It is here. The big 3-0! I had been dreading getting older because, well, I don’t like getting older! It is not bad, don’t get me wrong, but for someone who never even wanted to turn eighteen, thirty is another one of those milestones that I dread initially. But I am embracing it! And after doing a lot of introspection about what I have learned in thirty years of life, I am excited to take on another decade! I can’t wait to see what my thirties will bring!
The idea for this blog post came earlier this year, but I did not write it until just a few days ago. I by no means consider this wisdom. It was an exercise I know I needed to perform to help me look back on these thirty years and recognize God’s hand in my life. So here are my ’30 Things God Taught Me before Age 30.’ I tried to stick to a timeline as best I could. As you read these life lessons, think of them in chronological order, as if each item is one lesson learned per year beginning with when I was a baby, and so forth. I will offer some background to better understand where I am coming from with each lesson.
1. Mom and dad love me
I have absolutely no idea what I experienced my first year of life. My parents share stories with me, I have baby pictures to look at, but I would be really surprised if any of us actually remember what it was like being a baby! But this I DO know. My parents sacrificed their time, their resources, and of themselves because they loved me. The greatest love in this world is that of a parent and a child. I have always been able to rely on the fact that my parents do what they do for me because they love me. I truly believe that is one of the first lessons we learn in life.
2. My grandparents love me
Again, I don’t remember what it was like to be a two year old. But I have heard several stories from my parents. My grandparents helped take care of me when I was very little. I actually grew up with my maternal grandmother. Many of the lessons I learned came from my grandparents and their life experiences. I loved spending time with them. I loved picking fruit with my paternal grandfather, grinding wheat and making meals with my paternal grandmother, and going on walks and visits with my maternal grandmother. My maternal grandfather died before I was born, but I have learned to love him through the stories my family shares about him. I know I would have had a blast with him too! The time that my grandparents took to be with me and teach me about life taught me that they loved and cared about me. They have been my greatest role models.
3. Music is a gift to express ourselves, to connect with others, to find comfort and solace in during hard times, and to share when we feel joy in our hearts.
If you have not noticed yet, I love music and sharing what it has taught me. I learned my love for music as a very young girl. I was surrounded by music thanks to the love my family had for it. That love transferred over to me. From dancing on a table by the pool when my favorite song as a toddler came on to singing in choirs throughout my childhood to playing the piano, music has made an impact in my life, and I hope to instill that same love to my future children and grandchildren.
4. There are consequences when you disobey
We all learn this eventually. It might not click when we are little, but we learn it some way or another. One of the very first experiences I DO remember happened before I was in kindergarten. I attended something like a preschool. I don’t remember the name or how many times I attended this program. I had friends there, and we were a rowdy bunch. One day, we decided to go jump on the stage—but to jump on the stage when the lights were off. I don’t know who thought that was a great idea or why we all thought that would be a fun thing to do. We had no concept of consequences of what could happen when we jumped on a stage when it was completely dark. We were unsupervised, so that was the first sign of a bad outcome. It is likely that we snuck out of the classroom. I do remember having fun. All of us were giggling and laughing as we jumped on this dark stage. I was the one to take the fall however, literally. I must have been the closest to the edge of the stage. I jumped off the stage on accident, my little body flailing, and my poor little chin hitting the floor first. The screams must have alerted the adults, and on came the lights. I broke my chin! I had to get stitches and was fed liquids during the time I was healing. I remember the lights and the doctors operating on me, and my whimpers of pain as a family member fed me soups. I never jumped on a stage like that again. But the lesson stuck with me. Don’t disobey. Obviously, I made other dumb mistakes along the way, like all children do when testing the limits.
5. Extended family and friendships are important
I loved spending time with my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, and my school friends! I always had the hardest time when someone I cared about moved away. I loved playing and using my imagination with my cousins and my friends. I loved learning from the adults in my extended family; I admired them a lot and still do! Learning this important lesson as a kid helped me build relationships with family and friends throughout my life.
6. Learn from your elders
I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother since we lived together. She always took me with her to visit her friends and other family. I loved having tea and cookies as they talked about their experiences and caught up on life. I learned to admire the elderly, what they had collected in their homes throughout the years, and the wisdom they would share with me. I was fascinated with their talents. I loved these visits and looked forward to them. Learning to love my elders when I was young has helped me throughout the years as I volunteered in nursing homes in high school and helped older members of my church congregation. The main population in my current job is above sixty years old. I love helping these individuals and when time permits listen to their life stories. We have much that we can learn from our elders!
