I’ll start by giving a free tip to any of you who have yet to enter your 30’s:
If you find gray hairs on your head, do not pull them out. They will grow back, and you will then have little gray hairs standing STRAIGHT up on top of your head, because it takes awhile for them to grow longer.
You’re welcome. 😉
Today I turn 32.
I’ve actually always looked forward to being in my 30’s. Not so I could be “Thirty, flirty, and thriving” as Jennifer Garner’s character says in 13 Going on 30, but because I always imagined my 30’s would be a time of stability. Stability in who I am and what I am doing and what my life is going to be. I have strangely looked forward to aging in general, because of the confidence and wisdom that aging represents. I’ve lived too much of my pre-30’s life in insecurity. I’ve looked forward to the ease and comfort that I experience in some of the middle aged people that I’ve had the privilege of knowing (not implying that 30 is middle-aged, just to clarify). It seems like the older one gets, the more comfortable they become in their own skin and the more they are able to enjoy life.
I can honestly say I have been starting to experience that as I’ve entered into my 30’s. You can only be a people-pleaser and affirmation-seeker for so long before you burn out. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to burn out. But as I entered into my 30’s a couple of years ago, I definitely crashed and burned from it and had to really re-evaluate and re-shape my life and the way I did things.
Year 30 was probably the most difficult year of my life. I gave birth to my son Copeland, which was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. But the adjustment to two kids was definitely a challenging one. 30 was the year that we heard two of our newlywed neighbors and one of their family members get murdered. I had some PTSD after that and often lived in fear of something happening to my children. We learned that one of the most important people in our life has cancer. We lived in 4 different places in a little over a year, so we were experiencing a lot of displacement (in the midst of having a new baby and adapting to life with two little ones). And that is just scratching the surface of the hard stuff – there were multiple other really hard things that happened that year. I would never want to re-live it.
Year 31 was a year of transition. We moved to a new city and state, Jordan started a new job for the first time in 10 years, and we bought our first house! It has been (mostly) a good year, but obviously a year of a lot of change.
And now begins year 32!
Here are some things that I am looking forward to or am thankful for, at 32:
A year of more stability. Since we bought our first house, this will be the first year in our 6.5 years of marriage that we will not move! We have lived in 7 different homes in 6 years. I’m so thankful that season is over! I absolutely love our house and have enjoyed making it a home. I am so grateful that we have this place of refuge and that I am able to spend so much time there.
The ages of the kids. Riley is 5 now and Copeland turns 2 next week. I am absolutely LOVING these ages!! I’m hesitant to say this, but so far these ages together have been so fun and pretty easy. I’ve never enjoyed being a stay-at-home mother more. Riley is at the age where she loves to play independently. When we play together, I really enjoy the things we do. We play “Go Fish” or “Crazy Eights” and “Guess Who.” We build Lego sets or create puppet shows and make up funny stories. We are able to have really meaningful and important conversations about life and faith. Lately we’ve been talking about race and God’s heart for diversity. We’ve been talking about sin and repentance. I love being able to talk to her about this kind of stuff and watching her learn and understand, ask questions, and implement what she is learning. I am definitely looking forward to more of these chats this year! Copeland is at the sweetest stage so far too. He is talking so much and I am continually blown away by how much he understands and his ability to communicate. He has such a happy disposition and is so much fun to be around. And perhaps the best part is how much the two of them play together! They are the best of friends and make really great playmates. Riley will call to Copeland, “Clopey! Come play in my room with me!” and he will immediately drop whatever he is doing and run to her side. Sometimes they play for hours together. It is so sweet and it makes me feel so rich. I’m excited to watch this continue throughout the year.
Richmond. We haven’t been here for even a year yet, but I love Richmond so far. It fits me much better than Chapel Hill did. Don’t get me wrong, I had some really great relationships in Chapel Hill that I miss dearly and some of the most significant events of my life happened there. For that, the Tar Heel City will always hold a special place in my heart. But Chapel Hill and I just were not very compatible. I never really felt like I fit there. I didn’t love it. Richmond feels so much more like home to me, and I’m looking forward to spending 32 here and really setting down our roots. And I’m looking forward to exploring more of the city! One of my birthday gifts from Jordan today was 12 envelopes with different dates to places in Richmond (for example, a champagne brunch at the Jefferson Hotel!) for us to enjoy over the next 12 months. He gets the best present award for that one!
The end of people pleasing. As I mentioned earlier, I started really burning out from people pleasing a couple of years ago. This past year has been a pretty significant year for me in learning to let go of pleasing others and really focusing on God instead. I have had some very specific practice in making choices that people disagreed with or taking a stand for things that invite disapproval and push back. That used to be what my nightmares were made of, but I’m becoming more comfortable with it, and that has been very freeing.
