Dear Younger Me,
There is something humbling about having the ability to look back on the life you’ve lived and saying, “Thank you, Lord.” Thank you for holding my hand when darkness was all around me. Thank you for carrying me when I couldn’t get up. Thank you for working all things out for my good, even the stuff I still don’t consider to be good. Thank you for being faithful when I was not.
As I considered the possible approaches to this article, I took a serious look at how my past helped mold me into the joyful woman I am today and allowed me to finish my homeschool journey well.
You see, the longer I live, the more “Dear Younger Me” letters I could write. I wondered, should I write to my twenty-something or my thirty-something or my forty-something-years-old woman?
After much prayer and a little bit of fear, God whispered, “Write to yourself about all of your seasons. There are moms I want to encourage through your story.”
So with that, I begin.
With each decade, you will face new experiences and challenges. You will not escape them, try as you might. You’ll experience immense joy and heartbreaking trials. With every situation, you will be shaped and molded into a godlier woman if you are willing to die to self and listen to the One who created you. You’ll struggle. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll constantly strive to do things better.
You’ll learn how to manage the unexpected twists and turns of life each day. You’ll want to know what’s next so that you won’t be caught off guard. But you’ll have to wait and see. Life doesn’t come with a movie trailer. You don’t get to see how it all turns out. Accept this you must.
You are not like most twenty-year-olds who don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Not you. Your plans are made and ready to be executed like a racehorse ready for the gate to swing open so you can take off.
People describe you as ambitious, an achiever, a motivator, a get-it-done kind of girl because you work a lot, at times, too much. You’ll juggle three careers: marketing, public speaking, and public relations; one career simply isn’t enough for your type A personality. You have an internal drive to be something, do something, or run something. You want what you do to matter.
You want to be a marketing guru, the Ambassador for Walt Disney World, a business owner, and to teach women how to look and feel beautiful because you know how many don’t feel that way when they look in the mirror.
All of this will change soon. You will be asked to lay it all down for a new calling.
Just when you think life is cruising along, you’ll meet a man. A man who is quiet. His gentle strength, steadfast love for God, and impeccable character will quickly win your heart. He is the complete opposite of you. He prefers to stand against the wall at events and watch people. You, well, being the extrovert, you will not leave until you’ve met everyone. Yes, everyone. You want to know their names and listen to their stories. You will continue doing this throughout your life.
Treasure those chance meetings and kind introductions. They will matter as the years unfold.
Thirty-two years of marriage, thirty years of parenting, and twenty-one years of homeschooling five children all the way through, the first thing I would tell you is that your well-planned life will look nothing like what you imagined it to be, yet, God gave you everything you secretly longed for.
Besides having a life you didn’t plan for, here are 15 additional things you need to know.
1. Stay courageous. That youthful courage you have in your twenties will serve you well in every season of life. Don’t let failures and setbacks cause you to lose your courage. God told Joshua to be full of courage for a reason. He needed the courage to do what God called him to do. So will you.
2. Don’t worry about ruining your children. I’ve never met a mom who didn’t fear messing up this mom/homeschool thing. As much as some want to tell you there is a formula to raising kids and homeschooling, be cautious. There is no formula. There aren’t five simple steps or three quick fixes. You need to parent your child using God’s blueprint for that precious little one. He is the architect. Check with Him for directions. Oh, and that advice you hear, make sure the source has actually done what he or she is telling you to do. Don’t be fooled by those who haven’t crossed the finish line. It is easy for someone to disperse information without having done the work.
3. Your child only gets one childhood. I know you didn’t have a great childhood, but you don’t have to repeat it. You can break the cycle of dysfunction. You can create wonderful memories for your children. But you must be intentional about it. And, be alert to the influence of others. Outside influences can wreak havoc in your child’s life.
4. Don’t let distractions derail you. With devices, activities, and interruptions galore, you need to stay focused on the end goal. You’ll be tempted to get one more thing done, check a few more emails, scroll through social media, and maybe even shop online while the kids are preoccupied. Guard your time. Set limits on yourself. While all those may be part of daily life, if left unchecked, they can whisk you away and allow you to get off track.
5. Be resilient. Life will hit you hard sometimes. No, I mean really hard. There will be unexpected crises: sudden deaths, serious diseases, traumatic accidents that will knock you to the ground. Don’t let them keep you from getting back up. All your planner skills won’t keep life from blindsiding you. You must remember you can’t control the circumstances, but you can bounce back from anything. God will be your strength. He will pick you up, dust you off, and send you back into the game.
6. Don’t overspend. Those silly envelopes you were so embarrassed to pull out of your purse will be the difference between putting five kids through college debt free and with no student loans, or not. I know your friends seem like they have more money than you do, but don’t compare. Most of them don’t have more than one month’s income in the bank. There will be many months where you’ll have more bills to pay at the end of your money. Be wise. Look for better ways to buy and save. Your dedication to managing your money will help you and your spouse smile at the future.
