Happy 25th birthday to me! How crazy is that? Sometimes when I get asked how old I am, I have to stop and think because in my head apparently I’m still 22 or thereabouts.
When my husband turned 25 back in October, he wrote 25 things he had learned in his 25 years of life. I thought that was brilliant. So I’m going to steal his idea! (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right?) These are in no particular order. Some of these I may have blogged about already, and maybe many of them YOU have already learned. But maybe some of these will be a reminder to you.
- Don’t live off of what other people think of you. Wow, I could write about a book about this. Maybe I will someday. But for now, suffice it to say that I need to be FAR less concerned about what people think of me. I will never please everyone, and I should not be looking to the people around me to affirm who I am as a person and what decisions I make — including what I wear, how I style my hair, how I decorate my house, what books I enjoy, and so on.
- Success is not measured by THINGS or BUSYNESS. If I have a huge house and three brand new cars, that does not necessarily mean I’m successful. (Praise the Lord because that’s probably never happening, hon.) If my schedule is packed and all I can say in response to “How are you?” is “Just so busy,” that does not necessarily mean I’m successful. My success is measured by how much I love and know God, and love and serve others. There is nothing wrong with working hard, but my primary goal must be Christlikeness.
- Boys are not worth crying over. I spent too much time during my teenage years chasing boys–the thing I thought would finally make me feel happy, beautiful, and fulfilled. You know what? Even after I finally “got” a boy, he made me feel those things sometimes. But my goals were all wrong. I desperately wish I had taken all the time, energy, and emotions I wasted between the ages of 13 and 20 on boys and redirected it to investing in people, pursuing education or experiences, and serving the Lord. Being married is amazing and I love every minute, but Joshua is not my sole source of happiness and fulfillment. I wish I had learned all of this much earlier than I did.
- Retail therapy is not therapy at all. Real therapy is beneficial. It means you work through your issues and struggles. Retail therapy creates more issues and more struggles. And you take those issues with you: less money, more stuff, more clutter, and, worst case scenario, more debt. How much money could I have saved as a single individual with no bills to pay, if I hadn’t drowned my boredom or free time in shopping?
- Give yourself grace and room to grow. I am so hard on myself. If I mess up, or just think I messed up, I feel guilty for days. When I leave social situations, I overthink about everything I said or did. It’s how I am, but I have to fight it. When I remember something I did as a young person that was really stupid or rebellious, I have to remember that I already confessed that and it’s under the blood. When I blow it and sin again, I have to confess and move on. God is ready to forgive, and has abundant mercy He wants to give us (Psalm 86:5)! I am continually learning to forgive myself.
- Give others grace and room to grow. We are all growing at different paces. No two Christians are going to be at the exact same level of spiritual maturity. When I see a sister in Christ stumble back into the same sin she’s been fighting, I cannot kick her when she’s down and remind her how much further she has to go. I must come alongside her, pray with her and for her, and remind her of the grace of God that leads [wo]men to repentance (Romans 2:4).
- Everyone knows something that I don’t. I heard this first at camp during staff training. It was, as far as I can recall, in context of meeting campers. Kids younger than me. I remember just sitting there when they said that thinking what an interesting concept. Every person I meet knows something I don’t. Every person I meet has been through something I haven’t. Every person I meet probably knows how to do something I don’t. It’s a great perspective to keep as you meet new people. You can probably learn something from everyone you meet, even people much younger than you.
- Spend real time in God’s Word. Again, this is something I wish I had started as a young person. Reading one verse and jotting down an answer to the question in your pink teen devotional book is not real time with God. For years, I treated it like it was just an item on a checklist. I was a Christian so I had to have devotions. But I didn’t realize back then that God’s Word has everything I need to live successfully and, more importantly, to live like Jesus. Over the years, I’ve come to love the Word of God more and more.
- Church is not just church. This is really best suited for its own blog post, but I did want to mention it here. Leaving the church where I grew up when I was 23 about to get married was like yanking a rug out from under my Christianity. But I’m so thankful for that time, because I realized that my Christianity shouldn’t have been standing on the church at all. Church had become so comfortable, so second-nature. But church isn’t about mindlessly showing up, looking pretty, doing your ministerial duty, and then going home. It’s about real connections, it’s about true worship and serving with a heart of gratitude for what God has done for us. It’s about learning more of Who He is.
