In twelve short days, my 20s will be a thing of the past. I will officially have lived for three decades. And as I approach this milestone of being granted the gift of 30 years, I have to stop and take a look at what has happened in my life over the last ten years.
Being a pro “reflector,” I knew I would find my hopes for my twenties penned in my journal from ten years ago – and I was right. The other night, I took my journal from 2007 off the shelf, and read this entry from November 24th, 2007:
“No longer am I like that scared twelve-year old balking at jumping in the adults’ pool – I think I’m ready to take on the persona of someone ‘mature’ and ‘put-together’ – someone bold and daring, yet somewhat reserved and tactful … someone eloquent and confident … someone with charisma and charm. I’m going to set out to become my dream persona […] I just pray that the Lord will make me into a worthwhile woman – someone who touches lives wherever she goes and brings the light of Christ to the hearts of all.”
I laughed a little at my rather dramatic “ideals,” for really the only ideal I should have been desiring to attain was that of becoming like Christ. But it is true that God brings maturity (thankfully!) over the years, and there was so much that would happen in my twenties to mature me that I couldn’t even imagine at the time I wrote that journal entry.
As I reflected on the last ten years, I started pulling pictures from each one of those years, and was actually a little shocked at how evident the change was in me from age 20 to [almost] age 30. Not just in the physical looks, but mostly in the joy and confidence [or lack thereof] in my whole demeanor. To be sure, I was smiling in all the pictures, but there was a difference in my eyes and in my smile that slowly took place as each year passed.
In the first couple years of my 20s – 20 & 21 – I saw a girl who was eager for adventure, but so timid and unsure of herself and what she wanted in life. I saw the fear lurking behind her eyes, the tentative curve of her smile, the search for her purpose.
From ages 22 to 24, I saw a girl who began bubbling over with dreams for her future. Some of those dreams were realistic, and some were not. Some she was working toward in school, and some she made up, pinned far too much expectation to them, and then had her heart broken when they proved not to be true.
And in ages 25 & 26, I saw the toll of one who had wanted something far more than she should have, the breaking of that want, and the slow recovery as God taught her about treasuring Himself far more than earthly desires. When I look at pictures from that time, I see a girl who was quite unhappy, yet tried so hard to keep the happy face on for all to see. I see a pain glazed in eyes that were being taught hard lessons, and the ache for restoration.
It wasn’t until 2015 – when I was 27, turning 28 – that I saw the change, especially in the picture of my 28th birthday. There I saw so much joy overflowing. I saw a girl who had discovered her purpose in Christ, who had uncovered living an intentional life, and who was excited for the future again.
And the picture from the following year, after I turned 29, I saw a confidence and purpose in my eyes like never before. I saw a mouth that had just a hint of a smile – that spoke of deep joys being discovered daily – eyes that held the depth of being matured through 2 ½ difficult years of teaching – and a gleam that looked expectantly to God’s promises in the year to come. It spoke of a heart that had been healed, no matter how deep that girl thought the wound went. And it spoke of a story more beautiful than young 20 could have dreamed up on her own.
I also see in these pictures all the people that God brought into my life throughout my 20s – some friends that I’d had for years before, but so very many friends who were made through the adventures I went on in that decade. They were people that I needed – people who helped me draw closer to God, people who held me when I cried, celebrated with me when exciting news came, and who shared daily bits of life with me. They are some of my dearest friends now, and I feel it is such a blessing and privilege to share life with them [caveat: not all of my dearest friends are featured below – please don’t feel slighted if you are not … I only picked two pictures from each year!].
My next post will be on my hopes and dreams for my thirties … a little “manifesto” if you will, of what I desire life to look like in the next decade. But for tonight, I just want to pause and offer so much thanks up to a God who has always proved Himself faithful, and who has continued to draw me closer to His side over the last ten years. Only He can take what is unworthy and call it worthy because of the work of the cross. And for that, I will forever praise His name.