Monday, July 18, 2011

A Letter for my 21 year old self

Today I'm 21. And I woke up in the quiet almost-morning, stretching my limbs to the skies, and I thought to myself, "Today, I'm 21. There it is." Age and time arrive and depart gently, and suddenly, and somehow we grasp at words and hugs and bright grins and laughter and well wishes, as we ponder the reality that day becomes night and fall sinks into winter and my twelve year old self who hid away for hours in her room with books, lost in the world of Narnia and Watership Down and the Wind in the Willows... she has become this twenty-one year old self, who keeps a blog and dreams of making her heart a home for the stories we all carry in us. How did that happen, I want to ask myself? And what will this year hold? And what kind of beautiful, wild life might I grow?
(Thank you, Mandie)
So I write, my own name and my own hand (no advice column today), and I write to remember and to promise and to wonder.

Dear Hilary,

You made it! You're 21, and for all the waiting and looking longingly at the wine list in restaurants, all the anticipation of being an adult, all the wonder about being a senior in college and then, so soon, a newly launched seedling in the world, you've arrived.

You're asking right now why God says "wait." You're asking how to hold the memory of harvest in your heart when the desert sand scratches against your feet. You're asking what it means, the choices we make, and how to choose wisely and well. You wonder, often, in the quiet corner of your heart you don't always admit exists, if you really are becoming what He wants you to become.

And so on July 18, your 21st birthday, remember a few things. Remember that what He wants is for you to become His, to be caught up in Him and in the adventure and work of obeying Him. Pray often.

Remember that beauty lies hidden in the small things, and that you have to go looking for it, seeking high and low in the hearts around you, in the moments of laughter outside on the porch and the familiar ache in your muscles as you finish mile 3 and veer towards home. Remember that nothing looks like the moon over the Atlantic.

The world is too beautiful to waste. Be careful, with your heart, with your words – both are easily broken, but both are also easily healed, if only you will listen closely and let the questions be questions, the days be days, and the love of God be the love of God. You are 21, at the beginning of becoming, and already in the midst of it, and what was it that Paul prayed?

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Read Rainer every day. Learn Italian. Fly up on the wings of anticipation even when you thud to the ground, because you are Anne of Green Gables and you will anticipate no matter what – so expect great things. But don't spend all your heart on the expectations of job, and career, and the progression of life as you wrote it years ago. Spend your heart on the hope that when you wake up tomorrow, you will obey better and love deeper. Spend your heart on the hope that by leaning into the wind and the wonder you will find His hands and His will and His love. Yes, that especially. Spend your heart leaning into the promise that He dwells in your heart and you will be filled. You will be full to overflowing.

So for now, I leave you with the good words from the writers you love:

“I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try and love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter 4)

"Love is the mystery of water and a star." - Pablo Neruda

"But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not."- John Steinbeck, East of Eden

"If I don't stand out like a star among the moons
if I am always late and he always backs away too soon
I walk the world with a skin so thin
I can wear no adequate protection
everything comes crashing in.
If I'm too wide open for this place
but not enough for him to recognize my face" - Deb Talan of The Weepies, "How Will He Find Me?"

And lastly, but not least, the question that rings true and beautiful in your life, from Mary Oliver (continue to love her poems): "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
(Thank you, Mandie)


  1. Happy Birthday, Hilary(-Ann). You give most sage advice for a mere 21 years of age. May my middle school daughters grow up to be you: your savoring-life, spewing-word, eating-cupcake, loving-God self.

    My advice? Keep taking your own. It's right on target.

  2. Thank you, Dawn. Your words mean so much to me. I'm so glad you stopped by!

  3. Happy Birthday sweet Hilary. Your post is lovely and poetic, you breath beauty out with every breath. Blessings, friend.

  4. happy birthday dear. love you.

  5. happy birthday hilary! beautiful thoughts and words as usual.


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