Last year, I gave up on my “thirty before thirty” list. It was for a number of reasons, really. First off, some of the things on that list were expensive and time-consuming – and time and money are both luxuries in my life right now – not commodities. It also became quickly apparent that some of the things on my list I’m just not going to do. I won’t get to see the Avett Brothers before I turn thirty, unless I run into an impromptu concert somewhere. And I’m never learning to knit or crochet because I tried it and I hated it, and I’ve learned that my craft is with the written word, not necessarily with needles and strings. I’m okay with that.
So I gave up on the list, and it was cathartic. Part of giving up on the list helped me to see that life goes on after I turn thirty. So what if I turn thirty and I’m still single? It doesn’t mean that life is over. Really, parts of life are just beginning. And even if there are things you are still waiting on when you are thirty, I’ve discovered that a lot of life happens in the midst of the waiting.
Last year, my friend Madoline turned thirty and she wrote this fabulous list of thirty joys from her twenties. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot – and wanting to wisely follow her example. As I’ve reflected, I’ve realized that there have been a lot of joys in my twenties, some of which I wouldn’t have experienced had all of the things on that thirty before thirty list been accomplished. Or had my life looked the way I thought it would by this point.
So, rather than a thirty before thirty, here’s a list of thirty “thoughts/joys/experiences/lessons” from my twenties:
- The Amy who rarely takes risks and struggles to be brave decided she didn’t want to be an education major and changed her degree on the day she turned twenty – and that changed everything.
- I served wherever I could, whenever I could. From working for the SC Baptist Convention as a summer missionary, to working camp, to Thursday backyard Bible clubs in the trailer park, to helping with D-Nows – the Lord taught me much about Himself and His people – and who He created me to be – through opportunities to serve.
- I had the opportunity to make deep, long-lasting, long distance friendships through camp and college. I got to know people I would have never met. I stayed in touch with some of them and learned what it means to be a good long-distance friend (and, I learned that sometimes, the people you stay in touch with are the ones you wouldn’t expect).
- I bought all of the books in all of the world – for college and for seminary and for writing and for fun.
- I went to Beeson – to the best divinity school in the world, with the best professors and the best students and the best faculty (in my humble, but correct opinion).
- I survived Beeson and didn’t quit or transfer – because there were moments there where the Greek and the Hebrew and big words in English threatened to get the best of me, but I persevered (or rather, the Lord persevered and kept me there). I’m so glad I stayed.
- I decided I wasn’t going to live in fear of the future anymore. I’m still learning this lesson, but over the last year, I’ve been encouraged by the reminder that God holds time and knows all – and I don’t.
- I had the opportunity to do things that terrified me – and I did them. (Such as – serving as BCM president, lecturing for classes at Beeson, preaching at Beeson while I was a student, living with strangers for a summer on mission, going on first dates, having tough conversations where you “say what you need to say,” flying on airplanes, going to the top of tall buildings…)
- I moved. I moved a lot. If we count the summers of moving home or working at camp, I moved seventeen times in the last ten years. Moving taught me a lot. Namely, it taught me how we really need less things that we think. Every time I moved, it was an opportunity to cleanse – to get rid of the junk and the things I don’t wear and the clutter. Moving taught me to hold onto physical things a little more loosely.
- I became a healthier person and learned to cook delicious things.
- I had the privilege to enter into my friends’ joys and sorrows – the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
- I walked through moments where it seemed like my life was going to fall apart – and I realized that it didn’t mean the world was going to end.
- I learned how to survive work that felt meaningless (a part-time stint in customer service) and how to say goodbye to jobs I loved for new opportunities.
- I learned that the Lord can surprise you sometimes by setting the lonely in families. In my twenties, as a single woman, I got the chance to have friends who become like family, and to be Ames to my favorite kids.
- I went on a lot of roadtrips to see people I love. Nothing stopped me from driving or flying hundreds of miles to see friends get married or to spend the weekend at a camp reunion. I invested money and time into deep relationships, with people who know me well and still love me, despite the knowing.
- I learned what it is to grieve over the brokenness of the world, over sin and death. People I loved died. People I loved suffered in ways I never imagined, and I couldn’t fix it. I learned what it means to be broken over the brokenness of the world, over the ways that sin has tainted everything.
- I also learned that counseling is invaluable for anyone. Maybe it’s a pastor or a professional counselor or a friend who sits across from you on Tuesday afternoons in your office…regardless of the type, engaging in counseling can be one of the best things anyone could ever do.
- I wrote all of the words – college papers and seminary papers and a thesis and articles for The Alabama Baptist and newsletters and website content and devotional guides.
- I lived life with a lot of roommates – and I learned a lot about my own quirks and bad habits in the process.
- Speaking of, I learned about myself and became comfortable in my skin. I don’t always want to go to a party on a Friday night. Too much people time wears me out. I need to recharge alone, where I don’t have to see anyone or interact with anyone. I cherish deep relationships and thrive on quality time. And, I really do like going to bed at 9pm.
- I saw parts of the world I never thought I would see.
- I began to learn what it means to let go of the dreams you hold so closely for yourself – and to drink deeply of the dreams the Lord might have for me.
- I became friends with people who were older than me, and younger than me, and they provided healthy life perspective.
- I watched healthy ministry transitions happen successfully.
- I fell in love with good music and good books and good concerts. (In ten years, I think I will still listen to the Avett Brothers, Needtobreathe, Andrew Peterson, Ben Rector, and Josh Garrells. I’ll probably still be reading the books I’m reading now. I hope I’ll still get to go see Behold the Lamb of God at Christmas.)
- I fell in love with endorphins and running and being active.
- I fell in love with decaf coffee from Octane and the art of making the perfect french press.
- I walked with friends through singleness and engagement and marriage and pregnancy and having babies – and I learned that life isn’t perfect for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
- I [am learning] to take each day as it is – as a gift from the Lord – and not to borrow worry. Still in process 🙂
- I have found, again and again, that the Lord is sufficient for all things – that He is fatihful, even in the midst of my unfaithfulness. That He is enough.