Dear 20-year-old Liza,

I turned 30 last week and I’ve been thinking about how I imagined my life at this age… I imagined that I would have had a lot of things figured out, a charming husband, model marriage, and 3 or 4 delightful children. We would have been cultured and interesting. We would have loved Jesus. We would have filled our lives with little hobbies and meaningful traditions. We would have spent summer weekends at the lake and winter weekends skiing in Colorado. We would have entertained intelligent and important people in our beautiful home. I would have had some sort of artsy job on the side that funded vacations and allowed me to meet clients in my high heels and hipster glasses.

Laugh out loud with me and cut to my real life. The only thing that I remotely recognize from that list is that I love Jesus. I have only climbed down the ladder.

I live in an area that I would have told my kids to avoid.

“I want to live in the hood for the rest of my life” has not proved to be an effective pick-up line for a husband.

I’m surrounded by brokenness and grief, joy and laughter, messiness and destructive lifestyles, and dancing and singing.

I battle insecurity, questions about my future, a war within and wars without.

But before you start to feel sorry for me, I have a few things I want to say to 20-year-old Liza… other 20-somethings are welcome to listen in.

Dream bigger for your life.

Put Jesus at the top of your list, in the middle of your list and at the bottom of your list. You are setting the direction for your life in your teens and twenties, don’t waste it by chasing lesser comforts and trinkets. If Jesus is anything, he must be everything.

20-year-old Liza, do you worry that this sort of life will be boring and stuffy and without joy? To that I would give a resounding – “NOT EVEN CLOSE”. Hard yes, but boring, never. God is full of life and light and created you to reflect that. Only He knows how to set up a life to the full. The paradox of the Christian life is that pursuing happiness  on our terms only leads to death, but choosing to lay your life down leads to abundant life. This is so easy to see in retrospect and so hard to see in the moment.

Younger Liza, hear me pleading. The only way to live without regrets is to pursue Jesus with all your heart. If He brings about a life like the first paragraph, beautiful! I love to see a family at the lake enjoying each other like God intended. But, even then, He must be the treasure. If He leads you into a life like the second paragraph, beautiful! you will experience Him as the treasure in a tangible way.

And, oh the grace that you will find on this journey… how He leads beside still waters and quietly works miracles in selfish hearts. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. Honestly. The little people around my table are the VIPs in the kingdom of God. It’s hard to imagine life without my neighbors that I’m learning how to be in real community with.

I was recently shooting the breeze with a neighbor I had just met and was trying to casually explain the situation at the Obrien house, “I’m single and open up the house to other single girls, so there’s a lot of roommates in and out, we love kids so they’re there often, we love Jesus so He’s there too.” Ha! What a strange picture that paints, but that does sum it up and I can’t imagine a fuller life.

I’ve heard it said that you are asking questions in your 20’s and answering them in your 30’s. If you’re in your twenties, looking ahead to the rest of your life, ask the right questions. Don’t ask – “What makes me happy and comfortable and well-liked?”

It’s a futile question and you’ll be chasing the wind for the next few decades, never finding satisfaction or answers.

Instead ask – “How can I love God more? What are His dreams for my life? What’s really important in these short 80 years on earth? How can I love people well?

And amazingly, you’ll find the best life you could have ever imagined at the end of those questions.


30-year-old Liza

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