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

A CALL TO GRANDPARENTS

One of Satan’s oldest and most effective tactics is to go after the family.  It is as old as the book of Genesis.  In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve to live together in perfect intimacy.  That was God’s blueprint for marriage.  The Bible says they were both naked and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25), and I think He was referring to more than just physical nakedness.  They were real, honest, and open with each other.  But then came Satan.  They started blaming each other and hiding.  Hiding from God and from one another.  Genesis goes on to tell us they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves (Gen. 3:7), and men and women have been covering their true selves from each other ever since.  They lost intimacy — real, emotional, vulnerable intimacy.

But that was not enough for Satan.  He then went after their children.  One brother murdered another.  Satan knew if he could create conflict in our families he could distract us from our calling, our purpose.  If you have been a parent for any time at all, you know this to be true.  It is hard not to worry or be preoccupied when you have a child or a grandchild in trouble.  

For about a year I have been a part of a small group of women who meet every Monday to pray.  We have been praying big, bold prayers for our country.  We are pleading with God to bring another Great Awakening, a national repentance, a revival of the church and a harvest of lost souls to come to the Lord.  But this week we decided to shift our focus a bit and pray for families.  We are aware that we have poked the bear.  But the devil cannot have our families!  It has been said that as the family goes, so goes the nation and the whole world in which we live.  Satan seeks to destroy the nuclear family, and at the risk of getting political and acquiring haters, this ploy is straight out of the Marxist playbook.  Erwin Lutzer, in his book We Will Not Be Silenced, asserts that it is the nuclear family that is the biggest obstacle to cultural Marxism.  I highly recommend this book to every Believer.   

I am writing this post today as an exhortation to prayer, especially to grandparents.  Grandparents, particularly those who are retired, have the luxury of time that we didn’t have when we were in our busy child-rearing years.  It may seem that there is not much that this one ordinary woman can do to turn the tide of culture that is threatening our homes.  But I can pray.  Prayer may seem like the least I can do, but in reality, prayer is the most I can do.  

The picture I have posted is of the small table that sits beside my prayer chair.  If you look closely you can see a little plastic soldier.  It is there to remind me that as I pray, I am doing battle.  I ordered a bag of these so I could have some to distribute to my prayer sisters.  Also in the photo is the beautiful ornament with the Appeal to Heaven flag.  This ornament was created by the fabulously talented artist sister in our group.  The flag is a reminder that we are going before the court of Heaven with our pleas, appealing to our God.  Another of our group opens her beautiful home to us every week so we can have a peaceful space to do spiritual battle.  She has a quiet spirit and such a beautiful walk with the Lord.  A different prayer sister is the one I call our firebrand.  She enters God’s presence with the boldest of declarations and intercessions.  And she must read a book a day!  The fifth member is probably the biggest lover of children among us.  She laminated the verses I will share at the bottom of the post and I keep them as another reminder that I am doing spiritual warfare.  She also gave each of us a copy of the book I referenced above.  (I could write volumes about each of these godly women.  I have only shared a fraction of what they have given to my life.)

Grandparents, who will stand in the gap?  This is my call to arms.  We need to raise up an army of praying grandparents that will turn our nation back to God.  Your families need your prayers.  Will you stand with me?

EPHESIANS 6:10-18

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.