10 Lessons I Learned About God in my Twenties

Did you know that I wanted to be a nun when I was in high school? True story.

10 Lessons I Learned About God in my Twenties

See, I was raised Catholic and felt so close to God that I thought the only way to have that for the rest of my life was to pursue a life of chastity and prayer as a nun.

It was that chastity part that got to me, though. If I was a nun, I couldn’t get married. I couldn’t have babies. And I really wanted to have two boys and two girls by the time I was 26. (Also a true story. And it really happened.)

So I didn’t become a nun (you’re surprised, aren’t you?). Instead, I graduated high school, engaged to my husband. Yes, I got married at 18, a few short months after graduation.

People told me I was insane, that it would never last, that I was throwing away my life. And it’s been a long, hard, oh-so-fulfilling road and somehow, it’s almost 12 years later.

It’s a good time for reflection, no? Plus, I’m turning 30 next Tuesday.

Ok, this wasn’t all my idea. Last week, my pastor shared an excellent sermon on the 10 things he’s learned about ministry in the last 10 years. You know the term, “preaching to the choir”?

Well lately, our pastor has been doing just that with messages that evoke a hearty amen from my soul. (Which I never say out loud, of course. Mine is a quiet soul).

At the end of this particular sermon, he asked if five people would volunteer to share a few things they’ve learned this Sunday. I felt prompted to volunteer, so I shot up my hand.

And then I had to back out. Because I kind of forgot that we’d be out of town for my sister-in-law’s vow renewal shindig. (Sorry, Bre. I knew it was happening, really, I just didn’t connect the dots when I raised my hand.)

So, I decided that even though I can’t share this at church, I can share it with you here. Because maybe you’ve learned the same things. Or you need to. Or you’ve learned different things (would you please share them in the comments?).

Whatever the case may be, I had to share them, because God has been so great, so loving to me that I can’t not say anything. Here goes.

1. He always provides

I’ve always been really good about stressing out about money. For whatever reason, I was fearful that we wouldn’t have enough. But, time and time and time again, we had enough. Usually more than enough.

And if we didn’t get money, our needs were met in some other way. A random credit applied to our account. A perfectly timed gift from a friend. So much free food.

2. He gives the best gifts

I have a secret … we qualified for and received food stamps for several years. It started out as a temporary thing and we just kept qualifying. Well, when it came time to renew at the beginning of the year, my husband and I felt strongly that we shouldn’t.

We felt like we needed to step out on faith and see what God would do. So I tossed the application.

And the free food started coming from everywhere. Yes, my business was doing well and we could afford to buy it, but that didn’t stop God from showering us with gifts. And it wasn’t just any food – it was local, organic and fresh. We got boxes of veggies, excellent yogurt, handmade jam.

God doesn’t just provide the bare necessities. He goes above and beyond, showering us with gifts because giving is in his nature.

3. My best qualities are his qualities

As I was thinking about how giving God is, I thought about how much I love giving gifts to people I love. It’s kind of my love language.

I watch with delight as they receive their gifts and try hard to suppress the excited giggles until I’m out of earshot (I don’t want anyone thinking I’m crazy or anything).

And I realized that I get that from Him. He delights in giving to us, probably giggling excitedly as he watches us receive his gifts. We are made in the image of a giving God. A loving God. A creative God. And he’s passed those qualities on to us.

4. Our relationship isn’t one-sided

I’ve always loved prayer. In school, I’d sit in class, totally ignoring the boring videos and praying instead (See? Nun material. Sort of …). We had an ongoing conversation that brought me closer to him.

As I got away from that in my early twenties and have come back to it, I realize that much of our relationship depends on me engaging in it. He will always be there for me, but I need to participate for it to grow. I can’t just say, “Yes, I believe in you, God” and be done with it. It’s a relationship.

Just like a marriage only thrives when both parties are actively engaged, committed to growing and doing life together.

5. He is the master repairman

Speaking of marriage … my husband and I have had some seriously rough years. How we stayed together, I don’t know. Ok, I do know. God made each of us so stubborn, we refused to give in.

