10 Things I Wish I Knew at 20

Dear Rachel,

There are only minutes remaining your twenties. A decade full of things you never could have expected — experiences, emotions, adventures. The fullness of life in all the heartbreak and wonder to a level you never could have hoped for.

We’ve been thinking alot about the past 10 years. How only traces of you was still remain. There’s a new woman who stares back at me. A woman who has the scars of life and lines of laughter etched on her body. She’s a little wiser, a little less naive, but still believes the best about people almost to a fault. She’s a woman I’ve grown to respect and even like if I’m honest.

You see, dear one, your twenties will be a crucible. You’re going to be sanctified, refined, put through the fire, you’ll go to hell and back, but you’ll survive. And not to spoil the ending, but you’re going to be captivated by where life takes you.

So tonight, as I’ve been looking back on where you are at 20, beloved, it also makes me look ahead, at the things to come in this next decade of life. I’ve heard our 30’s are your best years and I’m sure when I’m 40, I’ll want to tell 30 year old Rachel a few things as well. But I have yet to learn those lessons and instead I’ve got a few things I’d like to say to you. Things I wish I knew when I was turning 20.

  1. Yes, love, you will finally kiss a boy. Several in fact. This will be a tough thing throughout the next decade. You’ll go through another half a decade before you finally kiss a boy, but you get there. I promise.
  2. Going gluten – free will get easier. Everyone will catch on and it will become a fancy trend and you’ll get to eat a turkey sandwich and have birthday cake. Maybe even a pizza or two.
  3. You will lose more people you love. One Saturday morning you will wake up and find the world has shifted and the people you love are no longer on this earth. But you will have been given time and stories and love and legacy. You will get to say your goodbyes.
  4. Your community will change over and over and over again. People who are in your life right now will not be in your life in ten years. And people who become your soulmates are still years off. Your community will change, revolve, evolve, but one thing will stay consistent, you will have community. You will have people. You will be known.
  5. You will fall in love. True love. You will tell a boy you love him and hold your breath while you wait for his response. And then you’ll fall in love again and again. You’ll understand what it’s like to have butterflies and someone staring into your eyes and telling you they have butterflies. You’ll meet their parents and their siblings and their friends. You will be a girlfriend. You will dance in an empty ballroom around Christmas time and be told you are beautiful. You will fall hard and fast.
  6. You will get your heartbroken. It will be torn out of your chest and smashed to the ground. You will have dark nights you never imagined possible. You will feel like you will never be able to get out of bed again and frankly, you won’t want to. You will be devastated more than once by them leaving.
  7. But you’ll find strength in yourself. You’ll learn how to put one foot in front of the other and face the day with hope. You’ll learn that the scariest thing you thought could ever happen – finding love and losing love – will happen and you’ll be okay.
  8. You will travel around the world. You will have adventures and misadventures. You’ll be driven down windy back roads in India and through downtown DC. You’ll go coast to coast, you’ll bring back the red clay soil from Africa, all the while leaving bits of your heart scattered among the jungle. You will truly see the world.
  9. You go to grad school! Not only do you survive undergrad but Surprise! The thing you’ve always wondered about, the thing you’re actually called to do, the tugging in your spirit you try to ignore? It finally catches up to you. You stop running from it or being afraid of it. You face it straight on and realize it’s exactly what you were created to do. And it’s entirely opposite of what you’re doing right now.
  10. You live life. Fully. You engage in the beautiful and the ugly and the fun and the devastating. You feel it all. You learn how to not let it control you. You learn that it can be a bad day but it doesn’t mean it is a bad life. You learn gratitude for the small moments and large alike. You say yes more often than no. You’ve got the scars to prove it. But you’ve also got the beautiful things. The memories of a baby’s first cry, your first kiss, laughter at Thanksgiving with your family around, standing beside your best friends on one of the most important days of their life, the hilariously awkward things you’re going to say to people which become stories in their own right, the nights you’ll dance until 2am, the words your heart will become fluent in, the moments you’ll pinch yourself wondering if this is really your life. It is sweet girl, it is.