- God remains faithful even when I am faithless. Among others I’ve mentioned, I feel like this lesson should come with a “duh” afterward. But I never want to forget this because sometimes I feel really discouraged with my Christian walk. I get disappointed in how things are going or how I responded to them. I go weeks or months wondering why my devotions/Bible reading has felt stagnant. But even when I struggle to trust, the way is unknown, or I do my own thing, God does not leave. He does not stop working in my life, and He does not stop loving me. He continually gives me good gifts even when I am so undeserving (which is all the time). I am amazed at His faithfulness and goodness to me.
- Planners can save your life. I don’t know why I didn’t figure this out sooner. I’m pretty sure I bought a few – and threw them away – before I actually started using one in 2014. I’m also fairly certain that I could not function without one right now. For some people, Google calendar or whatever app is built into their phone works; but I have to have a physical planner I can write and scribble and make notes in.
- People change, and so do I. Sometimes I get sad about the people I used to consider my “best friends” who are no longer in my life, or in a drastically different role than before. But the fact of the matter is that life goes on. My “friends” changed, I changed, we all grew up and moved on. Some of them I wish I was still close with or could have impacted more, but it is what it is. God let them slip out of my life for a reason, and in many ways I’m better because of it. (They might be too!)
- It’s OK to have your beliefs challenged. When I was 17, I got my first job. It was at a “Christian” place, so I was not prepared for people to constantly judge me and question decisions I had made or things I believed. But I’m thankful for those times. It was uncomfortable, I got embarrassed, and I even got a little scared that they would hate me or, worse, try to change some of those things (i.e. I had never been kissed/was still a virgin, never tried any drugs or alcohol). But those conversations and awkward silences after I answered their questions grew me so much. I had to learn how to stand up for myself because my Pastor-Daddy couldn’t always be there to answer. It was time to grow up and be firm in what I believed.
- The person who seems perfect, isn’t. I remember one specific conversation with my mom (though there were several about this) complaining about a girl I knew. Her life had always seemed so put-together. She was dating a great guy and had been for years. Her skin and hair were flawless. She was driven and successful and everyone loved her. Why couldn’t my life be like that? But my mom looked me in the eye and said, “Just because she seems perfect doesn’t mean she is. It’s easy to make everything seem fine when it’s not. Don’t let someone else’s seemingly perfect life make you bitter or ungrateful with the life you have.” I don’t even know if she knew deep dark secrets about this person, but her reminder that not everyone’s life is as perfect as it seems was much needed, and I think of it often even though that was close to eight years ago.
- I don’t have to have a “thing.” I wish I could shout this to every teenage girl out there struggling with her identity. It’s alright if you don’t have a “thing!” When I was a preteen and teenager, I wanted to have MY THING. For a while, I tried to make it softball. Maybe I could be the super athletic, cute, and sporty girl. Well, my sister was a dancer and I got tired of people seeing her as the feminine one and stopped the athletic thing. (That was not the only reason I quit.) Then I wanted to be the theater girl. Then I wanted to be a photographer. If any of your “things” work out, that’s great. But if you don’t have something that necessarily identifies you as athletic, artistic, girly, or whatever, it’s OK. God is growing you into the person He wants you to be. Let Him. If you really need a “thing,” make Jesus your thing. Be crazy about knowing Him, telling people about Him, and living like Him.
- There will always be a better phone. When I was about 14, I remember being in a tai-kwon-do class, and all we talked about (besides self-defense) was the Razer mobile phone. Man, that was the thing to have! I never got it, but I did eventually get a step up from the Motorola flip-phone. To me, it was the greatest: a little blue phone that slid up to reveal the keyboard. But another phone came out. And another. And another. And I couldn’t keep up, as badly as I wanted to. A year and a half ago, I broke the cycle. My husband and I both did. We couldn’t keep up with the latest Apple products. They were too expensive (for us) and it wasn’t worth it (to us). There will always be a better phone out there, but I have learned that I don’t need to have it. There will always be a better laptop, a better watch, a better car, a better house, a better pair of jeans. But I don’t need to keep up.
