30 Reasons to be Proud of My 20s

30 Reasons to be Proud of My 20s.

I write this in the last month of my 20s, fully aware that a big milestone is looming. On the one hand turning 30 doesn’t faze me (maybe I’ll feel differently at 39?), but on the other hand the sentimentalist in me refuses to let a milestone go by without some celebration and reflection.

 

Some might disapprove of the use of the word ‘proud’ in the title of this blog-post, but I use it unashamedly in the spirit of Jeremiah 9:24 & 1 Cor 1:31: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Yes I’m very proud of the things I’ve accomplished in the third decade of my life, but I give God all the credit. I know that they were all due to His provision and blessing. What I have done, I have done with His guidance, giftings and grace.

 

So this blog-post is really an expression of gratitude and thankfulness. As Matt Redman so superbly put it in Blessed Be Your Name: “Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise.”

Where the decade began: 20-year-old-me sailing the Aegean
Where the decade began: 20-year-old-me sailing the Aegean

To celebrate turning 30, I’ve come up with a list of 30 things I’m proud of and thankful for in my 20s. Starting with the most important first and then continuing chronologically, here they are:

One. I have known God for the whole decade of my 20s – reconciled to the Father who created me by the Son who died for me and guided by His Spirit who lives within me. I lived this decade for Him as best I could, and therefore it was better spent than any thousand years of chasing fame or riches;

2. Getting a glimpse of the beautiful country of South Africa when I was 20 by going on a short-term mission trip with Soul Survivor to bring the Gospel and practical help to a poor township outside Durban;

3. Some memorable family holidays, starting with history-steeped Bodrum in 2006 but also including the Provence, Les Hirondelles and Tenerife;

4. Meeting an incredibly beautiful and vivacious woman called Lucy at university when I was 21. Her enchantment completely transformed my life;

Thus the enchantment began
Thus the enchantment began

5. The opportunity I had at 22 to propose marriage to Lucy in the most wonderful setting imaginable: beside a crystal-clear river in a historic limestone gorge at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (with the help of my Dad as an all-too-willing conspirator and supplier of champagne);

The perfect setting for the perfect answer
The perfect setting for the perfect answer

6. Attaining a first-class honours BA in Ancient and Modern History from the University of Leicester, along with the prizes I won for my dissertation;

Celebrating a first-class degree
Celebrating a first-class degree

7. The wonderful day when 23-year-old-me married the woman I love;

Our wedding day
Our wedding day

8. An amazing honeymoon amid the spice-farms, historic buildings and palm-fringed white-powder beaches of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean;

9. Having the opportunity to round-off a fantastic education with studies in Medieval History at Cambridge University and being able to emerge with a MPhil master’s degree at 24;

A soggy but memorable graduation day
A soggy but memorable graduation day

10. Re-discovering the joys of hiking and fell-walking aged 25 and being able to spend so much time that year with my brother – we’ve since explored some of the finest parts of the British Isles together;

11. Reaching Everest Base-camp (5,364m) after an epic two-week trek through the jaw-dropping scenery of the Himalaya;

Reaching the roof of the world

12. Raising £7,000 on our Everest trek for two eye hospitals in Nepal – that money gave sight to 300 people who had been blinded by cataracts;

13. Making a difference in the lives of some of the poorest people on the planet by fundraising for CBM UK between 2010-2014;

14. Travelling the world with my soul-mate in the winter of 2012, visiting Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and California. We saw the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, the Southern Alps, scenery from the Lord of the Rings films, the beaches of Maui, the Golden Gate Bridge and the redwoods and soaring granite towers of Yosemite National Park. But the highlight was celebrating my 26th birthday by watching the sun rise from the summit of 10,ooo-foot volcano Haleakala;

Round the World: Queenstown, Sydney, Yosemite & Hawaii
Round the World: Queenstown, Sydney, Yosemite & Hawaii

15. Joining the wonderful community of Cambridge Community Church (C3) when I was 26, our spiritual home ever since;

16. The ability in 2013 to celebrate 20 years as a born-again Christian. In spiritual terms I’m actually only 23;

17. Starting this blog at 28 – now running for nearly two years and my on-going opportunity to share with others the things God puts on my heart;

18. The opportunity to explore the stunning scenery of Arizona and Utah in 2014 – nowhere on Earth are there places as sublime as Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon;

Mike's Grand Adventure
Mike’s Grand Adventure

19. Managing to raise £3,000 towards C3’s Vision Fund by completing an epic trek across the Grand Canyon from North Rim to South Rim;

20. The opportunity to help C3 build their new home in 2014-15 and community centre, along with hundreds of other people. That vision is now alive and already having a wonderful impact on the people and communities around it;

The C3 Centre
The C3 Centre (photo: Phil Hearing)

21. Involvement in the life-changing Alpha and Stewardship ministries at C3;

22. Being able to make a difference to the UK’s precious wildlife and natural environment through fundraising for the RSPB since the summer of 2014;

23. Buying our first house just before I turned 29 – a massive testament to God’s provision;

24. The birth of my firstborn son, Ethan Joseph, in the spring of 2015 – a season of new life and tremendous joy;

This is my son, whom I love
This is my son, whom I love

25. Some wonderful friendships – I won’t name them all – but you know who you are. Thank you for the input you all have into my life;

26. Quality time with my amazing family – never enough, but I cherish every minute;

27. Finishing the re-write of my first novel, Oron Amular, which has been many years in the crafting and which will soon be ready to unveil;

28. The development of my imaginary world of Astrom, as expressed through poems, short stories, maps, histories and languages – here is the gateway;

29. Being able to improve my photography skills (with the help of the very talented Phil Hearing) and bless others with my images;

The photographer at work
The photographer at work (photo: Phil Hearing)

30. And last, but by no means least, seven years (and counting) of happy marriage to Lucy. A pre-emptive word to the nay-sayers out there: life is not perfect, marriage is not easy, but it is so worthwhile, and the bedrock of such joy.

Till death us do part
Till death us do part (photo: Phil Hearing)

I give thanks to God for so many achievements and so many memorable experiences, for so much beauty and adventure and edification. It’s been a fantastic decade, and because I’ve spent my 20s well I have no fear of my 30s. Besides, I’ve been middle-aged since the age of 18 anyway.

Where the decade finishes: 29-year-old me in Pembroke College, Cambridge
Where the decade finishes: 29-year-old me in Pembroke College, Cambridge (photo: Phil Hearing)

Here’s to the next ten years, and to growing old disgracefully. May they be full of inspiration and excitement. May they offer many more opportunities to better myself, to bless others and to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24)
Lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24)
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