I'm the kind of person who enjoys reflecting. Reflection is my way of looking back on how I've done, how I've grown from experiences, and how I make changes along the way. Over the years, time has brought a lot of change - especially in these last 10 years. My desire is to open up and share a little of my story with you. I don't intend on getting into every single detail, but as I enter my 30s I find myself reflecting on the highlights, the in-between moments, and what has ultimately brought me to where I am today. How do I recap all those things to truly reflect how I feel about the past 30 years of my life!? I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.

I grew up in a setting that was challenging, to say the least. Because of my home situation, I had to grow up fast. Childhood was hard for many reasons, and it also didn't provide much time to just be a kid. I grew up in a home where you never knew what the next day was going to look like. There are many details to this part of my story, but most of it was marked by hardship, difficulty, and an awareness of the pains of life - like a bad penny, they always turned up. However, I've learned so much from my childhood, and for that, I'm thankful. It may seem strange to look back on difficult times and feel thankfulness for what took place, but I feel thankful because they have shaped me in significant ways.

James 1:2-3 "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."

As a young girl, I absolutely loved going to school. I loved (and still do) the process of learning. The thought of gathering information and sharpening the brain motivates me and makes me excited! Throughout childhood, I was in and out of several different schools and for a time, I was also schooled at home. I remember sitting there with the teacher's manual and the workbooks teaching myself the difficulties of algebra problems. I was determined to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could.

I knew from a young age that there were things about my life that I loved and things about my life that I wanted to change. I was a dreamer and I wanted to make things better for myself and my future family. 

I started working at very young age. To be completely honest, one of the reasons I starting working was because I was needed to work to help care for some of the bills at home. But I also partly enjoyed the idea of having a job. I was always a "go-getter." Work, for me, began with the typical - cutting lawns and nanny jobs at the age of  11 or 12. From there, I went to work at a grocery store, and had a ton of odd jobs here and there after that. I started working at a hair salon and began taking some college classes when I was 16, then shortly after that started cosmetology college and graduated when I was 18. My hope was that I would be able to put myself through college with working retail and as a hairdresser. 

One of the things I'm crazy thankful for is my husband, Calvin. Our story began when we started dating when I was 16. He's always been there. He has seen it all with me. Sometimes I feel like I wish he could just know me as I am now because I've changed so much. But truly, it was the Lord's grace in my life that I had him there to grow with me, by my side. He has shown me the kind of love that pushes me to grow more in Christ. The kind of love that doesn't always tell me what I want to hear, but what I need to hear. We've done it all together.

I moved out when I was 17. I was still such a kid, but I was determined. I lived alone for over a year and a half after moving out, and I'm so glad I did. I needed the time to reset and gain clarity, to put it simply.

Calvin and I dated for 3 years before we got engaged. He had a pretty good job at the time and I was working two full-time jobs (I was a cosmetologist/hairdresser and worked at Anthropologie). So, we purchased a house together and took the leap to the next stage of our lives. Shortly after marriage (January 2008), the economy took a terrible hit leaving Calvin without a job for awhile. We ended up short selling our house, getting our car repossessed, and having to relocate in order to get back on our feet - which we eventually did.

During this time, I poured a lot of energy into growing as a hairdresser. This was a steady income for us and I started to see the fruit of my labor, which was a very rewarding experience. While all of this was going on in our first year of marriage, we also took in two of my younger siblings to stay with us, at different times. My sister was transitioning to college and needed a place to stay, and my brother stayed with us for some time after our childhood home was burnt down when he was 15, and then again later moved in with us a second time for a bit while we were in Louisville. I am so honored that we were able to do this. It was a challenge to learn how to be married, how to take care of other people, and recover from the financial challenges of the recession and how it personally affected us. However, I'm thankful for these experiences because it provided a unique opportunity to be a part of their lives, all the while producing strength and steadfastness.

Calvin got a good job working at a hospital, and after spending several years working through retail and management opportunities, I began focusing on my career as a cosmetologist which was what was best for our family at the time. It was during this season that Calvin began having health issues with his head, where he would regularly have seizure-like episodes. They were scary and it was a difficult season of trying to figure out what was going on and what needed to be done. The doctors were finally able to determine that Calvin has Arnold Chari Malformation of the brain. They were concerned with the kinds of issues that were present, so they decided that brain surgery would be the next best step to correct what was going on. In 2010, Calvin had decompression surgery on his brain.

