Friday, February 4, 2011

and then she was thirty.

Listening To: How Could I Ask For More by Cindy Morgan (My #1 most favorite song ever)
Lyric Love: ... if there's anything I've learned from this journey I am on/ simple truth will keep you going/ simple love will keep you strong./ Cause there are questions without answers,/and flames that never die./ And heartaches we go through are often blessings in disguise."

My birthday might have transpired this week. It is a distinct possibility. And to celebrate, I might have gone to Starbucks. Because that's how I tend celebrate birthdays and Wednesdays and Saturdays and rain and sunshine and so on.

The Handsome Barista working at Ye Olde Starbucks might have asked, "How's it going?"

I might have shouted, "Awesome! It's my

Cause I was hoping for a free drink.

I have no shame in admitting this.

And then I added, "This is a Significant Birthday. I just got my new driver's license and the picture isn't too bad - not great, but not horrible-bad. So I'm having a swanky day."

And you better believe I said swanky. I throw a "swanky" into the convo whenever possible.
The words uttered back to me by The Handsome Barista will forever be engraved upon my heart. Because he said ... "Twenty-One?"

And I said, "... twenty-one what?"

And he said, "You said significant. Are you 21?"

Bless. That. Man. Y'all. I came [--] that close to throwing myself across the counter and hugging his neck. But I thought that might have been awkward for him. I thought he might have given me a restraining order instead of a frothy caffeinated beverage.

And while he may have simply been hoping for a tip (which he totally got) (even though I got my drink for free) (BAM!), the fact is that he still made my world more sparkly. Because I am not 21.

This week, I turned
thh .... thhh ...

*steels self*

*takes a deep breath*Thirty.Three. Zero.

Many of my friends are turning *whispers* 30 this year too. And while I'm not above admitting it is just a bit jarring (like ... I can remember things that happened over 25 years ago!), I'm also way more cool with it than I thought I would be. (A while back, I watched the episode of
Friends where Rachel turned 30. I think that helped me mentally prepare for the days ahead.)

I think the stressy part for many people, in turning 30 (or 25 or 40 or 60 or 17) is that, if you are like me, you tend to make lots of goals and have lots of hopes. And sometimes, to make those goals attainable, you assign yourself a number.

Example: "I will do THIS by the time I am THIS AGE! EXCLAMATION POINTS!!"

Don't get me wrong: I'm a hardcore fan of dreaming big and putting your heart out there. I grew up in church and I heard Paul's infamous words to Timothy preached and taught and spoken half-a-billion times: "Don't let people look down on you because you are young but set an example..."

And the takeaway from that, for me, was Do Big Things NOW. That is a good takeaway, by the way. Aim big. Go big or go home. My Granny would have phrased it this way: *poop* or get off the pot.

(She wouldn't have said *poop* though.)

I'm an advocate of running after life with everything inside you. But I also know that some things don't happen when you want them to happen. Sometimes life gets twisty-turny and it has nothing to do with you or with your lack of faith or how cool you are or how hard you work. Sometimes, God's timing is just funky. It isn't funky for Him, but it's funky to try and process as a peon-human. Sometimes, with some distance and perspective between me and certain events, I can look back and be so darn grateful that I did not get what I wanted.

But there are other things that break my heart. Still. There are Things I have to make peace with, that I will probably never, ever understand down here. Those things make birthdays prickle a little bit. Birthdays make you miss people more. They make the missing places feel a little bit too roomy. They can, very easily, send old regrets ping-ponging to the front lobes of your brain station. Birthdays are bittersweet. I am not above admitting that.

And yet. On the morning of my thh ... my thhhh ... my birthday, while I participated in a glamorous 30 year old task I call The Folding of the Laundry, I had two distinct thoughts:

Thought #1: Now that I'm 30, I should probably separate colors when I do laundry instead of throwing everything in at the exact same time. Also, I should probably do laundry regularly and not just when I run out of underwear.

Thought #2: I am crazy blessed.

Crazy, crazy blessed. Way beyond what I could ever possibly deserve. (I don't even want to think about what I "deserve." Those are not birthday-thoughts.)

I'm overwhelmed by how many really truly amazing things have happened so far in my life. I definitely have regrets. And there are things I hope for that haven't happened yet. And there were many moments that broke my heart. But there are other things too. And I would be a moron not to think about those things.

