(Additional note: I just sat down at Starbucks and set up my computer, and I am listening to 2 very thin girls in their early 20's discuss without end their desired weight and size, their perilous obsession with the size of different parts of their bodies, and the latest happenings of their disgruntled relationships. And I think: this is why I am celebrating tomorrow. I want to look at those girls and say, "There is so much more! Trust God for a bigger picture beyond yourself and do not waste these precious days.")
Well, today is the day…the final day of my third decade of life; the last day of my 20’s! What a great year it has been. I’m thinking these crazy years deserve a recap and a much deserved fond farewell. I had all kinds of intentions to do something creative leading up to this day...but to no avail, the craziness of life's unpredictable moments took over. So this is it. While this post is more than a tad long, and posted almost too late, I think this kind of moment can handle it. (Maybe even one day I'll add photos!)
So here are the highlights:
First, those precarious beginning years as a 20 to 24 year old, feeling insecure, unsure, and completely unclear about where I was headed. Yet I did graduate college, complete a year of grad school for counseling, put my time in both the necessarily evil worlds of waitressing and retail, while also spending most of my time outside of school taking care of three of the sweetest children I know, which lasted for 8 years. All this time I continued to long and pray (with tears) to be a wife and a mom.
Lessons learned: Life does not always turn out like you plan; these years do not define the rest of your life!
I spent the summer before my senior year in college doing an internship with Christ in Youth, an awesome organization for high school kids out of Joplin, MO. God did a huge work on my heart during that exhaustingly sweet summer. I also moved in with my gracious brother, who’s also an amazing friend, at the age of 22, who I would live with for 5 years. Twenty-three was the age when I found and fell in love with my sweet puppy Chai, a joyful choice meant to fill my “desire to nurture” void. He’s definitely been that and so much more. This was also the year my best friend found out at age 37 she was having triplets! Prayers were more than answered!
Lessons learned: God is faithful and joy comes in surprising ways! (And you don't have to necessarily know what you want to do with your life when you graduate college...though it's ideal!) :)
Then along came 25. One of the toughest birthdays to date, as I was lonely and afraid, and I just couldn’t see the light at the end of my-heart’s-desire-tunnel. My tearful phone call home was so pathetic that my mom graciously and lovingly drove 4 hours to spend the day with me. That was also the year that I started truly submitting to the joy of fully trusting God with my heart and my life. He had heard my prayers for all the years I had prayed them, and I committed to letting go of the fear that gripped me. I began to see the humor in my so called failures, and I started embracing the season I was in. I started having fun, and I made peace with my thighs. :)
Lessons learned: Often your closest and best friends are in your family; TRUST God and delight in him even before he gives you the desires of your heart! The more you love others the more you will love who you are.
I went on some atrociously funny blind dates (as well as some atrocious real ones!), and God used this time to allow me to learn how a girl should not be treated in a relationship. Those years fueled much of the fire I have to teach young women today to guard their hearts, trust God, and refuse to settle for a relationship that is less than the best God has for them.
Lessons learned: When the still, small voice speaks and unsettles your soul: RUN to him and away from that which he is whispering or shouting to you about. God is NOT a God of confusion. He will let you choose the difficult path, though it may hurt more and he'll have to redeem it in the future.
This age was also around the time I was blessed with an invite to join a Bible Study filled with amazing women who would soon become sweet friends. One of those friends tragically lost her husband of less than two years that year, which was a devastating loss. That experience had a profound impact on me, and forever changed the way I looked at life.
Lessons learned: Friends are a gift and a joy. "He gives and takes away...blessed be his name."
It was then that I also decided to go back to school to be a teacher, and spent two years being crazy busy with multiple jobs and a full-time grad school load. During this time I also managed to squeeze in a try-out with the Ben-Gals, and made it to the finals. Ha. That’s another story for another time. I am more than grateful that was not the “ministry” I was intended to be in.
Lessons learned: Keep trusting. THIS TOO SHALL PASS, and one day you'll have time to sleep again. And you do not want to wear orange lipstick. Ever.
When 27 rounded the corner, I was super excited to start student teaching the sweetest kindergarten class ever. I loved those kids, and made some great memories during those 4 months. And guess what else happened? I had prayed a prayer telling God I was surrendered to wherever and whatever He wanted for me, and shortly after, was asked to help plant a church.
Lesson learned: SURRENDER.
Looong story short, hello my Honey-love; enter Kevin, my future husband. That was the epitomy of a whirlwind, and a powerful, falling in love experience. There’s nothing like it. Many prayers were prayed, many 4-hour or more conversations were had. We dated long distance for 5 months, got engaged in the summer, and were married in November. (It was not yet my time to go plant a church). We were more than excited to be better together in our quest to serve God with all of our hearts for the rest of our lives. It was a wonderful, crazy time, but the aftermath was hard. I had left my brother and his house, left the city I had lived in for 9 years, felt like all my friendships changed, and found myself in a role that was shockingly difficult for me to adjust to. But once again, God pursued me in ways I’d never imagined, began to heal my hurts, while he transformed my heart. Now our love feels sweeter and stronger than ever. I would have waited as long as it took to spend the rest of my years with a match that is so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Lessons learned: His mercies are new every morning. "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Our God can do immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine. Ask boldly, believe fully...and wait. Transitions are difficult; God is patient. A man who loves God more than you is a man you want to marry.
I also experienced the many joys and trials of my first year of teaching less than a year after being married, as well as the difficult sorrow of losing that job, followed by the joy of God’s provision of another. Whew!
Lesson learned: Teaching is hard, loving people doesn't have to be. Trusting God is worth it! Oh, and who knew...I can sew!!! ;)
The rest, to you lovely readers, is history. You’ve experienced year 29 right along with me, and I feel like I’ve been saying goodbye to it for the past year. I've learned, I've lost, I've laughed, I've loved. I've seen many friends and family get married, move, change jobs, have children, struggle, and succeed. Through it all, the theme that has rung true louder than any: prayer is powerful, God is in control, and the Holy Spirit is at work. Listening to the still, small voice, (and spending time with God so you can hear it) = peace over confusion, strength in struggle.
I hope you’ll stick around for what’s to come in my 30’s. I am beyond excited about the journey before me, and as my friend said, the only bummer part right now is just the having to say, “I’m 30.” I would have to agree. But I think I'll find myself saying it like I earned it. I'm in such a new season of life already; new friendships forming, new dreams being born, fun hobbies being formed.
I’m moving on to the next chapter with passion and joy, both of which have come from many tears, trials, and triumphs. Above all else, God gets all the glory. I am honored and humbled to play any role in his amazing story, and I am overwhelmed by his love. Sometimes he pursues us with hardship; right now I feel like he’s pursuing me with goodness and joy. I am so thankful to my amazing family and the friends that have walked alongside me and led me through these beautifully exhausting years.
So goodnight to today and to being “20 something”. Bring on tomorrow…and to saying good morning to being a 30 year old. Let this Crazy Joy journey and the adrenaline rush of trust live on!
How appropriate that I would hear a song I've never heard before that sums it all up perfectly as I was driving here. "Day after day, my hope is in the Lord."