February 25, 2018

A letter to my 15 year old self

Little baby Casey
Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are. I am 30 years old. Yep, 30....even though everyone always thinks I'm anywhere from 18 to 25 years old! I'll appreciate looking younger than I am when I'm 50 and everyone thinks I'm 40 :) Anyways...

I've been thinking about writing a big "30" blog post for awhile, but I haven't been able to decide how to write it. I thought about sharing another list like I did with 27 Before 28 and 28 Before 29, which I might still do a little later. I thought about writing out 30 things I've learned in my first 30 years, which again I still might do at some point. But what I've decided to do is to write a letter to my 15 year old self. And good grief, it's going to be interesting...

Also, I've also decided to give you the immense privilege of seeing Casey over the years. I hope you'll enjoy the old photos of me as a child and teen, and also photos of all my birthdays in my twenties. Prepare yourselves!

Yes, I did play baby Jesus in my first Christmas program.
Dear 15 year old Casey, 

Take a deep breath because you are never going to believe what I am going to tell you. You are turning 30 years old in Romania. Right?! I knew you wouldn't believe it. You're probably wondering what the heck you are doing in Romania, which is a country you know almost nothing about. 

Well, you finally decided to stop being stubborn. You finally decided to listen to God and His still, small voice as He called you into missions. You have been living and serving in Romania for almost three years now, and it's been a wilder and more incredible ride than you ever could have imagined.  

I know you've only just now begun to think about missions, and I know that you're afraid to even really admit that to yourself. I know that your heart beats fast whenever someone talks about missions or when missionaries come visit at church. I know that you shut down and don't allow yourself to take even the slightest interest in the topic. I know that you don't dream very big dreams, whether they're related to missions or not. And I know why...

15 year old Casey is on the top left.
I know that you don't think much of yourself these days. And I know that you will roll your eyes when you read that. (You're very good at rolling your eyes...even now, at 30 years old.) I know that you have a very low self-esteem...and I know that you don't really understand why that is since you come from a loving family...you have a solid education...you have an incredible group of friends...etc. And yet, there you are...not believing that you're capable of doing anything great. 

I know that you don't think that you're brave, which is actually the meaning of your name. You don't think that you're courageous or funny or smart or kind or beautiful. But let me tell you something. You are all of these things and so much more. 

Ugh, I want to reach through that photo of you in the red shirt to both whisper and yell all of these things to you. But I also know that doing so won't make you believe me. You need time. And you'll get there, even if it takes another 10-15 years. 

(Not to disappoint you, but it's still a work in progress as you turn 30 years old :) But guess what, that's okay!)

I know that your family and friends are telling you all of these things about yourself, and I also know that you don't believe them. But do me a favor, when they tell you these things about yourself, just say thank you. Just listen. Don't argue. Don't roll your eyes. Just accept that they see these things in you. Accept that God sees these things in you. 

Spend more time with your family. Don't be so mean to your little sister. Work on your attitude with your parents. Try to talk to your parents instead of saying "I know" and rolling your eyes. Don't slam your bedroom door so often. Take more pictures with your friends, family and of your bedroom walls full of pictures, posters and art. Take more selfies...oh wait, you don't know what that is yet...take more pictures of yourself. Journal more. Use your creativity.

Thank your friends for being your friends. Tell them how much they mean to you. I know you like to write notes and give gifts so do those things as often as you possibly can. Again, take more pictures...and try to organize them. You'll thank me later. Try to be a friend to people who need a friend. I know you don't think that you have much to offer, but you do. You are a good listener and a loyal friend.

I don't necessarily want to tell you to put yourself out there more or to be something that you're not. But what I will tell you is to try. Try new things. And if you don't like something, that's fine...but at least try. I know you're afraid...afraid to fail, afraid to stand out, afraid to be noticed. But trust me, it's not nearly as scary as you think it is (to fail, stand out, or be noticed). You might be surprised at what can happen when you embrace those things. 

