Last week, I turned 28.
I am now solidly in my late-20s, which feels a little bizarre. In the grand scheme of things, I know I'm not really that old, but when kids you babysat are going to college and your knee yells at you almost every time you workout, it's hard to not feel your age.
On Friday night, I went out to dinner with a few girlfriends for a low-key celebration. We talked about work and life and marriage, joked about my status as the rebel child of my family amidst discussions of my newly acquired nose-piercing and upcoming visit to the tattoo parlor. We ate steak and melt-in-your mouth rolls and all took turns sharing a flourless chocolate waffle with "happy birthday" gorgeous scripted in melted chocolate on the plate.
One friend, who turns 30 later this year, told me that 28 is the best year of your 20s. The reasoning being you've usually made it through the crazy ups-and-downs and uncertainty that tend to accompany the early 20s, but it's also not 29, so 30 doesn't quite feel like it's looming yet. Others around the table joked about it being the best year of my life so I better enjoy it while I can, while one of my roommates chimed in that she'd also heard that 28 is the best year of this otherwise tumultuous decade. No pressure, right?
Twenty-seven was an unexpected year. Sometimes it feels like I say that every year, but it was truly full of lots of ups and downs, some I anticipated and others I definitely did not.
I started the year off with quite possibly my busiest season ever. I had multiple emotional breakdowns in my church sanctuary. I stood beside two dear friends as they said "I do" to their forever person, who also happened to be two dear friends. I moved into my eighth home in six years. I said goodbye to my fur baby of nearly 13 years. I celebrated with my sister and brother-in-law as they became parents and welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world. I made a spontaneous trip to New York City and a planned one in the same month, both filled with friends and adventuring and the most Broadway shows I've seen in one calendar year. I went to Chicago and Charleston to hang out with people I met through the internet and geek out over bookish things. I unexpectedly lost my job and spent 2 1/2 months unemployed. I read 100 books and documented the whole thing on Instagram. I journaled every single day for the second year in a row. I played harp for the first time in over a decade and surprised a whole lot of people in the process. And in the final days, I got my nose pierced just because I thought it would be fun.
Like every year, it was one of growth and change, some welcome and anticipated and some not-so-welcome or anticipated, and in many ways, I'm sure 28 will have much of that same welcome and not-so-welcome growth and change. Because that's how sanctification works, isn't it? Sometimes it feels beautiful and simple, and sometimes it's a hot mess of confusion and emotions.
It felt a little weird to be celebrating last week, to be thanking the Lord for His goodness and His faithfulness to me over the last year when so many in our country and around the world are likely questioning if He's even there. I have little control over the fact that my birthday falls five days after the presidential inauguration and a part of me felt as if I somehow shouldn't be happy or celebrating another year of life in the midst of all that's happened in the last week.
I haven't said much about all of that online or anywhere, because I'm still a little bit at a loss for what to do or say. I suffer from anxiety and I feel things deeply in my heart. If I spend too much time reading or thinking about the hard things of the world, it hits me so deep that I am no longer effective in fighting against it. So my response to our current political climate has been to do a lot of praying and not spend a lot of time on social media or reading the news while I sort this all out in my own heart.
As weird as it felt to be celebrating during the first week of a controversial presidential term, it also feels weird to think that 28 could be the best year of my 20s when it will undoubtedly be an immensely difficult and painful year for so many others.
I truly have no idea what things 28 will bring into and take out of my life.
I know I'll be moving. Again. I know I'll get to hang out with my sister and brother-in-law and the world's cutest nephew (but I'm not biased or anything) and do nothing productive for six days. I know I'll celebrate with my baby sister as she finishes college. I know I'll leave the country for the first time in a decade. Those things are all set in stone, while others have questions marks and are tentatively written in pencil in my planner and on my heart.
Like every year, I have some hopes and dreams that I fervently pray will come to fruition before I'm blowing out candles on a cake again. I hope I love what I get paid to do each day. I hope for a bit more stability in my living situation and career than I've had over the last few years. And I do hope that 28 is the year I finally meet my forever someone.
Those three specific hopes have all been present in my life for three years running. And for three years running, those prayers have not been answered with the affirmative "yes" that I so dearly hope for. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't hard, particularly as I watch the very things I pray for my own life answered positively in the lives of people I love. There have been many tears involved in my conversations with Jesus about those three topics over the past three years.
But over the last three years, another prayer has been answered over and over again.
I've written before about the smallest and biggest prayer of my life, one prayed out of desperation and through tears on January 1, 2014: "Lord, teach me to trust You."
It probably isn't a coincidence that 2014 was also the first year I fervently prayed for a job I loved, stability in my career and living situation, and for my forever person to enter my life. And a mere two days after I turned 25, I received and accepted a job offer that flipped life upside down for a season and planted seeds in my heart that changed my life forever.
Every year since, the Lord has answered those three prayers with "wait," while throwing yet another curve ball accompanied by the whisper, "Trust Me."
Like so many of my peers, a part of me longs for a life that I love doing things I love with people I love. The prayers I've prayed for the last three years I will continue to pray throughout 28. And a part of my heart will grieve the continued delay of those things if they have not come to fruition when I turn 29. But the older I get, the more my heart whispers that prayer over and over again: "Lord, teach me to trust You."
When something unexpected comes my way, when life is loud, when confusion is rampant, when I feel drained and uncertain and terrified in every possible way, that prayer has been my stay: "Lord, teach me to trust You."
I don't know what 28 will bring for my own life, for my country, for the world. If I'm honest, I am a little bit afraid. I am afraid I will feel disappointed when things don't turn out as I hope, in my own life and in the world at large. Every year, there's the tiniest fear that this will be the year that breaks my faith. Every year, there's this little fear that the things I encounter I will never be able to recover from.
But for 28, as I did for 25 and 26 and 27, amidst everything else happening around me, in the world and the country and my head and my heart, I will pray: "Lord, teach me to trust You."