On turning 30, having M.S. and the joy of true life

Posted on May 12, 2011


Over the years, I have developed a habit of becoming really introspective on my birthday. It’s as though May 5 rolls around and some internal alarm clock goes off reminding me that it is time to peel away the external layers of my life, peer deep inside and assess whether or not I have become the person I want to be.

Needless to say, it often doesn’t go well. I am pretty convinced that most us, if we are truly honest with ourselves, don’t see an overabundance of gratitude, graciousness, sacrificial love or simple contentedness at the core of our being. So most birthdays I have spent mulling over just how much I fail to be becoming the person I envision  in my head. Despite the flood of “happy birthday’s” on my facebook wall, and my dear husband’s best attempts at creating a happy birthday for me, “happy” is not the word I would typically choose to describe my birthdays.

This year was different.  🙂

Who would have thought that being diagnosed with a chronic degenerative disease one month before turning 30 was all it took for me to have a happy birthday. Of course, that is naive; clearly it is not getting M.S. that ushered in a happy birthday, at least not per se.

Many things are not what I expected my life would be like when I envisioned being 30. I did not expect to not have kids yet. I did not expect to still be living on a similar budget as when I was a college student. I did not expect to still be in Spokane. I did not expect to have Multiple Sclerosis. I also did not expect that I would still often have a messy bedroom, that I would lose my cell phone at least once a week, that I would forget family and friend’s birthdays, or that I would over and over again, make flippant comments, hurt those around me, neglect to be a good neighbor, and overall be selfish with my time, my things, my energy.

However, I also did not expect that I would be married to such an amazing man and that I would so decidedly love being married. I did not expect to love Spokane as much as I do. I did not expect to have such a wonderful, intentional community of people surrounding us. I did not expect to feel so content and blessed in the midst of our “poverty” (so much so, that I am disinclined to even use that word).

And so, this past “birthday week” I have deliberately reflected not on my accomplishments in fulfilling (or not fulfilling) some unreachable standard, but on all the ways that God has been faithful to me despite my lack of faithfulness. This wee little slice of scripture provided the force and weight my heart needed to get my eyes off myself and onto higher, greater things.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 9:1

There is nothing revolutionary here, but for those of us who gravitate toward morbid introspection and can easily waste hours navel gazing, there is great wisdom in being reminded to recount what God has done for us. And so, as I have turned 30 and each day is propelling me further along in my 30th year, I am laboring to develop a new habit. A habit of looking inward, only long enough to realize that I must look outward at who God is and what he has done to find true life. And there is so much life to be had in Christ. Despite the fact that in arriving at 30 there are few things that line up with what I envisioned my life to be, the grace I live in and under is the defining feature of my life.    “…If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking…”

Despite the way things often appear or feel, my path is lined, for all eternity with God’s grace, and like walking down a lane of trees in full bloom, I can breath deep and fill my senses with the aroma and beauty of of a God who has called me beloved, accepted, redeemed.