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Birthdays have always meant something different to me with each decade.

When you are a kid…BIRTHDAYS ARE EVERYTHING!!!! My brother and I are one year and 18 days a part. You can guess how many times we’ve had to “share” a birthday party. Now that I’m a parent I get it but as a kid it was the pits! It’s bad enough to share but when you have the opposite gender to share it with…well let’s just say I never got the 80’s Jem party that I wanted in my mind.

My favorite birthday happened when I was around seven or eight. My mom and grandma made a cake with animal crackers all lined up around a perimeter of bendable straws set up like a circus tent. My mother has many, MANY excellent strengths but being crafty isn’t one of them.

BUT SHE TRIED!

It felt special to have a sort of theme and LOTS of friends were invited over for our combo party. We tied balloons on a string and then to our spindly ankles and ran around laughing half terrified at the sound of popping balloons and half frantic trying to stomp on our friends balloon first.

Truthfully, I don’t remember much more than the cake, lots of friends, balloon stomping and one prized birthday gift, a felt design kit. It was full of brilliant colors and shapes and different felt backgrounds where you could design stuff. I sat in my driveway fixated after the party was over and began to manipulate the colors and shapes. I’ve always enjoyed this type of creating. You might say this is the pre-curser to why I constantly redecorate rooms in my house…not by buying new things…just moving stuff around to constantly reinvent what I have.

I don’t have a picture of the party but this is me at seven years old desperately trying to cover up my missing front teeth. Sweet Captain Kangaroo impression no?

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I remember feeling happy and satisfied, special and excited, on that Michigan spring day. That year I didn’t mind sharing with Jamie. I had my felt kit and that was all right with me.

In my 20’s I threw myself my birthday parties most years. Partly, because in college my birthday always fell a few weeks after college broke for the summer and the odds of getting remembered while everyone was working at camps, summer jobs or traveling overseas was slim to none. There were some lonely college birthdays in upstate New York that came and went with little to no fanfare.

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It seems egocentric looking back back and maybe it was on certain years. Mostly, I remember just being happy to have finally found great friends in my 20’s and I wanted to be around them as much as I could. I didn’t like being alone. I feel like I struggled my whole life to find where I fit in and to have a great set of girlfriends. In my early 20’s I found my two best friends and soul sisters, along with a string of other amazing women from my church. We were foolish about guys and money, selfish, and obnoxiously introspective together but we loved each other fiercely out of our broken places, knew we needed Jesus badly and we managed to push each other forward towards His grace and mercy despite our short comings. One by one we became emancipated from our sin and brokenness by our late 20’s.

My best friend and of course Ryan goes along with every dumb idea I have. He's a keeper

My best friend and of course Ryan goes along with every dumb idea I have. He’s a keeper

Those birthday parties were full of fun and slightly rebellious excursions at times. Others ended up being called “Kelly’s Porch Parties”. Hey…if you are gonna be famous for something…this is a pretty sweet title to hold. Our apartment was party central. We threw parties for no reason and every reason back then.

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On my 27th birthday a group of girlfriends threw me my first and only ever surprise party. I can’t even remember how they got me to show up but I do know I was 110% shocked when I turned the corner. What awaited me was nothing short of a magical party with white strings of lights littering the sky like bottled up fire flys, my favorite wine, a home-made cake, all my girlfriends and a treasure box filled with letters they each wrote me about what they appreciated. I felt truly loved on that night. It’s a beautiful thing to be considered. We fight the lie often that we are invisible and no one remembers us. When a group of people not only see you but craft a night around your love languages….well it’s one of those “thin places” between heaven and earth.

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On my thirtieth birthday I was fat with child and the decade of wanting quieter birthdays began. The older I get the more my “introvertedness” seems to be taking over. I don’t crave the loud, long nights of my 20’s porch parties. I’d be happy to spend a weekend away with one or two of my girlfriends eating delicious Indian food, thrifting, talking for endless hours, reading and being kid free. That seems like the best, most meaningful birthday I could hope for. Ryan learned years ago, birthdays are for my girlfriends and anniversaries are all about him.

And so my last birthday of my 30’s is here. THIRTY NINE!!! How in the free world did I get here so stinking fast? I’m still 25 in my head but one glance down at my mom bod squeezed into my skinny jeans let’s me know that indeed 40 is right around the corner. I do want to kiss straight on the mouth the people who are shocked by my age and reply incredulously “I thought you were in your late 20’s I can’t believe you are almost 39!” I know I can’t milk that cow forever and at some point I’m going to say my age and people are going to respond with “Oh” and then I will know that all the miracle eye cream in the world can’t help me.

