In a week, I turn 30 years old. It sounds strange even to me – the one who has felt “eternally in her mid-twenties” for so long. And yet, like the milestones of my past, I feel ready for the new chapter about to unfold – and excited for all that God will bring my way.
Recently I had a conversation with some friends about how they felt about birthdays. Some couldn’t care less – it’s just another day to them, and they wouldn’t mind if it was celebrated or not. Others enjoy celebrating their birthday and still like having a day where they are remembered by others, even as an adult.
I’ve always been in the latter camp – I’ve loved my birthday, and even though I thought I would enjoy it less as an adult, I found out I don’t. I still love it. But the truth is, I love all birthdays. I love that there’s a day to remember and celebrate the special fact that you were born – that God brought you into this world to fill others’ lives with joy and happiness.
And for my own birthday, it gives me time to pause and reflect on my life, what God has taught me, what His promises are, and if I am honoring Him to the fullest with the brief time He has loaned me on earth.
I took a look back through my Bible last week, noting the dates that I had written in next to certain verses of comfort and promise. And as always, it was a reminder that God has been so faithful over this last decade.
“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8 – Capernwray, early morning, 5-11-08)
“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders You have done. The things You have planned for us no one can recount to You; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” (Psalm 40:5, 7-28-11)
“‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart’ […] But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a child.” You must go to everyone I sent you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:5, 7 – Birthday promise at age 25, 12-1-12)
“Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.” (Psalm 71:17 – On the eve of turning 28, 11-29-15)
These are only a few samples of what God has taught me over the years, and how He has comforted my heart time and again with the promise of His plan for my life. It’s this plan that I can trust with the turn of each new birthday. And it’s this plan that is continuously being revealed to me that shows me that God knows so much better than I what I need.
And nowhere has this been clearer than in my unmarried status.
When I was 20, I thought the worst possible thing would be to be unmarried by the age of 30.
I was wrong. There is a worse thing than not being married by the time you’re thirty:
Being married to the wrong person because you had to have “someone” and then you end up waking up every day, anxious and depressed because you don’t really like your spouse.
Or living a life filled with anger and bitterness because things didn’t go the way you wanted them to.
Or living the life of a victim, helpless and full of self-pity because you don’t have what everyone else has.
No, you might not have what everyone else has.
But is it possible to find the beauty in that instead of the horror? I, at twenty, didn’t think that was possible. I, at thirty, by the grace of God, have had my eyes opened to not only that possibility, but also that reality.
There are worse things than being rejected by a man – such as being disobedient to God’s calling and compromising into a life of sin so that you can force your way into a semi-plausible version of a life you’re trying to get on your own.
Impatient hearts will find so much more hurt than the lonely, patient hearts who waited long enough to uncover the sweetness of God’s comfort in all their most barren places. And though I haven’t wanted to be patient these many years, God has taught me how to slow my anxious, hurrying heart and simply trust that He knows far better than I do.
As I contemplated this decade just passed and the decade in front of me (Lord willing), I prayed about what God would have me fill my life with – what goals and dreams He might want me to work towards – in the next ten years. When I get to age 40 and am looking back, what kind of life do I hope to have lived?
Throughout my twenties I loved bucket lists. I loved making lists of exciting things to do and then setting out to accomplish them (all of age 22 was a list of things that other people gave me to do, and I had so much fun doing them).
However, although I still make yearly, monthly, and even weekly goals, I no longer want my life defined by a list of things I’ve done, but rather, a list of things that I am and strive to be. And as I thought about the thirties ahead of me, what came to mind was a list of priorities that I hope to shape my life around. Things that anchor my life, that I place importance on, so that when life gets busy and stressful, I can look upon this list, and ask myself, “Am I making decisions and living my life according to the way that I feel God has called me to live it?”
It’s not a checklist, because they are most likely things that I’ll have to work on the rest of my life. And they might not seem terribly exciting to the outside world. But to my inside world – between me and my Savior – they are the most important parts of my life, and I want to honor Him by treasuring them and nurturing them.
So here is my manifesto – my daily reminders – my promise to myself and to God that the thirties will not be a decade wasted – but rather a way to bring all glory to the One who makes life possible.
The Thirty Manifesto
- Whatever God wants to do with your life, be ready and eager to surrender to it.
- Drench your days, your decisions, and your fears in prayer. Pray more than you worry & complain.
- Be so committed to studying and memorizing the Word of God that it comes out of you as automatically as breathing.
- Learn how to become bolder every day in sharing the Gospel – see opportunities to give hope.
- Always, always carve out specific time for family.
- Health is important, and you need to underwhelm your schedule to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing – or you’ll be no good to anyone else.
- Make and keep teacher boundaries – excel without obsessing.
- Writing is your gift and calling – be disciplined and dedicated to its development.
- Step forward in faith to share your story when given the opportunity.
- Stop feeling guilty about saying no. Choose the best yes, and remember that pleasing people will not, in the end, bring fulfillment.
- Remain curious about the world – travel its edges, uncover its stories, and learn to love its people.
- Learn the art of trust and vulnerability. It’s okay to cry with others.
- Treasure every minute that you are given with your mom and dad – and give back to them as much as possible.
- Don’t cling to others’ praise – but instead, give away as much affirmation to others as possible.
- Your money is a gift given to you to steward. Do so wisely so you can bless others, not hoard selfishly. BE GENEROUS!
- Make goals often – but hold them with open hands.
- Make time to really read – and challenge yourself with stimulating books.
- Don’t give up on your dreams – rather, learn to be so good they can’t ignore you.
- Keep creating that safe, welcoming space with your home – and all who live or stay with you.
- Every year, challenge yourself with something new. Don’t get stuck in a rut.
- Don’t forget to take lots of pictures and scrapbook them.
- Be a woman of class, dignity, and poise.
- Mentor others with intentionality, just as you must seek mentorship.
- Invest in friendships, new and old alike.
- Dance as much as possible.
- Children are important. Never stop inspiring them to dream big and be imaginative.
- Always make time for art – especially theater.
- Chip away at your self-centeredness and be willing to serve others in obscurity.
- Take a stand for what you believe in – even if it costs you everything.
- Embrace the hurt and sorrow. Embrace the joy and delight. Embrace the adventure. Embrace the quiet routine of unremarkable days. Embrace every breath He gives you to help build His Kingdom here on earth.
So much can happen in ten years. There is no way to predict what life will look like when I’m about to turn 40. But I trust that the God who has brought me this far will continue to lead me and guide me – and give me the strength to walk through what He calls me to. His name be praised.