Birthdays are a great time for reflection. They remind us how fast time is moving and give us a chance to celebrate life. I turned 31 a few weeks ago and spent time celebrating and reflecting on these first 3 decades of life. I have so much to be thankful for. I often laugh at how different my life would be if the Lord gave me everything I thought I wanted when I was 18 (I know I’m not the only one!). My life would look so different and some of the people I love the most wouldn’t be in it. I’m really grateful the Lord does what is best in His all-knowing eyes and not in my shallow, short-sighted ones.
I know this is a bit of a deviation from my normal kind of post. My hope is that these reflections will be an encouragement to someone who is learning these same lessons or experiencing some other kind of growing pains. We can’t control a lot of what we experience in this life but we can control how we respond to those experiences. Do we learn from them or keep making the same mistakes over and over again? For me, the answer is both. Even when I learn from a mistake, often I still don’t choose well the second, third or fourth time around. So what has three decades of life taught me? I’m glad you asked, here are some highlights…
- Never say never- I think the first time I learned this lesson was when we moved from Philadelphia. Philly was supposed to be our forever city. Even though I felt confident in the reasons we had for leaving, it was still a big blow to the idea that I could neatly plan out my life. The church that we met and got married in would not be the church we grew old in, as we thought. Some of my best friends still live in Philly and I was certain that our families would grow up together. That they would be there when I had my children and we would do joint birthdays and family vacations. Fast forward nearly eight years later and so much has happened that I never thought would. From the small things like how much TV I thought I would let my children watch, to the big things like moving again and again and again. Only the Lord knows what things in my life will be permanent and what will be here for only a season. I’m learning to open my hands and say “Lord willing”.
- It’s gonna be alright- I would say I’m naturally more a “glass half empty” kind of person–guick to assume tragedy is around the corner. So saying “It’s gonna be alright” and actually believing it is a tough bridge to cross for me. This lesson might be number one on the “I will always be learning this” list. Proven by the fact that just the other day I had a legit break down involving a pizza delivery debacle with Papa Johns. Thankfully I married a very optimistic and stable person who is quick to remind me that although I am not in control, God is, and whatever comes from His hand will always be for my good. My goal is to do this a little better each year.
- Pray-I started off last year by reading “Prayer” by Timothy Keller. I was on a mission to improve my prayer life. My desire was to pray more and about more things. Sounds easy enough right? Well I know I’m not the only one who has set off on this exact journey and failed miserably. I wouldn’t say I failed miserably but when it comes to prayer, I’m not sure we are ever going to hit the mark in this life. What was pressed upon me the most though is the vitality of prayer. It’s the first thing I should do and that it’s the most important thing I can do in every situation. It’s hard to know how true that statement is until you pray with some consistency and depth. Of course, this one stays on the “I will always be learning this” list.
- Know myself better: I don’t ever want to stop revaluating myself. Not because I’m trying to reinvent myself but because contrary to what I thought as a child you don’t ever really hit a plateau in adulthood where you stop growing and changing. As a kid, my parents seemed so consistent. I was growing and changing like a weed but from my childish perspective it felt like the same person who taught me how to ride a bike when I was 5, was the same person who helped me move into my dorm room at 18. Now that I’m a parent, I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only am I always changing but often fine I don’t really even know myself that well to begin with. I’ll never forget the time I told Trip that I thought I was an easy going person and he laughed at me…in my face. I was appalled at first, but the more I thought about it, I realized he was right. I try to be easy going and flexible but it’s not my natural tendency. I think we often see ourselves as what we want to be and not as what we are. The problem is, if I don’t have an accurate understanding of myself then I might never change the bad and or see the good. The better I know myself, by God’s help, the better decisions I can make for me and my family.
So here’s to learning these lessons over and over again for the next 50 years (well, Lord willing). Although 31 is starting off a little rocky and stressful, I’m praying these lessons will help me find joy and trust the Lord with whatever comes.