Monday, June 27, 2016

A letter from Karisse Schilling. "Dear 25 Year Old"

Karisse Joy Schilling
April 7, 1979 - May 18, 2016

Karisse was the joy girl. Not the cancer girl.

In September of 2007 I arrived to the Youth With a Mission campus in Los Angeles to attend a 6 month long Discipleship Training School. I was freshly 19 years old, eager to leave Colorado and intrigued by both Jesus and Los Angeles. Honestly I was probably more interested in LA than Jesus but God knew what was good for me and it all somehow landed me at YWAM LA. At the "Welcome Dinner" Karisse was the first person I talked to. Our first conversation was about our love for High School Musical and she won my heart by quoting Zac Efron.

Karisse quickly became a friend and a mentor in my life. She was someone I would go to for advice and encouragement. Even when we were just hanging out and laughing at Disney movies I was learning from her. She was also so positive and hopeful. She never acted like someone who had cancer. She was the joy girl, not the cancer girl. Despite being diagnosed over and over, and going through all kind of treatments from the time she was in her early twenties, cancer never monopolized our thoughts or conversations. We talked about it occasionally, but mostly it was just when she missed her mom and she was telling me about how Jesus had been faithful to take care of her after her mom passed away. Her mom died of cancer just a few weeks after Karisse was first diagnosed, and Karisse began her first cancer treatment the day after her mom's funeral.

Karisse was there when Shaun and I met. She loved Shaun from the start and was encouraging me to get to know him. We would talk about him over lunch dates in Los Angeles, and we even talked about him over a coffee date in Thailand when she came to visit my team in 2008. Karisse was the first person I called when Shaun asked me to be his girlfriend. She literally cheered.

Karisse lived an incredible life with the 37 years she was given. She was a missionary to 27 nations. She worked with IJM in Washington D.C. to help with major injustice issues around the world. She started a Justice ministry in Los Angeles to help see an end to human trafficking. Karisse was a blogger and an author. She even published a coloring book on Amazon for people to use when they are spending time with Jesus, she just wanted people to take time to rest, pray, and color in simple pages of swirls and scriptures. She was always making things more beautiful.

More than any of that though, what stands out to Shaun and I about Karisse was her extravagant love for people. She was a cheerleader of a friend. She spoke life and encouragement into our lives in moments when we really needed it, carving out time for coffee dates with me and sending us long Facebook messages reminding me how much she loves us and how much Jesus loves us and encouraging us to keep being faithful to the things God has called us to.

When I was 24 I decided to do this thing where I wrote friends of mine who were older and wiser, friends I wanted to be like when I grew up, and I asked them to give me advice about being 25. I was nervous about getting older and I thought it would be fun to not only receive their advice but then to post it on my blog so other friends could be blessed by it too.

Last night when I was going through old messages from Karisse I found her letter about turning 25. It is perfect and beautiful. So very Karisse. The odd thing is I never actually posted it on my blog and I have no idea why. Her response must have gotten lost in the midst of the other responses I received. I'm sorry I didn't post it back when Karisse was still here to see it but I am grateful I can share her advice now. I pray it impacts people even more deeply than it would have been then.

Karisse lived a good life. In fact she wrote in her will that she wanted us to wear bright colors and eat ice cream at her memorial because she lived such a good life. So that's what we did yesterday. We ate big bowls of ice cream and celebrated Karisse. Today I ask that you celebrate her again by reading her letter, taking her advice and even sharing it with a friend. It is written to 25 year olds but will speak to anyone.

Thank you so much. And thank you Jesus for Karisse. We are so grateful for her.

"Dear 25 year old, 

I now know some things that I wish I knew when I was 25 and I'd love to share them with you. Mainly I know that I am enough and worthy just the way that I am. I don't have to "do" certain things to have worth and value. The number on the scale does not reflect my value. It doesn't matter how much, or how little I weigh--my worth does not change! The ONLY place that I find true value is in who Jesus says that I am. And He says that I am worthy and beautiful and His princess. That is the value statement. I am enough. Any other message is an observation and does not hold power to destroy that identity.

