Dear 17 year old me...

When I graduated high school I always wondered where I'd be in 10 years. Here I am-10 years older on the day of my 27th birthday. As I reflect on the past 10 years here's some advice I would go back and tell myself if I could. Some photos need an explanation- some don't.

If you think life is hard right now just wait.
Spanish class and college applications have nothing on real life. Making decisions are hard and they only get harder.

It's ok to be unsure about what you want to be when you grow up.
A nurse? Teacher? Mommy? 
10 years later and I'm still questioning what I want to be when I grow up. Be what you want to be. Study what you want to study. And learn along the way. Practice makes perfect. And just wanting to be a mommy is okay too.
{look at that face!}
You are created in the image of God.
The world will whisper lies that you need to be more beautiful- smaller here; larger there. Stay true to who you are.

Be thankful
for your parents. They work hard to provide all your needs. One day you'll miss that. Listen to them. They only want what's best for you.

Take risks-
you have nothing to lose.

You will find Mr. Right.
It's called dating for a reason. You need to figure out what you like and what you don't. You will have a broken heart and think it will never mend. It will. Always follow your heart and love will find you when you least expect it.

College will be the best years of your life
Never again will you be able to be so carefree. You have to be a friend to have a friend. If a situation makes you uncomfortable, leave. Go on trips spur of the moment. Stay up late talking on the phone. Borrow your roommate's clothes. Go to Wendy's in the middle of the night. Laugh until you cry.

College will be hard too.
Yes, you may have to drop a class that you otherwise would have failed. You still won't be the best test taker in the world. But you'll persevere. You know what it means to try and to work hard for something and you'll finish strong.

Stay true to yourself-
Never give in to something you don't believe in, ever.

Enjoy being married
before children. Those are years you will never get back. Be spontaneous. Have fun together.

Always live within your means.
Sounds simple enough but this isn't what the world teaches. Pay off debt as fast and as possible. Don't buy things just to buy things. Clutter and excess weigh you down.

Life doesn't always go as planned.
It will rain on your wedding day- and it will still be the best day of your life. The birth of your firstborn won't go like you always imagined it would- but he'll be perfect and it will rank up there with the best day of your life. Your second pregnancy will be riddled with worry. Worry about life's decisions and situations. That's ok too, because once she's here all that will be a distant memory. The day she enters the world screaming will be another "best day".

{labor with Luke}
{Luke's birth}
{Emberly's birth}

There are such things as adult bullies.
You'll encounter them. Always take the high road.

You are stronger than you think.
When you feel like quitting- don't. Cry about it, talk about it with a trusted friend, but never quit.

Motherhood is holy ground. 
It will challenge you in ways you didn't know possible. Follow your instincts- you know more than you think. There is nothing more rewarding or God-honoring than raising children up to follow Him. Even during middle of the night screaming fits. The days are long, the nights longer; but the years are short.

Change isn't always a bad thing,
so be sure to pray before making the big decisions. Never say never because you really have no idea what lies ahead.

Don't live in the "what ifs".
What if I'd made this decision? What if I hadn't made that decision? What ifs are toxic and will suck the life out of you.
{one of life's regrets- I "was scared" to  get in the water with these gentle giants (manatee). I'll probably never have that chance again}
and finally...
Live in the here and now.
not stuck in the past's memories or in tomorrow's hope. Some days you'll want to re-live- others you wish you could forget. And always hold those you love close.

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