Create + Write + Inspire
Building Blocks to Freedom in Your 30s
by Jennifer Kelly on September 10th, 2015

I danced in my living room today.
I was in my pajamas.
At 10 o'clock in the morning.
By myself.

It was freeing. Kinda like a Meredith and Christina moment (from Grey's Anatomy). They always have some kind of life-or-death trauma experience (at what used to be the Seattle Grace Hospital which merged and became Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital which finally turned into the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital). I KNOW! TV (and real life) drama is confusing and exhausting.

For those of you who haven't watched the show, Meredith and Christina would oftentimes go home, turn up the music and dance.
In the middle of the their living room floors.
During whatever part of the day.
Trying to alleviate their troubles and dancing them away.

My experience was much like that (the hair down, the music, the dancing) except, I wasn't trying to run away from my problems and dance them away...

I was literally dancing with freedom.
Or the One who made freedom anyway.

I turn 33 in October. And here's what I know about 32; it's tempestuous but essential. Your 30s CAN be invigorating and enlarging, just not in the way you would expect it to be.

Is it ever?

Your 30's can certainly can be enlarging in wealth or accumulation, but I'm talking more in the terms of depth. The inner-part (heart, soul and mind) where it matters.

32 (or any of the 30's for that matter) feels forgotten. Like the lost boys or some underground society that no one talks about. Except if you're a celebrity, and I'm certainly no Kardashian.

I'm always reading stuff about the 20's or the Golden Years or Pre-Retirement or teens or babies. What about the middle? What about the years after the marriage, after the kids, after the house? When your in the grind and it doesn't seem as (new) or (fresh) or (exciting)? When life seems a little more run down and you notice you go to bed before 10pm most days.

What about 32?

When I first turned 32, I was incredibly fragile and unsure of myself. I was on a good road and hopeful, but still somewhat lost and searching for a purpose. I was in a new place (literally and figuratively). I asked a lot of questions. I started and stopped a lot of things. I fought with my own self a million times over; my intentions (or lack thereof), my desires, my habits, my words, my motives, and my dreams.

In your 30's it seems your old enough to know better, but still young enough not-to-care.

So I got some good advice, and was encouraged to look at the type of person I was becoming instead of basing my identity in what I was doing. You know, who is Jennifer without her husband, job, kids, writings and awe-inspiring tapas creations? Am I comfortable in my own skin? Am I who God created me to be?

When you are trying to assess your life (your heart, mind, body and soul) It's like traveling through an ancient time capsule. There's history, adventure, ruins, inspiration, scary moments, intense interactions and life changing intersections. Dr. Cloud says that, "Spiritual and emotional growth takes time. And often a transformation happens over time without the person knowing quite how it happened" (Changes that Heal; pg. 35).

But it's certainly not glamorous.

Vacationing on the beach of Manele Bay, Hawaii or backpacking through IS glamorous. Taking a year for spiritual and emotional growth you ask? Not so much. Jet setting and pub-crawling through exotic locations is way more acceptable than saying, "Yeah, I'm just waiting on the Lord, You know... taking this year to really examine my life". 

Well good for you.

And the truth is that most of my friends in their 30's are going through the EXACT same journey in life. We just end up talking about our vacations more than what's going on in the inside of us. 

Why do I feel this way?
Where did that come from?
What is the right decision for me and my family given my set of circumstances?
Should I buy or sell? 
Is this what marriage really is?
Am I raising my kids correctly?
Should I do this or that?
Why do I keep doing that?
Now what?
Do I need to take something off my calendar or add something to it?
Eat more vegetables or exercise more? (SIGH)
Does God have something more out there for me?
Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?
Am I whole/fulfilled?
What is my legacy about?

This is what I've been contemplating at 32. And what I've learned is that how I deal with these questions - not only in the way I answer them in my head, but more in the way I live them out in my daily routine -  has the direct capacity to affect the rest of my life. Meaning, what I decide to do in the here and now (in this moment, and as simple as food or as big as marriage) is building my life. Like lego blocks. And I don't think you can inspect the foundation of your lego construction (or your life) too much. I really don't.

When God's will for my life meets with my (very free) willingness to follow - obedience occurs.

I don't have to follow God's Word.
I don't.
It's my choice.
And one that I exercise much more than I'd like to admit. 

I believe there's (God) and there's (me) and I have  =  a choice(s).
Too many choices on a day-to-day basis if you ask me, but that's what freedom means.
A choice to do what I want to do - or don't want to do.

