in and read her posts all the time. It reminds me of my spiritual path and helps me tremendously to know I’m not the only one who falters. My purpose today is to just give a little insight into what friendship means to me and how it plays a role in our spiritual paths. Follow my journey over at The Newlywed Way of Life.


Dear Renea.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 19-year-old Renea,

The practical choice is not always the best choice. You’re a practical person by nature. This is a good thing in its own right, but it also has its own set of shortfalls, and in and of itself, pragmatism won’t get you the abundant life you long for which Christ came to give you. Because you often ask yourself, “What is practical here? What’s the logical choice?”, at times, better questions for you to ask yourself will be “What do I want? What do I hope for? What do I dream of?” (Just as for those who lean in the other direction the better question at times will be “What is practical?”)

You will find you need to ask yourself these questions in all areas of life from decisions about the classes you’ll take to the jobs and positions you’ll take, to your love-life and your spirituality. (In your 20s you’ll read a little book called Messy Spirituality that you’ll wish you’d read when you were 16. But that’s another letter for another day.)

You make decisions with your reason, with your head, which has lots of advantages, but these other questions are questions for the heart, the emotions. So it will feel, well, terrifying. But you’re not alone; they’re not decisions you have to make yourself. You’ve always been good at choosing friends and surrounding yourself with loving, Christ-oriented community. Lean on them. Trust them. Nine times out of ten they won’t let you down, and when they do, it’ll be okay. By God’s grace, you’ll make it through together and be stronger for it.

Don’t be afraid of failure. With the courage to fail you’ll gain the strength to succeed. As Ms. Frizzle always says, “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy!”

I’m proud of you. And don’t worry: who you are is great… even when, especially when who you are is different.

With love,
Your 29-year old self

Renea McKenzie is a student, a teacher, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a shepherd, writer, movie-lover, and Whirlyball champion. She loves God’s Word and God’s people, reading and thinking, playing and laughing, living and learning (okay so she doesn’t love to “live and learn,” but she seems to do a lot of it anyway). Sometimes she writes about it over at Speak What We Feel, sometimes in 140 characters or less: http://twitter.com/reneamac.

 

Dear Kamille.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 18-year-old Kamille,

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I know you have prided yourself on being a bit of an outsider, taking stock in the “I don’t care what the preppy girls think” mantra.  You wear two coats.

One is lightweight & only a couple people get to see.  It’s that idealistic, dreamer side that is a hopeless romantic wanting to be swept off her feet coat.  You never feel burdened wearing it, that is, when you feel safe.  This is the coat Jesus gave you as a young girl.  He warmed your heart & you knew it was good.  He spoke often of his love for you & you believed it wholeheartedly.  He delighted in you as you twirled and sang with such boldness & joy.  No place could ever feel or be as safe as there.  He named you his daughter, his beloved little girl.  This coat is always comfortable & never, ever grows old or tattered.  It’s infinite.

Then, there’s this other coat, which is heavy & dark.  It prevents you from sharing your true heart.  Instead of the bold, joyful dancing & singing, there is a faint murmur of hidden potential.  But, this cloth prevents you from sharing that gift.  It’s out of fear.  Fear of being hurt, being judged, & simply being known for what you love (and maybe others don’t love it).  It guards your heart.  It covers your ears from hearing those words, “you are my daughter, my little girl…I delight in you.”  This coat is always burdensome, and never, ever feels comfortable.  It’s infinite…only if you let it.

Because you see Kamille, you are a daughter of the Most High God. When you sit in your one bedroom house mourning the loss of family, with your brother turning to alcohol to ease the pain, you’ve never been alone.  When you see other people enjoying their freshman year of college, you keep wondering how life could get any worse?  And your story to date does speak of misery.

Your second day of college alone felt like a nightmare with your dad being in the hospital on his way to jail & the owner of the house announcing you & your brothers needed to be out in 24 hours.  An eviction notice.

Your heart felt like it stopped & your lungs began to collapse.  Four months later, there you sit on your bed wondering how you can keep going on?  How you longed for someone to love you & take care of you.  Oh honey, I wish I could wrap you up in my arms, make you some cookies & give you a bed under my home.  Because, all along, deep inside, all you want is ‘wholeness.’

A home that is safe.  A family unbroken.  A warmth of protection, which seems so foreign. You fear that maybe your future will always be shattered & empty.  But, Kamille, cling to the hope you saw when you were a little girl.  You were free in that lightweight coat dancing with your Papa God, because his delight is in you.  Remember, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you;…rejoice over you with singing.”

He turns deserts into gardens, ashes into beauty, and he redeems the most unlikely of stories.

Nothing will be able to fill that void you long for, not a boy, not your dad out of jail, not your parents together.  You were made with a Jesus shaped hole in your heart & only he can fill it. Run to him, listen to him, allow him to woo you back.  His words are safe, true & good.  His love is unbroken & never failing. You are a daughter of the Most High King!

