Fear of the Unknown

by Kristin

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We had spent three intense days in Hong Kong, preparing and training for this moment. But, with four kids, under the age of nine, we were fearful of what would come out of their mouths.

I remember before we left Kona, a family YWAM (Youth with a Mission) team had just arrived back from their three month outreach. There was a family with four little kids, similar in age to ours. My fear was mounting at the thought of taking my babies into communist China and onto the Philippines. I approached the mom and said, “Can you give me any advice? Is there anything you’ve learned?”

She paused and thought for a moment, “I no longer have fear of the unknown.”

I clung to her words as we approached the check point taking us from free Hong Kong into the interior of China. Mentally I went over the list of things I shouldn’t say, “Don’t mention God. Don’t say we’re missionaries, remember, we are just visitors on an art tour.” In my spirit, I was praying without ceasing. “Lord, please don’t let them see our bibles. Please help the kids to be quiet, to not draw attention to our family or our group.” No matter what I did to try and suppress the fear, it continued to slowly creep up my spine and wrap itself around my mind just slightly pressing it’s fingers into the peace I so desperately looked for.

There were over 60 of us in the group. We were dispersed throughout the check point, quietly taking our individual families through so as not to draw attention to the fact we were all together. We were in the back of the line. We tended to always bring up the rear seeing as we had the youngest members on the team, in our tribe. Our daughter was only two. My husband carried her slight frame in a convertible backpack stroller. My four and six year old, always had my hand, while our oldest son knew to stay close.

“Keep them tight, close by,” I thought.

Our team all made it through and we could almost tangibly feel their relief while our growing concern mounted and perched heavily on our shoulders. My husband approached the desk, then when directed signaled us to join him.

I had seen the movies with the stone faced guards, dressed in tightly pressed, green uniforms that evoked all images and ideas I had of a foreign and scary land. But, to be up close with these guards, who stood with the rigidity of a steel framed sky-rise and the coldness of an impersonal mannequin, was something I was unprepared for. They firmly held their guns and never once averted their eyes from their required position.

The agent at the desk did not speak English. Under my breath I spoke with a constant heavenly tongue. We knew we had a red flag on our four year old’s visa. His name is unique, Zebadiah and the visa had misspelled his name so that it did not match his passport. I prayed the agent’s eyes would be blinded and my son would keep his cool.

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This picture was taken after we arrived at our destination in China after 22+ hours of traveling. His face said it all.

We stood there without saying a word, for what seemed like an eternity. One by one, he went through the passports and visas pointing to each person, than eyeing them up and down with laser beam scrutiny. I glanced past his shoulder looking for any signs of our team, but no one was allowed to linger and had to move quickly into the closed country, beyond outsider’s eyesight.

As he moved onto Zeb’s passport, I noticed a sudden dance emerging from my four year old. Most parents know this dance; it involves shifting from one foot to the next…the pee pee dance. “Oh, Jesus! No, not now,” I prayed. But, sure enough, this little guy had to go. The agent began to get agitated. I had visions of being brought into a back room and questioned relentlessly all while trying to keep four young kids calm.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I see our Malaysian friend, coming around the corner of no-man’s land. He took a quick assessment of what was happening, and in fluent Mandarin, proceeded to ask the agent’s permission to bring my son through the line and escort him to the bathroom. Without a moment to think or protest, Zeb’s passport and visa were stamped and my young son was whisked away out of my sight.

Time stood still and an epic flood of emotions and thoughts filled my mind, drowning any piece of hope that had hovered just over the surface.

“My baby. Where is he? What if we are detained? Where will he be? When will we see him?” My mama instincts were working on overdrive and the what-ifs were slamming down on me hard.

As the final passports were stamped and I clung to the hands of my other sons, no-man’s land felt like a tunnel of dark twists and turns. I’m not even sure I was breathing. With every corner, I furiously looked for his little body and his mustard colored hoodie.

