An Open Letter of Advice to a Friend Turning 22

Dear Christina,

Happy Birthday! You asked all your friends to compile up to 10 pieces of advice for you as you journey through your twenties. Since I was quite sick with Chronic Lyme in my early to mid-twenties, this requires much effort on my part to recollect the greatest lessons I’ve learned thus far. To jog my memory a bit, I’m going to go ahead and outline below a few of my greatest accomplishments, hardships, and the happiest events from the past 7 years of my life.

Greatest Accomplishments:

  1. Memorized the Book of Philippians
  2. Ran a half marathon (13.1 miles)
  3. Shared the Gospel with countless children
  4. Memorized the Book of 1 John
  5. Learned to play piano
  6. Wrote a Bible study for Girls Group (unpublished)
  7. Started an online blog
  8. Memorized the Book of 2 Timothy
  9. Completed a 26.2 mile marathon
  10. Read 78 books in one year

Greatest Hardships:

  1. 5.5 years of Lyme treatment
  2. Childlessness (I expected to have at least 1 child by 25 years of age)
  3. Loneliness
  4. Job searching (twice)

Happiest Events:

  1. Spent a summer in Madagascar, Africa
  2. Graduated College
  3. Married John
  4. Stood as a Bridesmaid for 2 sisters and 2 friends
  5. Became an Aunt for the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th times
  6. Became a Nanny

 

MY ADVICE TO YOU (in no particular order):

#1 Thankfully, as you can see from my list above, the good that has occurred throughout my twenties has clearly outweighed the bad, though sometimes it feels like the hard things in life hold more weight than the pleasant ones. That being said, I guess my first piece of advice would be to FOCUS ON GOD’S GOODNESS & BLESSINGS, rather than on your problems. Colossians 3:2 says to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” There will always be problems in this life, whether you’re 22 or 72. I know I don’t have to elaborate about hardships to you, since you too have been suffering with Chronic Lyme for just as long or longer than myself, but we need to be reminded often to keep our eyes on Jesus.

#2 That brings me to number two. Be sure to SHARE YOUR BURDENS WITH THOSE WHO LOVE AND SUPPORT YOU. When you’re at your worst it’s easy to start believing the lies that nobody cares or understands what you’re going through. If you’re like me, you bottle your emotions inside and have a tendency to push people away when you need them most. As hard as it may be when you’re feeling lousy, reach out to somebody so they can support you through the pain or whatever else you’re dealing with. The Bible says Christians are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). I’m so grateful for the faithful few who have prayed for and with me, encouraged me, and helped me through my most trying moments. Identify who those people are in your life and express your gratitude to them.

#3 PRACTICE GRATITUDE DAILY. When I first started my Lyme treatment I became depressed. I was cynical and didn’t feel I had all that much to be grateful for. But I’ve since learned that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful about. We’re admonished to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Praying for people less fortunate than myself and keeping a gratitude journal are two habits that have helped me to cultivate a thankful heart, even on tough days. Being grateful truly transforms your attitude about life!

#4 DON’T GET UPSET OR DISCOURAGED IF LIFE DOESN’T TURN OUT THE WAY YOU PLAN IT TO. I am 27 years old and other than marrying my sweetheart, nothing in my life has gone “according to plan.” Nothing has gone the way I planned it, but of course I know it’s gone exactly the way God planned. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Knowing and believing God is sovereign and has your life in His hands will make the disappointments of your life so much easier to bear. At 25 years of age I expected to have at least one child and be a stay-at-home mommy, live in foreign country as a missionary, and be back to “normal” health-wise. When I started Lyme treatment I was told it would take 3-4 years before I was healthy again. It’s been nearly 6 years and I’m still experiencing  unwanted symptoms, I’m still living in Vermont, and am still childless. Life will likely not go the way you plan it to in the next 8 years, but instead of getting upset about it, praise God that He has a perfect plan for your life.

