Yesterday, a sweet friend encouraged my prayer group to think about the following question:
If you could send a text to yourself one year ago today, what would you tell yourself?
Honestly, it took me a whole day of thinking to come up with an answer, and I still wasn’t satisfied. There are so many things I would want the year-ago-me to know, but how could I put it in words? Especially into a short text? An email might help. A letter might be better.
But would the year-ago-me truly grasp what I want her to understand?
I don’t think I could do it in a text. Year-ago-me would likely scratch her head trying to figure out what it meant. So right now, I’m going to write a blog that I wish I would want to tell her.
Dear Michelle of 2014,
You have a monumental, life-changing year ahead of you. Right now, you have no idea of the trials that await you. You have hopes and dreams and expectations. This year will not be at all as you imagine it. But it will be okay.
Right now, you have hopes for the year to come. Hope for a new child. Hope for a new home in a new state. Hope for the ways you will serve your new church and community. Rest assured, there is hope to be had, and a year from now you will feel those hopes again. But it won’t happen in the timetable you expect, nor in the ways you expect.
You will experience loss this year. You’ll say goodbye to your unborn baby in Pennsylvania, right before you move to Texas.You’ll say goodbye to your Pennsylvania home before you move into your new one. You’ll say goodbye to your friends and family that make up your present community, and it will send you into relational desert for a time. You’ll say goodbye to your beloved church, and that will not give way to a replacement for quite some time.
You will weep and grieve your baby. You will ache for a new little one in your womb, and it won’t happen for a while.
You will attempt multiple avenues to try to engage in your new community, search for a new church, and make new friends. You will start out with gusto and excitement, full of expectation that God will provide those things for you right away. Within a few months, you will be discouraged to find that it has not happened yet.
You will spend many sleepless nights thirsting for the new life and new community that you had hoped for. Those nights will lead to fear that you made a huge mistake in moving as you did.
It’s probably best that you don’t have a clue what will happen to you. If you did, you would likely be paralyzed with fear. But take comfort in this. The trials will not all come at once, and God will give you strength to continue taking one step after another.
I have some advice for you.
One: Pray a Lot
Before you make a decision to move to Texas, pray a lot. I know you will do this anyway. But pray even more. You really can’t pray too much about this. Even better, get yourself a notebook, and draw a big line down the middle of the first page. On the left side, write down what you are praying for. Now, very importantly, when God answers a prayer or gives you some sort of clarity that you have been seeking, write that down on the other side of the page.
Why should you do this?
During the year to come, you are going to be glad you prayed and glad you followed. Sometimes you might forget the intricate ways that God made your path straight. You will be attacked by a spiritual enemy who will want you to doubt the choices you’ve made. Looking back at the clear answers that God gave you will give you the comfort and assurance that you will desperately need. A notebook would be a wonderful tool to remind you during those battle-filled hours. I wish I had done so.
Two: Trust and Obey
No matter what choices you make in your life, you will encounter trials. Some people will be for you, and others against you. You will be disillusioned and disappointed.
Throughout any trials, though, one thing will guard you from fear, and that is knowing that God is with you. If you seek his will and strive to obey it, you will have the reassurance of knowing that the trials are part of His plan, and not something that you created by going your own way. Though He will often work in ways that you do not expect, you will be able to trust that He will continue to work out good through all of this.
Three: Enjoy the Hidden Blessings
During your time of settling, when you so desperately want to build your new community, recognize the unique blessings of being new to town. Yes… I understand it is important to keep trying to find your place in Texas. But don’t let your spirit be down when it doesn’t happen right away. If you search for the blessings in it, you will see that this quiet period of your life will be a wonderful time of bonding with your own family. Think about it: With nothing regular on your calendar or your children’s except “visit a church on Sunday,” you can experience what could be compared to a lengthy family vacation. Use that opportunity to savor your family’s times together in the swimming pool and exploring new sights. These times of bonding will be more difficult to find when community is established and life gets busy. Don’t let a cloud of worry about the community stuff darken that joy.
Four: Keep on
Know this: you will see some great things this year.
You will trust that you have not lost that little baby forever. You will rejoice at knowing that baby was made to live for an eternity. You will be thankful for all the pain of life’s woes that your little one will be spared. Yes, you will still miss her, and the 2015 Michelle will still cry at the most unexpected times. But, you will be comforted.
You will wonder if you will ever be able to have another child. You will be overjoyed when you find that yes, you will. You will experience a twinge of fear at miscarrying again, but you will know that no matter what happens with this next baby, he or she too will be made to live forever.
You will laugh when others tell you you’re too old to have babies, or that you have too many children, because you know better. You know that God is the giver and that he makes no mistakes. You know that he will decide when you are too old, or when your family is complete, and then he will stop sending the babies. Your trust in the Lord will be strengthened.
Buy that house your husband and you both love, and don’t second-guess. It’s perfect for your family and you will find yourself incredibly thankful that God is letting you live in it. You’ll use it well and fill it up with lots of eternal treasures (people).
Your efforts at finding new friends will seem in vain at first, but God will provide them for you at the most unexpected times and the most unexpected places. You don’t have to work so hard at this. You just have to follow God’s lead. Your children will not be lonely. They will develop more sweet friendships than they have ever known, and they will also hold onto those few sweet friendships in Pennsylvania.
The church hunting phase will last exponentially longer than you expect. Your children will make jokes about writing a book called, Church Visiting: the Exhaustive Guide to DFW Churches and Beyond. This is good. Keep the mood light rather than discouraging. You will eventually recognize certain blessings in your long church search. You will learn a lot about what you are truly wanting to find in a church. You will be able to use these experiences to give feedback to your friends up North who are church planting. Your husband, as one who genuinely loves visiting and studying churches, will relish the whole experience. I know you want to just pick a church and get settled, but just keep on. When the time is right and God has done what he wants to do through your search, he will show you where he wants you. When it’s all over and you’ve find the place where God wants you, you’ll appreciate it all the more.
I know this all sounds overwhelming and frightening. But a year from now, you will truly be glad that you have experienced it all.
Michelle of 2015
This is what I would want to tell year-ago-me. But reading back over it, I think it’s best that she didn’t know all that. She’d have been terrified. Plus, I think she’d lose something by reading all the lessons rather than learning through experience.
So perhaps a short text would be better. What would I say? Just the key points?
Pray a lot. Trust and obey. Enjoy the hidden blessings. Keep on.
No. That’s too cryptic. She would read something entirely different in that, and she’d never grasp the depth of those words.
Maybe it would be better just to text her this:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. ~Proverbs 3:5-8
Yes. I think that says it perfectly.
And then maybe one more:
Start a prayer journal. Do it now. Write down your prayers and God’s answers. You’ll be glad you did.
Now for the clincher:
My friend who asked this very thought-provoking question followed up with another question:
“Then wouldn’t you say the same thing to yourself this year?”
Yes. Yes, I would.
What would you text to yourself?