We were approached by countless vendors trying to sell us their wares. I didn’t hear them, didn’t want to pause to even take stock of this new foreign land, I wanted my baby back in my hand.

There, at the top of a flight of steps, I saw a few familiar faces from our team. I glanced frantically around until my eyes landed on my kid. He was in the middle of the huddle, gently protected from our new family. He was safe.

A couple of years later, when God moved us into the hood in Baltimore city and that same little guy came running up to me with a small pink bag full of white powder and said, “Mom, look I found candy!” I gently and calmly took it out of his hand and said, “That’s not candy buddy, that’s a drug. Don’t ever pick up something that looks like that. Come get mommy and she will pick it up.” I patted him on the head and said, “Thank you, now go back and play with your friends.”

There is a deep seeded truth that has planted a firm root within my life that now says, “My kids have a Father that loves them more than I, that sees with eyes I do not have, that knows the plans laid out for each of my kids.” I no longer need to fear that which I don’t know.

 

The Magic Years

by JessicaB

parenting

 

You are the worst.

You are wasting everything.

You’re going to regret these years.

 

These are the half-truths that follow me around, that sit on my shoulder and whisper failure and flagellation into my weary ears.

 

I should have held him longer. I shouldn’t have complained and shooed when all he wanted was affection. I shouldn’t have answered in annoyance. I always answer in annoyance.

What is a mother to do? It’s an inhuman task, this raising of little people, sacrificing our needs for theirs, finding enough hours in the day.

Cereal, peanut butter, pizza. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

I fail them at every turn. Emotionally. Spiritually. Nutritionally.

 

I miss them. They’re loud, and aggravating, and underfoot and yet I already miss them. Even as I push them away, I miss them.

 

I know what will happen, I feel it in my bones, it aches in the center of my chest. One day they will be grown and gone. And who knows what they will think of me then.

And even before they are gone they will leave me. Adolescence is around the corner. These years are precious and few and waning. And I don’t know how to conquer them.

Life is winning and I am losing. That is what the devils whisper.

My weaknesses, they weight me down, push on my shoulders until I’m forced to my knees in prayer and repentance. And in those moments of silence, of reflection, a fuller picture emerges:

I am not the worst.

But I do have work to do. And I will miss these years. These stressful, busy years of wrinkle defining and headache making.

These are impossible, magical, undoing, esteem-crushing, soul-refining years.

And I love them.

 

Orcas, Theology, Gynecology, and a Baptism

by Mihee Kim-Kort

DS Kids by Water 1

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent.

My mind is spinning. Is Christmas really this week? As in, 4 days from now. As in, somehow a whole month has flown by. As in, this year is almost over.

Howhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhow is this possible…?

Ok. Breathe. I need to come to terms with this reality. And, it’s fine. It’s really fine. Seriously.

We paused for a moment that night, Andy and I. We watched Blackfish - story of killer whales and how they are exploited. Maybe an odd choice for this season. First movie in a while so we’re a little rusty at choosing movies. Kids were all down. I was folding laundry – willingly – because there was an unusual but welcome peace in the house.  The movie was really compelling and informative, but still…Good God. I mean, please, Jesus help us. I posted on Facebook:

Just finished watching Blackfish. I’m so incredibly depressed. I hate everyone and everything. #humanssuck #allgodscreatures

What felt really the most horrible was watching orca calves be stripped from their mothers. These are creatures that are highly social and have complex family systems – their “languages” are even different for each clan. When the main killer whale in the documentary, Tilikum, was taken from his mother in the Northwestern wild oceans the female orcas stayed nearby wailing their protestation and helplessness. Likewise when calves (remember Shamu?) were taken from their mothers in captivity (like for Seaworld) they recorded the sounds of the mother orca in the pool for 24 hours. The caretakers had never heard that particular sound before and brought in analysts who explained they were doing long range vocals that were truly unique. One of the trainers explained pretty pointedly: “It makes sense. They were grieving.” These orcas were trying to make their voices heard so that the calves would know how to get back to the mothers. But, even in their persistent song, I wonder if they despaired knowing it was futile.