#5 Many a time throughout the past several years of Lyme treatment I’ve wrestled with God over the whys of my suffering. Though I am still not 100% fully recovered, I am feeling far better than when my treatment began, so I have a bit of hindsight, now. As I mentioned earlier, my sickness has kept me in the States and kept me from bearing children. Yet, it’s also provided me with countless opportunities to teach the Bible to children all across Vermont. My involvement with Child Evangelism Fellowship of Vermont has progressively increased, thus expanding my influence across the state. I see now that if I had been healthy, I probably would have missed out on many of the ministry opportunities God has blessed me with. Though less impressive than foreign missions work by the world’s standards, the ministry I’ve done among the children of Vermont has been invaluable. To quote mother Theresa, my fifth piece of advice for you is to “DO SMALL THINGS WITH GREAT LOVE.” Jesus said Himself, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42).

#6 Next, I want to stress the importance of developing the habit of spending time with Jesus. Nothing can replace a daily quiet time. Through study of the Bible and private prayer I have experienced and learned things that never would have been possible any other way. You cannot grow in your faith without these indispensable habits. John 3:30 says, “He must become greater, I must become less.” In order for this to happen in your own life, you must be sure to MAKE SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS A PRIORITY EVERY SINGLE DAY. The more of God’s Word you have in your mind, the better off you will be as you navigate through the ups and downs of your twenties (and thirties, forties, etc.).

#7 SET WEEKLY, MONTHLY, AND YEARLY GOALS AND MEET THEM. As I skim my list of accomplishments, I’m struck by the fact most of those came about because I made a goal, laid out a plan, and followed the steps to make it happen. Even though your life may not go as you plan it to, it’s still important for you to live intentionally as opposed to letting your life slip by without any purpose or aim. The Apostle Paul told the Philippians, “Not that I have achieved all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:14). Is there a book you’ve been wanting to sit down and read? Make a plan and stick to it. Is there a cute outfit you’d like to save up to buy? Write it down and start saving toward your goal. Do you want to start exercising? Find someone to keep you accountable and do it together. Below is a chart I made that you will hopefully find helpful as you pursue your goals.

Desired Outcome of Goal

Benefits of Meeting Your Goal Potential Obstacles to Meeting Goal Specific Steps to Take  What You Will Need to Accomplish Goal

Date to Meet Goal By

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#8 In addition to pursuing goals, I want to encourage you to PURSUE YOUR PASSIONS AND HOBBIES. Learning to play piano is something I really wanted to do, so when the opportunity arose, I seized it. It’s not easy to learn a new instrument in your twenties, but it is feasible- I’m living proof! I also really love to run. For several years I was unable to run at all, so when my body was finally well enough to start up once again, I enjoyed every opportunity I got. And it’s my love for this hobby that led to finishing my first half and full marathons, a year apart. So whatever you enjoy doing, do it wholeheartedly. And if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, seek after it in your twenties. There’s no better time than today! After all, Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a).

#9 You and I have shared dreams of raising future children and I know you’d love to get married some day. Let me encourage you to START PREPARING FOR YOUR FUTURE AS A WIFE AND MOTHER NOW, even before you meet your future husband. If you want to know how you can prepare for what the future may hold for you, you need look no further than Proverbs 31. Many people think you’ll “learn as you go,” and while this is true to an extent, there are still so many ways you can prepare ahead of time that will minimize conflict. So don’t wait to learn how to cook, balance a checkbook, or care for children, start now! And start praying for your future husband and children today!

#10 DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Galatians 6:4 says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” God made you who you are for a reason. Don’t waste time wishing you were like someone else. Embrace the unique quirks that make you Christina and don’t worry about what others think about you. Nobody is perfect and we’re all a work in progress, so give yourself and others grace as you continue to seek the Lord.

I hope these have been helpful to you. I cherish our friendship and look forward to what God is going to do in your life in the next several years. I love you, Christina! Happy Birthday!

Love,

Clare

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