I just turned 36 and I realized that it was exactly 18 years ago I was graduating high school. Boy, has time flown! So I thought that I would write a letter to my 18 year old self..this was so much fun and eye opening to see all that God has done and shown me. So here goes. :)
You're 18 and the whole world is ahead of you. Graduation has come and gone and college is right around the corner. You have big dreams and plans for your life, but life is going to turn out nothing like those plans and dreams- but trust me- it's better than you could have imagined. They are God's plans for your life- not yours. Not long after starting college, you will experience grief and loss unlike anything you imagined and it will change those plans and dreams forever. This will lead you on a journey to loving the Lord with your whole heart, experiencing Him in ways that your own, to finding fulfillment in Him alone.
You will survive college, I promise (even though you aren't so sure after that first week.) While you won't leave with a ring and Mr. Right, you will leave with friendships that will last a lifetime, a love for missions, a faith that is all your own, memories that will last forever, and a summer missions experience in Arkansas that involved lice and setting the stage for your love of adoption and foster care. You'll survive graduate school, even though you think it will kill you. You surprise yourself and everyone around you when you pack up and move 200 miles away for your first job- and end up staying in that area. You get your first job and realize you hate it. Then through a series of events, you end up with your dream job- at a place where you dreamed of working as a child. The job is hard but you grow so much. You learn that it isn't just a job, it's a calling.
You discover community and the importance of it. You navigate finding a church home and finding community. You go on a lot of really bad blind dates and question if your friends really like you or even know you because of those dates. You want to be married but are convinced it won't be until you're 80. You begin to find contentment in being single and really live life. You will travel to Croatia with 6 weeks notice and this starts the season of really living life. That trip changed you. You will meet a guy who will later break your heart but it was a huge growth experience for contentment.
You pass your LCSW (praise the Lord!), buy a house and really begin to live. Then turning 30 comes- what a year this will be. You get a tattoo, travel to Rwanda, Brazil and Haiti. You sit in an orphanage in Rwanda and rock a little boy and you are ruined. You will finally give in to your best friend's urging for you give to online dating one more try. You are on it 3 days and then you will meet the man that you have spent your whole life praying for. You get married, inherit a camo recliner and a deer head. You question your sanity at times (really a deer head?!) Having a baby won't be easy but on your 33rd birthday, you'll become a mommy to a little boy who again ruins you. You will navigate this whole wife and mommy thing, wondering what on earth you are doing. You'll realize that ministry is not always pretty but God is faithful. You put one foot in front of the other and walk by faith and not by sight.
you will surprise yourself with the person that you become, all that God has carried you through and the experiences you'll have ( when you are 19, you and a friend will ride a subway to see the RedSox and Yankees play- fun, but now, probably not the smartest thing to do!) But above all this, you are loved by God and His child. You are a stronger than you realize and you are enough. So hold on tight for the crazy adventure of life. You've got this!
Ashley at 36