30 years, today.

today I turn 30. which the world has told me is some monumental marker of age; like I'm supposed to feel old all of a sudden. more mature somehow, yet worried about wrinkles. this cultural / marketing nonsense was getting to me in ways I didn't recognize - until I got my credit card bill this month and realized retail therapy is a very REAL way of dealing with things. 

first off, if maturity comes with age then worrying about wrinkles at any stage is pointless. if you start investing yourself in vanity it will only lead to disappointment - at EVERY age. so at this stage of 30, my sense of maturity has decided to use an SPF20 daily moisturizer and embrace whatever God gives me in the department of aging gracefully. I refuse to worry about it.

to be honest 30 feels good. really good. and my life looks nothing like what I expected it to by this age - so it's not that most of the things on my 'before I'm 30' checklist have been satisfied. it's actually the exact opposite.

God had bigger dreams for me than I did for myself. and in the process of learning to be obedient to Him, I've learned the checklist of what I want in life has dwindled down to one thing that delivers immeasurably more from life.

All I want to do with the years I am given is honor God in my imperfect capacity to serve Him. I'm not great at it yet by any measure, but I get a little better every day. in dreaming for this instead of things like travel and owning a home by the age of 30, I feel like God has given me the greatest gift of contentment through this season of prayerful learning. 

if you had asked me in high school what my life would look like by 30, I would've painted you a very different picture from what it is today. I would've said I will have traveled ALL over the world, living like a bohemian gypsy from city to city, writing for a living and taking pictures of everything along the way; never the type to get married and not even considering having kids. now, to even write that hurts my heart.

I always thought traveling wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without having to consider a husband or child would be the most freeing kind of feeling. to do whatever you wanted on a whim, was the way I dreamed it would be. now I laugh at myself for this (as I am sure many of you are as well). I thank God daily that His plans for my life were so much MORE.

I met my now-husband when I was 19. it was through him that God began to speak to my heart about what it truly wanted, and what it was made with purpose for.

over the last 11 years there have been many lessons learned about what it looks like to live in relationship with God by loving others. I have made heart wrenching mistakes and been granted forgiveness I did not deserve. those are moments that have been some of the greatest gifts because I have learned first hand what the most valuable riches in life are - grace, mercy, humility and unconditional love (to name a few), and that maturity didn't just come with age. It took obedience, sacrifice, and surrender to understand how God has worked in those circumstances to transform my heart and give me eyes that truly see.

to think back on what I thought freedom looked like in my teenage view of my life at 30, I can see just how selfish and unhealthy my perspective on life was. it's no wonder I wasn't very happy then. 

to look at the life that God had planned for me (and was just waiting for me to plug-in to), I can see that He wanted me to experience true freedom in knowing Him. living by faith is never easy, but it IS freeing.

it's okay that I am a failure at some things, because He loves me anyway. it's okay that I have no idea what our future holds, because He does and He's the one in control. it's okay that I have done things in this life that I regret with a heavy heart, because He knows my heart and He forgives me. it's okay that I am broken in ways that may never be healed in this world, because He loves me SO much He has already paid my debt to free me of the burden of my sins in eternity. in comparison to these things, nothing else really matters. 

so today, and every day, I choose to celebrate all that He has given me despite my incredibly undeserving self. to have made it to 30 and live a life filled with love as a wife and mother that I never even envisioned for myself, is a gift beyond words. to know that no matter what I dream for myself in the years to come that God's plans are far better than my goals, makes my heart joyful - and sets me free to serve Him in the adventures that lie ahead. 

cheers to 30 - and every other year because they are all worthy of celebration!!

-ashley