Saturday, July 22, 2017

On the Eve of My 30th Birthday

Usually birthdays aren't such a big deal to me. On my 20th I celebrated that I was exiting the teenage years (with the hope that all the drama would exit my life, too!). On my 25th I joked about being a quarter of a century old. Now as I gaze at my 30th...I'm trying to remember that it's just a number. It isn't a big deal, I tell myself.

But the problem is that I have a hard time believing myself.

As I look back on my last decade of life, I see a lot of unexpected things. A lot of good unexpected, and a few less-than-good. See, I tend to set expectations of myself without voicing them to others around me. Then I get disappointed when my unvoiced expectations for my own life aren't met. Anyone else with me on this?

I always thought that by the time I turned 30, I would have an idea of what I wanted out of life. I thought I would be settled in to life, with a clear path of what lies ahead. This concept is almost laughable to me at this moment. Have an idea of what I want out of life?? Where in the world did I come up with the idea that I would ever pretend to know what my future would hold for me? If my 20's have taught me anything, it's quite the opposite of that. I don't think I'm ever going to really know where my life is heading, but I've come to be okay with that. I've lately been reflecting on where I think I might end up next year, and to be honest, I feel like I'm back in my senior year of college, trying to understand why life has all of a sudden brought me to this crossroads.

All of the other things on my list of "unvoiced expectations that didn't get met" follow the same idea, that I thought I could plan my life, but it turns out I can't. I thought I'd have more than one child by now ("two before I turn 30!" I subconsciously told myself), but that hasn't really worked out the way I thought it would. I thought we wouldn't stay in Thailand for more than a few years ("It's so far away - maybe I can find a place that is closer to our families" I thought), but we are (with much contentment - don't misunderstand me!) heading back in a few days for year number eight.

On the flip side, the last ten years have brought a lot of particularly happy surprises and twists and turns. Moving to Thailand, becoming a high school teacher, realizing that I love high school aged teenagers (haha - seriously, anyone that knew me earlier than our first year in Bangkok would know how big of a surprise this was!), getting a Master's degree, working toward a teaching license...all of these were pleasant surprises. All of them have shaped me into who I am, and have shifted my passions considerably from where they were at the beginning of my 20's. I have always been passionate about mission work and sharing the gospel with those who have never heard. I have learned that this passion is more specific: I don't need to preach, I need to show. I need to let the Spirit take hold of me so much that I can love the people in my life even when they are at their darkest moments. Even when I'm annoyed or frustrated with them. That's what it means to follow Christ.

I have learned that life has two sides, and I can choose to look at either one. I can choose to be disappointed and miserable because of my own unvoiced, unmet expectations, or I can choose to be thankful and see the beauty of the surprise events and unknown future of my life. I think we often forget that our attitudes are not based on our circumstances, but that we can choose to take an attitude that will make the circumstances more bearable.

For instance, I decided to take my thoughts on my 30th birthday and voice them on the blog, rather than keeping them pent up inside my head, getting frustrated that one one seems to get how I'm feeling about turning 30. Turns out (so far, at least) that this was a good choice on my part.

And so, with mixed feelings I bid farewell to my 20's. Farewell to all the traditional firsts of adulthood: finishing college, getting married, getting a job, having a child. Farewell to the notion that I will ever have my future under control. I mourn the disappointments of the things I thought would happen but never did. I cherish the surprise of the twists and turns, and the wide variety of sweet memories I have made.

All that is left now is to embrace the future. Hello, 30's, and welcome, no matter what you may bring my way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Songs


I've had a couple of songs stuck in my head on repeat lately.

The first is "Good Good Father", and the second verse and chorus of this song are what seem to have caught my attention:

Oh and I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching for answers only you provide
'Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word
You're a good, good father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am



Interestingly enough, it's the second verse of the following song that has also caught my attention. What is it about the second verse of songs these days? This one is called "Thy Will":

I know you're good
But this don't feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It's hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you're God
And I am not
So
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done


Both of these songs speak to my heart. I've found myself a little anxious and dissatisfied with life over the last few months. I've struggled a lot with the question of the future: where are we going? What should we do? What is the best for our family? One benefit of living here is that we get to re-evaluate each year and decide whether to stay or go...but that benefit can equally be a burden, and I have felt it as much more of a burden this year than previous years.

For the record, we have decided to stay in Thailand for another year. After doing a bit of searching online to see what might be available to us in other areas, I realized that my best option for moving forward would be to finally get a teaching license, since teaching is what I feel called to do. I have since begun working through an alternate certification program online, and hope to earn my license through the state of Florida by the end of September. Remaining in Thailand one more year gives me the opportunity to finish that license and be able to use my knowledge right away (and it's also helpful to retain a job in order to pay for said online classes and license, you know?)

I remember other times in my life where I felt restless and angry at God because it seemed like he didn't want what I wanted for my life. I got frustrated because things didn't go the way I wanted them to. The last time that happened, I had just graduated from college and was looking for a job in the Grand Rapids area. Little did I know that those few weeks of discomfort and frustration would lead me to a time and place where I could pack up and move across the world at (basically) a moment's notice. What a blessing that has been for my life - I would not take away those weeks of waiting for anything, now, because they enabled me to spend the subsequent seven years of my life learning so much more about myself and the world around me in a country that I'd never imagined myself living in.

So, as I take steps into the future and wait to see what it holds, I sing these songs in my head. I serve a God who loves me and who has called me to himself. He knows what I need before I can even begin to conceive what that even is. Sometimes it's hard to make sense of His promises. Sometimes it's hard to retain faith when so many of the people I interact with question it and just don't seem to get it. But He is God, and I am not - and I don't think there is anything else I could be more thankful for.

If you find yourself in a place of waiting, a place of being burdened (whether for yourself or someone else), take some time to reflect on the qualities of God. His goodness. His faithfulness. His omnipotence. His love. There is nothing more comforting. Maybe you'll get some songs stuck in your head, too, as if the Holy Spirit is just constantly trying to remind you that God is a good good father, who knows what you need, so all you have to do is give your cares to him and say thy will be done.