Yesterday, I ushered in my 26th year of breathing on this earth alone. The only humans I saw were in the Chickfila drive-thru when I picked up my birthday dinner: a number one with extra pickles and a Dr. Pepper, mayo on the side.
If you’ve been around me for long, you know I’m a birthday advocate, like the American Cancer Society. I am loud about it, from August until it’s over. I count down and make a big deal about gathering my favorite people together around one table. It is an ordeal. It is a party. It is a celebration. It is monumental and huge and loud and joyful and wonderful. It’s mostly because I’ve been blessed to walk this life with the most incredible people, but also because who doesn’t love to be celebrated? My extrovert rejoices.
This was the quietest birthday I’ve ever had. And I’m not mad about it.
You see, 25 was a big year.
I walked alongside dear friends as they walked the hard road of divorce while simultaneously standing beside 5+ of my closest friends as they stepped into marriage.
I started going to counseling after my anxiety began taking a tole on my physical body – stomach aches, sickness, migraines, and endless nights sleeping in a sleeping bag in my closet because it was small, dark, and controllable.
I lost friends that meant the world to me, but was carried by so many others.
I went on dates and realized I can’t settle for someone who doesn’t appreciate sports or living internationally.
I switched jobs, got fired, drank too much alcohol, wrecked my car and bought a new one that I love.
I started dying my hair with henna, making my own laundry detergent, and using natural deodorant.
I learned to file insurance claims and unemployment, and apply for car loans.
I killed plants on accident, racked up thousands of dollars on my credit card, flew to Minnesota once, and spent two weeks in Uganda where God planted my heart.
I savored every little small group, helped friends move, helped friends stay, and finally learned how to pray again.
Ringing in year 26 with a sabbath was hard. I cried four times because people say the NICEST things and because I was alone and wanted to think that no one cared enough to sit next to me on such a day as this. It wasn’t until I parked at an overlook to eat my little Chickfila alone while the sun set over the tops of Rome’s oldest brick buildings that I realized what a gift it was to breathe deep all the promises God has whispered to me in the last year and look back at how He’s led me in the quiet with tender, intentional words and moments.
This time last year, I couldn’t breathe. I was suffocating from life itself and the hustling I was doing to keep up. I was fighting hard, but fighting the wrong battles, the wrong enemy. God has brought me so far to a place with margin and very specific plates on my table after years of overcrowding and fear of missing out. In the last three months, He’s sat with me while I learned to be alone, to be still, to stay – to be okay with my own presence and His, with who He’s made me to be, and let that be enough. He’s sat with me while I’ve asked hard questions, sought answers, and wrestled with the deepest parts of me.
And, friends, it has been hard.
But I am far from mad about it. When Taylor Swift asks, “Are we out of the woods yet?” I feel like I’m finally able to say, “yes.”
Yes, because I’ve learned to sit with myself and be okay. Yes, because I know what makes my heart skip beats when everything else is stripped away. Yes, because I know who I am and I know I can close my eyes at any point and God will still come like quiet snowfalls and lead me to the places where I am broken and He shines joy through all the holes in me. May I run to no other refuge or rest for my soul.
Here’s to 26, may you be full of new roads and deep, deep breaths, and a God who leads me on.