A song of mourning.

…O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear…

I can’t get those orca sounds out of my head.

II

Today’s text in church was from Isaiah again but this time with the explicit words about a young woman bearing a child called Immanuel. God-With-Us. Even if it might be exegetically off to totally tie these words to Jesus (a hard lesson in OT101) one can’t help but think of Mary the virgin, and God’s radical proximity to us in that little bundle – the precious bun in the oven. Andy’s sermon was really lovely, and all about what I needed to hear in terms of paying attention – how children and babies demand our attention constantly, whether there’s a pressing need (food, water/milk, dirty diaper, sleep) or simply for cuddles and skin-to-skin contact. The attention God gives us is likewise relentless, and undeniably much like a mother that positions herself – literally orients herself – towards her newborn.

Of course, there’s mention of the virgin birth, and I can’t help but stumble over it again. But, Andy read this great Frederick Buechner quote:

The earliest of the four Gospels makes no reference to it, and neither does Paul, who wrote earlier still. On later evidence, however, many Christians have made it an article of faith that it was the Holy Spirit rather than Joseph who got Mary pregnant. If you believe God was somehow in Christ, it shouldn’t make much difference to you how he got there. If you don’t believe, it should make less difference still. In either case, life is complicated enough without confusing theology and gynecology.

In one sense anyway the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is demonstrably true. Whereas the villains of history can always be seen as the products of heredity and environment, the saints always seem to arrive under their own steam. Evil evolves. Holiness happens.

Man. Buechner both kills me (in terms of humor…for some reason I laughed out loud – it felt loud since I was the only one in the pews around me – after hearing the words “theology and gynecology”) and wrecks me (in terms of feeling something that’s buried so deep come rushing to the surface like a whale that breaches the ocean waves and with a splash disappears beneath leaving a little frothiness behind).

Holiness happens. Whether we like it or agree with it or are confused by it.

And I thought I’d want to write something about how much we’ve confused theology and gynecology in terms of limiting women, silencing women, oppressing women throughout the ages, and how this meant the emphasis on the virginity of Mary was more important than her courage or obedience, and how if we really think about it and parse it out it would mean the Holy Spirit – who is God – had sex with Mary – and she somehow gave birth to Jesus, who is also God and one with the Holy Spirit, so God gave birth to God…? It doesn’t make much sense to go there, and it really doesn’t help either way. Whatever.  The emphasis on something that is pretty moot in my book takes away from the point of it all – that God came into this world and joined us. And for what reason…? It blows my mind. Because seriously, the human race pretty much sucks, and documentaries like Blackfish remind me just how much.

III

And then, my son, Desmond. He strikes again! is what I’m thinking as I watch him trip slow motion backwards into the stand holding the blue pitcher of water for the baptismal font. I gasp and mouth the word Nooooooooooooooooo dramatically as it topples off into the lap of an unsuspecting girl. I flinch like I got hit with a water balloon even though it doesn’t come near me. Somehow this girl manages to keep it from hitting the chancel stairs too hard, so it doesn’t break - Thank. God. - but the water spills everywhere.

Lord Jesus, why??? Pastor Rachel says something to lighten the tension but I just want to crawl under the pews until the service is over and everyone has gone home. What am I doing wrong??? As I hold him squirming in my lap and then pass him off to his dad so that I can grab Ozzie who is power crawling towards that same font I watch Maddie, another little girl older than the twins but whose mother and I share knowing glances all throughout the service. We often commiserate after service about whose children were worse. Maddie goes up to the baptismal font and…sticks her whole hand in there. And drinks the water in her hand. While Pastor Rachel is still doing her children’s sermon. She’s unfazed by it. Maddie even licks her fingers. I’m thinking, “Oh God!” kind of gross – surely that ain’t no holy water – but kind of wondrous and I’m laughing to myself.