There are so many things to come for you. So many incredible and hard things. You’ll still want the same things when you’re about to turn 30. You’ll ache for a family of your own and someone to share your life with. But you’ll learn how to find depth and love and fulfillment with the life you’ve been given. Because it’s a gift, these precious days you’re living. They are a gift to be cherished regardless of how they look.

So Rachel, I hope you know that while your twenties feel a bit like a mess, they’re amazing. They’re beautiful. And they’re making you exactly who you need to be.

Here’s to hoping the next ten are as wonderful as the last.

Love,

Rach

I’m the One Who Got Away

I took a deep breath and let it out.

I was driving home from work and I realized — I was happy. Content. At peace.

It was the first time in a very long time I felt like I could take a deep breath. You know the kind — the ones that go into your marrow. Into your cells. They change you. They are life. They are rest. They are full.

I don’t know when it happened. Probably sometime between chasing dreams and cutting negative people out of my life. And on the cusp of my 30th year I’ve realized I don’t need any of them, nor do I owe any of them a single thing.

look what you’ve done
look what you have become
you’re a puppet, a fool, and a thief
with my eyes closed
’cause that’s how it goes
everyone knew it but me

It’s been a slow process, this awakening of contentment. It’s been messy and stilted. One step forward and two steps back. Full of tears and throwing my hands up in the air. Regrettable conversations and placing boundaries in my heart. But yet, I’m happier now than I’ve been in a very long time.

you’re a good looking loser
and I’m the one who got away

This contentment caught me unaware. It caught me on the edge of a meltdown. It was the calm after the storm. The sense that life had been wrecked by the hurricane yet you know the pieces can be put back together, you’ll find a new normal with scars of the wreckage. You’ll manage and not only manage but thrive.

with my eyes full of tears
and my hands with two beers
I’m as sorry as I am ashamed
should have been smarter
should have tried harder
should have been quick to your game

I hit a point where I finally admitted that I was so ashamed of my wrongs. Unable to admit the ways I screwed up, the ways I had offered my heart to the wrong men, the ways I should have known better. But the darkness caused by my sin choked the life out of me. It haunted me at night. Leaving only regret. It felt like I lost myself for a few months.

you’re a good looking loser
and I’m the one who got away
nobody said it’d be different this time
maybe you’re all the same

So the untangling process, the process of admitting my wrongs, the process of healing, the process of wrestling through this shame, took longer than I thought. It took more of my energy than I care to admit. Until one day, there was freedom. There was release. The chains broke and I found myself not caring. I didn’t care about the men in my past. I cared about the woman they’ve shaped me into — the good and the bad — but I realized I didn’t care about them. The final string in my heart severed and they floated away.

And I had my doubts
but I threw them all out
I had faith
there would be no price to pay

There’s a lightness to life when you don’t have the baggage of your past weighing you down. A focus when you’re not distracted by trying to figure out why you weren’t enough or where you went wrong or why they said the things they did. A hope when you lean into the things ahead. A joy when you realize your life won’t be the hard you were willing to choose. A love when you understand your heart has capacity for so much more than any of them realized.

I’ve wasted much of my life on men who did not want to my life given to them. I’ve wasted much of my thoughts on replaying the moments over and over. I’ve wasted much of my energy on trying to reconcile the past. And now I’m just done. Because I’m happy. And life is good. It is full with room for so much more.

On the cusp of 30, I’ve found love. And contentment. And peace. And joy. And they look nothing like I thought they would. It’s funny but I think I’ve found those things because I got away.

you’re a good looking loser
and I’m the one who got away

Yeah I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one who got away
Yeah I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one who got away
Yeah I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one who got away

So when I took that breath, in a lot of ways, it felt like I was breathing for the first time.

you’re a good looking loser
and I will do what I have to do

two

It’s been two years.

At times it seems a lifetime ago. At times, yesterday. At times, like it never happened.

