My First Thirty Years

I can't help but think of Tim McGraw whenever I hear that someone's turning 30.  I've always loved the song, My Next Thirty Years, even if I was a mere sixteen when it debuted in July of 2000.  Of course, being an old soul (from birth, I think), the responsible "next" thirty years always resonated more with me.  As I sit here on this milestone birthday reflecting, I don't want to make a list of things I want to change from the last three decades to the next.  If my first thirty years have taught me anything, it's to expect the unexpected.  And, so, that's what I'm going to do.  That makes my song a lot more boring, but, hey, it's concise, and it covers my bases.

Why am I expecting the unexpected?

Because I was born and raised a legalist.  I had rigid expectations of myself and others.  I had a plan that would not be altered, no matter the price.  I determined at the age of 10 that I would be my high school valedictorian, by golly, and nothing was going to get in my way.  (Seriously, who does that?)  I aspired to attend college where I would play field hockey for a D-3 school, live singly, establish my career, live in a semi-urban environment with eventually a husband and maybe two kids.  I would continue to work outside of the home.  I would make oodles of money, but not be above sending my kids to public school. 

Doesn't always work out the way we plan.

It all began changing when I accepted a scholarship to Mercer University, a private, (at the time) Southern-Baptist university where the majority of the students were from Georgia and had never even heard of the sport of field hockey (and certainly made fun of me for the way I pronounced it - apparently "hockey" doesn't sound like "hack-y" - dead giveaway that I wasn't "from around here").  It was never a school that was even on my radar.  It was the first, true step of faith I'd taken in my life.  When I walked around that campus for the first time, I knew I was "home."

Two weeks before I turned 18, my parents and I packed up my belongings and moved to Macon, Georgia, a city 800 miles from the only home I had ever known, a city where I didn't know a soul.  Speaking as a parent now, I look back on that day, and I wonder how my mom and dad did it.  I admire them for their faith in me, for trusting that I would make the right decisions, for having the gumption to drive away.  It's entirely different from the perspective of a 17-year old girl fresh out of high school with an inflated sense of self and nothing to stop her from achieving her goals.  Within the next two weeks, I turned 18, made my first "C" on a test in my life (Calculus II), and called my dad crying hysterically from a pay phone with the news that I hated it and I wanted to come home.  He convinced me to stick it out for the semester.

I'm so glad he did.

Within the first year, I met my husband-to-be, made great friends, learned what it meant to be a "student" for the first time in my life, experienced some pride-crushing grades and lessons in humility (which I obviously needed in the worst way), and made both excellent and stupid choices as I suspect many young women in my position would.

In just two years, on my 20th birthday, I was a married woman, 9 months pregnant, packing up Sam's and my first apartment in preparation for the move into our first house.  Let me just tell you, this was not part of my plan as outlined above.  I like to think Someone had something better in mind for me.

In the next ten years, I continued to make plans.

I determined to graduate with my engineering degree, get a job as a civil engineer, pass my licensing exam to become a Professional Engineer, have another kid, balance life as a work-out-of-the-home mom, among other things.

I accomplished all of those things.

In those same ten years, things I said I'd "never" do came to fruition as well.

Due to the "economic downturn of 2008" I lost my job (albeit not until November 2010) and became a dreaded-to-me stay-at-home-mom.  I sat for my PE license in October 2010, found out in January 2011 that I passed, and have yet to use the designation professionally (and don't have any imminent plans to do so either).  I sit here today, on my 30th birthday, 26+ weeks pregnant with my fifth child.  I'm a homeschooling mom of multiple grade levels who voluntarily pulled my children out of the public schools that I championed for so long.

Never say never.  Expect the unexpected.  Don't pin your lives on things that ultimately don't matter.  Turns out, God's plans are a lot more exciting than my own.  And make a far better story, in my opinion. 

I don't need to write a song for my next thirty years.  I think I'll just default to the classic, old hymn:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
In my next thirty years, I want to trust and obey.  I can make plans, but I can also rest easy in knowing that God has already made plans for me.  And life makes a lot more sense when I conform my will to His.

Besides, His plans kind of rock.

God-willing, here's to at least thirty more years of the good stuff - the twists, turns, the blessings both planned and unexpected. 


Debbie said...

You made me cry.

And Happy Birthday!!

Sharon said...

I'm a little late to the party - but my wishes are still sincere!

Happiest Birthday, dear Jennie! It's a wonderful path that you have walked the last 30 years, and I know God has many more blessings in store for you. Hoping that this year brings you your heart's desires, as you continue to desire His heart!

Love you and GOD BLESS!

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