LETTER TO MY 18-YEAR OLD SELF

It’s May again and graduation ceremonies are happening all across the United States.  Students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas while proud parents snap photos and cheer as if graduating high school were the most amazing feat ever accomplished.  This year we have two graduates.  Jack graduated last Saturday from OU, and Ellie Grace will graduate from high school tomorrow night.  These events have given me a chance to think about what life is going to be like for these seniors.  So with that in mind, I am recycling a blog I wrote a few years ago, with some minor tweaking.  

I graduated from what was at the time the largest high school in Texas.  The Bryan Adams class of 1964 had almost 1000 members.  Now it is a whopping 57 years later!  It hardly seems possible.  With so many graduates, graduation was a long and boring affair.  I don’t remember who gave the commencement address and I certainly don’t remember what was said.  I was probably too busy thinking about the all-night party that was to follow.  I wish I had paid attention because someone probably worked hard to impart some words of wisdom.  Although I thought I knew everything, I could have used some sage advice.

If I could speak now at my own graduation ceremony, what would I say to my 18-year old self?

1. The first thing I would say is “Look around.  Embrace this evening.  This is the last time you will all be together.”  At 18, I did not realize that people would move away and not return.  And I did not know that young people would die.  There was a war at the time.  Young men (and women) would sacrifice their lives in the service of their country.  Even though you all will be going off in different directions, stay in touch with people who matter.  Those friendships are worth keeping.  Sadly, at this point in our lives our classmates are dying.  Death was not even on my radar at 18.

2. Nurture your faith.  I was a baby believer at 18.  I knew I was going to Heaven, but I did not realize the claim that Jesus had on my life.  If I had developed a better relationship with Him I could have saved myself a few wrong turns.

3. Don’t be in such a hurry.  Enjoy your late adolescence and early twenties.  But at the same time, life is short.  This is the time to make careful preparations for the life you want to have.  Make deliberate choices instead of just drifting.  Live life intentionally.

4.  Life is too hard to live alone.  Stay close to your family.  VISIT YOUR GRANDPARENTS.  They will not be here forever.  Choose your spouse carefully.  Invest time in the lives of your children.  Someday they may be choosing your nursing home. 

5. Choose to live a life that makes a difference.  There are many different ways you can do this, and your path will be different from mine.  Leave the world a better place.  Spend some of your time on earth doing things that have a lasting significance.  Consider what you want your legacy to be.

6. Use your money wisely.  Be a generous giver and save for the future.  Don’t let the pursuit of money consume you.  Invest early in a retirement account because the goal line will keep moving.  

7. You are going to have some failures, but they do not define you.  Setbacks and roadblocks can help you find your true north.  

8. Keep learning and growing.  Never lose your curiosity.  The world is a big place.  See more of it.  Read good books.

9. Take a few risks.  You are capable of more than you think.  When you know what you are supposed to do, don’t listen to the naysayers.  

10. And finally, although I would not have understood this in 1964, I would give myself this important advice.  Someday you are going to have something called a hard drive.  Always back it up.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them.”   Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NASB). 

Little Acorns

I was doing a little work in my flowerbed this morning and pulled up this little Water Oak.  I think people call trees like this “volunteers” because they just sprout up on their own, without being planted.  It is fascinating to see that it is still attached to the acorn.  I was reminded of the saying, “Great oaks from little acorns grow.”  I like this saying, and think about it whenever I am beginning a big task.  But this morning I was thinking about our own little acorns…our grandchildren that are too quickly growing into oaks.

I know I sound really old here, but where did the time go?  It seems like only a short time ago when they were all little, and now the youngest is finishing elementary school this month.  I am especially thinking of the two graduations we will celebrate in the next few days.  

Tomorrow will be Jack Foster Day as he graduates from OU.  Oh how we celebrate this graduation!  The tiny acorn that was once a preschooler has now completed college.  But then overnight he will turn into an acorn again as he begins his working life, and he is stressing a bit about finding a job.  To Jack I want to say, don’t worry about your first job.  Trust me, it will not be your last.  It used to be that people got a job, worked at it for thirty years, got a gold watch, and retired.  But things have changed.  In our current age, people change careers (not just  jobs) three times during their working lifespan.  “Just get a degree,” we told him.  A degree is a ticket.  You will figure it out.  

When I was forty-eight I enrolled in two classes at what was then Tulsa Junior College.  I wanted to get the degree I never got when I was young.  There was a verse from the Bible that was a source of encouragement to me, and I share it today with Jack:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work beginZech. 4:10

My small beginning was a little acorn that grew into a Ph.D.  Jack, just put one foot in front of the other and trust that the Lord will lead you to the place you need to be.  I can already see the might oak you will become.

Our other graduate is Ellie Grace Herrold who graduates from Bishop Kelly next Friday.  We have watched you blossom, Girl!  There are so many wonderful experiences ahead as you enter Belmont University in the fall. You have exciting plans, and I can’t wait to watch them unfold.  I have shared many verses with you in the last days…I want to make sure I tell you everything I am supposed to share with you.  So this one more verse I give you as you spread your wings:

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  Psalm 20:4            

We cover all our children, grandchildren, and our great-grands in prayer…even our unborn little girl.  We have a lot of moving parts in our family, and some of our acorns get more prayer than others depending on what season they are in.  I am so grateful that I can trust a God who loves them even more than I do.  To all of them, my prayer for you is to stay in God’s Word.  That is the way for an oak tree to grow and flourish.

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.  Psalm 1:2-3