It’s 7 pm on the eve of my turning 26 years old.
I’m sitting in bed, cozied up in pajamas with my Low Key Bee Spotify music playing, a stack of books to my left, and my husband reading and working on my right. It’s amazing how much music can affect me. I switched it on and immediately felt tension begin to melt. I just took my first truly deep breath of the entire day so far, and I’m feeling myself start to relax. We just returned home from a city council meeting in our small town, where I watched my handsome husband get sworn in as the mayor and I’m still residually beaming with pride. I’m finally warming up after tiptoeing from the truck to our front door in negative windchill levels on treacherous ice (gotta love electric blankets!). And as the icy cold slowly lets go of me, I’m finding myself in an ultra-reflective mood. Because I turn 26 tomorrow.
I’m not gonna lie, for the past month or so, I feel like my default emotion has been not-joy. I’ve been even more of an introvert lately – not just for the usual joys of it, but also because I’ve just wanted a break. I still sometimes feel like I’m treading water in a sort of rut. I know it can take time to clamber up and out of a rut, so I am loosing my hold on chipper perfectionism (because life is too short to be shallow) and allotting myself a heck of a lot of grace to do so.
But really, all that happened this so-recent year of living-25 has served to grow me and deepen my story. My perspectives have been widened, my experiences diversified, my marriage strengthened, and my heart exercised anew. Why should I be ungrateful for any of the hard times 2016 brought? Why should I push against that which has taught me and made me stronger?
Should we look at our Creator and say, How dare you lead me through valleys that teach me to look to You alone? How dare you give me an experience in which I must rely only upon You? I refuse to say that.
I’ve been pondering the 23rd Psalm so much this 25th year of mine. I’ve read Phillip Keller’s book and I’ve dog-eared and underlined practically every line. I’ve grown so much in my understanding of my Lord as the Good Shepherd. Every time I think I understand the psalm, another layer shifts and reveals new depths of its message to me.
Ever thought about the wording of the 23rd Psalm? It starts out as a list of “The Lord is my Shepherd…[the Lord does this, and He does this..]” and I LOVE all of those parts, but then it isn’t until I walk through the valley that I as the sheep alter my wording and my reference of Him: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me, YOUR rod and staff, they comfort me.” Suddenly, I find I am referring to the Lord in DIRECT PROSE — I am acknowledging Him outright, speaking to Him, not merely ABOUT Him.
Do you think the sheep speaking in the psalm is very angry at this point that the Shepherd led him by that route? I don’t believe so. Because of the ups AND the downs, the sheep looks at his Master at this point with renewed trust and a deepened, intimate relationship with Him.
It’s a beautiful picture.
And one I can relate to so much more than I could in 2015.
Since my birthday falls on January 4th, each calendar year is essentially another exact year in my life. Thus, I look at my year of being 25 as being synonymous with experiencing 2016.
2016 was a grand, semi-dramatic year: it brought with it some stresses — the shallow kind I shouldn’t have fed, as well as the weighty kind…and it brought us exciting highs and full joys and adventure — weeks spent gallivanting in Europe as well as adventuring in Kentucky, memories made with family and friends, and welcome blessings and successes in work, in farming, and more.
So, when I look back on 2016, I look back at my 25th year. And it leaves me a bit speechless. I feel like I have yet to fully make eye contact with the entire year at once, afraid that its sheer number of experiences will overwhelm.
My mind wants to dare me to fear unknowns that another year could bring. Will 2017 be as intense?
I honestly can say that I don’t know what this next year will bring. I’ve loved the years when I’ve been able to predict how things will play out, when I’ve got a plan. There have been a couple great years like that — a planning perfectionist’s dream. 😉 So, the not knowing fully does tend to bring me fear.
But I can’t look at it that way. Because I’m tired of fearing unknowns. Unknowns aren’t always negative; they can be so achingly good.
You know what I liked from my post on Thoughts on Turning 25? I said “I am struck by how God’s plans for me are so much greater than any I could fashion myself. Life’s experiences have proven this time and time again.” And this only continues to prove itself true!
I echo my own sentiments from back when I turned 25: I want to step into my new year of life in faith and with an unshakeable trust in the One who made me and tenderly holds me.
When I look back at my 25th year, my true-to-its-name Mid Twenties Year, I’m reflectively filled with gratitude! We have a cozy, precious rental home that I’ve fallen more and more in love with — living up to its name and my true desire for a Peace House. We’ve been saving well financially and have been blessed with multiple careers and answered prayers, as I pray daily for us to be successful only in the God-given paths of our life, so we know what it is He desires us to continue with. I got to travel to Europe with my husband, sis-in-law, and friend, and experience a freeing sense of adventure in exploring new countries apart from anything like a high school tour group. And I’ve got a major, butterfly-inducing crush on a certain handsome man who just so happens to be my forever husband. 😉 These feelings grow day by day, blessing me with their intensity. And I’ve got HOPE. I’ve got a God who has walked through the entire year STEP BY STEP with us — heck, who has led and whispered His truths to me my entire life — and I get to have the joy of committing my life daily to Him.
Here’s what I’m looking to grow in this year:
- knowing God is close and that He is speaking to me; I only need to listen
- not bemoaning the fact that I’ll be closer to 30 than to 20, because so many people would have loved to live the blessing of daily getting older
- being forthright, in standing up for myself and of speaking truth in gentle but assertive ways
- growing into the meaning of my name, Hannah – it means “graceful” and I want to be “grace-FULL” not only towards others but towards myself
- knowing even more so who I am as a person — not worrying what others think of me
- not hesitating to ask the hard questions in life
- that I don’t always have to say “yes” to others
- to learn what it means to be selfless — not a doormat, not a pushover, but selflessly serving
- listening to my heart in terms of my dreams and listening to the desires God has placed on my heart, not the expectations others may have for me
- letting go of fear and instead learning to trust and just plain LIVE.
I’ve been hoping that 2017 – my year of being 26 – will bring us beautiful stories to tell, of God’s faithfulness, of hope, of adventure, of the friendship found in marriage, and of joy. But you know what? I shouldn’t say I HOPE this year will bring me that. I can ALREADY tell the stories of all these things. I can already tell stories of God’s faithfulness, of the hope that I have, of the absolute happiness I get from being married to Bjorn, and of true, deep joy found in my faith.
26, you’re going to be great. I know, no matter what the year brings, that you will be whole and heavy and pure and stretching and GOOD. God is already working behind the scenes to add another chapter to my life story. And I desire no other Author, no other Good Shepherd, to walk through life with – no matter what 2017 and my 26th year will bring.