Today is my birthday! I love getting older. I have absolutely zero qualms about pressing further into this decade. As my friend Jordyn said to me on my thirtieth birthday, and I haven’t forgotten: “I think a confident woman in her thirties is a thing to behold.”
In that spirit, I would love to share with you these 32 things I know without doubt today, which I certainly didn’t know at 22, or even 29, at least not in full.
But I know them now.
From babies, travels, hardships, blessings, friends, strangers, writers, speakers and therapy, I have gathered these sacred truths, and I hold them close to my heart:
- “Sometimes heaven is just a new pair of glasses.” — Anne Lamott
“Or boots. Or Lulus. Or jeans that actually fit. Anything that helps you see yourself and the world a little more grace-fully.” — Me
- The Word of God does not return void.
- Church is people.
- Silence is powerful.
- I can keep my hair long if I want to! Or short. Or blonde. Or black. Or naturally wavy or curled or straightened.
- Life unfolds in seasons and cycles.
- Dualistic thinking is (generally) unproductive. Life isn’t always so black and white. Learn to embrace the gray.
- Books are teachers, healers and friends.
- The mind is a minefield. Protect it. Nurture it. Fill it with life-giving things. Keep it healthy, holy and clear. Then share it magnanimously with the world.
- The heart is a wellspring. Protect it. Nurture it. Fill it with life-giving things. Keep it healthy, holy and clear. Then share it magnanimously with the world.
- Women can absolutely have it all. But they can’t have it all at the same level at the same time.
- Self-care is essential.
- Self-awareness is everything.
- Suffering is a sanctuary.
- Friendshifts are normal and healthy. Life is on the move. Let your soul and your bandwidth move, too. Even lifelong friendships have ups and downs; times of great closeness and seasons more distant.
- My body size really (really) doesn’t define me.
- I don’t have to (gasp) wear makeup every day! Really. I don’t. This is the best news ever!
- I’m so happy I got married young, and never again will I feel timid about the fact that this was my path.
- Getaways together give life to a marriage.
- People are often genuinely curious, when I jump to assume they’re judging me.
- It is far more difficult for me to receive love than to give it.
- Same goes for criticism.
- Real men are everything Ann Voskamp says here. Strong. Sober-minded. Humble. Kind. Respectful of women and their bodies and souls. Confident but not ego-driven. I can’t remember where I heard this, but: “There are 15-year-old men, and 51-year-old boys.” Age is a number; great men are timeless.
- It’s OK to say No.
- I’m not the best, and I’m not the worst. I’m just Me.
- People will surprise you with their kindness and love.
- But also: You can’t change them. Ever. Unfortunately you can’t change this rule either.
- Everybody struggles, in significant ways. We are all more alike than we know.
- Our differences make us glow, and together, we light up the world.
- There is no such thing as the Perfect Mother. Only a Good Enough one.
- I wanna be my mom when I grow up… because she was pretty close to perfect.
- Ten-year-old me knew a lot. When I feel myself losing my center, I try to tap into her mindset. Her conviction, her compassion, her curiosity. Her wisdom, her wonder, her intuition.
At age 31, I also learned some invaluable lessons about Proverbs 31—you know, the quintessential passage about biblical womanhood that is equal parts greatly inspiring and completely intimidating. We all want to be the girl of this scripture, but don’t we also feel a bit like she’s running on the treadmill while also running a major corporation as she homeschools six kids and concocts gourmet recipes in her head as her profitable investments make money for her and additionally we try not to hate her for her obvious social influence, effortless style and immaculate home? Pass me the Advil and envy pills!
From several amazing books, though, as well as my dad, who taught a Proverbs class at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in the early ‘80s, here’s what I recently heard for the very first time—which I had never heard in three decades of church. First, do you know who almost certainly wrote Proverbs 31? Bathsheba. That’s right. The scandalous beauty bathing on the roof who enticed King David and remains known largely for that illicit affair. Not for the fact that she served as an integral tie in the bloodline of Jesus and penned the main passage illustrating a Woman of God. What? We all need to remember this!
Bathsheba’s story is heartbreaking and shadowed by sin—have a fling with the king, inadvertently get your sweet husband killed when said king learns that you’re pregnant. But this no-doubt gorgeous gangster woman rose up from her shame and mistakes. Her journey gave her wisdom and courage and grace. She ran to the Lord from the darkness and for the rest of her days, bathed in the light. Bathsheba stands in history as a beloved mother, virtuous leader and faithful lover of God. Her son Solomon was the wisest and most honored of all David’s sons. The text introduces Proverbs 31 as the “sayings of King Lemuel”—recognized as King Solomon by most commentators and interpreters. Who then delivers the forever-enduring, female-defining inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Additionally, I learned that Proverbs 31 is in no way a checklist of everything we need to go and be, do, achieve, right now, don’t walk, CrossFit, to exemplify godly awesomeness. Rather, these verses exemplify an ideal woman instead of an actual one—i.e., she’s not real, guys—likely reflecting a composite of many other great women Bathsheba observed. Moreover, this passage lists the characteristics and accomplishments from throughout a woman’s lifetime—not 10 zillion things to be spun out on the hamster wheel (elliptical?) in a single day. As mentioned in my #11 above, wisdom straight from the mouth of a great therapist and also Drew Barrymore, women can totally have it all, be it all, do it all. In a life. Not in a moment.
Yet still, as I see in these verses and in all the women around me, we are remarkable and resilient and unstoppable. Funny and strong and sensitive and powerful, at once.
Another often-forgotten fact is that Bathsheba also lost a baby. In infancy. That first son born to her and King David.
Solomon was her rainbow.
She is clothed with strength and dignity. She can laugh at the days to come.
So cheers to you, 32. And new. To loving harder, surrendering bigger and laughing through whatever may come. To being good enough, and imperfect. To every old friend I will keep holding tight and each new person who crosses my path. To writing for money a little less frequently, and writing from my heart more often. To baking and hiking and reading great books, and always being a hugger. To making choices that will make 42-year-old me a proud woman, wife, friend, daughter, sister, and mother of two teenage girls.
And, I pray, one more child, too.
Thank you, Lord, for another trip around your beautiful sun.
It’s such a wonderful life.