The morning I woke up 30 I felt the dread before my eyes fluttered open to the new decade’s light.
I quickly got dressed and out the door for a day of reflection and prayer and dreaming about what my twenties were and what my thirties could be, but just under the surface I was squashing dark sadness down.
The coffee shop was crowded and offered just the right excuse to avoid the inner angst welling up inside me. I got back in the car, abandoning all personal retreat plans, and convinced myself that husband and son could quell the unreasonable sorrow simmering. A few unruly tears slipped down cheeks to quivering lips, but I ran from them and spent the next few hours begging Stephen to figure me out and fix me.
He sent me shopping, but the mall only exacerbated my soul’s unrest. I forced myself to buy two new shirts and then drove away as quickly as possible.
Cozied up in a Starbucks, finally alone with my scone and iced caffeine, the tears slipped down freely, honesty finally finding me, forcing me to turn face to face with the God who’d been hounding me all day long.
We spent a few hours together, Jesus and I, recalling His faithfulness through a decade of constant change and spurts of growth. And then finally? The truth made its way out.
“I guess maybe today’s lack of logistical and emotional perfection stems from the deep dissonance of death that’s shadowing everything even when I don’t realize it. I should have been pregnant today. And it’s ok that it sucks that I’m not. And an imperfect birthday can make me all the more eager for Your Day, Jesus. Let it be so.”
You see, I was pregnant in June. Just for a few days that added up to a few weeks that forever changed my life when I was suddenly no longer pregnant. He or she who should have been our February baby slipped in and out of our lives in a tearful blink.
And while 20-year-old Katie never dreamed she’d only have one child by the time she reached 30, 29-year-old Katie could have been fine with the death of a dream if it had nothing to do with the death of a baby.
But the truth is, death came. And my 30th birthday really wasn’t what it ought to have been. And it took a day of chasing every other happiness to finally show me it was okay to not be okay.
On the morning after, the Father-heart of God whispered on repeat at church, “I know your pain, Kate. It’s the pain I chose for Myself in order to wash away your sin and sadness.”
This day after my 30th birthday I look back and realize the words of David were true all along, the goodness and mercy of God were following me relentlessly all through the day, all through the decade. Even these last few months of sorrow have been littered with His kindness toward my tender heart. He’s miraculously healed and helped and held me.
It’s just that some days seem to make it harder to see. The milestones that were supposed to be so perfect and peppy actually rub salt in wounds I could have otherwise forgotten were still raw.
And I figure I’m not alone in this. I'm surely not alone in grieving baby, some 40% of all of us women will. And death has a way of stinging well after the fact. Babies that should be growing. Marriages that should have lasted. Bodies that should have recovered, survived. Parents who should have stayed. Churches that should have thrived.
Despite the universal Instagram filter we all gladly adopt for the highlights of life, what’s most universal is our shared experience of living in a world that is not what it should have been. A world in which milestones, whether decades or weddings or births or graduations or greeting card holidays, are never as perfect as we feel in our bones that they should be.
I am not the woman I dreamed I would be at 30. This milestone has not been magical.
But through it, and through the excruciating disappointment of living in a world infused with death, the God of life and love has been weaving a different story, chipping away at the hardened edges of my soul until One Day I will see Him in all His beauty and goodness and joy.
There is much to be grateful for in the in between. His patience and provision through the blood of Jesus are more than I deserve even in the darkest nights of my soul. That He would chase me all day and all decade and all throughout my life on this earth is extravagant love.
And friend, He’s chasing you extravagantly too. The thing that threatens to overtake you? The dream that seems entirely unraveled? It’s the same one He wants to use to show you just how much He cares.
So, how was my birthday? It wasn’t fantastic. But Jesus was. And He will be faithful to hold my thirties and my babies and my whole, homesick soul until The Day He makes all things new.
Jesus will be faithful with yours too, friend. Yours too.