Yes, I have officially made it through the first year of my thirties, a year that brought many changes and tested and stretched me in new ways. Let's rewind for a second...
I love seeing evidence of what a year brings. And boy have there been some big years. I spent last night rereading old blog entries from past birthdays, five of them on here to be exact. In the last five years, I've brought two babies into the world, sold a house and built a new one, changed jobs, finished a masters and started a doctorate. Last year, I welcomed my thirties a bit begrudgingly, in an airport on my way home from California for a work trip. But since that trip, my year has been filled with abundant blessings. Two healthy, happy babes, two jobs that continue to challenge us and move us in new, exciting directions, a new house that feels more like home every day we're here, and family and friends who have supported us and been there when we needed them the most. Like when our house sold faster than expected and we had no where else to go. :) God provided this year and we stand amazed and humbled in his presence.
Sometimes, I feel like I'm holding my breath when things are going well. This year has been one of blessings for us, but full of pain and unthinkable tragedy for others. I see it all around me and I feel an overwhelming sense of empathy for those who wake up in what they assume will be a normal day and instead watch their lives turn completely upside down. I've had a colleague lose a son in his twenties this year, a young mom of three from my high school diagnosed with brain cancer, and the pastor of our church living through the extreme grief of losing his son and two grandchildren in a car accident. I see on Facebook a former student of mine who had documented her pregnancy for months, only to post this past week that her sweet baby was stillborn. I try to find the words to encourage a good friend and colleague who lost her position at work this summer. Storms come, and it's easy to choose fear at times when it seems we've been pretty sheltered from them. But I remind myself that God does not want us to fear, but instead trust that He is in control, and that he always provides. Every day, every year, is a new opportunity to seek Him and find grace in his dwelling place. And although that dwelling place may look different with every day, every year we are blessed with, the one constant is that He will always meet us there. The good years, the not so good years, and all those years in between.
I have been reading a blog by a beautiful young mama for a few years now and was completely heartbroken last month when she shared the news that her second baby girl was born really sick and has since went to be in the arms of Jesus. Her once very simple lifestyle blog about food and style and her babies has now become one of testimony as she has so honestly and gracefully shared pieces of her grief with us. Her words about her baby girl are painful and beautiful all at the same time and I have read them in complete awe of her strength and faith. In the midst of her pain, she is giving thanks and finding joy.
"I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. The clouds open when we mouth thanks." (Ann Voscamp)
On this morning of my 31st birthday, I look back and give thanks for a great year 30. For parents who took us in and allowed us to turn their lives (and their basement) upside down for four months. For a house that sold to a sweet family who loves it as much as we did. For a job I look forward to going to each morning. For window boxes, butcher block, and a contractor who managed to build just what I had in my head. For a summer at home with my two biggest blessings, with pool days, popsicles, and sunsets on the Florida coast. For new friends, new neighbors, and new spaces to make our own. And most of all, for a present God who always meets us where we are.
I'm not sure what God has in store for my thirty-first year, but I pray it's a good one. I pray it's full of joy and laughter and unexpected surprises. I pray it's one of continued settling and of living a slower pace with just one home to call our own (instead of the three we found ourselves in last year :). I pray it's full of rich, beautiful blessings for my babies. And I pray it's one of new opportunities for my heart to stretch and serve in ways I'm not even sure of yet. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us this year and pray I can let him in in ways that push me in new directions.
Here's to it, thirty-one.