Developing thicker skin. Ten years ago when I entered into a career in Campus Ministry (oh my, I cannot believe that was 10 years ago!), someone told me, “To do ministry, you have to have thick skin and a soft heart.” That saying has always stuck with me. It is so true. My struggle in that equation has always been the thick skin. And that has often resulted in my soft heart not actually being used in the ways that God intended when He created it. My soft skin often contributed to my lack of boundaries and my unwillingness to take a stand on things that matter, because I didn’t want to solicit disapproval. Over this past year God has done a lot of work in me that has been developing thicker skin. It has often been painful. And I must admit, at times I have writhed internally in fear of disapproval. But ultimately, it has been a liberating experience. It forces me continually into God’s word and His heart. It has challenged me to really answer the question – am I serving God, or serving man? More so than any other time in my life, I feel like I am more confidently choosing God, without turning back. Coupled with humility, I believe this can be a really powerful thing. And that is my prayer for 2017 – that I would live more unapologetically, yet humbly. Humility accepts correction, and want to always do that. But I also want to stand firm in my convictions. Not feeling like I always have to defend myself , water down my decisions, and chase after approval.
Ministry of the Home. One mistake I have really made in the past was believing and living like my role in the home is not significant enough. That to really be someone and to really live for the Lord, I have to constantly be doing ministry outside of the home. This led to burn out, resentment, and emotional (and physical) deficit for my family. I was giving so much to people outside of our home that at the end of the day I had little to nothing leftover for Jordan. The Bible says my priorities are to be my relationship with God first and foremost. My husband second. Children third. And then on from there. But instead I just kept choosing to lead and do things outside of these priority relationships and it depleted my energy. And the crazy thing is, I would have much preferred to be more focused on our home and family. I just felt like that wasn’t acceptable. That I had to prove something I guess. To God? To others? To myself? I’m not entirely sure, probably all of the above. But through some particular people and resources, God really broke through to me this past year and re-oriented my heart towards our home. Moving to Richmond was a great opportunity to re-start with my priorities in line. I started off saying “no” to more things from the moment we moved here, and it has been so refreshing. I can see my husband, our kids, and myself all thriving more because of this. I look forward to investing in our home and the discipleship of our children even more this year. And I’m praying for opportunities for our home and family to be a blessing to others, in holistic ways where we are all involved, not where I am just leaving on my own to go and serve.
Being myself. I am a Highly Sensitive Person. An Introvert. Type “B”. Free- spirited. An artist personality. An INFP. And I have spent most of my life trying to deny these realities. Ignoring my internal sirens screaming that I was overloaded or overwhelmed and not respecting my own limits. Avoiding some of my personality traits, because I didn’t like them. They didn’t seem valued by the world around me, so I didn’t want them to be true about me. I wanted to be different. I often didn’t like myself and was frustrated with myself. I couldn’t understand why I felt so exhausted after huge social events or why I just struggled so much through small talk. I didn’t know why I always fumbled over my words on phone calls and broke out in nervous sweats. Why loud environments and bright lights literally made me feel so overwhelmed that I would get home and lock myself in a dark room in the silence. Why I couldn’t just be like my other friends who just seemed to have so much more energy than me. Why I would come home from a day of meetings on campus and fall on my couch, unable to get up and feeling like I had run a marathon. Over the past year, I’ve finally come to accept these things about myself and even more than that, to see these traits as valuable. I think having a daughter who is a lot like me has really helped with that. I see her in so much more of a positive and loving light than I have ever been willing to see myself. When I see what a gift these traits are in her and help her learn to value herself and respect her own limits, it has been healing for me. I’ve realized that God is a very intentional artist. And for whatever reason, He chose to specifically design me this way. Because He says I am made in His image, I have to believe that this is a good thing. That being me is how I am supposed to be, and it brings Him glory (it only took me 32 years to learn that). I don’t have to overextend myself or try to be someone I’m not to make Him happy. On the contrary, it’s when I learn to be content with how He designed me and I live freely out of my personality and gifts that brings glory to Him. I’ve seen some Christians say that personality tests are just excuses for sin. While I disagree, I see what they mean – you could hide behind your personality type and say “well this is just how I am. I can’t help it” rather than owning up to our mistakes and repenting of our sinful tendencies. But I think being more aware of how God created you and being that person can actually help you to better articulate what you bring to the table in the body of Christ in the church and how you can best serve him, along with better being able to see what your sin patterns and sin tendencies are so that you can continually give them over to God and let Him sanctify you.
I think 32 is going to be a good year. Not because nothing bad will happen, I have no idea what this next year holds for us. I’m becoming too seasoned in life to believe that there will be no heartbreak, pain, or suffering ahead. But I am so much more secure in my relationship with God than I have ever been in my life. I am more confident and free than I have ever been. And that makes me excited to grow older!
Everything in my life up until now has led me to where I am today. Whatever is ahead, I know that God is with me and God is for me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will continually make me into His likeness and set my captive heart free.
Cheers to 32!