Because those things? Not only did I not think those things would happen by 30 ... I pretty much doubted they would ever happen for me at all. God is good to me and He's kind to me and I am blown away by it all.

I am thrilled to bits that I get to live this life.

After my parents took me out for Carrot Cake at my favorite local restaurant, my dad told me that his 30's were his best years. He said: "Thirties and Forties - those are both great. Cause you still have plenty of energy and imagination. But you've also lived enough to be done with most of the stupid stuff."

Amen to that.
And then my dad said, "Why'd you order a cake with carrots in it?"

Truth: I mostly ordered a cake with carrots in it because of the cream cheese frosting.

But back to The Thirty Thing.

So far, there are only two things I dislike about this 30 business:

Thing #1: The vanity thing. Brace yourself: cause this is very girly. I'm not sure you four manly men who read this blog will understand this (but maybe?). But I'm being honest here, hoping some of you fellow sojourners can maybe relate to what I'm about to confess.

There's this phenomenon that has happened beside my mouth. There is a "smile line" that has been there for sometime and this is all well and good. But recently, I have noticed this "smile line" ... no longer goes away when I stop smiling. Last night, I was brushing my teeth, and I kept trying to pop it back out with my toothbrush. But my efforts were futile. This "Permanent Smile Line" - My PSL - is, apparently, the Universe's gift to me. It is the Universe's sick idea of a birthday present.

Thus, I have informed the Universe that I would like a receipt, like, NOW, so that I can TAKE THAT DARN THING BACK to the pit from which it came.

The PSL doesn't rock my world. But I earned that smile line, dang it. And I love to smile. And considering the fact that I love to smile ... I'm guessing 40 will be written
all over my face. I'll learn to deal. Bring it on, World.

Thing #2:
And maybe this doesn't make much sense either. But actually saying the word *whispers* "thirty" ... does feel kinda weird. Twenty-Nine definitely had a better ring to it.

But other than that, 30 seems to be a pretty swanky place to be. I look better at 30 than I did at 20. (I am very, very much a "late bloomer.") And I feel better at 30. And I feel settled just enough. But my heart is still wild and gypsy-like and prone to wonder and dream and believe.

The believing part is what I really wanted to write about today. Specifically, I've been wondering about what I believe and how those beliefs have changed from way back when, back in the day when I had Rainbow Brite themed birthday parties, to now. When I would still have Rainbow Brite themed birthday parties if my friends would play along.

I've changed my mind on many things between now and then. My heart has changed. My tastes have changed. I went through a long phase when faith was more of a legalistic check-list than what it is to me now, which is something very personal, and strange, and mysterious, and frustrating, and amazing. In the immortal words of Ouiser Boudreaux, "I ain't as sweet as I used to be." And in the immortal words of my dad, I have lived long enough to be done with the stupid stuff. I hope.

And I'm still a believer.

Today, this is what I believe:

* I believe every story is a gift. Stories run through my mind at a near-constant whirl. This is why I almost never write about the writing process. I think there are many writers who can make it understandable. For me, "The Process" is manic. I don't know to describe it, other than to say this much: stories do not let me go until I write them. That's just the "inspiration" part though. The process of actual writing just doesn't seem that interesting to write about (Sit down. Power up computer. Type.) That journey, that whole-hearted, frantic, wacky process from idea to butt-in-chair-type-fest ... really is raging obsession for me. I write many of the stories that come whirling through my mind. Currently ... I'm not sharing many of them (mostly because I'm a wimp) but I write them. I dearly love to write them. I was talking about writing-stuff with a friend recently. And I told her I didn't know if I would always be part of the Publishing Circus. I'm like the bearded lady in the Publishing Circus. Even among the crazies, I'm not always sure there's a place for me. I would like to be part of it, but who knows. But I know I will never stop writing. I can't. And it's not because I'm some crazy-talented, smarty-pants, bestselling writer-type. It's because every story feels like a gift. I write because I love stories. When I write them, I feel like I'm a part of something incredible. I'm not being melodramatic when I tell you that I thank God for stories every single day.

* I believe every person is deeply loved by God. Regardless of where you are from, where you have been, what you do, or have done, or who you love, or what you believe, I know you are loved by God. And I believe every single person deserves respect. And kindness. I got no stone to throw.