I’m writing this on the eve of July 13. If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know that July 13 is a “day who must not be named” of sorts.

Didn’t want a day without you
but somehow I’ve lived through another one

But tonight is a little bit different. I’m sitting in the high backed chair at my kitchen island. The apartment a tiny bit smoky due to my cooking. I had to laugh to myself a bit — the irony of my smoky apartment while I attempt salmon, asparagus, and a sweet potato hash. The Jock would be proud of me. And probably eye-rolling a bit at the thick smoke. He was always trying to teach me to cook while secretly loving this brilliant skill he had which I sorely lacked.

In fact, the last night I spoke to him was when I called him about an epic kitchen fail, knowing he was the only person who would truly understand the humor. I heard his deep belly laugh and could almost see his eyes crinkle in delight. He happened to be on the way home from a date that night, a date with the woman who will become his wife.

And so here I sit, two years past a day that changed my life.

I’ve found that I no longer mourn for him, the intimacy we shared, or having him in my life. In fact, most days go by and I give barely a passing thought, as I assume it should be. Occasionally I’ll wonder what he’s up to, how he is, what is going on his life, but with no more regard than anyone else from my past.

Though my longing and grief and pain subside, I notice that I am decidedly marked by that experience. It set me on a trajectory of growth, healing, strength, and mistakes (if I’m honest), I hadn’t known myself capable of.

The Jock told me one time I would look back at our time together like a photograph. Something that captured a beautiful moment but fades with time. I was angry at the time he said it, accusing him of sentencing our relationship to death before its time. I don’t know that I agree with him anymore two years later than I did at the time.

Didn’t want a year without you
but somehow I’ve live through another one

Last year as I reflected after having survived a year, the Missionary sent me flowers, in my favorite color, to love me well. It was probably the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me, the most redeeming  if nothing else. When he ended things roughly two weeks later, I grimaced at the irony of July.

This July has no impending break-ups. It has no horizon of love lost. And yet, it still makes me feel on edge. I don’t understand why. At least, I didn’t understand why until I started listening to a podcast on Anger.

I’ve not been intentional in my time with Jesus lately. Months of disappointment, patterns of sin, feelings of betrayal, but most of all, shame, have kept me from bowing my knee. I cringe to admit this. Cringe. But it’s the truth. I allowed myself to grow lazy and distant from my Papa. Slowly though, He’s been whispering against my shell of protection.

I’ve needed someone to blame, not knowing how to deal with my anger, and He was the most logical (read: illogical) choice. In my sin and immaturity I threw a months-long temper tantrum. Until the past few weeks when I’ve felt my frigid heart thawing and a longing for intimacy with Him.

And the heart she feared frozen
still beats and still marches on

Like I said, I listened to a podcast on Anger the other day. I felt my heart cry out in sorrow and repentance, ashamed of my own sin. Not realizing I needed to admit that wrong was committed (by others and by myself), I started to crumble as I heard the words “it mattered.” There was wrong done by others and forgiveness has been acknowledged. There was wrong done by me to me and I have not even been cognizant of it.  Which has caused me uncertainty whether my cloak of shame can be taken off. I’ve been living out of an identity of shame. Making decisions out of my shame shadow. Fighting for my life out of my shame shadow.

The problem with the shame shadow is that it convinces you that you are beyond saving, beyond repair, unloved and unwanted. So you make more decisions to validate the lies. You start to taken on the identity of shame, forgetting your real name, your real favorite color. Your eyes filtering every encounter through your shame.

I realized I traded being held captive in the land of my ex-boyfriends to being held captive in the land of shame. Trading chains of one type of grief for another. Losing sight of my identity as beloved, chosen, wanted, redeemed, new.

Today I asked my Papa for His forgiveness and then He asked me to offer myself the same forgiveness He has already and freely given.

It seems fitting on this eve of Two that my heart is moving towards forgiveness, no? Last year I was moving towards redemption and this year I’m moving towards reconciliation, with the promise of restoration ahead.

