Well, I don’t know if you heard, but yesterday was my 32nd birthday. And although it’s been a few years, I thought I’d bring back my birthday blog tradition of sharing some of key things I learned during the last year. Normally, I would have posted this on the day itself, but since I’m now a grown-up with a real job, I didn’t have a chance. So here they are–a day late and in no particular order–my 32 lessons for my 32nd birthday:
- I don’t have to be addicted to coffee.
- Latte the piggy loves bananas.
- Gulf Port, Mississippi, and Gulf Shores, Alabama, are NOT the same.
- Teaching online really isn’t that bad.
- Audiobooks are surprisingly awesome.
- Spending time in God’s Word each day makes a tangible difference in my life. (If you’re looking for a nifty way to do that, I recommend the “Bible in One Year” app. It’s awesome! And the narrator has a British accent, which is a definite bonus).
- If done on a Sunday, the trip from Atlanta to Kansas City can be completed in 11.5 hours.
- I own waaaaayyyyy too many books, and that’s okay.
- Selling clothes on Poshmark is trickier than you would think.
- I actually enjoy running again!
- Contrary to widespread popular belief, Darth Vader doesn’t actually say, “Luke, I am your father.”
- My hair doesn’t get that long after 10 months between haircuts.
- I really, really miss in-person church services.
- As we all learned in 2020… Life rarely goes the way we think it will, but we are more adaptable and resilient than we probably realized.
- I can make copycat versions of most of my favorite restaurant recipes, including some great Asian takeout.
- Friends, near and far and socially distant, make life so much sweeter.
- Taking the time to get organized can make a huge difference.
- Always double check that my car’s parking brake is engaged.
- It is possible to get tired of wearing sweatpants.
- Being kind and giving people the benefit of the doubt is always a good idea.
- I can do basic calligraphy!
- Psych is still one of my all-time favorite TV shows.
- Even if you have to wait an extra three months for the wedding, watching your little sister get married is so very sweet.
- Real wild rice cooks much more slowly than the Uncle Ben’s variety.
- Without fail, spending time outside always refreshes my soul.
- Don’t try to take I-75 when the President is in town.
- I am terrible at keeping succulents alive.
- I have a hard time getting through the entire Lord’s Prayer without yawning.
- I’m starting to get gray hairs, and that’s taking some getting used to.
- Grace can be a difficult thing both to accept and to give but–by God’s grace–I am working on it.
- Picking 150 pounds of pecans doesn’t take as long as you might think.
- 10+ months of Covid-related quarantine isn’t ideal, but it’s much better when you have an awesome husband to share it with.
And in keeping with birthday tradition… one more to grow on!
The Bonus: God is so faithful and so good.
Looking back over this last year, it’s easy to see all the difficult things that happened and all the places where life went haywire. And there were certainly a lot of them: the global pandemic, the sudden move of classes and church and everything online, the continued financial fallout, the travel bans and the inability to do my summer research in Germany and (later) having to say no to postdocs in Berlin, my sister’s three-month wedding delay, cancelled conferences and trips, the still-inexplicable run on toilet paper, the loss of Jim’s grandfather, unexpected tragedies in my friends’ families, an especially abysmal academic job market, not being able to see friends or family as planned, long stretches of being “in limbo,” so much racial injustice, and the most difficult and divisive election season in my living memory, and simply grieving the loss of what used to be “normal” while wondering what life will look like on the other side.
And yet even in the midst of an incredibly challenging and in many ways heartbreaking year, there have been unexpected bright spots and moments of joy: reconnecting with old friends over the phone because (thanks to the initial shutdown) we both suddenly had the time, learning how to slow down and live more simply, more quality time with Jim, buying our first house together and now living within walking distance of some of our best friends, a newfound appreciation for my church community, weekly Zoom calls with my high school besties, more time to go on walks and runs and just enjoy being outside, and having the chance to start working through some of my deepest insecurities and fears–and actually experiencing healing and freedom from many of them.
No, this year was by no means easy, and I don’t think I would choose to repeat it, but I can’t help but see God’s fingerprints all over it and His faithfulness woven throughout it. Nothing that happened, good, bad or in-between, caught Him by surprise. And while He may have felt distant at certain moments, He never left my side. There is great comfort and peace in knowing that He is Emmanuel, “God with us,” and Jehovah-shammah, “He is there.”
As I was thinking through this post yesterday, this song came to mind and (as songs often do) immediately got stuck in my head. But I think it captures exactly how I feel looking back over this last year and moving into the next one. Have a listen, if you’d like, although fair warning: it may get stuck in your head too.
And now this 32-year-old is in need of a snack… is 11 am too early for birthday cake? 🙂