* I believe in Isaiah 40. I would bet my heart against that passage. My Hero does not grow tired or weary. Sometimes that verse rolls through my mind and I shiver. I hope the shivering never stops.

* I believe the Word of God is life-changing. I didn't always believe it, not quite like that. I believed it in a metaphorical way. But now I've seen what happened in my heart, and in my life, when I started praying God's Word, and saying it out loud, and trying (in a non-preachy, non-judgy, non-dumb way) to live it. There is some serious power in that Book. I hope you write it on your heart. And then I hope you hold on tight for the ride of your life. (I hope that sounds dramatic. Because it was very dramatic for me.)

* I believe whoever said that diamonds are a girl's best friend obviously didn't have a dog. And that just makes me sad.

* I believe that library cards and passports function in much the same manner.

* I believe in telling people you love them. No matter how much they've heard it. Or how often you say it. Or how they respond to it. You can never say it enough (if you really truly mean it).

* I believe my grandparents lived more fascinating lives than any movie star in Hollywood. On the morning of my birthday, I pulled on my grandpa's favorite flannel shirt and re-read some of the birthday cards my grandparents gave me when I was little. (I never throw cards away.) I realize that probably sounds corny. I think I just wanted to feel close to them for awhile when The Thirty came. I did feel close to them, for awhile. The loving part is bigger than the missing part.

* I believe my Dad is a superhero. I remember, when I was little, thinking it was the weirdest thing - how Dad could walk into the room and I suddenly felt totally safe. I still feel that way.

* I believe my mom is the most beautiful woman in the world. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

* I believe some frogs are not worth kissing. They do not turn into princes. They just have froggy-breath that lingers in your face for days and days and days. But on the flip side ...

* I believe there are many truly amazing, confident, kind guys in the world. Guys who love Jesus. And who love their mamas. And who can kiss like whoa. So don't let the occasional frog cause you to lose heart.

* I believe in sleeping in on Saturdays. Amen and yes.

* I believe in love. The kind you give and the kind you receive and the agape kind that is so much bigger and better than my brain can ever untangle.

* I believe in wishing stars. I still believe that wishes fit on candle-tips and shiny pennies too. Heck. If the red-light flickers long enough, I'll most likely make a wish on it.

* I believe in grace. And second and third and fourth and infinity chances.

* I believe people are beautiful not in spite of their scars, but because of them.

* I believe in prayer.

* I believe in miracles.

* I believe in having a few really-truly kindred-spirit friends. Friends who know stuff about you that nobody else knows. Secret-keeper friends. I'm so grateful for mine. (I could also launch into how Facebook status bars are not places to spill one's heart ... but to each his own, I suppose.)

* I believe in Romans 8:28. I did something last year that I cannot recommend enough to you. I took a stack of notebook paper (I knew I would need at least a stack). And I wrote down every regret that kept sinking its fangs into my memory banks ... but I write each one in light of Romans 8:28. Romans 8:28 says this:
In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose.

And in place of [in all things] ... I wrote a pesky regret instead. Or a disappointment. I wrote about the time that made me lose faith. The time I prayed for something that most definitely did not come through. Over and over and over, I wrote Romans 8:28. I wrote it against my life. I wrote it like a thank-you prayer. Example: "I know that [WHEN THIS CRAPTASTIC EVENT WENT DOWN] You worked it for my good, because You love me and because I am called according to Your purpose." In doing that, I learned my past doesn't have to dictate my tomorrows. And I wrote, and said, the phrase "You worked it all for my good" so much that it still shoots across my brain all the time. Fact: the truth will set you free.

* I believe freckles are funky and starry.

* I believe confidence is the sexiest thing about a person. And I believe that arrogance makes a person fugly as all get out.

* And while we're on this topic, I believe Converse sneakers are hotter than stilettos.

* I believe in wearing your heart on your sleeve. Stoicism is so overrated.

* I believe in freedom of speech. And because I believe this, and because I exercise this belief, I try very hard to be careful with my words. Sometimes I royally floppingly-fail at that. But I try. Words are way more powerful than weapons. They leave scars that last longer. And they heal in crazy-awesome ways.

* I believe these things are all connected for me: falling in love, writing, music, and worship. I have no clue how they are connected ... but I have a feeling that they are.

* I believe that once you are a King or Queen in Narnia ... you are always a King or Queen in Narnia.

