20 Years of Life

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Little Emma, lots of love

There are two distinct moments in my life when I remember deciding to become more bold.

The first was midway through 6th grade when I had just moved from Virginia to Colorado and received an e-mail from a boy in Virginia who I had a crush on since the second day of school that year. Mind you, this was in a time when e-mail was a major form of communication, especially for young people. Granted, we hardly communicated anything meaningful– it was mostly spam e-mails including stories with morals such as, “Forward this to 70 people you love and you’ll have good luck for 70 years,” and the like, but we didn’t care, we did this often. So there I was, in a different state with an ambiguous spam e-mail from my 6th grade crush. Typical 6th grade me would have read it five times over with butterflies in my stomach then deleted it and moved on, but on this day I overrode my instincts. “I want to talk to him,” I thought. “But what do I have to say? What if he thinks I’m weird? Does he even remember me anymore?” Classic 6th grade things. “You know what? Who cares!” I decided to e-mail him a quirky response in hopes he would know me. At the very least, I determined I would vanquish the lingering feeling of “What if?”

Since then, I honestly don’t remember if anything ever came of that e-mail exchange (I don’t think so) or if he even responded, but I do know that I became more bold that day. Something about hearing the “whoosh” of an irreversibly sent e-mail to someone who might find me foolish sparked a thrill within me that encouraged a desire to never stop increasing my boldness. And so the journey began…

The second experience was also in middle school. I was probably in 7th grade when I turned to my friends with a life changing dare–“Before we leave middle school, let’s do 3 courageous things. Things that we could potentially get in trouble for…” We were constantly on the hunt for our 3 big “courageous things.” What would we do? Say something crazy to a stranger? Sneak out of the house one night? Something more? We had many different thoughts but we wanted to make sure we accepted the right challenges. Though we may have mixed up the words courageous and crazy as we pursued  these radical things we also started to notice the little acts of boldness we could commit.

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First Day of 7th Grade

We went to the mall and invited 20+ strangers to church. We always danced our hearts out when we walked to the grocery store. We dressed in knee-high socks and eccentric 80’s clothes for P.E. class and started trying our hardest to engage in the sports. We made forts on trampolines and walked for miles through creeks. We tried new foods and we met so many people. We gave gifts to random people we didn’t know. And, no Mom, we never did sneak out. Boldness became a constant dare and, through it, we learned how to love life.

Today I turned 20 years old. This has always been a meaningful milestone for me. Even as a kid, I looked up to 20-year-old me. Who would I be? What would I do? How would I look? While I still ask the same questions of future me everyday, I feel confident that when I look back, I will add this time in my life to the list of mile markers which indicate a time when I distinctively grew in boldness.

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13th Birthday

Honestly, I thought I would have done more in my life by now. When I was 14 I read the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. It’s a great book but it freaked me out. In this book I read about kids my age who started their own organizations and were saving other children all over the world. Surely, I thought, I will be like these other people. I thought that by now I would have done something incredibly important. I think there will always be a little part of me that sees 20-year-old pop stars like Lorde or thinks of 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games and wonders, “What was I doing? Why is it taking me so long to be ‘important,'” but things are different because God has changed me. Now, I know that the most important thing I can do with my life is be faithful to the things I know I am supposed to do. If I sit and compare myself to others I am not growing in boldness. Rather, through comparison I teach myself to accept mediocrity.

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Thanksgiving 2012

Moving to California and going to college has taught me more about myself than I ever imagined there was to know. Life is more vast than I could have possibly understood before and I have a feeling I will learn that same lesson many more times in life. Somewhere in this vastness of life, I lost sight of the ground beneath my feet. I was overcome with anxiety and confused about truth. In my first year of school I met loneliness, depression, and heartbreak time and time again. Truth I previously took for granted became metaphysical questioning about my existence and I found it hard to separate reality from dreams and dreams from nightmares. Fortunately, before this happened I already knew that even if he scared me or I didn’t understand him, God was real and he was the only one who could ultimately save me. Having said that, during this time my blurred vision and pained heart engulfed many of the lessons I learned about being bold and living free. It felt like someone put and anvil on my chest and every bad thing that happened came with a strike of a hammer on the anvil. With every blow I left my palms open toward God, hoping he might grab my hands in return– knowing he would eventually.

And He did. Because he always does.

This summer and this year in school, God reminded me about the previous lessons I learned such as how to be bold and why I should want to be. He took it a step further by cementing truth in my heart in a way that I know it can never be taken from me no matter what happens. Before, I knew God loved me. Now, I know His love is enough. Before, I knew I wanted to matter. Now, I know I do matter. When I go for a run, when I stay in bed, when I help others, when I help myself, I am important. My value is secure because God sent a Savior to the world who died and rose himself from the dead so my iniquities could be exchanged for goodness. So I am content in knowing that I am important and pursuing holiness exactly as I should be. And this was the greatest gift I received for my 20th birthday.

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August 2016

I am so thankful to have made it to twenty years of life and I can’t wait to see how I might continue growing in boldness and truth for days to come. Some people spend a lifetime searching for deep purpose, real calling, and true meaning. I am so grateful to enter this next chapter of life knowing that in Him I have all of this and more.
Thanks to everyone who has helped grow and shape me. I love you deeply.

Seeking to worship more fully and live more abundantly,

Emma

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