Today I turn 40 years old. To some, this seems so young. To others it feels like a far away and ancient place they will not see for so long that it’s not even on the horizon. 40 has been a hard pill for me to swallow. Many of my friends are looking forward to the new decade and all that 40 has to offer. For me, life seems to be slipping through my fingers faster than sand. My babies are growing up and growing independent. My oldest is almost in middle school. My baby is going to kindergarten. The season of having little ones at home all day which lasted for over a decade is coming to a close this fall. So I’ve been on the struggle bus with this 40th birthday.
But, I’ve decided many times before in my life that gratitude is a much better approach to life than complaint. So I’ve taken some time for reflection these past few weeks to ponder all that God has taught me over these 40 years. My mother knew when I was a young child that I would someday be a teacher after some fashion, so in true form, here’s 40 lessons that I consider indispensable for life.
1.Don’t underestimate yourself and what you can accomplish with a little hard work.
2.Gratitude is essential for a healthy perspective in life. It is a choice, a practice, not a feeling.
3.Age is just a number! (Thanks, Dad!)
4.Words matter greatly. With them, you hold the power to bring life into someone else’s life. It costs you nothing to be generous with kind words, and you can literally speak life into another person’s heart, mind, and identity.
5.Do your best to believe the best about others – there’s so much we don’t know and understand about what someone else is going through.
6.Approach conflicts with humility. Starting with what I did wrong usually yields a better outcome than bringing an accusation. “Lead with love,” (a quote from Lara Price.)
7.Don’t take yourself, or your life, too seriously – laugh and play often. (Another good one from Dad.)
8.Life was meant to be lived in community. Isolation is the devil’s playground. Find good people and do life together.
9.Eliminate the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary, unless you are using them to set needed boundaries in your relationships or your schedule. Eliminate them in a self-limiting way.
10.The easy way out doesn’t usually end up being easy… in fact it usually comes back to bite you! So take the time to do it right the first time.
11.Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. I said it. Without him, life is meaningless.
12.Never leave the mixer running while you are cracking your eggs into the bowl. If a shell falls in, your batter is doomed.
13.Always make sure you have a good grip on the pot lid when you go to drain the noodles.
14.Contentment is better than comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy. Focusing on what we have instead of what we lack yields contentment.
15.Functioning in your gifts and strengths daily is important for success and fulfillment in your career.
16.We have access to the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit every moment of every day. We don’t necessarily need to pray and ask for things like peace or joy. We have access to these through Him at any moment. Though asking is often for our benefit, because it re-aligns our will with his.
17.Confession prayer is more for me than for God. He already knows my sin. But I need to acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness (which he has already given.)
18.Obedience is essential. “Blessing follows obedience.” (Quote from Ron Grubb)
19.Our understanding of what is really going on in the big picture of life is incredibly limited. It’s best to trust that God knows what He is doing.
20.Don’t hurry through life. A jam-packed schedule isn’t life-giving. It may give the allusion of giving life, but what we really need is authentic connection with others – not a million events surrounded by people we barely relate to on a surface level.
21.Simplicity is better than excess. In everything. Too many possessions becomes chaos in your home. Too many appointments creates exhaustion. Too much of even good things is still too much.
22.Serve others regularly. Nothing gets me out of a negative spiral like taking time to serve another human being in some way.
23.Bring the cross into view each and every day. Acknowledge what Jesus did, for me, because of his love. (Thanks Mom.)
24.God loves me as much on my worst day as he does on my best. His love is totally unconditional. And this is my example for how to love others.
25.There is protection for me in honoring and obeying my husband. Letting him lead is important. (Another lesson from Mom.)
26.Life really isn’t about me. I’m part of God’s story, and I’m here to share his love with others.
27.Every good thing I have is a gift from God. There is nothing good in me, except what Christ has done in me.
28.Getting an education is a privilege. (I tell my children this at least weekly as they complain about going to school.)
29.Children need parents, not friends. They need older, wiser people to guide them and help them with boundaries.
30.When I speak, I must combine both truth and love for my listener. One without the other is not beneficial. (A lesson from Pastor Mitch.)
31.Never go to the grocery store without a list. And try to go as infrequently as possible, because that’s how too many things fall in the cart.
32.Never underestimate the power of a snack and a nap.
33.You only get one body on this earth, so take good care of it! (Dad, I realize now how true this is!)
34.Sabbath/Rest is essential. You will work better if you take time away from work. Make space for margin in your life!
35.Everyone should own an electric toothbrush. They are so far superior to regular brushes.
36.My God is personal. He meets us in the middle of ordinary circumstances. In our despair, in our joy, at church or in the middle of the kitchen. He’s not a God who is far off. He cares deeply about our every moment.
37.God cares more about our character than our comfort. If we are suffering, we can be assured that he is creating the image of Christ in us through our trials. He loves us too much to let us stay in weaknesses.
38.You are not a prisoner, nor a victim, of your thoughts. While negative thoughts can nag away at us incessantly, we do have the power to change our minds and form positive thought patterns. New thought patterns take time, but repeatedly meditating on a Bible verse or the right thought can destroy a negative thought pattern and create a new healthy one.
39.It’s ok to fall short. No one said you had to be enough. Our mistakes are a way for God to showcase his grace. Our weaknesses are a place for him to show his strength. Others can connect and relate to your failures more than your successes, so don’t hide them. Let God use them to show himself off.
40.I don’t have to earn God’s love. I don’t have to strive through life trying to make myself a better person for him. His goal for me is not behavior modification. It’s relationship. Through relationship with him, the goal is to become more like Jesus Christ, not “the best version of myself.” The goal is to walk closely in relationship with him, not to “live my best life.” My best life is waiting for me on the other side of death, in eternity with Jesus. Nothing here on earth can compare. I know that I am blessed beyond measure in this life, yet that all pales in comparison to what awaits me in heaven.