I forget sometimes that the baptismal font is not just symbolic of cleansing but also for quenching that eternal thirst. I loved seeing Maddie do it so blatantly and … joyously. 

Right on, Maddie! You drink from the font, girl. Drink it to the dregs. Drink it up, drink up the love of God, the promise of God’s seal upon our lives, the water that never ceases to flow, drink it all up. 

It all seems so bleak and futile – our small lives – and all the destruction and ugliness feels like it is constantly winning. But it’s not. People gather to protest and resist the darkness and to call for freedom, and huddle together around the small spring of water that gives life to the multitudes, and it is a baby once again that reminds me of God, baby Eli being baptized today, reminded me of God on high drawing near to us, and always in the most unexpected places, holiness happens.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

 

The Reflecting God

by Micha

reflection

I’ve been learning about “reflecting.” It’s a counseling term. And my life seems to be filled with counseling terms lately. I sit in the therapist’s office every other week. And I take a lay-counseling course at my church every Sunday afternoon, while filling in the gaps with books and conversations. I’m learning.

The more I consider my own anxiety and how it affects every facet of my life, the more I understand my little boy’s anxiety as well. The more I learn to be kind to myself, the more I learn to be kind to my son, whose reactions to life so mirror my own that they infuriate me. Isn’t that how it goes? When he reacts to his fears by losing control, I react to him by losing control. When he screams, I want to scream. When he stomps and flails on the ground, I want to stomp and flail on the ground. When he’s ridiculous, I want to tell him so.

I heard that anxiety is the most “porous” of the emotions. Anxiety absorbs more anxiety. So if an anxious person is living daily life beside another anxious person, those two are receiving and giving fear and urgency to one another all day long, absorbing and reflecting, making the feelings bigger and bigger until both feel used up, incapable of taking or offering back anything else.

There is, of course, another way. A quieter way. A way of living life together–two anxious types–learning to give and receive love more than fear.

I’m practicing the most practical of parenting tools these days. I’m trying not to react to what my kid says, but to reflect. I’m saying his words, his exact words, over and over back to him.

“I’m sad,’ he says.

“You feel sad,” I say.

He screams.

“You’re screaming because you feel sad,” I say.

Over and over, I’m learning to turn the volume down between us, learning to let him know he is heard.

It’s working. If I can stop my frustrations. If I can calm my intense reactions to his intensity, I see him. I hear him. And I realize that all along, that’s all any of us want. Even in the moments when we fail, when we cower in our shame, we long for a God who comes to us and says, “You feel ashamed.”

Not a question, just an understanding. A God who sits beside us in our fury and says, “You look hurt. You feel like you can’t live this way.” We long for a God who knows us well enough to show us that we are known. A God who doesn’t say, “You are ashamed, but you have to change,” and instead a God who says, “You are ashamed. And you get to change. You get to have a new day, a new chance, a new heart.”

I want to reflect the reflecting God. I’m learning. I am.

 

Photo Credit: Swami Stream on Flickr

When It’s Hard for Me to Trust

by Micah

lemonade

They say that when you become a father you’re able to see God better.

Maybe they’re right — though not in the ways I expected. There was no ray of cosmic love-light that suddenly appeared when my sons were born.

But, there are moments when I hear the words coming out of my mouth and a pause to wonder:

“Is that how God feels about me?”

There’s that verse in Scripture about how we love to give good gifts to our children, and how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those that ask Him?

It floats through my mind in those moments, and I think about how much I love my boys, and how much my Father must love me.

///

I wrestle with the idea of giving.

The way I heard it taught growing up, it was pretty formulaic. Give God at least ten percent of your income, and He’ll take care of your finances for you. If you fail to give God at least ten percent of your income, He’ll allow Satan to mess with your money; God might even smite you Himself just to teach you a lesson.

I don’t think I believe that anymore, but I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really know HOW giving “works”.

