Well, it’s finally here: the dreaded last day of my 20’s. As much as I would like to deem tomorrow “The 2nd Annual Anniversary of My 29th Birthday”, I can’t. When the clock moves into the 2:00AM hour, while I sleep, I will turn 30. (I think I need a piece of chocolate.)
As hard as the idea of starting a new decade and really becoming an aging grown up is to swallow, I’m actually starting to look forward to it. Ha! Truthfully, I am actually forcing myself to look forward to it these days. There’s nothing I can do about the progression of time which seems to be moving like a freight train these days, though. I can either laugh or cry about it. I much prefer to laugh.
My 20’s have been a season full of many wonderful and difficult things alike. I know my 30’s, God-willing, will be too. It is an honor and privilege to have been graced with 30 years of tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord. This will simply be a new season of life.
Before the clock strikes the magic number tonight, though, I wanted to share some of things I learned during my 20’s. Tomorrow, I’ve got a whole new decade to enter into with fresh pages to record notes along the way.
In the mean time, though, to all you 20 somethings, here’s a few things I wish I knew ten years ago when I entered your decade.
1. A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted.
I really started learning this about 8 months before I turned 20. In one of his last sermons, my dad proclaimed this truth as he sat down on the stage in his cancer-ridden body. There’s no one who could have said that to me and made more of an impact than my own dad in the state he was in at the time.
I’ve had many tests, large and small throughout my 20’s especially. The loss of my dad. Getting stuck at red lights. Turmoil with my sister. My husband’s job layoff. Slow internet speeds. A few automobile accidents. Spilling cous cous all over my kitchen floor. The flu. Termites. Saying goodbye to other loved ones. Pinching pennies. Family schisms. Several moves. Dealing with difficult people.
Through it all, I’ve doubted and messed up to be sure. But each time my faith was tested, my Savior always came through. Always. Maybe not the way I thought He would or when He would, but He carefully demonstrated that He would see me through whatever situation I was facing. He consistently reminded me of His grace, mercy, love, peace, provision, healing, care, and presence through each situation that tested my faith and tried my patience. I learned that He alone is worthy of my trust and that each time I do place my trust in Him, I’m rewarded with His peace that passes all understanding. When I tried to hold onto things, I got weary, ragged, and worn out very quickly. But when I placed my trust in Christ, admitting that He was in control and had a good plan, He proved Himself faithful every single time. He’ll do it for you too.
2. Stop looking for your spouse.
I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old. It wasn’t on purpose either. Since 1st Grade, I had a string of crushes that I had found and secretly admired from a far. None of them ever reciprocated. After a weird dream just before I went on a mission trip to Thailand, I gave up trying to put myself in situations where a guy I liked at the time would notice me. Though I desired to be married with a family one day, I couldn’t seem to find anyone who would rightly fit that role for me.
But that’s just it. When I stopped looking, God brought my husband right beside me. During that mission trip to Thailand to be precise. I always joke with people that I wasn’t looking for a Yankee, so God had to take me all the way to the other side of the world to meet my husband.
Not every person is pre-destined to be married. And that is ok. Singleness is a beautiful gift. Marriage is too. For those who are waiting and sense that the Lord intends for them to be married, the wait can seem long, lonely and confusing.
There is a poem that I had read at my wedding called, “Satisfied,” which so eloquently sums up what my 20’s taught me during deep, dark times of despair in my singleness while desiring to be married, “Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone, to have a deep soul relationship with another, to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But to a Christian, God says, ‘No, not until you are satisfied, fulfilled, and content with being loved by me alone, with giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me. With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with me alone. “ The poem encourages people to stop worrying and being full of anxiety, planning, and comparing themselves to others and to fix their gaze upon Jesus and their relationship as HIS bride. “Or you’ll miss what I want to show you. And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful than you could dream of. You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready, I am working even at this moment to have both of you ready at the same time. Until you are both satisfied exclusively with me and the life I’ve prepared for you, you won’t be able to experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with me. And this is perfect love.”
Everyone’s journey toward marriage is different. For me, the love of my life entered the picture as soon as I quit looking all around and started looking forward to Jesus. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glance of the man who turned my dreams into far better realities.