7. Nature is a gift from God
Much like music helps connect us with one another, nature helps us ponder the grandiose world we live in and the unfathomable love that God has for us. He made this world for us. Everything that was created is at our disposal. I developed a love for trees, plants, and animals at a very young age. My first pet was a bunny rabbit, then came the pet chicken and cockatiel. I was not very good at keeping my pet fish and turtles alive, but I was always mesmerized by them. I took in injured or abandoned birds all throughout my childhood. I developed a love for hiking and being outdoors when I was little. I want to pass that same love to my posterity.
8. A desire to please and follow Jesus
I did not know too much about Jesus when I was a kid. I knew we celebrated His birth, that He had humble beginnings, that He died on the cross for us, but that was about it. I don’t remember how I got the poster, but I was given a poster of Jesus Christ once. I decided to tape it right above my bed so that Jesus could watch over me as I slept. As all kids do, we jump on the bed because it is fun. I didn’t jump on the bed with the lights off however! One day, I was having a ball jumping on my bed and twirling in the air as I did. As I made a turn, I saw the poster of Jesus. His eyes were looking straight at me. When I made it back to the bed after that turn, I did not jump again. I looked straight at the poster of Jesus and felt that He wanted me to be a good girl and not jump on the bed anymore. So I stopped. I wanted to please Jesus and be a good girl. I know now He was not staring at me through that poster, but He does take account of what we do even though we can’t see Him.
9. Find joy in learning and excelling in your studies
A love for learning was instilled in me when I was very little. I had amazing teachers who made learning fun and great books and workbooks that helped me realize that if I wanted to know about any subject, I could find hidden treasures by searching their pages. I found happiness in doing my best in projects for school, especially when they involved crafts and coloring. I learned the importance of hard work and of learning a second language when I was little. I have continued my love for learning throughout the years.
10. Understand the importance of covenants with God and enter the waters of baptism
When my mom was dating the individual who became my stepdad, he introduced us to his church. We took the missionary discussions and learned the importance of the baptism covenant. My mom and I both desired to follow Christ’s example and enter the waters of baptism, and so we did!
11. Develop a love for the scriptures
Soon after I was baptized, I decided that I needed to learn all I could from the scriptures. I had never read the actual Bible all the way through. I had only read a picture book of Bible stories. I remember how amazed I was at all that took place during Bible times, and how much I was learning. I love revisiting the scriptures and continuing to study from them!
12. You are a daughter of God
When I turned twelve, I started attending the Young Women’s program at my church. We recited the Young Women’s theme every week. Attending my church lessons, praying, and working on the Personal Progress values, helped me recognize that yes, I was in fact a daughter of God.
13. God listens to your prayers
A very vivid prayer I remember was when I got back from a Young Women’s summer camp. I had been spiritually uplifted that week and learned many songs. One of the songs, ‘A Child’s Prayer’ left a big impression on me. I decided to play it on the piano and sing along as I played. I then decided to pray. I was home alone, so I prayed out loud and poured out my heart. I don’t remember what I prayed about, but I do remember feeling an overwhelming love enveloping me. I knew God was listening to my prayer. I know He still listens to my prayers.
14. The Holy Ghost is your companion
Making important choices can be very difficult, especially as a teenager. Learning that the Holy Ghost would guide me to make those choices helped me a lot. I still had to choose what I would do, but understanding how the Holy Ghost spoke to my heart made things a little easier. I also felt his comfort during hard times. The Holy Ghost helped me build up my testimony as he testified to me that the things I was learning at church were true.
15. God has a plan for me
I prepared myself to receive my patriarchal blessing which provided inspired direction from the Lord concerning my life. This blessing helped guide my choices as I focused on the things that God counseled were important to do then and would become important later on in my life. I read my patriarchal blessing numerous times, especially when I needed to make difficult decisions. I wanted to make sure that I did not veer off the plan He knew would make me the happiest. I continue to discover His plan for me every time I re-read my blessing as an adult.
16. The Savior did so much for me
I could write a whole book about this life lesson. Learning this lesson as a teenager helped me recognize that Christ loved me even when I made mistakes. I could repent, and He could make me a better individual if I followed His example. My testimony of the Savior and His Atonement began to grow during my teenage years, and I have been able to build on that foundation year after year.