* I believe in celebrating BIG. And I think, most days, there is something worth celebrating big. I hereby give you permission to pour champagne into a paper cup and watch the sunrise. Sunrise is always worth a party. (Note: if you are under 21 ... you better have Cherry Coke in that paper cup.)

* I believe there are certain songs in the world that my heart hears first. Before I listen to the lyrics, before I untangle the meaning, there are certain songs that seem to bind against my heart. Healing songs. This song will always be that for me.

* I believe every person has a unique purpose to live and a story to tell.

* I believe in sweating when I exercise. And I don't sweat pretty. I'm not the type of southern girl who "glistens." But I also don't care if I don't look pretty when I work out. Because I feel pretty when I work out.

* I believe in dancing days.

* I believe in forgiveness. My word, I am so grateful for forgiveness.

* I believe Paul McCartney was right when he said, "Love is all you need."

* I believe Paul the Apostle was right
when he said, "Love is the greatest."
* And I believe Jesus was talking about me when he said, "I have come that you may have LIFE and that you may have it more abundantly." I believe he was talking about you too. (Fact: John 17 will always be my favorite valentine.)And I believe the 30's are going to be more than a little bit rock-awesome.

So. If you aren't to thirty yet, do not fear it. And if you are 30 or past thirty, please accept my long distance hug (or high-five if you're weirded out by hugs). Because you remind me that 30 is gorgeous and savvy and worth waiting for.

Here's to a new decade and a new sunrise. And free coffee and carrot cake.

And healing songs. And dancing days.
Thanks for taking this journey with me. :)


  1. Happy birthday! hope it rocked. I loved this post.

  2. Happy Birthday again, my friend! And can I just tell you I feel like I can relate to so much of your post since I turned 30 myself a couple of months ago. I was WAY more okay with it than I thought I'd be at, say, 25 (praise Jesus!). It so easy to get wrapped up in what HASN'T happened yet that I can lose sight of the crazy awesome things that have, and the fantastic life I'm privileged to lead. I feel like maybe, just maybe, in some small way I'm "getting" it better now...if that makes sense. Yay for the 30s!! :)

  3. Happy Birthday Natalie! I loved seeing your sweet, unique, Godly heart shine through your words in this post. You have such a way with words. I hope you fun celebrating your birth{month}!! No matter how old you are, God still has a beautiful purpose for your life and this is just one part of the journey. Enjoy it! :)

    PS where do you find the gorgeous pictures for your posts??

  4. John 10:10 is my verse. I don't say it aloud often enough.

    I love this post for so many reasons. Loved:
    "they make the missing places a little too roomy."

    "Library cards and passports function in much the same manner."

    "Sometimes life gets twisty-turny and it has nothing to do with you or with your lack of faith or how cool you are or how hard you work."

    Happy birthday, Friend Natalie Lloyd. 2011 is YOUR year.

    "Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God." EM Bounds

  5. One more thing.
    Cindy Morgan has always had the best hair.
    That is all.

  6. Thank you so much, LF!

    Ruth, I SO hear ya. I feel like I'm getting it now too. I might turn 40 and think, "How did I think I was getting it back then?!" :) But it's like there's a particular kind of peace that clicks. You're definitely one of the savviest 30-year-old's I know. :)

    Thanks for your sweet comment, Courtney! I don't know exactly where that picture came from, but I found it on a blog. Do you remember Carol Hannah from Project Runway? On her blog, she does a feature called "eye candy" - where she loads up pics that are inspiring her. That's where I found that one (and lots of others that are similar). You'll love the pics!

    JBJ, you are one hundred thousand kinds of awesome. I don't say John 10:10 aloud enough either. That's something that's sticking with me from Sun Stand Still - the out-loud part. To actually SAY those words matters. (I'm so glad you told me about that book!) Also, that EM Bounds quote made me shivery. And I agree about Cindy Morgan's hair. She's the reason I got perms all through middle school. She's the reason I looked like a psycho-poodle. But I still can't find it in my heart to be mad ...

  7. Thanks to JBJ for tweeting about this post! So glad I checked it out. I'll be 30 this summer, and it's good to know that I can be both thankful (to be past the stupid stuff) and a little bummed (about PSLs and the like).