If I could go back and tell myself something on my 25th birthday, I would tell myself to enjoy each day and find beauty in what it holds. I would remind myself not to panic about being single, but to instead find the good and blessings in every day. Each day holds something beautiful, even if it's the worst day of our life. Find the beauty and hold onto it. Focus on the good, and not the bad. Stop looking at that scale and comparing yourself to others!

A book that I wish had been written when I was 25 is "God Loves Ugly" by Krista Black. Seriously, it has changed my life. My perspective on myself, God and identity everything. If you only read one more book, you need to read this one. Read it slowly and do the homework at the end of each chapter. I "ugly cried" through the last 3 chapters in a good, healing type of way. Seriously, right now.  

A movie I think you would love... Well, there are so many! I love a wide variety for various reasons and can quote almost all the ones I've seen! If you haven't seen "While You Were Sleeping" yet, just go ahead and buy it. It's a good time. If you haven't seen "Penelope" yet just buy that one too. The cinematography and design is absolutely stunning and the message is quite lovely too.

I think that we place more importance on our appearance than we should. Seriously, love God and love people. I think that's the basics of life. I think that worrying about my weight, feeling fat and having bad body image has stolen a lot from me. It's stopped me from trying things I otherwise would have and has stolen joy from my life. Let's not hate the art God created in us. Everyone looks different, and that's lovely. Your beauty will come from your eyes, your choices, your words etc. That's what people remember. Now, let's be healthy. Let's put quality food in our body and use those muscles etc---but let's not put so much energy into hating our bodies and comparing ourselves. Don't let that rob you. Love God, love people. I say it again. Everyone is longing for love. Let God fill your heart with his message of worthiness--and know that you are "enough" just as you are. Bring that overflow to the people around you who are drowning and longing to believe that they are enough too. 

Have fun whenever you can, because life is short! 25 feels old, but it's really not! Live your life in a way that allows you to hear what God is saying to you and obey it. Smile, laugh, invest in people. Take a lot of pictures (and print them!). Save some money! Even if it's just $1-$5 a week start saving it in a jar if you have to! Collect all your spare change in a jar because it will add up! Sell a few things and get an "emergency" fund. Always keep $1,000 in savings (as best you can) so that when emergencies happen you don't immediately go into debt. Oh, and don't go into debt! Don't spend more than you have, but don't stress about every coffee you buy either! Every once in a while think about yourself at the age of 50 or 60 and see if you would be glad that this is what you did with your life. 

A fun idea is to do a 25 things before 26 list this year. (and then 26 things before I turn 27. And then 27 things before I turn 28 etc) Make a few big goals and a lot of small ones and cross them off as you do them. You could even take a picture of each thing and keep it in a little album (ex: go to a concert, fly on a plane, learn to crochet, learn a new recipe etc).  Also, put a little money aside each month so that you have some fun money to celebrate your 30th! Get a few friends together and go on a cruise, or a trip or to Disney--and then you have the funds ready.

Life is unpredictable. Control is an illusion. We think we have control of our lives, but we really don't. We don't know what tomorrow holds, so enjoy today. Love those around you today. Choose to invest in your faith and know God more. Choose to trust God when bad things happen. It's ok to be upset, angry, sad etc. be honest with how you feel (God knows anyway). Don't live your life to impress others and for pete's sake, stop comparing yourself to others! What a waste of time and energy! Learn to love the YOU that God gave you. Besides, you'll be all wrinkley in 40 years and you'll look back at this time and wonder why you didn't love the young body that you had! When you feel attacked, mess up, are having a fat day etc, chant to yourself "That's an observation, not a value statement" and remind yourself that you are enough and worthy as you are. Oh, and surround yourself with pretty things and quotes and Bible verses to help you remember that.  Buy yourself flowers sometimes whether or not you have a significant other. (and NOT having a significant other does NOT diminish your worth or say something negative about you!)  Now, go hug someone. Everyone needs a hug.

Also. Wear sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY. It protects you from wrinkles. (And cancer!) 

I rambled a lot!!! Love you!  



CasualButChic said...

Such a beautiful letter! She had to be an awsome woman, now she is in a better place, with God.

Kisses from Spain Jess and so sorry for your loss.

keilacuma said...

I'm so glad I found this tonight. It made my day. I'm thanking God right now for the huge blessing Karisee still is. I'm so happy cause I know she is resting in heaven. Love, K