You're 23! Happy Birthday, girl! You're about to embark on the craziest decade of your life (you've only lived 2 so far, but this one is going to be pretty nuts)! It's mostly going to be good stuff, GREAT stuff even. But there are going to be some really, really hard moments. Twenty-three is when you become an adult. This year is the catalyst to becoming a grown up, and you're ready. You've got this.
You're living at home now, you've been home from college for a few years, and moving home with no end in sight is a bit of a downer, I know you're sad a lot, and you feel hopeless, but you are going to be moving out, SOON. Just be patient. In a couple months you're going to get the call, offering you the option to purchase a condo right near downtown. You're very own place. That you OWN. By yourself. It's going to terrify you, the responsibility and the thought of being lonely.
You're going to love it. This place is going to be your resting place. Your sanctuary. Your shelter from the world. You are going to live here, laugh here, love here. You are going to cry here. You'll be scared. You'll be ecstatic. This will be your home base for all kinds of adventures. You will bake and cook and decorate and host all your friends. You will have several bible studies in your living room with all kinds of ladies. This home is going to be one of the biggest blessings of the next decade of your life. It's a good one.
You're gonna get a puppy! When you get that call about the condo, the very first thing you do will be find yourself a dog. You already know this though, don't you? She's going to be awesome. She will be furry, and fluffy, and loving, and obedient...well, sometimes. She will get house-broken. She will bring you much joy. She will sit with you when you cry. Her eyes will look at you like you are her world. Because you are. And she is YOURS. You will go on adventures together. She will sit on the floor of your car ready to take on the world with you. It's going to be really, really fun.
As for the loneliness you worried about, you really aren't. Your life is so full of wonderful friends and family, that your home is a great place for you to recharge in the quietness. You're gonna find out, after all those years of extroversion, you're actually an introvert. Yeah, I wouldn't believe that either.
In a few short days, you're going to start a new job. You are super nervous leaving your old, secure job, but you weren't happy. And this one is going to be so much better. You think you'll just work there for a year (or two), and it is really going to be TEN (at least). Around year 5, you're going to laugh that you're still there. But you're going to laugh because you will realize how much really do love your job. You love weekends more, and you always will, but for a job, it's pretty awesome. You're going to make some wonderful friends here. You're gonna love them. You'll spend every day with them for a DECADE (at least) and they will become like family. You spend the most of your time spinning in that same chair, in that same spot, but you will grow into an adult in that spot. It's going to be good.
You'll finish grad school this year as well. You'll be 23 and have a Masters Degree. I'm proud of you, girl. You'll never have to go to school again - as much as you really do enjoy it. The year ahead is such a big one, it kind of gets swept under the rug, but this is one milestone not to be overlooked.
And because of that job, you're going to be able to buy that home. And a car too. And pay your student loans. All on your own. It may seem silly to me now at 33, but I remember you 23-year-old-self, and the feeling that you'll never be able to do or afford anything on your own. But you will. This job is going to be one of the biggest blessings of your life. And you have no clue how much so.
You're going to travel. I know right now you have zero interest in seeing the world. I get that. I remember that. But, in about 5 years you're gonna SEE IT. You'll finally leave the continent, and head to Ireland, and get those first stamps in your passport, and after that, there will be no stopping you. You're going to go to 20 countries on three continents, and fill up pages of your passport. You'll kiss the Blarney Stone, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, gamble in the Casino de Monte Carlo. YOU WILL PET A LION. You're going to go to Russia, and Croatia, Turkey, Estonia. You will go to several islands in Greece - they will be your favorite. You'll turn 29 somewhere between England and Denmark. You'll turn 30 in Barcelona, 31 in Florence. You'll go to SOUTH AFRICA. Yes, you will. I know, I'd freak out about it too.
You will travel across the country 4 times to help those who have lost everything. Three of those times you will go to the south, Mississippi to be specific. You will meet people who trust you immediately, because they need help, and love, and HOPE. You really won't do much, besides throw out waterlogged sheet rock, and sift through scattered photographs, but you will listen. And you you will cry. And God will use you. And HE will get much glory.
A few years later, after all the dust from the first hurricane has settled, you will go on that 4th trip, to New Jersey. You will step into a strangers home, and feel like you are walking into a familiar place. The sights, the sounds, the SMELLS. You look down at your feet, and see floorboards that were once carpeted. You will rip sheet rock off walls once more. Pull nails out of studs. You will find damp photographs in the dirt. You will wear gloves, and a mask, and get insulation in your hair again. And you will cry for all of the "stuff" your new friends have lost. You will be shocked to be standing the midst of such loss. Again. But again, you will be the hands and the feet of the Church. One word, on one page, of the story the Lord is writing in so many people's lives.
Speaking of the church, things are going to change. In a few years, you're going to leave the place you have known, and the halls you have walked for the past 23 years. It is going to be scary and awesome all in one. It is going to be one of the biggest leaps of faith you will take, but it will also be crystal clear. You will see the Lord leading like no other time in your life. He will open doors, and shut others. Figuring out what friendships and relationships look like after this will be one of the more complicated parts. Tread gently, be humble, give much grace. God is good, and He will guide you through it.
Your new church is called Hope Church. It will feel like home. It will be family. And the truth is, it's going to be really hard. And it's going to be really, really good. But really, really hard. But so much fun too. I'm 33 now, and in the midst of serving here. God is so good. And 4 years in, we are still just in the beginning. Something someone will tell you in the beginning is to "be faithful in the little". Remember that when you're cleaning out a 40 cup sludgy coffee pot for the 200th time in an elementary school bathroom sink. Laugh at yourself a lot. Give much grace. And serve people well. Give God the glory.
You will also learn that the Church isn't just the people within the same walls and who you sing next to on Sunday mornings. It's the people who are faithfully gathering in their own pews, chairs, benches, floors around the world, praising the Author of all things. You're going to have so many opportunities to be the Church, with the Church. It won't always be what you expect, and that is a gift of grace.
I hate to tell you this, but by 33 you won't married. You'll go on a few dates, some will be better than others. You will hate this fact, I know it. But trust me when I say this - you are going to get to do so much because of the freedom of being single. You will be able to book your next trip to Europe on a whim. You will get to go to Europe 5 or 6 times, because you can. It's going to be really good. Who knows where the next 10 years will put us, but enjoy these last 10 for all you do get to do, not what you don't.
But people will surround you. Friends and family. The sun will set each day, and rise each morning. And with each of those, the pain will gradually lessen. God is faithful. He will teach you much. You will learn to understand loss and grief. He will use you because of this. He will not waste anything. He will get you through it. The hurt will never fully subside, but you will walk with it in your heart, a little more compassionate, a whole lot wiser and better because of it. And you will recognize, that though this was the hardest thing of the past 10 years, you have SO so much to be grateful for.
Twenty-three-year-old-self, if you can't tell by what I just told you, this next decade is going to be quite the ride. Hang on, say yes to things, and know you will get through it. You will be sitting here writing this letter to yourself in 10 years with a big grin, being so grateful for what the last decade has brought you. I think life will be different than you expected, but I think you'll like it. Let's check back in in another 10 and see where we're at, (hello, future 43 year old (ouch) self)! If it's even half as incredible as the last 10 we'll be in a good place.
Happy Birthday, Girl. I love you.