7. Pinterest isn’t perfect. Don’t obsess with having a Pinterest-perfect home or homeschool room. You can’t. It always costs more than you think and rarely turns out like the picture–leaving you discontent. Crafty people do well with this mega online catalog, but not you. Use your extra time exercising, listening to your kids or friends, or praying for all the people you tell online you’ll pray for.
8. Stay generous. God loves a generous giver. When that acquaintance does you wrong, don’t let that stop you from giving to others. Keep giving freely. Give your time, talent, resources to others. You can never out give. It always comes back in some form or another. You’ll experience immeasurable satisfaction in helping others achieve their goals. But it’s okay to say no to those who use you. In fact, no is something you need to practice. Don’t become the starving baker who feeds everyone else but has nothing left for you or your family.
9. Avoid distractions. You will really be put to the test on this one. The lure of Facebook, Pinterest, apps, and devices can swallow up your time. Time that you can’t get back. Time that keeps you from getting your work and school done. Remember to guard your time and not allow yourself to get distracted by them. Stay in your lane, run the race set before you, not someone else’s race. If you find yourself getting nothing accomplished, examine where you are spending your time and eliminate those distractions.
10. No is an acceptable answer. Everyone will always want something from you whether it is volunteering at church, helping at dance class, starting a new business venture, or organizing homeschool events. You have to believe “no” is an acceptable answer. You can’t do everything you’re asked to do, so don’t feel guilty saying no. You only have 24 hours in a day, so don’t try to pack 36 hours’ worth of life in it.
11. Friends will hurt you. There will be friends in whom you confide who will betray your trust. Close friends. Not the ones you see once from time to time. The ones you let know you. They know your greatest fears. Your child’s flaws. Your deepest secrets. You trust them. But they will turn on you. Talk about you to others. Rejoice in your suffering. That’s right; they will privately be glad. You won’t understand. How could they? You’ll lament. Don’t let them rob you of future friendships. Let them go and wish them well. Sincerely wish them well. For you know how life works. You keep being the friend God wants you to be.
12. Forgive others often. I know it’s hard to believe that your husband, children, parents, and extended family will offend you, but they will. They will say and do you wrong. Many times. Forgive them. Don’t wait for them to ask you. While it would be nice if they did, don’t let that stop you from forgiving them. Holding a grudge will only make your bitter. You will also need to forgive yourself and ask others for forgiveness because you will mess up too.
13. Don’t lose hope. When you stand on the mountain top life seems good. Kids are doing well. Your school is running like clockwork. You can see where the valleys and pitfalls are. It’s beautiful up there. You can see for miles. Unfortunately, life isn’t lived on mountain tops. Sometimes you’ll slip and tumble down the side of a mountain into the valley. Don’t lose hope. You’ll regain your footing and begin the climb to the top again. You will not always reach the top before you find yourself back in the valley. That’s okay. You’re human. Give yourself some grace.
14. Trust God in all things. Balancing homeschool, spouse, children, work, extended family, church, volunteer opportunities, and the budget can get you overwhelmed. Don’t lose hope. It takes a lot to keep all the plates spinning. Oh, they’ll wobble alright. Some may even be on the verge of crashing to the floor and shattering into a million pieces. Keep a watchful eye. And don’t let yourself get too busy to not notice the plates. Also, never forget God will carry you through. Even on your darkest days. It won’t be easy, it never is. But, you’ll learn and grow as each year passes.
15. Understand your worth. You thought your worth was defined by your job title, the amount of money you made, and the influence you had. But you will learn the single greatest truth from your grown daughter. Yes, this will be what cements what you’ve always tried to believe. She will stand before you and affirm you in a way you never expected. Her words will go like this, “Mom. You did a lot of really cool work before you had children. You were an ambassador, a spokesperson, a business owner and a public speaker. You did really cool things when you were homeschooling us five kids, and continue to do so now that your homeschool journey is complete. But Mom, don’t ever forget your greatest life’s work was in building your family. Look at us. Look at how close we all are.” You’ll stand there with giant tears streaming down your face unable to speak. Twenty-six years will flash before your eyes. All the times you doubted but didn’t quit: feared but didn’t lose hope; wrestled but refused to be discouraged. It will be at that moment Proverbs 31 will come to mind. Her children will rise and call her blessed. You never thought that day would come with some of the kids because you argued over bathing suits and curfews. Hear me; God is working. He will work with an ill-equipped, imperfect mom to point His children to Him.
While you run your race of parenting, homeschooling, working, etc., don’t forget where your strength comes from. Your strength comes from the Lord. Don’t let fear or doubt or pride keep you from doing what you have been called to do. When He calls, He equips. Do everything to the glory of God. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Your older wiser self
With more than 25 years in homeschooling as a wife, mother of five, mompreneur, and inspirational leader, Connie Albers is one of the homeschooling community’s most beloved experts. Her first-hand expertise, practical insights, and personal understanding of the challenges of balancing life, learning, and love of family have made her a trusted advisor with an outreach ministry that seeks to encourage and empower other women. Connie is the proud mother of five University of Central Florida Knights, all of whom earned academic scholarships upon completing their homeschool journeys. Professionally, Connie is a speaker, author, relationship builder, and owner of ConnieAlbers.com. For more information, please email Connie at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.