A choice between right and wrong.
Good and evil.
Love and hate.
Freedom and bondage.
Broccoli and Pizza. (Sigh)

I've found out at 32 that God has a lot to say about each and every one of those questions I'm facing. And I've also learned that I don't really like what He has to say about a lot of them. I'm an "experiential learner" (that's a really nice way of saying I tend to learn things the HARD way). I've lived long enough to now know why God has certain boundaries in place. I think I might have crossed every-single-one-of-them, but at least I know why now.

One of the biggest lessons I learned a couple years ago, was that you can't follow God unless you really understand how much He loves you. Deep down, for you to trust and obey and surrender, you have to believe that God actually loves you and wants the best for you. This was monumental for me. Just the other day I read 2 Corinthians 6:18, "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters" and was floored how God is constantly reminding me of His love for me over and over and over again. Despite my sin and shortcomings, despite me being me a lot of the times. 

I personally know that one of my essential-core-foundational truths is that God loves me and is always faithful to me. At 32, my building block to that is: Choosing to love God in return or being faithful/obedient to Him (in every area of my life) is the harder choice 99% of the time. AKA: It's usually not the choice I feel like making (and one I have had a really hard time making this year). Being obedient to God requires dying to self - and that just doesn't feel good.

Love and faithfulness sounds so pretty doesn't it?
Like the Kardashians.
Dying to self sounds so horrible and overrated right?
Like Donald Trump's hair. 

At 32 I have found that you need both the pretty and the ugly. That love and faithfulness to God always brings me to the road of surrender, sacrifice, and service. Ultimately, I learn and see this displayed by what Christ did for me and you on the cross. 
The testing of my love and faithfulness towards the Lord always ask for far more than my free will wants to give.
Love and faithfulness always routes me back around to surrender, to death, and then to resurrection. 

At 32, I'm learning what it looks like to choose the hard things in life.
What it looks like (and feels like) to love one another and forgive.
To enter a crowd and choose to serve instead of attract. (This is really, really hard to with other women)
To live with integrity and vulnerability and humility.
To form a daily ritual of prayer and repentance and thanksgiving. 

At 32, I've learned that patience (with myself and others) and keeping my mouth shut is one of the most essential components to living the examined life. Patience (and keeping my mouth shut) is a gift from God, one of the many characteristics of the Holy Spirit, and so, can only happen when I am intentional about reading and praying and obeying God's Word.
It's September and I turn 33 in 36 days.
And I danced in my living room today.

Here's the best way I can explain it:
Remember when Allie (from the movie Notebook) stretches her arms to the sky and tells Noah to say, "Say your a bird. Say it!" and Noah says, "If you're a bird, I'm a bird".

I'm in this place where If God says, "Jen, say your a bird"
Then I stretch out my hands and say "If You're a bird, I'm a bird". 

Because I love Him.
And I swear to You, I have learned that loving Him back is hard work. One with fights and arguments and failures and setbacks.

I read this in my quiet time today, "Nevertheless, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:16-18;NKJV).

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
And liberty is all about love and faithfulness.
And love and faithfulness is choosing the good.
And I only do good or right or true things when I'm looking to God and know He loves me.
And then He gives me grace to accomplish what I can't possibly do myself.
And then my (very free will) bends with God's will and obedience happens.
And then I'm dancing in my living room at 10am on a Wednesday morning in my living room.

I can't explain it better than that.

I want to fight for what is good and pure and true... most days that means fighting myself.

I've searched for all sorts of things in all sorts of places. In pipes, in beds, in bottles, in work, in school, in money, in activities and in food. At 32, I'm here to tell you that it's all vanity.
Who knew Solomon was right?

At the end of the day, I want my legacy (however long or short or weird it is) to be about loving Jesus. I want to be a bird. And loving Jesus requires a whole lot trust and faithfulness and grace. He's the only one that has ever given me real, lasting freedom.

Freedom from others and freedom from myself.
Jesus is the only one who is able to extend complete and utter freedom in perfect love.
BUT, it's your choice. It always has been and always will be.
"When the inside and outside match up, you're pure in heart and you're where he wants you to be" Kyle Idleman "The End of Me"

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Deb - September 10th, 2015 at 1:10 PM
Great stuff Jen! Love your statement: When God's will for my life meets with my willingness to follow - obedience occurs. Great truth!! Thanks for your vulnerability and sharing what the Lord is teaching you. You are an beautiful reflection of your Creator. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing! I am blessed!
Mike Kelly - September 10th, 2015 at 8:31 PM
Great piece Jen, I'm really proud of you and your honesty/transparency is incredible. Great job and well done!
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