I think generosity is important. I think we’re blessed so we can bless. But I’m super uncomfortable with any suggestion that our financial wellbeing is influenced by how much money we give to God.

Still, I catch myself wondering sometimes if the reason I’m having trouble making ends meet is because I haven’t been giving quite  ten percent, if maybe God is withholding blessing because I’m paying bills and buying stuff instead of writing a montly check to the church.

///

Tonight my son, the three-year-old, wanted some “lemon juice” in his little plastic cup.

As I filled it up, I told him, “Make sure you share with your brother and your friend if they want some.”

He was worried, though. If he shared with them, it would be all gone.

“Don’t worry,” I promised him. “If you share and run out, I’ll give you more.”

That was one of those moments that I wondered if God was trying to say the same thing to me.

“Don’t worry. If you share and run out, I’ll give you more.”

As I refilled his cup with pink lemonade a second and third time, I thought about the faith of a child and the generosity of God.

It’s hard for me to trust that if I share and run out, He’ll give me more. But maybe it’s that simple.

After all, doesn’t the Father love to give good gifts to His children?

 

 

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About Settling Down . . .

by Diana

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You think you know so much when you’re twenty years old. When that third decade begins, you’re a little bit full of yourself, impressed with what you’ve learned in school and in life, and convinced that you’ll be able to handle whatever life throws your way.

And, if you were a 20-year-old raised in the 50s and 60s, you also understood the order of things, especially if you were a female. Even more especially if you were a female raised in the conservative wing of the Christian church. Your life was pretty well mapped out for you: childhood, adolescence, a little bit of young adulthood, marriage, motherhood.

Being an eldest child with a strong sense of propriety and extraordinarily overactive responsibility glands, you did exactly what was expected of you. So, in the year you turned 20, you got yourself married. You found a good, Christian man, dated him (carefully!) for a good long time, got engaged and then, of course, you “settled down.”

Well, five out of six ain’t bad, right? The meeting, finding, dating, engaging, marrying thing you did according to plan. It’s the settling down part you’ve struggled with for the last — how many is it now? — FORTY-EIGHT years.

I chalk it up to delayed and extended adolescent rebellion, that’s what. As an eager-to-please, hyper-obedient child and youth, you never truly rebelled against anything or anyone. And that remarkable man you married? He wasn’t exactly a rabble-rouser, either, was he?

Yet somehow, you’ve traveled this wild and wooly, sometimes adventurous, always unique journey-through-life that began with an afternoon of “I do’s” at the end of 1965. Now you’re taking a gander at 2014, as it rises out of the fog and begins to take shape. Holy crap, next year, you’ll hit the big 5-0. Can you believe it? Doesn’t that happen to old people?

I look at the pictures from this most recent anniversary and I still see those kids in there, those good kids who so wanted to do ‘the right thing,’ whatever the heck that was. Yes, the years have added pounds to our frames and lines to our faces and a whole lotta white hair to the head of at least one of us.

But you know what else I see? A couple of undercover rebels, that’s what. We obeyed the rules, we followed the protocol, yet somehow, we never managed to settle down, did we? At least, not in the way our parents envisioned settling.

Yes, we bought houses and fixed them up. Yes, we found churches and did our fair share of serving and leading. Yes, we had those kids — glorious, exhausting, challenging, lovable, fabulous people, all three of them.

But we also broke with convention and re-invented ourselves several times over the course of these years. We began, eight months in, with that freighter, sailing for eighteen interminable days, no sight of land, and one of us sicker than a junkyard dog. Then, as it turned out, California conservative didn’t look a thing like missionary conservative, and our two years of living cross-culturally (times two — Zambian culture + missionary culture) gave us a golden opportunity to experience being on the ‘liberal’ side of the ledger.

