A Good Year

Monday, August 13, 2007

I turned thirty on Friday.

Some of you may remember that twenty-nine was a bit of a traumatic milestone for me. Well, I am happy to report that there was none of that self-pitying nonsense going on this year. No, sir-ee! As a matter of fact, thanks to Facebook and it's handy little birthday reminders, I've never felt so popular on a birthday in my life! (I used to feel ripped off that my birthday was during summer holidays so none of my friends ever remembered when it was. Okay, so that was when I was eight. Usually I don't carry things around with me that long. Hmm, maybe that's something I need to work on...)

Seriously, thank you to those of you who showered me with e-mails, birthday songs (both the sung and typed versions--I especially loved how the same notes got held overly-long with the typed version, so I could just hear it. The person who did it knows to whom I am referring, and I just want to say I loved it!), messages on my Facebook "wall", and presents! yes, presents! both virtual and real, and real, hold-in-my-hand-type cards! too. (Which all arrived on time, for those of you who may be wondering.) I even got a call from India on Friday morning. From a cell phone. I thought the connection was bad on land lines to there. Really, I had no idea how bad it could be. But the thought was appreciated none-the-less. (Can't imagine what that phone bill will look like, though. Eep.)

So, if at twenty-nine I thought I was looking forward to my last year of frivolity-with-excuse, I certainly did not pull a "Joe vs. The Vulcano" and change my life around. However, there were some significant shifts in my attitude this year that, though subtle, I would like to take the opportunity to record.

Firstly, I was quite shocked to discover, right before Christmas, that what I had always thought to be extremely-straight-hair with just enough body to be annoying was actually--with the right combination of products and styling--wavy! Oh joy, oh bliss! Perhaps I read too many period romance novels as a child, but I had always longed for the curls that my favourite heroines seemed to possess, and in fact spent many hours with curling irons, rags, and chemical treatments in my hair trying to achieve that very thing. Now, at the age of twenty-nine-and-a-half, I discovered that while I may not have ringlets, my hair did not altogether lack the qualities I had dreamed it would manifest for my entire live-long life. It's quite a shock to realize you've lived that long and overlooked something that basic about your own appearance.

I realize that this particular revelation probably does seem quite frivolous. However, it also helped to contribute to something else that I experienced in the past year, which is a deepening comfort with myself. This included physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects.

I have mentioned only in passing before that in March of 2006, I was hit by an all-over outbreak of psoriasis triggered by strep throat. Although I had not really thought myself vain about my body, the extreme shame I felt when my body was covered in red welts and silver scales from the scalp of my head to the tips of my toes was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It was a hugely contributing factor to the depression that plagued me for most of last summer and into the fall. I dressed in long pants, long shirts and jeans for most of the summer, actually wearing scarves even on very warm days to hide my neck. I did not even let Jason see me naked for most of that time. He was amazing during the entire thing, telling me that he didn't love me because of how I looked but who I was, and all manner of other things he should say, but it was something inside of me that the Lord had to deal with through this.

I think it helped me come to a point where my self-worth is not tied to how I look, at least not as much as it used to be. Yes, I want to look good for my husband, but I do not need to have that approval from people of my outward appearance to know that I am of value in this world. It got to the point where it didn't matter very much what I looked like anymore. Jason showed me the most amazing love through it all, and it strengthened our relationship so much because of that. It also gave me even more compassion than I used to have for people who get stared at because there is something slightly different about them. Whether people are actually staring at you or not, it only matters that you think they are. Anyway, that's another blog post.

So, through all this, I became more comfortable with my body, my hair, and the Lord was dealing with me on the inside. I read the book Captivating, by John and Stasi Elderidge. I could barely get through a paragraph without breaking into tears, because it was talking right to me, right to where I was right then. That book was instrumental in an attitude shift towards myself, and also to women everywhere, of all kinds. I finally started to see the value that God puts in me as a woman, and why He made me the way He did--and not only that, why He made every woman the way He did. How we all share some common longings and desires that are actually reflections of His character--a God who wants to be romanced, to be pursued, to be loved. A God who wants to unveil beauty to us. Don't we, as women (speaking to the girls, now), all share these longings? Yet, as products of the curse on Eve, don't we all carry with us an intense loneliness, even when our earthly relationships are very, very good? How could I know that I was not alone in this?! Yet, this is not how our loving Father wants us to live our life. He knows our desire to be part of an adventure, because He made us that way. He made us to be Captivating, like He wants to captivate us.

Now, when I look at women, no matter what they seem to be on the outside, whether friendly or thorny, pretty or ugly, organized or sloppy, I ask myself what they are showing me about the character of God--and see the beauty that He put inside each of them. For even though it may be distorted by life and circumstances, God put a beauty in each one of us that He longs to help us unveil. Even me. And I don't need to be ashamed of my longing for it anymore.

I have shared bits of my spiritual growth on this blog as they have occurred. There is really too much for me to go into in this post, especially considering its already endurance-testing length. However, God has been helping me to shed my fear of people, and what they might think of me for doing what He has called me to do. He has been teaching me, as ever, to trust in Him and wait on His timing. And that, when it comes to living a life of adventure in Him, "blind faith" is actually the safest place to be. (What a lesson for my security-hungering-soul to learn. I have a feeling I may have to revisit that one a few times.)

Now, as I look out on a whole new decade, it is actually a feeling of excitement and anticipation that permeates me. My twenties saw some pretty amazing things happen in my life, and some drastic changes. What could be in store during my thirties? Where will the next step in this adventure lead?

Recently, while catching up with an old acquaintance on Facebook, he asked me if I had "found my path in life." My response was this:

"'Found my path in life?'... Interesting question.

"I am happy with the path I am on right now--yes, I am married, since 2000, and have three little boys aged 4 1/2, 3 1/2 and 21 months--but that does not mean my other dreams are dead in the water. I will be thirty on Friday. That means I have roughly another 70-90 years to work on that other stuff."

I don't really know where this road may be going. But I can hardly wait to find out!

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  1. happy belated birthday!!
    well, for me, i have this fear of approaching people , and its awful coz we are called to witness and to tell people about Jesus and i find it so awkward. its not that im ashamed of the gospel but im afraid of people!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing! And I'm glad it got there in time!!

  3. Thanks, Grafx! I keep repeating the verse from Jeremiah: "'Do not be afraid of people, for I am with you, to protect you,' says the Lord." (Jeremiah 1:8) Since I was a teenager. You'd think it would have sunk in by now!

    Mom - Yippee! :-)

  4. Yes, thanks for sharing, T! It's awesome how things unfold to us over time by a very Patient One - never chomping at the bit with us as we are with ourselves.

    Love you.

  5. Hi Talena and a belated happy Birthday! Wish I had known about it in time...but I'll know now for next year!

    I have to say that despite going through some very tough times, my 30s have been so much better than my 20s (in fact, my Dad and I were only talking about this yesterday)

    I wish you happy 30s!!!

  6. Happy 30th and five days, Taleny! I hope this is a great decade for you; it was a good one for me.

  7. Isn't 30 great! I was okay with turning 30 myself, earlier this year. I like 30 because I have some credibility now, a decade of building my reputation, and now my words (hopefully) carry a little more weight.

    However, God has been helping me to shed my fear of people, and what they might think of me for doing what He has called me to do. He has been teaching me, as ever, to trust in Him and wait on His timing.
    I've been learning that lesson too, dealing with a fear of being misunderstood, and it is very free-ing to be able to think, "I answer to God" and live accordingly. Even when I look like a bad mom, or selfish, or overprotective, or oppressed, I don't have to worry about my image.


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