And because we hung in there and decided to press into God together, he’s redeemed it. Somehow, he took the hopelessly shattered pieces of our marriage and put it back together, making it work even better than before.

6. He makes all things work out for his good

God repaired our marriage and has turned it into something so lovely. Something that has helped other couples as they struggle with love and forgiveness.

It was such a mess, so hopeless, and yet, God is using it to reveal himself to others. How amazing is that? And it’s not the first situation I’ve seen this happen in. In fact, it’s unfolding yet again here.

7. When I ask, he answers

I’m getting better at listening and noticing the answer. Often it’s yes, and even better than what I asked for. And sometimes, it’s no. Just like when my kids are whining and begging for something that’s just not in their best interest and I have to tell them no.

I’m hoping that in my thirties I get better about accepting the no and knowing he probably has something better in mind, instead of whining and begging.

8. The Holy Spirit is a great guide

Pretty much any time my husband and I argue and I apologize first, the Holy Spirit has prompted it. Because I don’t want to, but I know I need to.

And the nudge is both gentle and powerful and definitely not coming from my desires at the moment, but it’s ultimately for my greatest good.

9. He has a great sense of humor

“What do you think, two kids is plenty? Or maybe wait a few years and try again? Yeah, that sounds good.” So went our conversation as we drove the windy road through the redwoods, on our way home from a camping trip with our 2 1/2 year-old son and 2-month-old daughter.

And then, suddenly, I had a very distinct feeling. God was laughing at us.

When I discovered I was pregnant six weeks later, I knew why.

10. God loves simple

I had no intention of living a simple natural life. I liked stuff and thought I needed more stuff, more activities, more everything for a good life. But God had other plans for me and I’m delighted that he loved me enough to steer me onto this path.

Jesus said that the most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and to love others as you love yourself.

Simple. Perfect.

What has God taught you in the last 10 years?


  1. says

    Awesome, Nina! Been in your shoes in many respects but God is indeed faithful and we are approaching our 33rd anniversary! Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. God will use it mightily :)

  2. timzebo says

    Normally, I’d be too shy to share this for fear of hurting your feelings, but since you asked (“Or you’ve learned different things – would you please share them in the comments?”), here are some things I’ve learned in the last 20 years….
    “When I became convinced that the universe is natural–that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world–not even in infinite space. I was free–free to think, to express my thoughts–free to live with my own ideal–free to live for myself and those I loved–free to use all my faculties, all my senses–free to spread imagination’s wings–free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope–free to judge and determine for myself–free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past–free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies–free from the fear of eternal pain–free from the winged monsters of the night–free from devils, ghosts, and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought–no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings–no chains for my limbs–no lashes for my back–no fires for my flesh–no master’s frown or threat–no following another’s steps–no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds.

    “And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain–for the freedom of labor and thought–to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound in chains–to those by fire consumed–to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.”

    –Robert Green Ingersoll

  3. Tori says

    Nina, thank you so much for sharing this. I will be turning 30 next spring, and the end of my twenties definitely has my mind abuzz with where I’m at in life, what I’ve learned, and how to keep moving forward, even when life is really rough. Much of what I’d thought I’d learned growing up in the church was questioned in my heart during some trials of the past few years (or perhaps I’d been questioning all along, and had never paid attention to my heart), and I feel as if God has been breaking me down, and of course remain hopeful that he broke me down so that He can rebuild me into something more reflective of His own beauty.

  4. says

    Love this, Nina. I am Catholic as well… -ish, at least raised Catholic when I was younger. There’s much to say about that and how I still resonate with a great deal of what it means to be Catholic – from the concern for the poor to stewardship of creation etc. Anyhow, this was a lovely article and thank you for sharing!


  5. says

    Happy birthday, Nina! Love this post, especially #3. You truly are such a sweet reflection of Christ! I hope you have a wonderfully blessed birthday! xo

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