Dear Juli Anne,
You don’t know it yet, but you will find peace in the middle of your storms ....
Throughout my years as a mom, I would write letters to my younger self countless times in my head. But I could never put my thoughts down on paper. What would I say that would make sense, and truly be enough to undergird my younger self for this journey?
My dad uses my first and middle names when he wants to talk to me about something important, but with a slight air of sarcasm or wit. He knows how to say, “Juli Anne” in a way that gets my attention and causes me to listen intently.
So, when I began pondering writing to my younger self again this year with the purpose of encouraging moms who may be struggling on their journey, I wanted to write my words with a bit of my dad’s flair. I needed to write to my younger self in a way that would not make her afraid or traumatized. My words needed a sense of humor about them to soften the blow to her five-year plans!
I knew I could not do this task without other moms’ insights. It is our collective story. So, I asked a few of my friends who are also *caregivers and mothers of children with disabilities to join me in a journey back in time to provide fresh perspective that we as younger women would need to understand. They gave me rich words for all of us to receive, young and old, for now and in the future:
~ I wish I could have made taking care of myself more of a priority - the whole self-care thing. It's not just about 'putting on your oxygen mask first before helping your child with theirs.' - I didn't realize how important balance is and truly believing those around me that everything would work out for the best.
~ This child is a gift to be opened with great love and expectation, knowing you will learn and experience the most important and deepest things of life. Let the gaining of wisdom, knowledge, balance, deepest love and victorious joy overshadow the times of confusion, broken-heartedness, pain and sorrow.
~ You are not alone even if you feel like no one could possibly understand your pain and struggles. Take a deep breath and really evaluate the people you surround yourself with. If someone wants to help you and you need it, take the help with gratitude and grace. You certainly will have the opportunity to pay it forward. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. Recognizing the people who genuinely love and care for you and your family, keep them close to your heart.
~ Drop every expectation of what you think your life is going to look like.
Drop every expectation of what you think she is or is not capable of accomplishing.
Rich words, right? It looks easy enough to do, right? Except most of us as younger women did not have the foresight (or maturity) to walk in this wisdom. The younger me, anyway, did not know any of these things! Consequently, I will try again to write my words to my younger self.
Dear Juli Anne,
You will accomplish so much with God’s leading and direction, but it will not be the things you planned on accomplishing. No, your journey will be completely redirected onto a winding, sometimes dry road where you will meet your God in all of His sovereignty, just as you desired.
You will hardly recognize yourself sometimes on this road because there will be cares you only read about as a young teenager. But you will find yourself capable of doing crazy, selfless things … so unlike you!! It must have been a work of God!
Travel lightly, but travel with family and friends. You will need them with you when you don’t know to turn to the right or left. You are stubborn (you know that), and you will try to do it on your own, but don’t be stupid, Juli Anne. You are just not that good! Sorry, but it’s true and everyone knows it and will want to help. Let them.
I am not going to spoil the surprises you will be privileged to witness. But get all you can get out of the one earmarked as “damaged goods.” That one will change your life and direction beyond your wildest five-year-plan imagination.
You are strong and courageous, but not strong or courageous enough on your own. Lean into Him and hold on because you are about to take the ride of your life … for the rest of your life!
P.S. Your dad may not be thrilled at first about your choice to marry a man named Chris at a very young age while you are still in college, but don’t worry, he will make a 180-degree turn very quickly — and you will need this man to love you and hold you tightly.
Your future self
I hope you will contemplate what you would write to your younger self. It is an excellent exercise in gratitude. It causes you to look back with the wisdom you have gained and appreciate the strength you have been given as well as the strength you have developed. None of it comes cheaply. But what an appreciation I have for what has brought me to this stage in my life — the Life Unexpected moments — the moments that would have terrified me if I had known the cost.
As fellow moms on this path with you, we send this letter to you now in hopes that you will be encouraged to take the journey with us no matter the hills and valleys — no matter the costs.
You do not walk alone.
*A person who gives care to people who need help taking care of themselves. Examples include children, the elderly, or patients who have chronic illnesses or are disabled. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers, or members of the clergy. They may give care at home or in a hospital or other health care setting.
Listening Library: Dear Me (Nichole Nordeman)
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
(Philippians 2:4 ESV)
This is a letter to the girl I used to be Dear Me There are some things that you should know It's not my intention to embarrass or to shame you What's inside the rear-view mirror is closer than it appears We do the best that we know how, with what we have been given And the difference between you and I is, I've been given time In time, you'll see
Dear Me This is a letter to the girl I used to be Some things are not as simple as we said Remember when we thought there were a handful of some magic words to pray A guarantee and a down payment on a mansion Remember all the rules we made about the Body and the Blood The hoops we made them jump through Though He offers it to everyone I'm so sorry
Do you remember now the things I said I thought that I deserved My flag, and safety, a place to learn The things I know I didn't earn And bless their hearts, I'm sure it's hard But handouts don't help anyone And all the talk about the system I sure hope someone can fix them I said those things
Dear Me This is a letter to the girl I used to be You'll see, you're gonna take the long way And there is nothing you could do or say to separate you From the love of God who made you just exactly as He meant to And you cannot imagine all the places you'll see Jesus But you'll find Him everywhere you thought He wasn't supposed to go So, go, go
And hold all the mothers, whose babies bleed from bullet holes And feel all the hunger, the bellies, and the bones Shout for the prisoner, cry for justice, loud and long And march with the victims, as Jesus marches on And sit at all the tables, 'cause Jesus eats with everyone And dance to the music, if you can't sing its native tongue And cry for the wombs, the mothers and the empty arms And hold high the warriors, fighting now for freedoms' song
And love, love, love, love Like it's your own blood And love, love, love, love As you have been loved Love, love, love, love Like it's your own blood Love, love, love, love As you have been loved Love, love, love, love, love Like (you have been) Love, love, love, love, love It's all about love! Love, love, love, love, love His name is love Love, love, love, love, love
Dear Me You did not learn this in a day or two or three So ask a lot of questions But Jesus loves us, this I know And there are no exceptions
Songwriters: Nichole Nordeman
Dear Me lyrics © Birdwing Music, Birdboy Songs