We came home with a new baby. I stayed home, had two more babies when having that many raised eyebrows in lots of places. Maybe we came as close to ‘settling down’ as we ever have during those years of small children. Even then, though, we took a giant leap to a new and better job for you, losing our medical insurance when I was pregnant with number three. Yes, we were a little bit scared, but we knew it was the next right thing for us to do.

We just kept doing that, didn’t we? When one of us began to feel uncertain, when we began to question what we’d been taught about how things ‘should’ work in life, in marriage, in church governance — we hashed it out.  We read and we talked and we prayed and we wondered.

And we found a new church for our family at year ten, a life-changing decision in so many ways. A church that encouraged both of us to use our gifts for the kingdom of God, a church that opened our eyes to new ideas and a wider view of God’s grace and goodness.

When the kids grew up and grew out, we felt invited to consider a new way to do life together. I went to grad school, experienced a call to ministry, we became grandparents, and then, all of a sudden, we were moving 125 miles away from the city we called home and you were commuting to work every week. So that I could be a pastor, can you believe it?

Now, we are both ‘retired.’ And you are taking care of young children at our littlest grandgirl’s preschool one day a week, and I am offering spiritual direction in our home. Somewhere in there, I owned a floral business and you served on multiple boards for non-profits, offering your financial expertise and leadership gifts. And we have enjoyed seven more grandkids, the eldest of whom is just about to graduate from college.

From this vantage point, I look back at our 20-something selves with more than a little bit of awe at our outrageous self-confidence and chutzpah! Because now I realize we knew nothing then.

Nothing except this: we loved each other and God loved us both.

And you know what? That was all we ever needed.

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To Thine Own Underwear be True

by Dulce

132

 

I had been dawdling and day-dreaming until my mom’s repeated warnings that if we were going to go to the mall we had to leave now finally made their way to my brain. I jumped out of the shower, grabbed a towel and darted to the clean laundry pile on the bed. I snatched a pair of undies without looking closely, spotted my favorite yellow mini dress and pulled them both on, stuffing my feet into tennies with no laces and bounded into the car. Whew!

Shortly after arriving at the mall, I became aware that I had made a strategic error. The underwear I had picked up were actually my mom’s. At twelve years old, my size was approaching hers, but not quite there. The undies were decidedly loose. Blushing, I gave a discreet hitch to them every few steps. Why, why wasn’t I wearing jeans instead of a short dress?

I’ve always been one to embarrass myself, but this plumbed the depths of my mortification. Thankfully, our shopping trip didn’t take too long, and my mom was very sympathetic to my plight. The exit was in sight and I heaved a sigh of relief.

The sigh caused the underwear to dip alarmingly again. I gave another tug, then realized that there were two really cute boys watching me. My hand jerked, and the abused elastic gave up the ghost. I was desperate to make it out of there without grabbing at my butt again in front of those hot guys. The door was so close! I tried taking giant steps, hoping that it would cause the undies to ride up a little. It didn’t work.

I held my breath and prayed that they wouldn’t fall below the hem of my skirt as I sailed through the door. The prayer was not answered according to my fervent hope, and my underwear hit the ground just as the door opened.

I did the only thing I could do. I stepped out of them and kept right on walking.

************************************************************

I told this story to my nine year old last week, and we both laughed our heads off.   She has started figuring out when it is OK to disagree with friends and family and is beginning to try out larger attitudes and expressions.   I know that feeling so well.  I wish I could say that the underwear incident was the only time that I accidentally put on something that didn’t fit, resulting in utter humiliation.  The truth is, even as an adult, I too have been prone to trying on beliefs, attitudes, jokes, words and other spiritual garments that weren’t right for me.   Of course, the ideal is to always examine these thoroughly before trying them on, but in real life, that isn’t fool-proof.  We grow and change.  Sometimes the elastic snaps.  Usually, by the time I realized that these things weren’t fitting, I would feel that people were watching me and I would pull and stretch to make them adjust, only to find that it didn’t work.  Sometimes, the only thing to do is to let it go and keep on walking.  And eventually, when the sting has lessened, tell someone you love and laugh till the tears flow.

