Today is my birthday.

A lot has seemed to change, and yet not much has. When I try to visualize the version of me that walked through this world 15-20 years ago, today’s version doesn’t look much different.

I’m no longer wearing braces on six front teeth or glasses with two pink bows on the nose but for a solid portion of the time, my head is still stuck in a book and in the clouds, stringing together words to describe all that happens and all there could be to say. My way to say it is still words that still grow from heart to head to keyboard to screen. Only the platform is a little different, and there’s no gel pen meeting the pages and collecting stories in any small, multi-colored, iridescent journal.

The year-to-year progression of aging is a lot like writing. As I navigate what the years tell, teach, and ask, a story is forming. Writing lets our years breathe out into the world, releasing them to land where someone else may have needed our stories more than we could ever know. Writing reminds me and records for me what has changed and what has been constant (or who has changed and who has been constant).

Writing won’t let me forget that what seemed like useless, hopeless nuances of life was all material. Writing helps me see that it wasn’t wasted—I have to believe there’s been no wasted pain, seasons, love, lessons, rejections, or losses. I can look back in awe that the same God who formed me in my mother’s womb would keep me for 27 years.

Not that He always kept me from being hurt, but He kept me in His care. Not kept steady, but kept loved. Not kept in perfect circumstances, but kept in perfect peace.

If you had tried to warn me of the pain that would meet me in my 26th year, I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have been prepared. I still would’ve been left grasping only to God who is taken by surprise at nothing, and who walks mightily through the shrapnel when life explodes in our faces. For 27 years of ups, downs, fun, fear, joy, tears, and everything in between, He stayed and kept forming me.

Through all the years with all they brought and all they took away, He kept me under his sovereign grace—one place where I cannot be removed. For 27 years, there’s been a God who kept me in every circumstance and eventually, there was a will to write my way through to the other side. It’s been 27 years of using what I have, which is only what He gave me. He gave me Himself and a life with not one year wasted because it all belongs to Him.