Letter to my 38 year old self.

In recent months I found Dear Me: A Letter to my 16 year old self, people’s letters to who they used to be.  The idea got under my skin and lingered, but I didn’t really want to talk to my past. Then I read one writer’s Letter from my 90 year old self and was unexpectedly undone. I couldn’t imagine that far into the distance. With a birthday drawing near, I decided to write  myself a letter for the coming year.

So here goes…

You are 38 today. Late 30’s. Nearly 40. Honey, you are not young anymore! Only clothes stores get to be Forever 21. And that’s both a good and an important reality. You have lived more than half the years your father did, less than half the years that your Grandmother has lived thus far. Just over a third of the complete years of a special woman named May. I think because your birthday is always in Lent you’ve always wanted reflection, searching for a day rich in meaning and significance. Frankly, it makes you a pain sometimes, but this year there’s lots to share.

Your 30’s have been full of adventure. You’ve emigrated, had two children, written books, preached and led, taught and coached. You’ve travelled all over the US. You’ve lived in 122 F heat, and -37 F cold, with oceans, lakes and mountains for views. There have also been tough times. Remember Seven? Still, you’ve also made new friends, had new experiences and you’ve learned and laughed. A lot. As usual you have changed your hair repeatedly. So as you step in to all that it means to be thirty –late (Thanks Enuma), there are things I’d like you to think about….

 Invest in the next generation.

If you’ll embrace this season, you’re poised to enjoy a stage of life ripe with significance.  There’s a generation looking and longing for people to disciple them.  Take time to prayerfully consider how you’ll invest in the next generation. How will you make room in your life to share what you’ve learned, what you’re still learning – not just about how to know your theology, but what it practically looks like to live theology? It’s one thing to share your story, but discipling people means you invite people to see your story daily unfold before their eyes as you do life together. It can be a vulnerable feeling, because you know you’re not as together as you’d like to be. Still, discipleship is not about being the perfect example of being a Christian. It’s about being a living example of someone seeking to follow Jesus in every area of life. Go for it. Who will you disciple in this season?

Get your kitchen table ready.

You’ll find yourself at the kitchen table again, talking for hours just like you did in your late teens and into your twenties. Sometimes you will talk late into the night. The fun (ny) thing is now you’re the one giving advice, investing in lives. It might be strange to hear the questions you asked Mike and Sally years ago come back to you. When did you become a spiritual mom? The peaks and valleys of life have taught you some things worth sharing, whether you felt it or not. The kitchen table will give you pause; makes you ponder and pray, dig deeper in the word. Let it make you dig into ancient disciplines to carve out space for God. You’ll ask your mentors different questions now… So keep your Bibles in the kitchen, as well as a box of Kleenex and snacks (And when you get the snacks in – you might want to buy grapes. Cos with the whole not- young- anymore thing: Your metabolism isn’t that young anymore either).

Be a ridiculous forgiver.

You know life isn’t fair, but it’s never stopped you wanting justice. That’s not a bad thing when it motivates you to sponsor children in war torn areas, invest in micro financing to ignite the entrepreneurs of the ‘developing world’ but it’s a quality that has its limitations on the issues of the heart. There have been some rough days, months and years. Then there was 2008 which left you gasping.  Sound wounds lingered, diving into the soil of your heart, taking root, and growing into bitter fruit. It’s taste seared your soul.  Only His Grace could heal you… You know that I can’t promise you a painless year; there will be sadness, disappointment, pain. But I offer you some advice worth more than gold: Be a Ridiculous forgiver.  Not just kind, not just generous, but ridiculous one. Let people go, don’t need the last word, tear up every IOU. And forgive. I’m not saying deny the pain, I’m not saying avoid Matthew 18; I’m not saying you should be best friends with everyone who wounds you. And sure, sometimes forgiveness involves a process. But choose the ridiculous – and choose to forgive. Its a choice that sets you free and keeps you free.

Become a gold digger.

Not in the Kanye/Jamie Foxx sense!  You know that in the most erosive times of your past you’ve found that you’ve grown and learned and matured. It’s still true. Mine for the gold she told you… There is gold to be mined from the tough times, but also from the every day. The lessons from married life, from raising kids, from handling money, building friendships, being a Jesus follower in every area of life.  Because He is there. When you were younger, you were in a community of hundreds of young adults where it wasn’t hard to see God move in power on a Sunday night. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever and a world away in the ordinary and mundane He is there. In this very different, very full season of life – keep seeking Him. Ask what He’s doing, listen to what He’s saying. Obey His leading and when His voice isn’t not clear – stay faithful. Mine for gold she said…


Your life. Be passionate and compassionate. Look after your health, enjoy your relationships. Your hobbies?  Rediscover them and find new ones. Relax. Read a book, watch a movie. Have fun. You’re a visionary woman, who loves change and progress. You even like the angst that motivates transformation. Just remember life is today too. Want the life you have. Choose the life you have.

There is so much h more to say. about marriage, friendship, children, family, about grey hair and life as a grown up Gen Xer… but this is rapidly turning into the longest birthday letter of your life. I’ll have to write to you again sometime. In the meantime enjoy today.

So Happy Birthday! I’d like to tell you it’s a weird thing to wish yourself a happy birthday, except we both know you’ve (we’ve?) done that every year. First time you’ve written yourself a letter though. Well done…

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Enuma

    Oh Jo…you made me cry. Such a beautiful letter. It’s inspired me to write my own. Thank you.

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