 

 

The Coming Age

by Leigh

30th birthday

 

It snowed the day of our flight. Of course. I wanted to shake my fist at the skies but settled for rolling my eyes. Winter weather has interfered with my January birthday since the beginning of time. True, it wasn’t my actual birthday but it was the start of my birthday getaway. Also true, it wasn’t a ton of snow. We Midwestern stock paid no heed while driving about so I could only hope the airline felt the same way.

Fortunately, Dad dropped Mom and me off at O’Hare without any trouble. Mom and I boarded one of the smallest planes I’ve ever been on, which deposited us in Asheville, NC a couple of hours later.

We escaped the Chicagoland snow but Asheville was unseasonably cold. I had to chuckle and then I patted myself on the back. Surely my winter birthday woes would be over when I moved to Nashville that May. (Alas, it snowed 1/2 an inch on my 31st birthday and most of the city shut down in response.)

The long weekend was a perfect blend of all the things I loved. We went thrifting and worked on a crossword puzzle while drinking tea. We ate at amazing restaurants and perused cute boutiques. We toured the phenomenal Biltmore Estate and my non-drinking mother stood by while I enjoyed a wine tasting. (Oh my word. If you like wine, the Biltmore Winery will hook you up.) We found fried pickles and we watched cheesy Hallmark movies. We visited the All Souls church and happened upon a lecture. Best of all, there was time and space for many heart-to-hearts.

I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your mother but I count mine as one of my best friends. We don’t see eye to eye on everything but I know I can trust her with whatever is on my mind and that she will do her best to listen. I also know we can have a good time doing just about anything.

When I turned 29, I decided I was going to look forward to turning 30. A whole year devoted to embracing the age which depressed the majority of my friends. I understood why so many feared turning 30. I loved my birthday and I didn’t even mind getting older. The ace in my back pocket is that I will never look my age. But ever since turning 25, my birthday also served as a reminder of how far off the mark I was from what I thought 25, 26, 29 would look like. No more, I declared. I was going to own turning 30.

And for most of my 29th year, this positive outlook worked. Right up until about a month before.

Then those familiar feelings of failure crept in. 30 and single. 30 without children. 30 in a job I wasn’t sure was for me anymore. 30 and I still hadn’t traveled Europe the way I always dreamed I would. I ticked off the list of things I hadn’t yet accomplished. 30 was not supposed to look like this.

I paid attention to those feelings for a day or two and then I squared my shoulders. I was not going to let it ruin my birthday trip. This was exactly why I planned a getaway.

Like I said, I love my birthday. I love celebrating it. I love the attention. I love parties and presents and messages and general affection. My 30th birthday called for something special. I wanted to be with one of the people who loves me unconditionally. I could’ve chosen any number of friends but I couldn’t imagine a better travel companion than my mom. Even though she hadn’t been on an airplane since before I was born.

No one has encouraged and loved me more than my mom.

What’s more, my move to Nashville loomed. While moving out of state wouldn’t rule out future trips together, it would make them more complicated. I wanted to take advantage of our remaining time together…by going elsewhere.

My mom never fails to remind me who I am and Who I belong to. She never fails to champion me and her often prophetic voice soothes my soul like none other. Oh, how I needed to hear her words that weekend.

There was no better way to turn 30.

I have loved my 30s. I am more settled in my skin, more confident of who I am.  Certainly, I still wrestle with insecurities and difficult circumstances have happened each year but let me set the record state: my 30s rock.

And yet.

In less than a week, I’ll turn 34. The feelings of failure that pestered me in my late 20s have returned. I don’t have a getaway to look forward to, nor will I be able to see my mom.

I don’t want to buy the lie that I’m not enough- that this wild and precious life is not enough.

Once more, I’m squaring my shoulders. Once more, I’m embracing the coming age.

34, I’m about to own you.

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