My 29th bday....whewww...TEN years ago..nuts!

My 29th bday….whewww…TEN years ago..nuts!

So I want to share my list of things I’m glad the Lord saved me from in my 20’s to bring me a life that is deeper and better than I could have asked or imagined for in my 30’s. We think we know who we are in our 20’s and what we want but we really don’t or it is a shadow of what is to come. Often in our 30’s we begin to really mourn some choices we made, time we wasted, student loans accrued for degrees we don’t use or jobs we hate, relationships that took precious energy, careers we sold our soul to for what? Consequently, we are now mature enough to rejoice that some things just flat fell apart, dreams died and people moved away in our 20’s but with fresh hindsight a decade or so later we see with perfect clarity what the Lord saved us from because of those loses.

1- Society tells us to be happy at all times and that’s a line of bologna. We’ve become professional fleers (flee-ers?) and it is detrimental in the body of Christ. Don’t like what that pastor says…flee. Don’t like that friend speaking some truth in your life…flee. Don’t like what he or she did….flee. We leave churches, people, relationships, jobs, commitments in our wake all for the sake of personal happiness. I’m not saying be a doormat but there is something so incredibly beautiful about staying the course through hard times that reaps a harvest of intimacy, maturity, depth and growth that is irreplaceable. The only thing we are suppose to flee is temptation.

2- I never used my youth ministry degree. At least not in the traditional sense. I was engaged at 21 which fell apart half way through my senior year. I got three job offers to be a youth pastor in CO, MI and FL and I took none of them. I was SO devastated and lost after I graduated not using my degree or being a wife to this man I thought life was over at 22. DEAR LORD IN HEAVEN THANK YOU FOR SAVING ME FROM ALL OF THAT!!! It was the wrong man and I was such a screwed up, broken woman I had no business being in ministry. I’m SO thankful God took my sorrow and turned it into dancing. My dreams were too small back then and I needed to know who God the REDEEMER was before being in ministry.

3- Your marriage is worth fighting for. You know those movie scenes where in anger or passion someone straightens out their arm and swipes everything off a desk in a karate chop motion? That’s what it took for Ryan and I to get back our marriage. We wiped the slate clean in our lives and stepped out of every commitment that took from our family and we buckled down and we got help and we learned to look each other in the eye again and we repented and confessed and forgave and learned to love and communicate in healthy ways. We will be working on it the rest of our lives but I’m glad we had the courage to push out the noise and make space for healing. Don’t let pride, sin, or anger rule your home. You can stand there alone in your “rightness” or you can be the chicken or the egg that goes first towards healing. Jennie Allen recently said, “Good marriages are built in trenches not on vacations.” AMEN

4- I never knew I loved being alone. I was terrified of being alone in my 20’s and avoided it at all cost. I mean letting my mind sit in silence and solitude, no thanks, time to go to the mall. I was scared of facing my demons or to come face to face with a Holy God. Because that’s the kicker. If we just stop and sit for a hot second, really sit at the foot of the cross and disengage from ourselves. You know “YOU”…the one you think about and try to please 99.9% of the day. When you sit with reverence and marvel at our HOLY Father, one that has never known sin and yet sacrificed everything for our sin. HE truly becomes greater and we become less and conviction, not shame, begins to swell within us with tsunami force and we WANT to confess and purge and make right what is wrong. We want to unfurl our grip on our life and relinquish it to our holy and sovereign LORD because intimacy breeds trust. He is trustworthy….oh good gravy, he is trustworthy.

5- As open of a book as I am about my life there are really only a few people I let into the inner chamber. My girlfriends mean the world to me and the older I get the more thankful I am that I have experienced such deep soul connection, passionate times of prayer, humble moments of confession, and laughter until my cheeks felt like bursting. I never realized how rare this connection was amongst women and I desire it so much for all woman to experience that level of intimacy. When you are able to shed comparison and perfectionism and join the sisterhood that awaits you…there is nary a greater love apart from my Lord, my husband and the love I feel for my children.

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Honestly, I would wax poetic all day about what I have learned…this post is long enough and I’ll save the others for a future post. God is so good and I enter this last year of my 30’s with a very grateful heart. This song below is on heavy rotation (picture Ryan rolling his eyes when I que it up again) But the joy of the melody and the lyrics sum up my attitude going into this next year! Enjoy…the whole album is AMAZING!!!!

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