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My birthday party came and went like a whirl of expectations and anticipation and here I am, three months later, and I am making the shocking discovery that turning thirty really was just another birthday.

And I feel the need to put a disclaimer here that I am not being ungrateful; in fact, I am extremely grateful for each day that I wake anew and am given new mercies and a new chance to live this life. I know the fragility of life, have seen it slip away with the sick and be stripped away in shocking moments and felt it bleed away from my own womb. So when I say that thirty is just another birthday, I say it with no indignation or ingratitude, but rather with a penitent heart.

I had bought into the lie that there is an unspoken magic about turning thirty. Your twenties are for figuring out life and making the stupid mistakes and struggling with who you are becoming and striving to become. But when you turn thirty- the magic number- your life will be figured out, you will own who you are, and things are more a breeze than a storm.

Smoke and mirrors are the only magic in that concept.

I had looked forward to turning thirty, for that inner confidence to suddenly spring up and out and I would no longer have these insecurities I struggle with each day. I would be a better parent with more experience, a more “mature” friend, and someone who finally had her stuff together. This dream was naivety at its finest.

What I really learned when I turned thirty is that the number is not the issue or the solution. The growth leading up to a new year, the experiences learned from, the life lived, is where the change comes from. Sounds obvious, but I fear at times I was so hoping that thirty would change me I may have missed where my growth happened.

So I have spent the last few months doing some introspection. I may still be in college, but I am close to fulfilling that dream. I may still not have my license as a counselor, but I am working toward it and have gained so much experience and knowledge on how to be a better counselor along the way. Most of my children are out of the toddler stage and 99.99% of the time, everyone gets to sleep the whole night through. I have done many things I only dreamed of; I wrote a book, went to Ecuador to visit my sponsor child, attended a conference I thought would never happen, conquered my anxiety to drive alone six hours away from home to a place I had never been for a retreat, made new friends, kept old ones, birthed four beautiful children. I have laughed and cried more times than I can count and have watched God move in amazing ways.

And while I don’t think I am anywhere near close to getting it all together and having the confidence of a superstar, I do know this: thirty’s magic lies in its ability to cause self-reflection. And here is what I also know: all that longing to be “an adult” whose life was on the “right track,” made me realize how much more I cannot depend on myself.  I cannot depend on myself to be humble or confident or un-riddled by anxiety or be fearless. Every day, my hope for change lies in Christ. Every day, my need for Him grows as I learn to not depend on myself and my abilities but rather to seek Him out, find His guidance in His Word, and heed His gentle whispers to my heart.  All the things I listed as accomplished? Only by His blessing and strength. I pray when I think I may start getting it all together, I would run to Him, because I know His strength is what carries me, His love is what helps me endure, and His goodness is the only reason I have had these thirty years and however many more He gives.

Thirty was a good birthday. It was celebrated with friends and family and two cakes. It may not have been magical in the sense I first thought, but it was clarifying. And that is a good gift. No more pressure to have it together, to overcome these personal hurdles. Just ever more seeking God and letting His truth change me. His Son was the most precious gift, whether you are turning five or thirty or eighty. And because of Him, I know that this year will be good. Because He is good. And He loves me. No magic, just truth, but that is what I need. So here’s to thirty, in all its non-magical glory, and to running the race well in this life, knowing Christ will continue to work in me His good work until it is finished.