- Do more of what makes you uncomfortable. This is kind of culturally opposing right now, isn’t it? “Do more of what makes you happy” I see on social media at least once a week. But I kindly disagree. We don’t need to be told to do things that make us happy. That is built into our human psyche. We need to be reminded to do uncomfortable things. I learned this primarily while in Grenada. When I talk about living there, I usually mention the good things. And it was good, so good. But it was not comfortable 98% of the time. It was uncomfortable flying by myself to a foreign country. It was uncomfortable not knowing anyone. It was uncomfortable being stared and pointed at. It was uncomfortable living with no air-conditioning. It was uncomfortable having to figure out the exchange rate and which buses I was supposed to get on and where I was supposed to get off. But it CHANGED ME. Everything did. I’m thankful for those moments when I thought, “This could not get any worse unless this bus drove off a cliff,” because I was LEARNING. The person I was before Grenada was nearly opposite who I was after Grenada. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.
- Be aware of the impact you have. I thought long and hard about how to put this into words, because your impact is more than how you are perceived by the people around you. I’m not going to go all hippy, tree-hugger on you, but I am trying to be more aware of how my purchases impact a variety of things, including the environment (although this is probably the least of the concerns), the people who make my clothes, and how the chemicals and substances in my things affect me. I know the first statement is very broad, but it encompasses a lot of things I’ve been learning especially over the past several months. Words like “toxic,” “ethical,” “slow fashion,” and “all-natural” have been the subject of many Google and Pinterest searches as I figure out how to affordably leave a smaller imprint on the environment, make a bigger impact in the lives of women in third-world countries or fair-trade organizations, and take care of my own health and wellness. Aside from all of this type of impact, I want to always be conscious of how I impact those around me with my actions, words, and attitude. How are these things about me pointing people to Christ?
- I cannot fix people. This is one I am continually learning. I need to print this on giant posters and plaster it all over everywhere in my life so I don’t forget. I’d like to say I learned it at camp as God brought young women into my cabin and I got to COUNSEL them not FIX them . . . but I haven’t learned it completely yet. I was reminded again just yesterday. I am nothing more than a vessel to deliver the truth of God with the love of God.
- It’s OK to feel the feelings, but don’t stay in the feelings. I blogged about this a few weeks ago so I don’t need to reiterate everything. But just know that feelings are not bad in and of themselves. We just cannot let them control our actions and decisions.
- Everyone is wearing an invisible sign around their neck that says, “Make me feel special.” If that’s sounds a little cliche . . . well, it sort of is. My mom used to say this all the time. When I was young, I would giggle and say, “No they don’t!” When I was a teenager, I would roll my eyes because I had heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true. Everyone wants to be appreciated. Everyone wants to be noticed. (I’m talking about within reason.) How much better of a world would it be if we simply took the time to say “thank you,” to look people in the eye when they spoke to us or served us, to smile and ask how their day is going? You would not believe the conversations that happened inside a Royal Farms because I stopped and asked a girl, “How is your day going, *her name*?” People want to know someone cares about them. I’ve been on both sides: I was in customer service for years, and I always do my best to acknowledge that the cashier, waitress, librarian, front desk attendant is a person. If all you do is address that person by the name on their name-tag, it would make their day. I promise!
- My spouse needs to be priority. Girl time can wait. Dishes can wait. Netflix can wait. Complaining about my day can wait. Checking my notifications can wait. How can I serve my spouse right now? My husband is my best friend and a gift from God. But I live with him every day. It’s easy to take him for granted. I have to be intentional about making him priority in my decisions, in how I spend my time, even in what I talk about when I’m with him. I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to show him how much I honor, respect, and love him.
- Cooking and baking is therapeutic. Actually, taking care of things around my house in general can be therapeutic. I wish I had taken more time to learn tips for baking and cooking when I was young and my mom always said, “Come in the kitchen with me!” I always shrugged it off. But it is now one of my favorite things.
- Be wise with your time. I know this is a broad statement, but let me break it down a bit. Put the phone away. Seriously, turn it on silent or completely off, leave it in a different room, forget about it. Spend time with your family or friends, real time. Laugh over funny home videos, sing together, talk about how God is working in your life or the books you’ve been reading. Read the Bible in the morning and pick a verse or two to meditate on that day. Journal about something funny, interesting, or difficult that happened. Drink tea on your porch during cold mornings. Recognize the blessings around you right now. They might not always be there. Even if they are, always be grateful.
- Chacos are worth the investment. I am not endorsed or anything by Chacos for saying this; this is just me stating how much I love these things. I bought mine in early 2016, and they have been the best pair of shoes. There is no pair of shoes I wear, or enjoy wearing, more than my Chaco babies. Just trust me.
Thanks for reading! And thank you for everyone who has wished me a happy birthday! I look forward to what God continues to teach me and do in my life over the next 25 years and beyond!