3. Don’t compare your life with others.
I have been guilty far more times than I care to admit of comparing myself to others. I’m not as __________________ as so and so. I don’t have ______________________ like so and so. I haven’t done ______________________ like so and so. I haven’t been ___________________ like so and so.
Each time I’ve done this, I’ve made myself become depressed and discouraged. I’ve also robbed God of the praise He deserves for making made ME, what He has done in MY life, and how MY story fits into HIS story. Throughout my 20’s, I’ve come to realize that I may not be able to “have it all,” but I am able to live life abundantly and uniquely because my Savior God has made me and redeemed me fearfully and wonderfully.
I’ve learned that God has called me to do something that He hasn’t called anyone else to do. I have a unique purpose in this world at this time in history. It’s my choice whether I live will fullness or live wastefully. God has given me gifts, talents, and elements to my story that are unique to me.
4. People will let you down, but Jesus won’t.
I used to hold people to a lot higher expectations than I do now. Through this decade, I’ve learned that even the people closest to me will eventually let me down. My lenses have been wiped clear to see that every person I interact with is human and capable of both hurting and disappointing me. I’ve learned that nobody is Jesus, but Jesus. Often, I have expected people to read my mind, be more sensitive to my needs than they were, and be there in a greater way for me than they might have been able. I’ve learned that I can’t be Jesus for anyone either. I will eventually reach my limits and let people down.
But do you know what? I’ve learned that Jesus will NEVER let me down. He never has and never will. When everyone else lets me down, I can count on Him.
5. This world is huge and small all at the same time and it’s vital that we explore it.
I’ve travelled the world over and found nooks and crannies that I never knew existed. I’ve visited places that I’d heard of that were once legends in my mind. I’ve played the tourist and travel guide alike. But more often than not, I’ve found something or someone along the way that directly relates to something familiar in my life.
I don’t understand people who have no interest in the world around them. You don’t have to physically go to a different place to become acquainted with the lands and seas beyond your front door, but if you’re able to actually go, it’s a beautiful thing. There is so much to see, hear, learn, taste, and experience. Travelling fuels my passion for learning, networking, making friends, writing, cooking, and sharing the love of Jesus.
I’ve learned that Jesus included the words, “Go into all the world,” in His great commission for a very good reason. The more I travel, the more I glimpse into the greatest masterpiece ever written. The story is so intricate, yet so personal. Each land that my feet tread upon and each face that I’m greeted by are testaments to the love of God. Each travel encounter that I have is an opportunity to speak the story of Christ’s love and truth to the nations while obediently fulfilling the second half of the great commission.
6. You’ll go through seasons of friendship which will be sifted through to leave the ones that are meant to stick.
Growing up, I guess I thought I’d have the same friends my whole life and that would be that. I wouldn’t loose or gain anymore, I’d just maintain the friendships I had. My naïveté was laughable. Two words: Middle School. That’s when I began to learn that friendships tend to morph in life. But even through college, I thought I’d always have the same group of friends and maintain the closeness that we shared.
The thing about friendships is that they are made up of people. People change. Their lives change. They go through different seasons at different times that may not fit into the simple molds of being in the same grades anymore. They move. They stumble. They triumph. They learn different lessons and different times than you do. Yes, friendships can go through a host of metamorphosis.
As I’ve changed, my friends have also changed. Through each season of change, a sifting has occurred that has either caused friendships to move on or to grow all the more closer.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of friendships after being so invested for so long. But the thing from each friendship that sticks will be how they fit into your story. Each friendship serves a purpose. Some are a little more remarkable than others and those tend to stick. Others help shape you and teach you and those are valuable too. Friendships are a mighty tool that God uses to move us from stepping stone to stepping stone in life’s Journey and to remind us that part of His purpose for us is community.
7. Life is short, even at its longest.
When you loose a parent at age 50 to cancer, you realize life is short. But when grade school and college classmates start dying before you all hit 30, you realize just how short and fragile it is.
Each time I was presented with the news that a young person I knew had died, my bones shuddered and my breath was lost for a moment or two. After my dad died, I became a very driven person. I realized that life was short and there was much that I wanted to experience and accomplish with the days that God had ordained for me. Sometimes, I have worn myself out with this drive of mine. But the thing is, I don’t want to waste my life.
