I am still in a bit of disbelief that I’m turning 35 this weekend, tomorrow to be exact. I told a friend last night that it just seems so unbelievable because in my head, I’m still 25 years old—although at times, my body has felt to be about 75 years old or more, due to my disabilities and limitations I have dealt with.
But, as I think back over everything I have learned during many different seasons of life in the last 34 years, there are so many things I would have loved to tell the younger me, but here are just a few:
- The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. It’s easy to think you have it all figured out in your teen and twenties, but by the time you’re in your thirties, you may realize just how much you still have to learn and understand about life. This is a good sign of growth. It shows humility, grace and just how far you’ve come. Always keep learning and always stay teachable.
- Face your fears. Don’t ignore them, don’t run away from them, run straight into them. I know this may sound absolutely crazy right now but in time you will understand. Facing my fears has been the best thing I’ve ever done. There have been times I want to laugh when others call me brave, because I have felt just the opposite of that–scared to death. So many times I have had to do the next scary thing while shaking in my boots, and wondering how it was going to turn out. And the amazing thing? That place is where I have found God’s grace and faithfulness in my life. I have discovered that if I put God in a box and am unwilling to face my fears, he is so limited and unable to do all that he wants to do in my life. BUT, if I take the risk, face my fears and am obedient to the next thing God is asking me to do, no matter how scary, I discover again and again so much more of who God really is and who I am too. Be strong and courageous and take the next step, no matter how scary it looks. God will meet you there, and you will not walk alone.
- You will have some very hard days. There will be days of pain, of grief and sheer agony over your life as your walk your journey of life. Getting diagnosed with MS may be one of the hardest things you will face. Allow yourself space to grieve, to weep and to reflect on the life you had hoped you would have. This is the space you will need to heal. You cannot heal if you do not grieve. The amazing thing is, God is not afraid of our grief or our questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them. He sees the beginning from the end and know each of our days already, so he is not afraid of our future. You don’t have to be either.
- You will know deeper joy than you ever imagined. Sometimes I wonder if I would appreciate joy in my life as much as I do, if I hadn’t walked through the valleys. I think the valleys really do make us appreciate the hills in life–the good days. Learn to look for joy on the hardest of days and you may be surprised at all the little joys that eventually equate to big amounts of joy. God is constantly bringing joy in our places of grief so don’t overlook it. Supernatural joy will carry you through whatever you face.
- Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Because life can be hard, celebrate everything you possibly can. Even the smallest, most insignificant of things, because the focus is the celebration, no not the event. It will help keep your heart light and take some of the focus off of the hard places in life, as least temporarily, as you celebrate good things happening in your life. It can be a powerful reminder of joy in our lives and build the anticipation of all God will do will do in your life even if you do not yet see it. Celebration is a powerful antidote for sadness and grief.
- End each day with a grateful heart. The act of gratitude will change your life. I had no idea when I began implementing intentional thankfulness into my life, how it would change me. The more I began to look for things to be thankful for, the more I discovered I had to be thankful for and now it is just naturally overflowing. I only wish I had began sooner! Younger me, find that thankful heart as quickly as you can, because it truly does equate to a beautiful heart, a soft heart that God can easily mold and shape for his purpose. It will leave you overflowing with joy.
As I look back and reflect, I never dreamed I would walk this life-long road of heartache, physical pain and disability at times, but yet so much accompanying joy in the journey all due to the fact of the beautiful God who walks beside me. So I say a tearful and glad adios to all that I’m leaving behind, and an arms-open-wide welcome to all that 35 holds for me! New seasons, new joys and new adventures walking with my savior. The best is yet to come!