Happy Birthday to Me! What I Learned About Myself From Year 28

After telling people I'm "almost 30" for months now, I finally turned 29 2 weeks ago! I said it on FB, but seriously- I can't remember another time where I've walked into a new year of life with such contentment and security in God's plans for my life. It used to be that getting older created more panic and anxiety because I was so uncertain of my life, but I have such peace walking into Year 29 because God grew me so much during Year 28.

1. Accept that you're not as put together as you thought. Let the Lord lead you in maturing in places you didn't even realize needed it.
I'm much more self-centered and prideful than I'd like to think; it's a natural inclination. If we're honest, we can all probably attest it. Last year, a guy I was dating told me I was spoiled and that he noticed I became angry when I didn't get my way. Of course, I instantly told him he was wrong, but then it really bothered me. I knew that meant there probably was some truth to it, so I took it to the Lord in prayer. Sure enough- the Holy Spirit started to make me more aware that I didn't like getting my way. It has been uncomfortable, but this year, I've learned to be okay with things not going my way and becoming okay with people disagreeing with me. I've also had to be intentional to pray about my pride and ask God to grow my humility.

2. All strongholds are not created equal. How you gon' have a bad habit for years yet think it just goes away simply and easily?
Anger is probably the stronghold that continues to impact me the most. I have worked through strongholds of sexual promiscuity, insecurity, etc., but anger? I still can go from 0 to 100 REAL QUICK, and there are still certain moments where it's even hard to get me to de-escalate (imagine Crime Mob's Knuck If You Buck). I recognize that I've picked up unhealthy ways of expressing myself whether it's through seeing family conflict resolution, the years of being addicted to reality TV where fighting supported strong ratings, insecurity that made me attention-seeking, damaging friendship influences, or even just using anger as a way to deflect from my own inner hurt. This year, I've spent time unpacking what triggers my anger, praying about it first, and finding healthier ways to address the problem.

3. There's great power in and necessity for self-awareness.
So many of us go years completely ignorant to how we come off to others, how we react, what triggers us, how to see perspective of others, etc. Self-awareness really comes from reflection and really having someone coach you through thought processes behind your actions. I wasn't self aware until I became comfortable enough to be transparent and vulnerable with people around me. They helped me talk through my decisions and actions to better understand why and when I do certain things. Prior to this year, I think I found ways to isolate myself so I only shared certain pieces of myself. I would be unwilling to hear someone give me feedback about myself, so I was unable to really receive feedback on how I came off. This year, God used people to help me realize I needed to be more vulnerable with those around me, and God sent the right people that really pushed me to be aware and reflect.

Check out this article on self-awareness

4. Your truth is YOURS. Walk in it instead of walking in shame and guilt.
So much of my 20's has been "finding myself" and why God put me on earth. I thought I had disqualified myself because of the damage I'd done and my laundry list of "big sins." Even when I knew God told me to stop being bound by all the things He sent His Son to save me from, I still struggled with shame and guilt.  Questions like, "Am I really qualified to mentor girls in the church if I've spent countless hours drunk at parties and in the club?" "Can I even speak on purity if I'm not a virgin?" "Can I sing as worship to God when I've said every cuss word and explicit phrase out there?" But this year, I have learned that my struggles, despite being raised with a strict church background, aren't unusual. This year, more than any, I became accepting of my past because I don't live there anymore AND because of a clear understanding of salvation and God's grace, I won't even allow people to make me feel shamed or force me to be silent about how good God has been because of me. God works ALL things together for our good and uses even the mistakes we've made to propel us into purpose. As God has called me to be more and more vocal about my life's mistakes and lessons He's teaching me, it's been freeing, and I KNOW He is using me as a mouthpiece for others who have felt the need to live inauthentically because of the weight of their mistakes.

