Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Dear 18-Year-Old Kristen, I'm writing from fifteen years in the future. No, we don't have flying cars like Back to the Future made you believe. The world is different, but the world is in many ways the same. Your life, however, is nothing like you ever thought it would be and that's why I'm writing. At 18, you thought you would conquer the world but, spoiler alert, you didn't conquer the world. In fact, you're going to think it conquered you instead. But let me give you some encouraging pointers from the older, hopefully wiser you.
1. God is more real than you think. You've been raised in church and God is important but - buckle up - you're going to find out how just how real and personal and awesome He is.
2. Stop being so afraid. Sure you're afraid of heights. Climb that mountain anyway. Yeah, you're afraid of needles. Get your ears pierced if you want to. I know you're terrified of water. Jump in the lake anyway. You'll love it. Walk up to that person and say Hi even though you feel like you're going to throw up. If you let fear control you, you're going to miss some of the greatest moments in life.
3. God didn't create you to please people. So stop it. Stop living to make others happy. Serve the church and love your neighbor but you do not exist to please others. You were made to bring God glory. Stop being codependent and afraid of man more than God.
4. Separate your identity from what you do. Life is more than a platform so don't make your identity all about that stage you sing on. Be thankful for the opportunity to sing and encourage and lift high the name of Jesus, but remember it is He who builds up and tears down. Embrace the gifts and talents you've been given, but don't allow those gifts and talents to define you.
5. Choose a vocation. Then make a plan B. Don't bank on life being easy-peasy. Don't assume you'll get married and he will make the money while you get to stay at home. Don't assume your parents will always be there to support you. Grow up and be realistic. Paul was a tent maker, Lydia was a business woman - prayerfully look at your life and the skills God gave you and pursue a vocation so you can both support yourself and be a blessing to others.
6. You know that friend you were mean to? Go apologize. Had you been in her shoes, you would have appreciated a little more grace.
7. If you hurt someone, that's on you, not them. You can label them "too sensitive" but you yourself know that the Bible instructs us to handle each other gently. You memorized those verses in AWANA so now it's time to live them out. Don't be insensitive to the pain of others. One day those tables are going to turn and you're going to need more sensitivity than you ever thought you would.
8. Don't be ashamed of your boldness but don't allow your boldness to make you mean. The apostles prayed for boldness so it's a worthy and necessary trait to have, but take caution not to let your boldness make you cruel towards others. Believe it or not, you can speak the truth in love without making yourself a human version of a brillo pad.
9. Accept the fact that you are pale. You cannot tan. Wear that sunscreen every day.
10. Don't make marriage your be-all-end-all. Sure you desire it and that is honorable and God will be faithful to what He has called you to. But don't make your life all about marriage. A man does not give you worth. His making of vows or his breaking of those vows have no bearing on your value as a daughter of God. Rejoice in marriage if and when it comes, but it's not all you were created for.
11. Read. Read a lot. And don't ever stop.
12. Don't make yourself untouchable. Value your body and guard your heart but don't become untouchable. Pain and pride keep us from enjoying other people. Be wise and be faithful, but don’t be someone who can not be reached, taught or loved.
13. Disappointments will come. Lean into them. Disappointments are healthy. We learn a lot through them and you're going to experience many. But it's okay. Disappointments make us all the more anxious for Heaven.
14. Dance. I know, you were raised Baptist and your dancing is embarrassing but, trust your future self, there's nothing like laughing and dancing with your kids in the kitchen.
15. Don't react, act. God made you an emotional creature who is passionate and fierce but don't react more than you act. Match your passion with your ability to think.
16. Don't let the pursuit of perfection rob you of your life. Learn what vulnerability is. Learn what humility is. Be honest with yourself and with others. You aren't perfect, you're never going to be perfect so stop pursuing perfection. Pursue Jesus, the all perfect One. People can't relate to people who are unrelatable. You can't be transparent with someone who walks around hiding their weaknesses. Be real, be flawed and find joy in the fact that you are a sinner saved.
17. Go outside more. There's something incredible and magical and beautiful about the leaves, the flowers, the animals and the rocks. Make time to go outside and find the lovely in whatever season you're in.
18. Stop and smell every flower you see. You talk really fast and you're basically never still unless you're sleeping. Train yourself to stop and smell the roses...literally. In the grocery store, in the flower bed, on a trail in the woods - wherever - pause for a minute and inhale something beautiful God made.
19. Learn how to properly grieve. You're eighteen and you've experienced a little of this. But you haven't experienced death or marital betrayal or other deep sorrows of life. When it happens, when it comes, learn how to grieve properly. Learn how to cry, to mourn, to ask questions, but don't stop there. Learn how to let it rest in the hands that hold all things together. If you want to be a woman of faith, you have to let faith be evident in everything, including every kind of death.
20. Dare to dream, but don't just dream, live. Do the thing you've always wanted to do. Do something crazy every now and then. Create moments that make great stories. Experiences are much better than material things so set goals and run after them to achieve them. Live, Kristen.
With love from your future self,