My friend Anne at Not A Supermom posted this earlier this week - a letter to her twenty-year-old self. There is a linky thing on her website so that you can blog on the same topic and link it to others who have done the same.
I don't have a good picture of my twenty-year-old self right now. Maybe later.
But, without further ado, here is the birthday letter:
Happy 20th birthday, December 2nd, 1985. Tonight you are going to go out with some friends, drink cheap draft beer and overall have a pretty good time. Your life is generally a mess, it is true, but right now you have a smidgen of hope. You moved out of the dorm, you have joined a sorority and living in the house. Basically, you have done another "geographic." You don't know that term yet, but you will in 1993. A geographic is when you move from one place to another, thinking that if you could just get away from there, then everything would be fine. Problem is, you keep taking you with you. You have a few more geographics to come, but that is later.
For today, I am glad you are happy. You just came home from Thanksgiving break, your father bought you a beautiful bright blue wool coat. All is fine. A few more weeks of school, finals and then Christmas break at home. Christmas parties are being planned with your sorority sisters, possibilities are in the air. Enjoy today, because in eight days it is all going to collapse.
On December 10, your mom is going to call. Your father and brother are going to be in a terrible accident. Your little brother is going to be physically okay, but the scars are going to go deep. Your dad, on the other hand is going to be in persistent vegetative state for the next 7 1/2 years.
And you, Paula, are going to fall apart. Over the cliff, no holds barred, freefall.
If I could give you one piece of advice right now, it would be, "Whatever you think is a good idea, do the opposite." Every choice you make is going to be wrong. Literally, every.single.one. I would love to tell you about how the Lord is going to preserve you, but I don't know that you would listen to religious talk. You have been to church, done all that. Didn't work. I know. But listen to this - there are going to be some dark, dark moments coming up - times when you honestly don't think you can go on another day. And something - someone - some small remnant of a Sunday School lesson or a sermon or a hymn from long ago is going to give you just enough to keep going. Just enough.
You are going to pull yourself up by your bootstraps a few times, take those geographic cures several times, and in the meantime you will finish college, and go through a series of jobs. You will leave a path of wreckage behind you, like a tornado whirling through peoples' lives.
Be nicer to your mom and your grandma, by the way. They are going to pull you butt out of the fire more times than you can count. Appreciate them more.
But hey -it isn't all gloom in doom.
In late June of 1993 you will finally reach the end of your rope. You've tied a knot and hung on so many times, and at 27 you are too tired and too worn out to do it anymore.
And finally, FINALLY - you will be broken enough. And God will save you. He will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. You will cry out to him with this new heart and repent.
And it is all different. Suddenly, it really is. You will quit drinking. You will see life through new eyes. You aren't going to realize at the time that this, this moment, is when God saves you. You are still deluded by the theology of your youth, that walk-the-aisle-repeat-the-prayer notion of salvation. That is going to lead you on a spiritual journey to understand what salvation really means. But, maybe another letter. When you are forty or so!
In July of 1993 Daddy will die, never having woke up from the permanent vegetative state. The night before is the last time you will drink or use a drug up to and including today - over 19 years so far. Not bad for someone who couldn't go more than a day or so for years and years.
You are going to make new friends. You are going to meet him. The real HIM, that God has for you. You will build a life together, build a home, build a family, be part of a community.
You are going to homeschool your four (yes four, I am not joking!) sons.
Yes, it is legal. No, you won't worry about socialization.
Your husband (his name is Nevin, don't go looking for him now though, he is a big mess at twenty, too) is going to build you a little house out in the forest, with his own two hands. He is going to grow into a Godly man, and he is going to lead you. Yes, lead you. You will understand later, don't start panicking now. It is going to be good.
Life will not always be perfect, as the world sees perfect. The house is going to get crowded and messy, the kids are loud (you cannot imagine how loud four boys can be), you will own your own business and that is going to have its' ups and downs and lots of stress.
But Paula, the Lord is good. He is merciful, and his grace and mercy have no end. God is going to reveal himself to you, over and over, and it is good.
It is good.