5. Great healing comes from Godly community. 

In Year 28, I went from overwhelmingly shallow friendships to truly valuing community.As God began to reveal things to me about myself, exposing hidden flaws, and teaching me who I am THROUGH HIM, I became more secure, no longer prioritizing validation from others. This meant becoming more willing to be vulnerable with others. I realized that I chose to have shallow friendships out of fear of getting too close and exposing myself to others. I didn't want other women to see I didn't have it together, and my longtime battle with insecurity manifested in comparing myself to others, further feeling inferior to those I was around. As I started participating in different things at church and school that I was assured God called me to do, I noticed that I began to feel more secure and confident to share what God was teaching me with others. I looked up, and by February, out of nowhere, I was surrounded by other like-minded women who could walk through life with me, provide wise counsel, and had created a circle that allowed healthy spaces of vulnerability and transparency. Sisters to listen to me vent, to pray with me, to remind me of my commitments, to help me accomplish my goals, to remind me of what God brought me out of when I want to go back. It was like, God aligned all of our paths at the right time to link arms and navigate life together.

6. Attend to the present instead of chasing after your own plans for the future. Being highly organized has its purpose, but you need to allow room for God to lead and guide.
This year I realized that my organization and logistics skills may be a gift, but it's also a curse.Yes- someone can brainstorm something with me for 5 minutes, and I can probably send you a plan for full execution, a template, etc. within 30 minutes, BUT the problem is, this "Type A-ness" and having this absolute need for structure makes me pretty rigid. Sometimes I literally cannot move forward if I don't have a clear plan, vision, and list of outcomes. This impacts me trusting God because I want to have every detail before I move, and that's pretty contrary to being in the will of God and follow His directions, oftentimes which are ambiguous. You know what I hate EVEN MORE than not knowing the plan and vision for something? Investing time into putting a plan together, just for another plan to be used. In Year 28, God has shown me how to truly be still, stop making my own plans, live in the moment, and be flexible as He puts the plan together and takes the reins in life WITHOUT me snatching them back up.

7. Be clear about what gets a YES or NO to. There's incredible value in rest. 
Year 28 was the year of work-life balance and prioritizing. Part of me thinks God has intentionally elevated me to put more on my plate so I'm pushed to make wiser choices about my time. Working on a doctorate, serving as a school leader split between two different high need schools, serving at church, mentoring, while attending to my health and basic needs, with a good attitude, is a lot of work. I've learned, this year, that I'm not my best when I feel burdened with all the tasks I need to do. I need time to decompress and chill out. I need time for leisure, time for spiritual growth, and time for reflection. Flexible time if I want to plan an impromptu outing, be available for a friend who needs me, etc. I realized, not discerning how to use my time wisely meant my schedule had no wiggle room for life to happen for me and those who need me. That means I, now, have to be intentional with what I say yes and no to, otherwise, I try to take on everything to the point of burn out and exhaustion. I focus on how to preserve my energy instead of exhausting it in things that God didn't call me to. That's meant keeping my mouth closed in meetings, suggesting other people who I think could be coached to do something I'm currently doing, or designating certain times for leisure instead of saying "yes" each time I get a text to hang out. Setting aside a "sabbath weekend" EACH month to unplug and stay home by myself has been incredibly restorative for me. This year, I became clear that my walk with Christ is not maintained well when I feel the pressure to get so much done, and that's the last thing I want to do. What's the point of walking in God's purpose for your life if you won't be reliant on Him to accomplish it? Oftentimes God calls us to thinks that we CAN'T do in our own humanity to force us to be humble enough to rely on Him. God doesn't need me to be Superwoman.

8. My feelings can no longer control me. Self-control has to be cultivated.
This was a BIGGIE for me. I recently realized that so much of wrong (sinful) choices are from having no self-control and being impulsive based on what the flesh wants. It almost always results in regret. Being impulsive based on how I feel is something I'm still working on, but I'm learning to 1) give slow YES's and NO's so I can really discern what I'm saying, 2) think about the impact and if my reaction is worth the effects, 3) pray as I anticipate potential situations where I want to be impulsive, and 4) unashamedly ask for accountability. This even looks like setting a monthly notification that says "HEY SIS, YOUR HORMONES ARE OUT OF WACK. SAY NO TO 'HEY BIGHEAD' TEXTS LOL". I have been a slave to my feelings for far too long. Whether it's been my eating habits, romantic "situation-ships," my reactions to being questioned in meetings, being told "no," etc.This year, I've decided to be more deliberate to walk in the Spirit and allow Jesus to truly take the wheel, instead of me doing whatever makes me feel good in the moment. 

Struttin' in to Year 29,