Okay...I know that I've given you a lot of information...and a lot of "commands". I'm still pretty bossy. Don't roll your eyes...you know you're kind of bossy. 

I'll leave you with these last words, 15 year old Casey. Love Jesus. Love people. Be kind...to yourself and to others. Don't be afraid to let other people see who you are...even if who you are is messy and insecure. Embrace those parts of yourself. Spend more time with your family and friends because one day you'll live thousands of miles away from them and wish you had spent more time with them when you had the chance...even though you know you are where you are supposed to be, in Romania. 

Remember that you are loved...by Jesus, by your family and friends, and by me - your 30 year old self. 

30 year old Casey

Switching it up with photos from birthdays in my twenties
It's funny because as I re-read what I wrote to my 15 year old self, a lot of it still applies to my 30 year old self. But I think that's okay. I don't think we ever reach a point where we have everything figured out. Life would actually be quite boring if that was the case.

Obviously, I've learned a lot in the last 15 years, and it actually feels like I've learned just as much in the last 2-3 years as I have in the last 15 years. But I think that's just what happens naturally when you're approaching a milestone age like 30. You start to look back to reflect while also looking forward.

And I've been asking myself a few questions lately as I approach this milestone birthday. What have you done in the last 15 years that you want to do more of in the next 15 years? What have you done in the last 15 years that you want to do less of? Here's just a sneak peek at two of my answers to these questions...

I want to love more. I want to love Jesus more because that's where true love comes from in the first place. I want to continue to learn to love myself. I want to love others, both "my people" as in my family and friends, but also people I may not know.

And I don't just want to love people. I want to recklessly love people. I've been listening to Cory Asbury's Reckless Love album and there's such an amazing story behind the song Reckless Love. If you haven't heard the song or album, I would strongly encourage you to do so. In the video I just linked, he starts telling the story at 5:35, but I'd like to share a few of his words about reckless love...
"When I use the phrase 'the reckless love of God'...we're not saying that God himself is reckless. We are, however, saying that the way He loves is, in many regards, quite so...He's utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions, with regard to His own safety, comfort and well-being...(His love) is quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love doesn't consider Himself first. It isn't selfish or self-serving. He doesn't wonder what He'll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line. He simply puts himself out there, on the off chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return...His love isn't cautious...There's no Plan B with the love of God."
 So yeah, I don't think I need to say much else on that topic. Here's to that reckless love!

I couldn't decide between the photos of my 27th birthday so I put both. This is my blog and I can do what I want.
What do I want to do less of in the next 15 years? Well, I think the main answer would be that I want to be less afraid...less afraid of failing, of standing out, of being noticed, of being messy, of being unsure, etc. I don't want to be 45 years old and writing a letter to my 30 year self saying the same things that I just wrote to my 15 year old self.

I have to constantly remind myself that it's completely normal and natural to fail. I'm well aware that I learn so much every time I fail...and yet, too often, I let fear win. I let fear stop me from even trying something that could result in failure. I let fear tell me that I'm too messy and too insecure and too unsure, and that I should just keep that all to myself.

I definitely know that it won't be easy to overcome these fears, or fear in general, but I at least want to make more of a solid effort in these next 15 years.

My first birthday spent in Romania
I have no idea where the next 15 years will take me. Heck, I don't even know where the next year will take me...and not in the sense of physical location. Obviously, I hope that I'm still doing my thing in Romania. However, I also know that God's plan is the best plan and if that means I'm doing something else, then that's that!

Last year's birthday fun
If you're still reading at this point, I should be giving you a gift. Oh wait, I have one more set of little Casey photos that I think you'll enjoy. That shall be my gift to you!

But first, I want to say thank you. This feels a bit like an award speech, but I'm going to go with it. I truly would not be the person that I am today without each and every one of you who are reading this blog post. My 15 year old self might have taken you for granted, and for that, I am sorry. But let me tell you, my 30 year old self is beyond thankful for this community of people who I endearingly refer to as "my people".

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