As for me, this season—one of newness in a new land—has given me time to reflect upon 30 years of life and I want to share a few thoughts on this year. It's hard to believe I'm 30, too. It doesn't seem like too many moons ago when I started college, graduated 4 years later, or began woodworking later that year. And yet time slows for no man, thus the Psalmists' prayer "Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom (NLT)." If we lived on this earth as long as Methuselah, perhaps we'd spend 300 years just getting things straightened out enough before we men would put down the Nintendo Wii and get married. Now, I've long since been over video games and the like, but that last part... There's a sense that this decade is one where the pieces come together and the vision is cast and entered into that will, in large part, pave the way for the rest of my life.
I did a short recital of the following 'reminiscing on life' while celebrating with friends and my oldest sister, Wendy, on a rooftop space with dessert and a bonfire (Wendy surprised me by coming here from Hong Kong, first showing up at a birthday breakfast and then stayed in town for several days to celebrate my 30th.
In my 30 years, I’ve run over 30,000 miles, celebrated 3 birthdays in China, have enjoyed many memories with my family, including my 3 siblings. I actually ran my first 30+ mile run last month when I accompanied several friends to a mountain trail race in Hong Kong. I’ve gotten to enjoy being an uncle to my brother’s 3 kids and Jenny’s 3 kids, as well. I had 3 birthday celebrations last weekend to celebrate my 30th and have had 3 roommates since moving here (though only 2 were present to celebrate. I miss you Cody!) I consider 3 places home in America—Atlanta, KC and WI. All of those places are full of dear family and friends who, through the years, have provided me with invaluable friendships, countless memories, spiritual growth and encouragement, introduced me to woodworking and trained me in this enjoyable skill, accompanied me on many a cycling or run outing and race, traveled with me to Asia a number of times, and will invariably be the ones who I visit, share stories with, and enjoy meals with when, at various points, I return to the States.
If you’re reading this from America, chances are you live in or around one of the above 3 locations (for I don’t quite have 100,000 readers yet scattered abroad)! Thus, you and others in your city constitute my friends and family who are of great importance and impact in my life. Where I’ve ended up and what I’ve done/am doing, but moreover, who I’ve become is in large part related to your direct influence in my life. Taking off from where my parents started us kids with our weekly routine of going to Mass, Wendy and a few key others—some of her friends like Jeremy, some hometown friends including the Hughes, and college friends like Anthony—were instrumental in bringing me into the family of God and opening up my worldview to, well, the world! And, so as I sit on my couch on this Sunday afternoon in a city of 14 million, it’s about a million miles away from life as I knew it growing up in a 99.99% Caucasian farming town of 2000 people in WI. The upbringing I had there was safe and full of my family’s love and encouragement, full of friends, fun, sports, travel and outdoor activities. And even now, as a place is made up of the people in it, I have most of these aspects minus the freedom of hunting on free weekends!
The future is bright and open, unknown in one sense and yet determined in others. My goals for this 30th year are to improve my Chinese, to grow in favor and connections in the circles of influence I’m interested in—running, biking and woodworking, to grow deeper in relationships with both expat and local friends, and gain a vision for what the next 10-20 years could look like! I have a heavenly Father who knows what’s right and good for my life here, and the long-term vision could likely have a good amount of overlap with my last desire—that of finding/choosing a life partner in marriage.
Being sent to a place where others here are headed in a similar direction gives a certain clarity about one’s passions and dreams. I've heard that this can make it easier to find one who's compatible as far as life vision goes. In such a public forum, I'm not at liberty to share much more so inquiring minds will do just that! In the singleness, though, there’s so much good—to spend my time wisely, to invest in others and be spontaneous in my ability to say “Yes” to friend’s requests and events that in a marriage would not even elicit the question. To be able to give of myself in ways that may not be possible if I were married—in areas of time, service, money, ability to travel, etc. So I hope to have this year be one of living more fully unto the One who called me to Himself and to His people, both in His family and those who He’s created for his glory, but who do not yet know him.
There are also the daily practices and rhythms I want to continue growing in:
To live slowly, to give grace and mercy freely, to say thank-you and live in gratitude always, to owe nothing but the debt of love, to extend forgiveness quickly, to ask for forgiveness shamelessly, to grow in hospitality (and my ice cream making ability), to give radically, and to love extravagantly.
I’ve been encouraged by many of you upon turning 30, so I appreciate you praying for me and your gifts, notes, cards, and online greetings. I’ve seen that on this earth, it’s not only people that make a place, but that people are the best investments. A friend is closer than a brother in a place like this, though my brother back in WI is a great one at that. Having or being a Jonathan to encourage and support one another, to laugh with, share a meal with, to serve alongside, to work alongside, to carry a burden with, to cry with, to rejoice with…this is life, and I thank you for being part of mine. Another desire I have is to be a better friend with each passing year. The following link challenged and encouraged me a couple months ago; may we press on to be a friend like the truest friend we have in Jesus.