Didn’t want a life without you
But here I am, living one

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the salmon turned out just fine.

Dear Denver

Hi, um hello.

It’s nice to meet you. Officially. It’s been almost a month now, that I’ve had my bed and clothes here. And roughly two weeks since I took up overnight residence.

I have to say, you’ve been more than I could have imagined.

You’ve been fun nights downtown, quiet nights at home, long days at a new job. You’ve been new friends and unexpected adventures. You’ve been familiar and unknown. You’ve been exhausting and exhilarating.

You see, Denver, you have been something brand new.

I feel like windows rolled down, new city, streets and cabs
I feel like anything can happen, laughing
You take me right back, when we were kids
Never thought I’d feel like this

Because you have almost nothing. Few memories, maybe most notably the airport and two Rockies games. You hold no painful places where love was found and lost. You hold no afternoon hikes or strolling aimlessly down the street. You hold no introductions to my people. You hold no tearful fights in the car.

Instead of a painful twinge at the sight of a restaurant or my old apartments or the bar where he broke my heart, I find myself curiously glancing around to understand my surroundings. I find myself wondering where the closest grocery store is or the best happy hour. I find myself day dreaming about the things to come, the things ahead. Excited at the anticipation.

Like when I close my eyes and don’t even care if anyone sees me dancing
Like I can fly, and don’t even think of touching the ground

But Denver, with the blank page and brand new, comes the ache of lonely. The knowing that 60 miles to the south are my people. New babies and beloved souls. Family and home and comfort. And I find myself wrestling through the draw back. To be known and loved and seen. But there’s this feeling — the movement of time and seasons and space. The feeling of being ready for now while loving the past. And I guess that means I’m a really lucky girl, because I have love and understanding and home and people. I have these things to stand behind me as I take tentative and terrified steps ahead, with a literal move of North. Of forward. Of new.

You’re not my home yet — But you’re well on your way.

Before I left Colorado Springs I tried to let go of the heavy things. I started to take the pieces of my past and set them down. I felt them break apart and fall away. I knew I needed to deal with them in the season where they began. I wanted to bring the best parts of who I grew into the last three years and let the other pieces blow away into the wind. I think maybe I wanted that too much — to forget the painful and the hard and the ugly parts. To pretend like they don’t haunt me sometimes. But the truth is, they’ve made me who I am. The hard and hurtful left their marks and I paid their price.

And grace comes in like a salve. It reminds me that I do not have to let those things define me but they are part of me. I don’t have to actively carry them into what the Lord has given me but they will always be etched on my heart. The men I loved. The people I believed the best about. The ways I experienced love in return. The community who surrounded me. And the lessons I learned.

Denver, I know I’m going to make mistakes while I’m here. In fact, I’ve already made a few. I know I’ll have more awkward dates and uncomfortable text messages. I’ll probably feel left out and wonder if everyone is hanging out without me. My feelings will probably get hurt and I’ll unintentionally tell a boy I smell like ham because I’m nervous. I’m sure I won’t get invited to a Halloween party or I’ll get left off an email chain. I know those things will happen.

I feel like a young John Cusack, like making big mistakes
I feel like for the first time in a long time I am not afraid

But I also know you’re going to have new community. You’re going to have first dates and first kisses. You’re going to have new love. You’re going to have “what? you too? I thought I was the only one!” moments. You’re going to have more yes-es. You’re going to have people and weddings and babies. You’re going to have questions and answers and more questions. You’re going to have my grocery store and my gas station. You’re going to have back roads and shortcuts. You’re going to have baseball games and Christmas parties. You’re going to have all the things and more. Because I’ve learned that life is what you make of it wherever you are. And Denver, I’ve decided you are worth putting everything on the line for.

Like a heartbeat skip, like an open page
Like a one way trip on an aeroplane
It’s the way that I feel when I’m with you, brand new

So dear one, I’m ready. Ready to dance and not care who is watching. Ready to open my heart. Ready to live life fully and completely and with my hands wide open.

I’m all in.

Love,

Rach