17. Spiritual learning and building a testimony are important
I had the opportunity of attending early morning seminary, various youth conferences, and camps. These helped me develop an even greater love for spiritual learning. Being surrounded by people my age and sharing about our experiences edified me. I was not alone in my beliefs. I had friends and leaders I could count on and learn from. I am so thankful for all of the individuals that touched my life during that time. I am a better person because of them. Their testimonies strengthened mine.
18. God answers prayers
I knew he answered my prayers. I had seen it several times as I was growing up. But I had not had a prayer that I had prayed for over many years answered until 2007. It came unexpected. I was at the community college library working on an assignment when I got a random call. I answered it. It was my father. I had not had contact with my father for almost a decade. Tears were shed, forgiveness and love were expressed, and then the miracle was realized. I had already applied to colleges and selected the university I would attend prior to this phone call. As I found out where my father lived, I was overwhelmed. Heavenly Father had been working out the details for us before we even had this conversation. The university I was going to attend was less than an hour away from where he lived. I had had no idea! I was so grateful that I had listened to the promptings during the college selection process. But Heavenly Father had not only answered my prayer. He had also answered my father’s prayers. Prayers that I would forgive him, and that he could somehow be given to opportunity to be a father to me again.
19. Repentance is real
At some point or another, we have a season of rebellion. Mine came after high school graduation. I was an adult. I was no longer living at home. My choices were mine to own. I had been raised and taught to make correct choices. I had a strong foundation. Anyone can lose their way if he or she is not guarded. I let my guard down. I followed after someone I thought I loved. I led myself to believe that our relationship was true love. Many people tried to warn me that I needed to be careful. I did not like their counsel. I was no longer a baby. I could make my own choices. I wanted to prove to everyone that they were wrong about the person I had chosen to fall in love with and eventually marry. I came to my senses and recognized that I needed to repent. I ended up learning so much more about the Savior’s love for me and what true love really was. Recognizing that repentance and the Atonement were real changed me and my outlook on life.
20. The heartbreak of losing loved ones reinforces the power of the Atonement
I had had the opportunity of seeing my paternal grandparents before they died. But I had not had the privilege of spending my teenage years with them. That’s why their sudden hospitalizations and deaths came as a shock to me. I felt so guilty for not having made the effort to make more consistent phone calls. I felt guilty for not having made more trips to my home country to visit them and other family members. And I felt even worse that I couldn’t drop my college studies to go be with them during their final days on this earth. I felt awful that I couldn’t attend their funerals. I was heartbroken. I kept replaying the last hugs and conversations I had had with them. I missed them so much. I turned to my Savior for help. During this time, I learned that the Atonement was also for emotional healing. The hope of the Savior’s resurrection gave me hope that I would see my grandparents again, and that I would be able to spend time with them again someday.
21. The importance of making and keeping sacred covenants in the house of the Lord
I was finally worthy and felt spiritually ready to enter the house of the Lord and finally reach the goals from the Young Women’s theme that I had recited Sunday after Sunday as a teenager. I made covenants to live righteously, be obedient to the requirements of His gospel, and was married in the temple.
22. God loves me even when I make mistakes
The consequences of my rebellious season began to manifest themselves during this time. I was angry with myself especially when I saw that the beautiful marriage that I had imagined was not turning out to be the way I thought it would. There was so much pride in my heart. I did not want to show people that they had been right. I endured an unhappy marriage as long as I could hoping and praying that somehow things would turn around, but they never did. I started recognizing that God was stretching out His hand and waiting for me to grab it. He wanted to guide me. He knew I was in pain. A beautiful miracle happened in my heart soon after I realized that God loved me even when I make mistakes.
23. I could do anything, including getting through difficult trials, because I knew that God loved me
I had gotten into the habit of listening to Pandora as I studied. I was listening to some Christian music feeling sorry for myself, when I heard a song (I can’t remember what it is now). Then I felt a voice in my heart tell me, “I love you daughter.” I was enveloped by an indescribable love at a critical point in my life. That moment I will always hold sacred. That moment, the world stopped. I forgot all my cares. I knew that God loved me. I wasn’t alone. He knew everything I was going through—every feeling, thought, and situation in my life. And He knew I was heartbroken. He was holding me and letting me know that He loved me. At that moment, nothing mattered anymore. I was going to focus on God’s love for me. As long as He loved me, nothing else mattered. I could pull through anything as long as God loved me. I focused on that every day after that experience. That experience changed me.