-Kamille

Kamille Scellick is a daughter of the Most High God.  She’s married to her stellar best friend & husband, Ben and mothers two beautiful girls.  She lives in the Pacific NW & doesn’t mind the rain (all the more reason to enjoy coffee).  She writes at Redeeming the Table, where she believes in sharing stories, hospitality & food with friend & stranger.  She says, “there are so many voices in our world telling us to lose hope; but, when we cling to Jesus & his story of redemption, we come out on the other end with a “redeemed” story we get to share.  This is part of mine.”

Dear Valerie.

A two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 17-year-old Valerie,

I know you are someone who was barely in this world for a month when you were baptized. You bowed your head to pray over your dinner before you could even talk, and the first songs you ever knew were “Jesus Loves Me” and “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” You went to Sunday school and church every Sunday, attended confirmation classes religiously (rimshot), and attended a Christian grade school for eleven years. It’s been a reality for your whole life that Jesus died for your sins and loves you and has a place for you in heaven in Jesus’ name we pray amen.

Because of this, your personal testimony will not, by the world’s standards, be flashy and impressive and full of ups and downs and drama and GLORY BE’s with extra helpings of HALLELUJAH AMEN on the side.

But that does not mean it’s not special. And it doesn’t mean God hasn’t been at work in your life.

You will go to camps and chapels and classes and church services and everywhere in between and listen to amazing, incredible stories. Stories of how the Lord brought people out of rebellion, drug abuse, promiscuity, and everything in between. Our God is indeed a God of redemption, and those mighty works He has done in the lives of His children are definitely to be praised!

But Valerie. Val. V. Please hear me on this. Just because you did not go through a time of rebellion or hellion child years or even any wild teenage years (because let’s face it, you are content with a decidedly un-wild evening watching Saturday Night Live with your friends) does not make your story invalid. And it does not make your story boring by comparison. Because the same God who made the heavens and the earth lives in YOU! And has redeemed you. And has set a path for you within His will. And will use you for His purposes.

Don’t let anyone look down on you or belittle you because of your testimony. When people call upon the other, flashier stories as examples of the amazing things God can do, don’t let yourself believe that it means your testimony is less worthy. Just because the places God has pulled other people out of may seem deeper and dirtier and more dramatic by the world’s standards does not mean that what He has done in their lives is somehow more wonderful or praiseworthy than what He has done in YOUR life!

The Bible says that we are ALL sinners (and yes that’s including you, Miss VBS) and ALL sin separates us from Him. So the fact that Christ has redeemed you from sins like picking on your little brother and cheating on your homework and being rude to your friends is no less magnificent than if the sins you needed to be redeemed from were adultery or murder! The fact that our Lord would come to this earth and die for each and every one of us most disgusting creatures is an absolute miracle! And the fact that He has done that for YOU makes your testimony the most flashy and firework-y and whiz-bang HALLELUJAH THANK YOU LORD celebration of a story that this earth ever did see!

Remember what is important: that He has redeemed you! That He loves YOU and cares for YOU and wants to use YOU to glorify Him!

I think that about covers it.

Oh! But! Also! Slightly off topic and significantly less important, but still deserves a mention: PLEASE TO STOP BUYING THE OLD NAVY FLIP FLOPS. I know they are crazy cheap but VALERIE. They are terrible shoes and they are uncomfortable and they break and it is just a FAD to buy so many in so many different colors, so please: just stop. You will only have to get rid of them later in life, so please: stop now.

Love you like a me,
Val

It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God. 1 Peter 1:21

Bio: Valerie Morby is a professional Facebook-er and web mistress for a camp ministry in Texas. She loves movies and funny things and peanut butter. She is one of the few and the proud to be able to call Ginger “sister,” and hopes said sister will not hold it against this writer that the preceding blog post was turned in mere hours before the deadline. Said blog writer just likes to rock a deadline like that. She blogs at Saltwater Coke whenever she can remember that it’s time to write again.


Dear Carey.

A two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 16-year-old Carey,

A fumble may be small but you can learn from it. An outright mistake may be large but don’t worry, it actually helps you grow. And while you were a really good girl who strove for perfection at all times there is one thing in hindsight that I would warn you about. Try not to take this too personally. I am not criticizing, just trying to help you get the most out of your early days.

In first grade his name was Andy and he lasted all the way to 3rd grade. In 4th grade his name was Jason, in 5th grade his name was Grant. Junior High there was Chris, Matt, Lee, Alex, Bobby, and Graham. You really like liked Graham a lot and would probably consider him to be your first true heartbreak. In high school there was Matt number 2 and then Ryan. Ryan stuck. You kept him around till you left for college. Can I stop there? You get the picture, right?

