Encountering Full Life Through Joy and Sorrow; Beauty and Pain

Encountering Full Life Through Joy and Sorrow; Beauty and Pain

Today, I celebrate the start of a new decade. I turned thirty at 12:04 am.

A few months ago, I couldn’t wait to turn thirty. I was ready to leave my twenties behind and all the craziness I never expected to live. I managed to do a thing I often do and convinced myself my thirties offered a fresh, clean slate—a second chance for life to prove this decade could be different.

But as I write this, I’ve recognized the error of my ways.

My twenties were nothing like I expected them to be, this much is true. But the truth is, my twenties taught me far too much about living life to the full—even when it is hard. My twenties taught me too much about how my plans aren’t always the best-laid plans. My twenties taught me too much about the reality that we can hold both joy and sorrow; beauty and pain. My twenties taught me too much about how life is a mix of both/and rather than either/or. My twenties taught me too much about how the easy path isn’t always the best one.

And yet, my human nature still craves the easy path. At the outset of 2020, I was certain this was going to be my year. I had big plans. Unsurprisingly, God had different ones. 2020 has not aligned with anyone’s plans.

For a while, this felt unfair. God, after all I’ve been through, can’t I catch a break? And that is where God stopped me in my tracks. I had so many plans.

Not very much of my twenties went according to my plans, but the thing is, I am who I am today because of those experiences—a path I never would have chosen. While I’m certainly not looking to relive the past, I’ve come to know that the last decade—with its unexpected challenges—led me to a deeper dependence on God and a richer, fuller, simpler life.

The next decade will do the same—no matter what is in store. A new decade doesn’t offer up a fresh, clean slate; it is simply the turning of another page in the book of life—a life I am exceedingly grateful to be living.

For the rest of my days on earth, I believe I will continually relearn this truth: to expect both joy and sorrow; beauty and pain—because therein we experience a full life.

An Update on 30 Before 30

As I enter my thirties, I wanted to share an update on a challenge I undertook about a year ago: 30 Before 30. It’s a challenge many people have undertaken and, today, I wanted to celebrate all the progress made. This list was and continues to be about naming and going after the things that mean the most to me in life. It was a joy and I am grateful for those who were part of each of these moments.

1. Take a road trip (Complete! Highlights from our trip to Texas.)

2. Build and plant garden boxes (Complete! Loved every minute spent out in the garden last summer + those so far this year.)

3. Stay overnight in a tiny house (Complete! We enjoyed an overnight in Traverse City, MI in August.)

Our tiny house in Traverse City, MI.

4. Run or walk a 5K (Complete! We Ran (walked) for Answers in support of the DTRF on September 22nd in Philly!)

5. Thirty thank yous (Over halfway! I’m continuing to work my way through this as I find the right words to thank those who have helped me through challenging times.)

6. Read all 66 books of the Bible (39 books of the Bible in; completed the New Testament and am continuing to work my way through the Old Testament.)

7. Create a piece of art (Complete! I learned macrame—receiving my book from the library right before quarantine began!—and created a plant hanger.)

8. Complete 100 days of Pilates (Complete! Continuing to love The Balanced Life.)

9. Read 30 books for fun (Complete! See “What I Read” or follow me on Goodreads.)

10. Declutter each room of the house: round 3 (Complete! This has become a normal rhythm for me to bring more peace to our home.)

11. Hike in a new park (Complete! We LOVED Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.)

Hiking at Sleeping Bear Dune National Park.

12. Take a pottery class (Complete! See pictures from the class).

13. Become a hope*writer (Complete! Read about my journey.)

14. Have a garage sale (Complete! See fun pictures from the day.)

15. Ditch and switch three new items (Considering this one a success as we didn’t actually find three new items we needed to switch.)

16. Share about my decluttering experience (Complete! Shared about my experience with friends and family.)

17. Attend a concert (Complete! Saw Celine Dion in Indy with my sister, mom, and our dance friends + mom! The best night.)

Dinner before the Celine Dion concert in Indy.

18. Be part of a book club (Complete!)

19. Visit Lucas Oil stadium (Didn’t manage to complete this one…hopefully another year!)

20. Random acts of kindness (Complete and yet always ongoing!)

21. Create a cupcake bouquet (Complete! Happy birthday, mom! And happy birthday, Roxanne—shown below!)

Cupcake bouquet.

22. Invite neighbors over (Complete…in quarantine fashion. We gathered with neighbors at the end of our respective driveways.)

23. Begin a scholarship fund (This continues to be a work in progress!)

24. Travel to a new state or country (While we can check this one off our list after having traveled to PA last year, it wasn’t our original plan. Hopefully next year!)

25. Give back to the cancer-fighting community (I’m considering this one still a work in progress—one I intend to keep as an ongoing goal.)

26. Volunteer with Random Acts of Flowers (Complete and ongoing! Some photos from volunteering!)

27. Start a lending library (We are part-way there! Thanks to a friend, we have plenty of books to fill our lending library with. Soon we will have the tools to build it, but are waiting to set it up until the virus passes.)

28. Do something outside of my comfort zone (Complete! I got out of my comfort zone at a local writer meetup and I was so glad I did!)

29. Plant a cut flower garden. (Complete…though sadly, most of the flowers I planted didn’t grow. Planning to learn from this year and try again next season!)

30. Become published (Complete! I am beyond thrilled to have my work featured in the Keep Going Magazine this July!)

As I close out my twenties, I can look back with gratitude for all that I have lived through and all that is yet to come.