the one where I turned thirty.

I have arrived, and it feels good.

Now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’ve been thinking about turning thirty since right around the time I turned twenty-nine. I like to really gear up for things, you know?

But as this particular birthday approached, I found myself more drawn to reflecting on the past than setting plans or goals for the future.

Can there be a more transformative decade than the twenties? (I have no way of knowing the answer to this question.)

I turned twenty about a month after Jake and I started dating. A year later, we got engaged, and a year after that, we had graduated college and were living the newlywed life. I started my “career” as a teacher at 24, had a couple of babies by 28, and had moved across the country to a city of champions by 29 (Jake and I like to take credit for all the various successes in Cleveland since our arrival).

I often ask people when I will start to feel like an adult, but in looking back, I see that it happened slowly over time. I was just a kid when I stepped foot into my twenties, and then each year shaped me or refined me or challenged me in some way. I walk into this new decade a completely different version of that doe-eyed college student who thought the end game was predictability and a white-picket fence.

My twenties changed me for the better, so I processed them the only way I really know how: I wrote about them.

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I thought about each year of my twenties and tried to pinpoint what exactly it taught me. And what I found as I combed through each year of the past decade, is that God has taught me things all across my twenties which have perfectly prepared me for where I am today. Equipped me to continue to take steps forward even if I’m not entirely sure where the road ahead leads.

So, if you’re interested in all those thoughts, you’re welcome click the link below where you will find a PDF file–a compilation of essays I wrote in reflection of what each year of my twenties taught me: 

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It is nothing out of the ordinary. The writing doesn’t contain any real tragedy or nail-biting cliffhangers (unless you’re particularly riveted by things like marriage or car trips across the country).

But I’ve come to decide that even the ordinary needs to be celebrated and acknowledged. It is real, and it gets us to where we are today. And, for me at least, that felt worth writing about.

So, here’s to thirty and all it has in store for me. For us. I like it already.

i want the best time of my life to be now.

When I was a senior in college, a girl who had recently graduated told me that she would give anything to go back to school.

“It was best time of my life,” she said. “Nothing will ever compare.”

Now, I had quite a lot of fun in college (see: hosted floor talent shows and road tripped with my friends to every football game so I could watch the cute wide receiver for examples), but even then I think I balked a little at her comment.

Maybe I’ve been thinking about it because the weather dipped back down into the seventies yesterday and reminded me that a change in season is on my horizon. Maybe it’s because all my teacher friends are decorating classrooms and meeting new students. Maybe it’s because Lily starts preschool on Monday.

In any case, my resolve remains strong: I refuse to believe that nothing will ever compare to right now.

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I want the best time of my life to be where I’m at now, but, more importantly, I want to be able to say that in every season. With every new milestone. 

This thought process always makes me think of the Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour,
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I suppose I could sink to grief. Agonize over the fact that Lily is entering this new, more independent phase or wish I could freeze everything exactly as it is right now.

But, what good would that do anyone?

And, besides, when I think of every new phase—the new jobs, the new people, the new kids, the new houses, the new milestones—each one has added something beautiful to my life (even if it was hard to see at the time). Even during those hard seasons, I don’t think I could ever say, “I just wish I could go back.” (at least, I hope I didn’t.)¹

I want to be a person who balances nostalgia with realism. Who holds onto and cherishes the moments while I have them but also finds joy in the moments of letting go and moving forward. I want to embrace the beauty of new seasons rather than trying to keep my feet rooted in the past.

That’s what I want.

(So, feel free to remind me of these thoughts when Lily starts kindergarten, leaves for college, and/or gets married someday.)  😉

 


¹ I certainly don’t mean to downplay the tragic and/or devastating seasons of life some people face. I imagine those moments are wrought with many feelings of wanting something back that has been lost or taken away. I’m mostly talking here in terms of the natural changes and milestones we seem to continually face as a family. The mostly trivial but necessary things.

finding value in the hard things.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint all the hardest moments of your life. These are the moments that strip us down and force the raw pieces of ourselves to rise to the surface. In my life, these times are marked by seasons of change. Seasons when the dependent variable vanishes, and I’m left with new, uncharted territory.

The beginning of college. My first years of teaching. The journey through medical school. The birth of babies. A move across the country. Residency. The unpredictability of toddlers. Mornings when you realize you’re out of coffee.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my responses to these moments when life strips me down to the nitty-gritty. I’m certainly not trying to make a case that my life is harder than anyone else’s (We’ve got a lot of good things going for us here. My espresso machine, for instance, came through with the win on this coffee-less morning.). But, it seems an unavoidable fact that each season of life comes with its own various challenges. And, the more of them I come up against, the more resolved I am to face them well.norah sandA few months ago, I was dialoguing with a friend about prayer, and she sent me this clip of a Francis Chan sermon from like 8 years ago. It starts with a song, but Chan’s commentary at the end is what has been on repeat in my brain for the last month. Here’s what he had to say:

When we pray, we’re always praying, “God change things” rather than, “God change me.” We want God to change the circumstances and take away all this pain, all these trials, all these hardships rather than God’s plan which is, “No, I want to put some of these things in your life and you need to be praying for yourself that you would grow through these things.”

You see, whenever we have decisions to make, we want God to make it easy, [so we] say, “God why don’t you close all the doors and just leave one open?” [Instead we should say], “God, why don’t you make me incredibly wise, so I know how to make a good decision?”

When trials come, we say, “God, why don’t you change them? Why don’t you fix the situation and take away all the pain? [Instead we should say], “God why don’t you use this time to grow perseverance in me?” […]

Yes, there are times when God changes the situation, but so often, more than anything, God wants us to change and we should be praying for these circumstances that God allows in our lives as opportunities for us to grow in our character and our person.

I can’t get this tiny shift in perspective out of my head.

I know my tendency is to pray for the hard things to end. For ease and consistency and predictability. That bedtime battles will be replaced by compliance or that sibling fights will turn into happy conversations. But what if instead I prayed for patience? Or compassion? Or wisdom to parent my kids the best that I can?

I can’t always change my situation, but I can always change the way I respond to it.lily sand2 This, I am finding, is making all the difference. The realization that I was never promised ease or comfort and the reminder that, if I will let Him, God will use the hard things I face to sharpen me into a better version of myself. It’s not easy to shift perspective in the moment, but it is always worth it when I do.

Now, excuse me while I go attend to the screaming toddlers in the other room. Please send coffee.