The single most challenging book that I read during my 20’s bore just that title, “Don’t Waste Your Life,” by John Piper. The title alone is enough of a challenge. I’ll never forget the story of a 60 some year old couple that thought they had arrived at the purpose of life by combing the seashore for seashells because they had reached retirement. Retirement for me may mean that I slow down a little bit, but I don’t ever want it to mean that I’ve buried my head in the sand and lost my God-given sense of purpose.
When we were on our honeymoon, my husband and I were shocked at all the people getting wasted on their honeymoons. What were they going to remember?! What were they going to cherish during those times?! The memories of the inside of a toilet and the feeling of a sledgehammer pounding their heads the next day?
You don’t have to have a hangover to realize that you may be guilty of wasting your life. It may just be the hours of television you watch every weekend rather than going out and interacting with your fellow man. It may be having your head buried in your smart phone while you miss actual life that is going on around you. It may be the opportunities you passed up to spend time with your grandparents to learn their stories and reap their wisdom.
Life’s too short to waste. It’s a gift that you are given once with the possibility of full enjoyment and purpose.
8. Your parents won’t be here forever. Cherish them.
I thought I had it all figured out when I turned 18. By the time I finished college, I really thought I had it figured out. I let my mom know it too. I had already lost my dad, but it never dawned on me that one day my mom wouldn’t be here anymore. That’s a truth that has started to sink in the further into my 20’s I have gotten.
We don’t live in the same state anymore. We don’t always see eye to eye. But I try to call her every day. Even if she’s made me mad or I’ve made her mad, I try. I’d give anything to be able to call my dad again. For now, I just have to ask Jesus to pass messages along to Him until we meet again. But the older I’ve gotten and the older my mom’s gotten, I’ve stopped taking her for granted.
I always say, “I love you,” at the end of every phone conversation. I try to be intentional about making memories together and taking photographs together because one day that’s all I’ll have left.
Most of all, I’m learning to cherish my mom and the story God has written through her soul. Without my parents, I wouldn’t be here. Some people don’t have the privilege of saying they were blessed with great parents like I have been. Some were brought into this world accompanied by abuse or neglect. Some were orphans.
But for me, I was given a gift. And as the clock continues to tick, I will cherish that gift.
9. Honest, steady work is always best.
I had my finances pretty well figured out, I thought, before I got married. But after I got married, new options, opportunities, and oppositions surfaced. If I could tell my mid-20’s self one thing about finances it would be to not take short cuts.
There are few things more rewarding than a steady job where you work hard and get paid a pre-negotiated amount.
I’ll tell you what did not work for us. (These things work for some people, but they ended up being a waste of time and money for us). Setting up a booth with photography for sale at a 4th of July festival. Direct Sales. Depending on paying off credit cards monthly after we got paid. Severely slashing rates for our business to get our name out there.
I’ll tell you why they did not work for us (in respective order). It was hot and people were much more interested in food, entertainment, and staying cool. I spent more than I made on the products to boost my inventory to share my experience of those items with my customers, I had a very limited circle of people I could sell too, and I felt like people started to avoid me because they were worried that I would pitch them another sale or try to wrangle them into hosting another party. My husband lost his job and the bills piled up quickly. We weren’t paid what our service and time was worth and our customers, in turn were greedy and disrespectful.
Making an honest wage is the best way to go. It’s not that the other things weren’t honest in and of themselves. The pay was what wasn’t honest. We could never plan accordingly when we were involved in those situations because we didn’t know how much to expect for an income that month.
Even if it’s a minimum wage job, that’s the best place to start. You can dream big and invest wisely. But not until you are on your feet with a reasonable amount of savings and have eased yourself into the transition to go forward with your dreams.
An honest day’s wages help bring the priceless gift of peace of mind.
10. I have much more to learn.
The older I get, the more I forget and the more I realize how much I don’t know yet. I have so much more to learn. They say if you stop learning, you die. It’s true. There are millions of books gracing shelves of libraries and bookstores throughout the world. There are trillions of tidbits of information. There are lessons I will never learn apart from experience. There are parts of life that I have yet to understand.
I picked up a bookmark at Oxford University in England some years ago that has a quippy poem I have always related to,
“The more you study, the more you learn; The more you learn, the less you know; So, why study?”
Simply put, I barely know anything. As I enter this new decade, I must say that I’m more eager to gain knowledge and truth than I ever have been in my life. I’m looking forward to this next season of life. I’m looking forward to this next season of learning.