30 Things I’ve Learned by Age 30


Photo by Amy Paulson



I’ve seen this question posed a lot on social media lately: What would you say to your 11, 15, 20 year old self?

I think of a list in my head. I think of the challenges that 11 year old, 15 year old, 20 year old self went through. I think about the way her mind worked, the way she viewed the world. I stop and look in awe at how strong she was, and I grieve that she didn’t know it.

This year, I turn 30. And as I process what it means to have come this far, I’m thinking about the things I’ve learned in the last few years. I’m thinking about the things I’ve learned in all the years of my life, and looking back with love and grace at myself all those years ago. I hope you’ll do the same for yourself, that on every birthday you sit and make a list of the things you’ve gotten right, the ways you’ve succeeded, the things that have stretched you and re-created you, the ways sacredness has found you.

These are 30 things I’ve learned in my 30 years of living.


  1. Self care is real, and it is not selfish.
  2. Listening is essential to learning, even listening to our own stories of trauma.
  3. Being an ally is a title given by someone else who sees that in me.
  4. Sometimes therapy is a necessary good.
  5. Music is one of God’s greatest gifts.
  6. Colonization takes many, many forms.
  7. Vulnerability begets vulnerability.
  8. Life happens in seasons.
  9. Parenthood will teach us more than it teaches our kids.
  10. Yes, it’s possible to write an entire book on Saturday mornings from a coffee shop.
  11. I can’t make anyone else believe anything. I can only be open about my own humanity.
  12. Storytelling is sacred resistance.
  13. I’m more of an introvert than I ever thought I was.
  14. Boundaries are healthy and necessary.
  15. Questions are good. They teach us about ourselves and the world.
  16. Our bodies are not things to be ashamed of and detached from.
  17. Identity is complicated, and it requires a lot of painful digging to understand.
  18. Social media can be a place of great despair and great community.
  19. Prayer isn’t only an action, but a way of being.
  20. Books can save our lives.
  21. If our body/soul/mind tell us to rest, and we don’t want to, do it anyway.
  22. The church can’t always be trusted.
  23. Knowing myself means trusting that I’m sacredly loved.
  24. If we don’t have real-life friends who are people of color, we’re missing out on the beauty of the world.
  25. Hospitality is a human requirement for love.
  26. The wilderness teaches us who we are and who God is, and the strength of our independence.
  27. There are many names for God.
  28. We don’t know anything, really.
  29. Activism is an everyday, constant kind of work, in big and small ways.
  30. Remembering that we are small things in a big, beautiful, sacred world is one of the greatest gifts we are given.


I believe we have this beautiful capability to look at ourselves with love, and to turn and see those around us as humans capable of good and evil, but still longing for that same kind of love.

Growing one year older is another year of stretching. So as I stretch into my 30s, I pray that whatever you’re stretching into, it’s for good. It’s probably painful and uncomfortable and overwhelming at times, but it’s good.

Hallelujah, we are never alone.

Hallelujah, there is so much to learn.




Lessons in Processing: Facing Reality

It would be an understatement to say that we process things differently.

I digest quietly, the gears turning inside my head as I wash the dishes and stare out the window. It could be hours before I’m able to verbally express.

Travis is a bubbling brook; his thoughts flow out of his mouth here and there, dreams and convictions, new scenarios at every turn.

Every single day we are checking emails and each application’s status, hoping for news one way or the other. Every day the emotion of all of this is pushing in on us, changing the atmosphere of our family. Somehow, instead of our bread multiplying, it’s the piles of dirty laundry that seem to grow.

I look around during the day and I close my eyes at night, making a checklist of things we need to get rid of to make a move easier. Is there anything you need? Ask me. I’ve got a quesadilla maker and so much more.

With such joy we look to the future! With such trust and hope! And yet my stomach turns and aches with the unknown of it all, and for all the joy, our hearts could cave in with sadness at the thought of leaving our friends and neighbors, who have become our family.

A dear friend reminded us last week that in this next move, in this next season, we will really establish who we are. It will just be us, us and God and every ounce of small faith we can muster. Then the adventure really begins.

So there it is. We are moving. We are moving. Perhaps this is the most emotional thought of all, and the one that’s got me processing as I rock Isaiah to sleep and Travis processing in the bathtub with a book and ink pen.

I guess it’s a lot like nesting dolls, and every new realization opens a world of emotion we didn’t realize existed between or within us.

So to keep myself tethered, I will keep writing out Hebrews in hopes that God consoles and speaks.

I will keep singing and playing, worshipping and believing.

I will keep cleaning, and yes, someday every single piece of clothing in this house will be clean, if even for only an hour.

I will keep reflecting, because when I finally break down and have a good cry, it’s going to be because I really need it.

I will keep baking, because it brings me a staggering amount of comfort these days.

I’ve got to slowly say goodbye to four years, and slowly lean into the next…that is quite a process, indeed.

Life Lessons: The Months Coming, the Months Going


It’s quiet here, except for the munching of my Lay’s Potato Chips.

Eliot and Travis have gone to clean out the car– #2 on my list of nesting activities to be done before

August is over and baby is here.

I’ve been trying to sum up what life has been like over the past few months, as if all these lessons I’m learning can’t just stand on their own as they come, day-by-day.

No, I search for summation–and yet, my life still orders itself in lists- how I love lists!

I think the big heart lessons began pounding their way into me in April, when we went to DC for the Global Prayer Gathering and I spent the weekend curled up around the toilet with the stomach flu at 20 weeks of pregnancy–but this is another post (or 5) altogether.

Since then, life has broken itself down into these small moments of trying to understand the bigness (and often the painfulness) of life and what it brings.

So here’s the list so far, subject to change, subject to grow and become thousands of mini-lessons inside each one that is grand.

-Expectations and reading God

-Using gifts and how to get free records

-More shattered expectations– and the thousands of gifts still given

-Being poor, poor, and poor– and learning to be still and to simplify and to bake

-Community, no matter its size, is love poured out

-Seasons fo prayer and transformations of the heart

-Oh, crap, we’re having another baby- nesting on no sleep and how toddlers love to “help”

The months of April to August have unfolded, each one in all its complexity, and for my heart and head I need to unwrap and take on what exactly it means for my life. All the pain and ugliness, all the rejoicing and thankfulness included. Life is some sort of glorious mess to be untangled and understood, and if I’m lucky, I can untangle some of it as I eat chips and lounge on the couch, belly bulging and chaos quiet.