Here I am! Grateful as can be to see my 24th birthday! With everything that’s going on in the world right now, from the pandemic to economic recessions, it is so important to take the time to thank Yahweh for His blessings! True enough, it’s easy to complain and forget to be grateful; unfortunately, we do it all the time. However, birthdays are one of those special times when life seems to slow down and it’s much easier to remember that God has us in the center of His will. That’s something to celebrate!
As a child, birthdays used to be all about receiving. What can I get? Presents? Money? Attention? I’m not going to lie; those thoughts still cross my mind. But as I’ve gotten older, my desires have changed. I can go without the gifts and several “Happy Birthday!” text messages, but I can’t go without thanking God for all that He has done to cultivate me in this season of my life. Each year, I think well in advance about how I want to spend my birthday and as I made plans, this blog post was at the top of my list!
Lord, I thank You. This past year was one of the most difficult years of my life so far, but yet, I’m here and I’m better than I’ve ever been. I’m more mature. I may not be exactly where my heart desires, but I’m exactly where I need to be and I’m going to thank God for that just as much! One of my favorite shows that I watched in the past year was “Rhythm and Flow” on Netflix. The winner of the show, D Smoke, had a line in one of his songs that said, “It’s safe to say that growth in an uncomfortable process and pain is a necessary investment for progress.” I felt that deeply because God has made me uncomfortable all year, but I’ve never been so confident in His path for me. Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” This is a familiar verse to many of us. For me, it’s been one of those verses that I’ve had to lean on throughout the year. It constantly reminds me that my end reward will exceed the tough times. In a way, the pain is a pretty good measure of my future happiness.
What lessons have come from the discomfort? Let’s start with opening up. This is something that I’ve struggled with for the longest. There are so many people who only know of me, but they don’t truly know me. Why? A large reason is that I don’t always give people the chance. A long time ago, I learned how to close myself off to avoid the judgment that came with putting myself out there. But, if only I had known of the reward. Earlier this year, I published my first devotional Prize, Not Punishment. This was an extremely personal project for me. Essentially, I placed my diary on display, talking about one of the things that I’ve struggled with the most since my teenage years. I used to wonder why it was that I struggled with singleness so much as I would watch others who didn’t seem to struggle at all. Now, I truly believe that part of the reason is that God knew I would come to a point where one day, I would be willing to open up about my experiences and He could use it to help others.
When God placed it on my heart to publish, I was nervous... but oh, how lovely the response has been. Friends, family, and even strangers have come along to support my devotional. All of that has been wonderful, of course, but what has meant the most to me has been the one-on-one conversations that I’ve had with people who have shared with me how the devotional helped them in their journey with singleness. As big of a blessing as book sales have been, they can’t compare to knowing that I’ve helped at least one person with my story. That’s the biggest blessing of it all, and it all started with the willingness to follow God and trust that He would sustain me in my willingness to be obedient and simply open up.
Don’t put yourself in a box. You may think that you know yourself better than anyone else, but let me tell you, God knows you better than you. He knows what He has placed on the inside of you, even if you don’t know it. Allow God to show you what you’re capable of! I never imagined that I’d have a book and a blog in my early 20s. I always figured that would be something I would MAYBE pursue perhaps in my 40s, after living enough life that I’d feel like I truly have something to talk about. Don’t be afraid of allowing God to surprise you with your talents! Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Wherever your gifts may take you, take comfort in knowing that we have no reason to worry when we’re moving with God... like Joshua.
Furthermore, when God pursues you, listen. Don’t ignore the wonderful voice of our Father! God speaks in many different ways and when you grow deeper in Christ, you’ll start to recognize all the ways that God talks to you. John 10: 27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” God loves to talk to His children! Make time to hear what He has to say! It’s never too early or late to get to know our Abba! Enjoy the experience of talking to the One who loves you more than you’ll ever know. Tip: When God brings something to your attention more than once, lean in, and listen!
With each day, I’ve grown to love and appreciate my friends more. The rollercoaster ride that has taken me through the ups and downs of friendships has taught me so about people and how to love. I never understood how some people could maintain friendships that spanned over decades. How can anyone be so devoted to another person that is not their family? Now, I truly believe that when you tend to almost anything, it can last for as long as God will allow it. Real friendships aren’t long-lasting because they’re perfect. Instead, it’s because people are willing to cater to their friendships when they weaken. When God blesses you with true friends who are willing to cater to the friendship you share and be a positive influence as you grow closer to the Lord, then don’t take them for granted. And when time has run its course with a friend, coworker, relationship, or whoever else, let it go and just thank God for how He used that relationship to grow you.
With me barely scratching the surface of everything that being 23 years old has taught me... perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was that it’s never wrong to love someone. That’s how beautiful love is. I’ve always been a rather compassionate person. I tend to care about people much more than they care about me. I admit, it has put me in some situations where I’ve felt extremely vulnerable. I used to dislike that about myself. I desired this hard shell where people would have to work overtime to infiltrate my feelings. At least that way, I could protect myself from people getting close to me just to turn, something I would have never seen myself doing to them. But that was never who I was, and it will never be who I am. Loving someone is a strength, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. I’m sure plenty of us can think of someone out there who we could say doesn’t deserve our love or prayers... but what if God turned around and said the same to us? Being more Christ-like means following the amazing example that He set for us by loving us all the way through, even to the cross. When times get tough, love anyway. With the lessons of year 23 behind me, I’m happy to say that with God’s blessing, I can move twenty-fourward!