Twenty-six. I am 26 years old. I can’t quite believe it. That number feels, well, old. It feels like an age I used to gawk at as a kid—an age that I assumed meant marriage, children, and a house of one's own. I saw 26 as one step closer to 30, the time when you’re expected to really grow up and get your ish together. It didn’t sound fun at all but scary. Now that I'm 26, I don’t actually have any of those things, and yet my heart is overflowing with joy.
Six months ago, I was worried about this looming birthday. I talked about it like it was NBD, but in reality I was freaking out. I kept asking people about how old they were when they got married, how old they were when they started their own company, how old they were when they could afford a one-bedroom apartment. I fixated on the number and what it meant—and today I can tell you, it doesn’t mean anything.
I am more joyful today than I thought would be possible. My heart is full. I believe my twenty-sixth year will be the best one yet. Of course, there will be ups and downs like every other year. That’s to be expected. But I think this year I will grow up more and grow into the woman I was made to be. It won’t be a great year because I’ve knocked off items on my bucket list, or because I’ve reached some lofty life goals.
It will be because God is always faithful.
As I turned 26, I felt celebrated, cared for, and loved well by my family and friends. I’ve been given an incredible community, both here in New York City and throughout the country. These people surrounded me with encouragement and kindness. They’ve shown up and showed me what love really looks like. They’ve reminded me I am far from alone.
There have definitely been times in my life when I’ve felt alone. I felt like abandoned, an outcast—and in a way, I felt almost unworthy of love. Years ago, I went through a very difficult seasons where my closest friendships deteriorated, and the isolation I was left with was unsettling. I believed the lie that there was something wrong with me. I was a wreck.
Stepping out of that season took courage, strength, and the kind of power that can only come from God. He’s the one who brought me through. Moving forward, I started to love myself and love the woman God intended for me to be. I started to meet people who lifted me up and who wanted to know me. Those moments of feeling alone enable me to see just how much of a gift my family and friendships are now. The joy I feel in this moment wouldn't be as sweet had I not experienced the bitter taste of loneliness first.
Today at 26, I feel known. I’ve written before about this desire I have to make my name known. I want to be well-regarded, accomplished, successful. I want people to hear my name and go, “Wow, she is awesome. I want to be like her.” I will admit it: I want that fame.
Except I wasn’t created to make myself famous, but humble and meek. Jesus Christ humbled himself and gave up His life to save ours. Thus, God “gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I was made to talk up His name, not my own. But you know what else?
My name is already known. I am known.
In my previous post, I forgot about mentioning the reality that God knows my name. In fact, my name is graven on His hands; my name is written on His heart. No situation or circumstance can ever change that. This is the greatest friendship could ask for. He knows exactly who and what I need and when I need it. Most of all, I need Him.
How marvelous and awe-inspiring are those words in Luke? I get goosebumps whenever I read the passage. The God who created the stars, the earth, and the entire universe, is the same God who created me and who knows my name. And He’s the one who’s provided beautiful earthly relationships around me to show me more of Him. I tend to rely on my accomplishments or my social life to feel like I am known. I think as though I need to justify my existence. I need to do something in order to be seen and paid attention to. I act like the number of likes I get on Instagram is what makes me known and worthy. It’s not.
Ultimately, I am known because of God. Because of God. This birthday has been a tangible reminder of that. The people who are currently in my life are not there by coincidence. His goodness and care for me are continually overflowing, even when I don’t recognize it. I need Him. The more I press into Him, the more He reveals Himself. This week, He has been especially evident in the many friends and family who celebrated my special day with me. I am truly overwhelmed by such grace and love.
So to all of you who sent me the many thoughtful cards and texts and phone calls. To you who danced the night away with me. To you who painted your nails with me and sat on the floor eating sushi with me. To you who took me out for wine. To you who gave me nail polish, cupcakes, coffee, and my new favorite t-shirt. To you who sent me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. To you who baked me a cake and lit a candle and sang me happy birthday. To all of you who I love: Thank you. Thank you for celebrating my life in such unique and wonderful ways. Thank you for being an important part of my story, and above all, thank you for reminding me that God is so very good.