24. Forgiveness is powerful
I had wronged many people during my season of rebellion. I started reaching out to them and asking them to forgive me for shutting them out of my life. Their responses of love as they forgave me were humbling. I can’t explain the gratitude I felt. I learned to forgive my ex-husband. The hardest part was learning to forgive myself. Forgiveness can change your heart as you let go of the burdens that plague you.
25. Seeking personal revelation allows you to see that God has all the details worked out
I was very surprised that love came back into my life sooner than I was expecting. Love was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to get through college and focus on continuing to heal. Love could come later. But that was not the plan that God had for me. As I approached Heavenly Father with my concerns about falling in love again so soon, I was shocked at the answer I received. He let me know that I had moved to a particular state for the specific purpose of meeting a certain individual. At that time, I had only been a teenager and had not thought about this person in any other way other than a friend. I had not kept in touch with him. Our paths crossed again, and there was no mistaking that he had fallen for me. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt someone that I respected. Heavenly Father wanted me to pursue this relationship. As I sought personal revelation concerning this matter, I could see once again His hand in all things. But personal revelation cannot change us or the course of our lives unless we move forward with faith when we receive answers to our prayers. So I did.
26. True unselfish love does exist. Building a happy marriage is possible
I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am of the beautiful blessings that came as a result of my decision to move forward with faith and pursue the relationship I had not been sure I was ready to pursue. I had never felt such happiness and such love as I did when I was dating the individual who became my second husband. This happiness and love has continued daily for the past four years. Two individuals grounded in Christ, working for the welfare of the other, always putting the other first, honoring the covenants made in the house of the Lord, and being each other’s support through everything that comes our way—that is what builds a happy marriage.
27. Plans are meant to be changed.
Sometimes it is hard to let go of OUR plans, but we have to have faith to trust that God’s plan for us is the right plan—whatever that plan may be. I wrote a bit about this experience in ‘Moving with a Promise: Abraham’s Obedience.’ I will expand on that a little. If God commands you to change your plan right away, even if you were asked to do something different initially, don’t postpone his invitation! There are individuals that require urgent attention to help them in THEIR plans—the plans that God is mindful of, the hearts that God knows more than you or I know. Plans are meant to be changed any minute. When the promptings come, will we listen and change course?
28. “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most” – Elder Robert D. Hales
The last four years have been years of trials for my body. I discussed part of the trials in ‘What We Learn as We Develop Patience.’ Two years ago, I felt like I was hitting rock bottom with that particular issue. When I started humbling myself and reaching out to the Savior, He taught me that it was good to want to run and do all these physical activities, but it was better to use my now extra time to be of service to Him. So I jumped in and gave it my all to my church calling and started volunteering every other Saturday morning in the temple. Service buoyed my spirits and gave new meaning to what I could do with my body despite my physical limitations. When I first heard the above quote, it resonated with me so deeply. Elder Hales learned that piece of wisdom as he endured his physical trials. His words helped me put my life into perspective and focus on what truly matters most.
29. The Savior is the great physician
The last six months have helped me grow tremendously. As I received answers to the underlying cause of my physical limitations, I turned to the Lord for help. I needed healing. Spiritual healing came as I relied on the Savior and His Atonement more. The great physician knows how to heal us spiritually and physically. One morning in January of this year, I woke up in pain. I thought about not going to my temple shift that morning and staying home to try to get better, but I had the strong impression that I was very much needed that morning. I had to go. How in the world was I going to be able to walk and do all that was required of me with all this pain? I prayed so hard. I poured out my heart. I was led to John 6:22-69. My perspective and the focus of my prayers that morning changed. Through His help, the pain went away. I was able to do my service that morning with no pain. It was a true miracle.
30. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass
The last three lessons have all been thanks to my physical limitations! It’s amazing how much a weakness can strengthen you in different ways. Another day in April of this year, I was struggling with the same physical pain. I was feeling down because I felt that I had been making so many health changes to help with the healing that I needed, but I was not seeing results. I was praying for help on my way to work that morning. The words of President Dallin H. Oaks came to mind as soon as I got to work. He had just talked about this subject on April 1st. I love this quote from his address that day, “We need to be reminded that in total and over a significant period of time, seemingly small things bring to pass great things.” The answer to my pleading prayers came: what I was doing was not in vain. I needed to continue my health changes and have faith that little by little they will help me heal. Read the rest of President Oaks' address here.
Thank you for reading this post! It means a lot to me!