What Life Taught Me at Thirty

I have been wanting to write for a couple of nights in a row now, but the inspiration, and the right words, seemed to elude me. As the hours wind down on this productive, beautiful day, I feel that familiar pull towards the keyboard, and I am grateful.


Tomorrow marks the 30th year since my birth. At 1:04am, April 23rd, my mother laid helpless on an exam table as the doctors told her not to push. Unable to control it, she did what they instructed against, and soon the Obstetrician was bleakly staring at two tiny feet. A one-pound, eleven-ounce 26-gestational-weeks old, and far too little to survive – or so they thought. My parents waited anxiously, praying for a miracle, as their newborn preemie lay on an operating table at 48-hours old; heart surgery the only option to get me stable as the hole in my heart failed to close on its own.

Three months later, I got to go home. After numerous tests, scares of apnea (where a NICU nurse would run in and gently push on my chest to get me breathing again), and several procedures to ensure my health, I finally got to call my mother’s arms home… I finally got to be held in my father’s hands – my head the size of a tennis ball at the tips of his outstretched fingers, and my feet dangling at the base of his wrist. A miracle, they said, of that little premature fighter. My mom said, when she was stuck in the hospital on bed-rest, that she knew – if I was to be a girl – my name would be Christina Marie. She swore to me, her whole life, that an angel told her to call me this – but I never knew if she was serious, though she seemed to believe this was true.

Well, that bald, translucent-skinned monkey-baby is now turning 30.

You know, so many people talk about growing older, and how it just seems to keep getting better. I sincerely hope this is the case, because my life up until the past two years has been an interesting, difficult journey. The ups were intoxicating, and the downs suffocated my soul on numerous dark occasions. However lost I was, I eventually got found. However happy I was, eventually, some circumstance came along, waving its wicked little temptations or frustrations, and I was knocked back down again. The myriad of lessons I have learned – heartache, happiness, sadness, grief, and how to find strength again – well, I believe I am a better woman because of these moments.

For a long time, I guess really the past decade, I have been finding myself in bits and pieces of the places and names now left behind. I sought out love and laughter, then tasted the bittersweet ending of yet another relationship. I wanted peace, but so many times I found myself wallowing in the tumultuous nature of chaos all around me. Along the way, however, I know my heart was tested for a reason. One very big reason.

So that I would appreciate the day, for it was sure to come, when I could simply marvel at the journey itself, and be truly grateful for what kind of person I am now. I do not say these things to claim accolades, or to portray myself as someone whom knows anything anyone else does not know. Merely, I mean to adorn my testimony with failure and triumph, time and again, so that the one who deserves the praise is seen in my eyes. God, He is the one I thank now…

Because life throws us a grand master plan, and sometimes we determine what roads we travel, other times we allow fate to take refuge in our future, allowing the chips fall where they may. I can sit back and see each scenario, and I know, looking at myself then, that there were pivotal moments of choice, and the outcome, whether I made it happen or allowed it, has brought me to a great place.

A place where I can smile. A place where I no longer feel such a need to question my past, or to name all the reasons it failed or succeeded, but to watch it, observe it, and thank it – that is it – time cannot be unwritten once it fades, and there is nothing a wise heart would do then but to acknowledge and move on.

My mom always loved to tell my birth story. It was one thing she did on my birthday each year, and I am sure it is not hard to understand why. We endured that together, that birth. And although I was not cognizant of my experience, I am the only living person whose soul moved through her body in that moment; I was the feet that emerged as she struggled, uncertain and afraid, and I was the tiny baby she held on her hip for the next two years after that, surely just grateful to have her daughter alive and well.

Tonight, I missed hearing that story. I missed hearing about that moment she knew that I was going to survive. I miss hearing her say, smiling, “you were the smallest baby in the NICU at the time, and you went home healthier and faster than babies who were not even born as sick as you!” She knew, from the onset, that she had a fighter on her hands, and I like to think she always admired that about me, and thanked God for my tenacity.

My birthday has been sort-of bittersweet each year since the woman whom delivered me died. Not to have a pity party or anything, but it still does sting that she is gone, and though it has already been eight years, I miss her even now, and some part of me wishes – against all odds – that I’d have one more birthday with my mother.

I accept the direction I traveled before now. Lord knows it was intense and beautiful, and I could have avoided some mistakes and worked harder to appreciate other’s and my own accomplishments along the way. The biggest thing I have learned in this time is to appreciate the moments – the small ones – as I grow another year older, may I never lose that insight that even the small things count.

My children will someday be 30, God willing, and I hope I am there with love in my heart, and birth stories to share, as they too find it easier to understand themselves, and navigate this world with greater intention, earnest effort, and pronounced appreciation.

We grow. That is life. We change. That is time. We struggle. That is sin. We triumph… That is God.

I see it so clearly.

May the next ten years be the best I have ever known. That is what I am working towards now. But I wanted to take one last moment and appreciate where my twenties took me. From Timothy Lee and his sparkling blue eyes. To the love we shared that was first love at its finest, to the last moment he whispered he loved me before I boarded a plane… To George, San Diego, and the stop lights where we played over our favorite song each time the light turned red – to ice-cream cones in his face, and the moment we found out our baby would be a girl – to her birth, and finally, our separation when we admitted it was over… To AJ and all the chaos that comes from two perfectly UN-matched people – he taught me how to walk away from something that is not right, and how to smile at the misfortune of our love, though at least it brought us a healthy, beautiful baby girl… To the moment, in an airport baggage claim that I saw a tattoo on a long-haired hippy and the introduction Cathy gave us when I learned his name is John – to the home we share and the way he makes me push to be a better mother, friend, and partner…

I have known a lot of love in the past ten years, and all but one I simply wish to thank and then set free in my heart…

Because my heart knows a deeper love now, and I see it when I look at the two beautiful daughters that God has given to me. To Layla, born on a special day – my first baby… My sweet blue-eyed Lebanese Princess. To Jemma, my brown-eyed wildcat…

They are the most incredible gifts I can imagine. They test me, push me, and make me so mad I could literally go temporarily mental. But they love me, and allow me to love them, and we endure to make each other grow, and see the world for what it is…

And John… He has endured with me through my failures, and he knows my flaws. He knows what makes me angry even though it should not get anyone THAT upset. He knows that I like to control the radio and that I am not partial to silence unless I am writing. He knows that I love Jesus and that my mistakes and accomplishments were gifts from God to help me learn and grow. He knows that I can’t really eat cheese unless it is Tillamook medium cheddar because all the other cheeses make me gag. He knows that I would sleep all day if I could, but that I want cuddle time – especially when he should be working. He knows that I love him, and that I thank him for all he does for my children, and for me…

My life has been amazing. Truly, it has. It would be wrong to say I would NOT change a few things, because for sure there are moments I would redo or erase entirely… But I accept them all, even the hard, deep wounds; God has a plan, and it all works together to make something beautiful.

I looked in the mirror today and just studied my face. Briefly, I felt a twinge of pain at the youth that is leaving me – even in some minor fashion – but then I marveled at how I have become something better, and more than I ever thought I would be.

Learning French. Rock climbing. Raising two beautiful children. Tolerating a dog in my house. Writing. Finishing my Bachelors degree.

30 will be great, of this I am as sure as a believer in fate and choice can be. I hope, for the next ten years, they interchange in the best possible manner – that God guides me, that I listen, and that I choose – when I need to – the best thing. I will know the best thing, now, because I’ve lived enough life to realize what matters. Love. Acceptance. Appreciation. And the fight. The fight to never stop trying to be greater than you think you are. Life, man, 30-years of it will teach you that.




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