    Loved your line: "But my heart is still wild and gypsy-like and prone to wonder and dream and believe." I feel that way all the time. Perhaps that's part of the writer's design.

    My verse is Romans 5:5. I said it to my sister-in-law last night and realized I hadn't said it out loud in months. I've got to say that more often.

    Happy birthday, Natalie!

  8. Welcome to 30, Natalie! I turned 31 last month and had a similar bittersweet reaction. I do think that our 30s will treat us well, however. Enjoy!

  9. Natalie, I hope you had the best 30th birthday ever! :) Thanks for always making me smile with your posts.


  10. Oh my Dear. You are so extremely talented. Whether you're just being goofy or really being serious, you always manage to write something so profound that makes me sit back and say "whoa." You are without doubt my favorite writer and I am sooo excited for your big th . . . I mean your big birthday. Keep writing, Miss Lloyd. God has blessed you with an amazing gift. :) <3

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  12. Hi Natalie!

    This was an awesome post! You have such a way with words (like I remember from the days of Brio)! Happy birthdaypalooza!!


  13. love this. I love the "believe" list, especially. I hope your birthday was wonderful!

  14. Hey Natalie...

    Happy birthday!! :) I just wanted to thank you THIS much for the Romans 8:28 idea - wow!!! It's so encouraging... I'll definitely be doing that more often!
    Have a fun time being thirty ;).

    Read Psalm 20... birthday prayer for ya!

  15. Natalie Lloyd I'm pretty sure this is the funniest thing I have ever read! It is great! Congrats! (:
    Love you,
    Isaiah Newport

  16. So where's this Starbucks with the handsome barista? Oh, I mean ~Happy Birthday~ =)

  17. This is my favorite post you have ever written. And I totally know what you mean when you talk about your heart song. Mine is Acres of Hope by Shane and Shane. Hence, my screen name. :)

    Happy Birthday, Natalie! May this be the best year of your life so far.


  18. Ah yes. In about 7 months I will also reach this milestone. Honestly, I'm not taking it very well. Writing down all of your regrets...might be something I look into doing myself.

    -Steph Proffitt

  19. Happy, happy, happy Birthday! This post made me feel warm and fuzzy and smiley. You're so gifted, Natalie.

  20. This post is my favorite you've ever written. It's so powerful coming from a woman like yourself who is ten years older (and wiser!) than I. It's one thing to encourage and give advice to people your own age, but coming from someone who's lived through all this growing up junk and been in low places emotionally because of heartbreak, disappointment, or whatever is so so so powerful. And you love 30. LOVE thirty.

    After I read this post I wrote down, "Today, I got excited about age thirty."

    "And I feel settled just enough."
    In the past two years I went from the theory "travel the world and never stop!" to wanting to be settled, with loved ones. Here. This is want I want: to feel settled just enough. I'm only a sophomore in college, but I'm so ready to have a sleeping pattern. To be able to set my coffee maker to brew at the same time every morning.

    I digress.

    But, this was so uplifting. I'm looking forward to your "40!" blog. :]

  21. Natalie,

    The world is a brighter place because of your birth. Thank your awesome parents for me. :) You're an inspiration to me constantly. :)


  22. You're thirty?! You do not look thirty, at all. Happy belated birthday!

    Loved these {among many others} of your list of beliefs:
    - I believe that library cards and passports function in much the same manner.
    - I believe that once you are a King or Queen in Narnia ... you are always a King or Queen in Narnia.

  23. Lovely lovely lovely post, Ms. Natalie. Happy birthday to you! I'm glad there are still people in the world who believe birthdays are special and exciting and worth shouting about.

    My friend Sara posted this on her tumblr a couple months back and I thought of it as I was reading about how you feel about writing. Both her post and yours resonate deeply.

    As per usual, thank you for sharing your words.


  24. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (late)

    this comment was actually planned about a day ago for merely selfish reasons.


    I'm writing a book.

    And I really want to get it published.

    Is there any way you can give me tips... what it entails. That kinda thing???

    I'd really appreciate it.

    Oh yeah, and I was looking at your books at the Christian bookstore the other day.

    I'm totally gonna buy 'em all! :D


  25. I'm so late to this party, but I feel like everyone should have a birthday month (YEAR, for that matter), so I'm going to say it anyway: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I can't express in words how much I loved this post. I hope I am this wise and fabulous when I am 30.

    <3 <3