Another crazy thing during this time was that Calvin and I decided that going back to school would be a great next step for us to move forward in his career. So, just a few short months after surgery, we ended up moving to Louisville to work on completing school. Our time there was so wonderful - but it had its difficulties as well. For example, right after we moved, we had a vehicle stolen from us, had our other vehicle totaled, had all of the learning curves of relationships, all while Calvin was still recovering. But these were also some of the sweetest times of our life.  We made so many wonderful friends while we were there. As I reflect, I think of those beautiful friendships that have been placed in my life over the years. I've grown to value and invest in true friendship more. I want to hang on to those incredibly dear people in my life forever. 

During this time I also had the opportunity to be placed in several different jobs. Some were positions that I would not have initially chosen for myself; organizational and administrative roles that at first glance didn't appeal to me because I thought they would be monotonous or unimaginative. These positions though, afforded so many opportunities to learn and grow - sharpening my attention to detail, growing my imagination by forcing me to be creative within the boundaries of the task at hand, and stretching my natural strengths. Other positions were in areas I already had experience or a natural interest in, jobs that gave me the ability to streamline processes and implement programs to create more efficiency. Roles like event planning and management stretched me as I was building a team, equipping people to strengthen and develop their own skills, for the flourishing of both the individual and the team as a whole. These positions gave me more opportunity to learn how to lead by supporting others - through coaching and investing in one another. 

I'm thankful for all of these jobs - the looked-for opportunities and the unexpected ones, because they sharpened me in different ways. Like pieces of a puzzle, these positions worked together to hone separate but needed skills in my life, teaching me to be more focused on the details while also seeing the larger picture and helping others share the same unifying vision. 

Calvin ended up graduating in 2015 and we had our sweet little boy Emet in 2016. Following his graduation he took a job as a conference director and on the side is contracted to do graphic design. We decided that this would be a unique opportunity for me to stay home with Emet. This past year was, once again, was one of the biggest transitions I’ve seen in my life. Going from more of the provider role that I’ve always known to being a stay at home mom was a learning curve for sure, but I can't believe how much I love it. It's so much fun! Oh trust me, I still have days where I am just itching for more task driven productivity, but this is when I learned another layer of what it means to be productive. I'm so thankful I get to invest in his sweet life! I desire to be so intentional with the little time I get with him. This is also when I was able to begin my blog and it has been something I've enjoyed so much! 

One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the years is that difficulty, hardship, and trials will always be a part of life. There is no way to avoid them - nor should we. I've learned to embrace difficulties and receive them with thankfulness.

It's easy to get caught in the mindset that life is merely "taking the hand you have been dealt." However, life is about so much more than just us. How we respond and act in the moments of difficulty puts on display a story greater than our own. We aren't promised to be exempt from difficulty but we are offered help and hope through our difficulty. And when we walk through the pain and hopelessness it points to the hope of the gospel - the ultimate story of overcoming death and experiencing new life in Jesus. That is what creates thanksgiving in my heart. 

2 Corinthians 4:7 "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."

Having a difficult childhood or hardships throughout life could cause anger or bitterness towards the people in life that have caused hardships. However, what I find myself mostly reflecting on now is how I can help teach my children so they can learn these things before they are on their own. How can I daily think less of myself and more of Christ? How am I reflecting my values and things I believe to my loved ones - or to those who don't know me?

People frequently ask me why I have such a positive outlook on negative situations. But this is truly how I feel. I'm ultimately so thankful for everything that took place during my childhood and later in life. The sweet and the challenging. As Calvin and I prepared for Emet's precious life, we wrote out some of the ways we wanted to make sure we would intentionally parented him. Things can be hard and challenging but I've grown because of these things, and they've caused me to be so much more intentional with my son.

I still have SO much to learn and grow in. My current prayer is that I will be marked by a “compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col 3:2) I am eagerly anticipating these upcoming years of more learning. More growing. More intentionality.

I close with things I'm leaving behind and am taking with me into my 30s!

Leaving behind:

  1. Identities I tried to create for myself. Whether it was through the security I thought I needed at 20 of owning my own home, having my college degree sooner, or building my own career. These are still good goals to aspire to but they are not defining nor are they what produces ultimate satisfaction and happiness. Trust me, I will still be pushing to be all the things. They are just not where my identity lies.

  2. The idea that productivity requires constant activity, or that "doing things" and staying busy equates productivity.

Taking into my 30s:

  1. Continuing to carve out more time again for all kinds of reading.

  2. Loving even more the "normal life" expectancies that are guaranteed to pull me in many directions. Savoring the sweetness that I *get* the opportunity to have those expectancies.

  3. Protecting time with loved ones and family while embracing a more quiet and still life. I've always been marked as a super "busy" person. But in my 30s I'm valuing the "not always doing."


|  Credits: Author - Jacintha Payne; Photography - Ali Marsh  |

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A REFLECTION ON 30 YEAR (Via JacinthaPayne.com)