It’s official. I am a woman in my mid-thirties.
This week I turned 35 years young. I clearly remember the day that I turned 25. A friend called me to say happy birthday and I just began to cry. I felt like I was nowhere that I expected to be in my life. I remember thinking that 24 or 25 would be a great age to get married, have a few degrees under my belt, and be on my way to buying my own home. I guess I felt like I let the younger version of myself down by not having certain accomplishments completed by a certain age. It seemed like there was a checklist in life as I came to certain ages, and it still seems that way now. Looking back, I can see that I am a whole other person at 35 than I was at 25. The truth is that the 25-year-old version of myself was a hot mess! Well, sometimes the 35-year-old version of myself feels like a hot mess too but not as bad, and I am a whole lot classier with a side of sassy. At 25 years old I was so unsure of who I was and was struggling with who I wanted to be. It scared me to know I had a calling in my life. Instead of wanting to live up to my calling I often wanted to run from it and hide from it.
I have to say though, as crazy as the 25-year-old version of me was, I am grateful for her. I am grateful that despite all the pain, heartache, mistakes, disappointments, good times and bad- she never gave up. There were times where she discounted herself with choices she made, but by God’s grace she got up. There were times where she could have walked away but never did. The struggles my 25-year-old self faced have made me who I am today: so much stronger. That younger me had to take a lot of hits and suck up a lot of pride. She had to learn what it was to be hurt as well as the consequences of hurting others. She had to learn that sometimes we are so focused on what we don’t have that we end up neglecting what is right in front of us. She made many mistakes, but now understands what it means to take better care of the friendships and relationships in her life. Part of me wants to go back and scold my 25-year-old self, and guilt and shame her, but that is not the answer. She can’t undo her mistakes, but who she is now can learn a lot from them..
My flaws and mistakes have given me a better understanding and grace for myself and for others.
As a pastor I hear so many people’s stories. I am grateful that I can hear someone’s stories and mistakes and not have a heart of judgment and condemnation. Instead, I can hear with my ears, my heart, and with my experiences. I know how much grace and mercy has been offered to me in my 35 years of life, and all I want to do is extend that grace and mercy. I want to help others live out their calling. I want to help others be the best version of themselves while learning from their mistakes and not letting them way them down. For so long I felt like I had to keep giving myself a hard time and beat myself up for my mistakes. I learned that was, and is, not the way to live life. God already forgave me. I had to learn to forgive myself. I thought forgiveness was a cheap way to let myself off the hook for my mistakes. However, I had to learn to understand the price that was paid for me. Nothing Jesus did on the cross was cheap!
For so long I was insecure and unsure of myself and my calling. I was unsure of what direction I wanted my life to go. As much as I was a “go with the flow” kind of girl, I was still always worried. Now, I look back and I can’t help but think how blessed I really am. I get to serve God in full time ministry. I get to spend my days meeting with young people, hearing their stories, and sharing Christ with them. I get to plan services and outreach. I get to work in a loving and caring community. I have a family that believes in me and cheers for me. I have friends who I know would be there for me. I don’t deserve any of this but God’s grace in giving it to me is what makes me even more grateful to have all of it.
All the good and all the bad has made me who I am at 35. Life is a beautiful blessing and I never want to take that for granted. I know I will still make mistakes and get things wrong. I know hard days are still before me. Nevertheless, I know that I don’t walk alone. I have my great God, my great family, and my great friends. The greatest gift I have is the acknowledgement of the blessings right before me. I am 35 and I am excited for all that is still to come!