Let’s talk about this. A boyfriend is nice. It is fun to say you have a boyfriend. It is nice to hold hands with someone in the movies, it is cool that you never have to walk to and from each class alone, and that you can stay up late at night sharing hopes and dreams on the phone. But let me tell you a little secret. A boyfriend is not needed for survival. I promise! There doesn’t always have to be a boyfriend. And while the Bible does speak of leaving your mother and father for a spouse there was no need to go on a quest for “the one” at age eight. That is just plain silly! I understand your love of dreaming and grand fairy tales.  You dreamed big. Dreams of marrying your childhood sweetheart, having kids, and telling stories that made peoples heart melt. You were crossing your fingers for romance, love notes, surprises, and things written for soap operas. I love that dreamer side of you. Don’t lose it, just use it in other ways.

Here is what I know now. Enjoy friends! Enjoy your girlfriends. Have sleepovers, stay up all night, talk on the phone, giggle, go to the mall, and bask in the sun (with sunscreen, of course). Hang out with your family! Go to church together, have lunch with them, go on road trips with a smile on your face, play with your siblings, appreciate that they are there. Don’t let boys make you so nervous! I know now that you always liked having a boyfriend because it kept you safe. You didn’t have to put yourself out there because you were “taken.” They may be boys but they are just human beings that you can learn from and have as just friends. I say all this because I know without a shadow of a doubt no matter how much you try to fashion “the one” for you it won’t do you any good. You are not the one in charge. God has to pick him for you.

16-year-old Carey, your style led to heartbreaks. You experienced more heartbreaks than needed because you were trying to control the boyfriend situation, make it work, and ignore the stop signs that God was throwing in your way. The thing you can be certain of is this: don’t worry! Don’t worry about the future. It will come.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act” Psalm 37:7a

It just won’t be in your time. It will be in God’s time. And it certainly won’t look as you planned. It will look as God desires. And this Carey, allowing your life to look as God designed for you, is the grandest storybook story that can ever be told.

Enjoy the journey.

With Joy, Carey

Bio: Carey C Bailey

I am a lover of grace through Christ, a wife to the hilarious Mr. Bailey, and a mother to two precious children of God. I host an online community for mothers called Cravings: desiring God in the midst of motherhood. After having kids, I realized I had to make a shift in my personal devotional time. The days of chillin in my comfy chair reading my Bible, journaling, and sipping hot tea were gone. I had to make it easier not less meaningful, just easier.

My goal at Cravings is to walk with moms in creating a powerful relationship with God in the midst of motherhood. My promise is that Cravings is a place of inspiration, encouragement, and community. I want you to be able to walk in and out of each day satisfied because The Bible, not cupcakes, filled you up.

Cravings first product, daily devotional flashcards, will be in stores in August. Stop by and stay awhile.

Stay connected with Carey: website / blog / facebook / twitter


Dear Dani.

A two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 15-year-old Dani,

You just got back from a mission trip to Mexico, you’re experiencing your first taste of falling into “like” and you are growing up, faster than you know how. Your family is building a house themselves and you are sometimes frustrated by lack of space.

You are tough, determined, and you see things your way. This can be good: you’re not a pushover, you hold to your convictions with an iron grip and you are fearlessly headstrong and loyal. Just don’t forget to give a little.

I know. I KNOW. You feel pushed around and, never one to take an insult lying down, you push back. But the people who love you the most – who will love you unconditionally FOREVER – are not trying to be pushy for pushy’s sake. They’re not trying to control you or hurt you or keep you locked up forever. Yes, we’re talking about mom and dad, and they are trying to protect you.

Grace is something you struggle with, and you always will. But only if you grant it to those you love will you start to experience it yourself.

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret, from more than a decade later: your parents aren’t perfect. Nobody knows how to have a teenage daughter and you sure didn’t come with manual.

But they LOVE you. They deserve your grace and respect because they aren’t perfect, because they love you and because you can only find grace for yourself when you give it to others.

2 Corinthians 12:9 reads: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Grace is your weakness, and Christ will only amplify it as you grow in Him. It seems impossible now, but He will use this very thing to give you hope and strength when you need it, when all the bull-headed determination in the world can’t accomplish what a small dose of His Grace can. His power dwells in you!

You already have so many fabulous memories with your mom and dad and so many more to come. Embrace their love and extend grace to them when they need it, and to yourself when you fall. You’ll learn how to wire electrical outlets from Dad, you’ll make home-made chili for the first time with Mom. You’ll laugh together, getting the giggles from Mom’s outrageous stories, and you’ll sit outside with Dad and eat ice cream, resting on a soon-to-be-used lumber pile and learning the tricks of the house-building trade. Don’t lose these moments to frustration. Embrace the joys of an unconventional family life – one built on time together, enduring principles, hard work and Grace.

His Grace, extended to you that you may extend it to others.

Go ahead and grow up – in Grace, in love, and in the knowledge that your mom and dad are, and always will be, your biggest cheerleaders and the foremost purveyors of God’s Grace to you.

-Dani

Dani Nichols is a writer and editor from the backwoods of Oregon, currently residing by the beach in Southern California with her hot and Godly husband and an assortment of tents, kayaks, snowshoes and at least half the contents of any well-stocked REI. She loves trying new recipes, burning candles, debating politics and chasing food trucks. She also writes about her (mis)adventures at www.wranglerdani.com/blog