Today I am forty.
I don't know.
Only God knows the number of my days.
I feel like I've been forty for a while, so I'm not mourning it or wearing a black "Over the Hill" hat or anything. When I was 20 I thought I knew a whole lot. The last 20 years, I realized I didn't know much of anything. I decided to write down a few things I think I have learned. In 20 more years, I may look back and laugh at this list. But for now... these are some things I know.
1. Life comes at us in seasons. There is beauty in each one. The secret is to find that beauty and to find contentment no matter which season you are in. God has a purpose and a plan in each of them. And if you don't like the season you are currently in, the leaves will change color soon enough.
2. It's important to figure out who God made you to be, and then be that person. Reflect His glory in the gifts He has given you. To hide His light or try and be what someone else wants you to be is such a frustration and waste.
3. A gift that shows you really know or are known by another is the very best kind of gift. It's good to be known. God gives the very best gifts, because He knows us best.
4. Any money that you spend is an investment in something. It's good to really think about the somethings that you are investing in and why. Then you find out where your heart lies.
5. It's never too late to learn something new. Learning is an important part of being alive. To approach learning with the wonder of a child is even more special. Don't be afraid to say, "I did it!"
6. When you admire someone, you should tell them. Build them up, and they will feel encouraged. Otherwise, you may end up playing the comparison game in your head, and you'll end up tearing yourself down. That's just lame.
7. Smiling and making eye contact are good things. Even when the other person doesn't smile back. Maybe their smile is broken, and they just need help fixing it. Be a smiler.
8. Jesus didn't live out just grace or just truth. He lived out both in equal measure. So should we... oh, so should we. Grace without truth is tolerance and truth without grace is legalism. Tolerance and legalism both make me gag. Jesus doesn't.
9. Everyone is going through something difficult. We all need kindness and grace and mercy and patience. Lots of it. Every day. Every single day.
10. Everyone has a story. It's good to ask about people's stories, and then actively listen to what they have to say. You might be surprised about what you learn and how it might change your opinion of that person.
11. Our stories are all a part of His (God's) bigger story. It's not all about us. It's not all about me. It just isn't.
12. Some of the worst words I can think of start with "P." Procrastination, perfectionism, pride, porn, and people-pleasing. They all rob us of joy and steal true intimacy with God and with others. Jesus wants to set us free from these things. He can. He does.
13. Getting started is usually the hardest part. No matter what it is, just start. Take the leap. It's much easier after that.
14. God is a good matchmaker. Waiting on His timing is the hard part... but it's worth the wait.
15. When you find the love of your life, you want to tell everyone you know how awesome that person is. You throw away your "list." You want to spend every moment you can getting closer and learning to love each other better. If you keep doing this every year after you get married, you are in good shape.
16. Marriage is good and marriage takes work. If someone tells you they never have conflict in their marriage, stand back, because there is a passive aggressive pressure cooker just waiting to explode. When two people become one, there's going to be conflict... you just have to keep working it out in love.
17. Before you get married, Satan will try and tempt you to have sex. After you get married, he will try and tempt you not to have sex. Fight Satan... he is bad.
18. Guys, especially husbands, need respect and support from women. They are much more in need of encouraging words than we assume. They need to be reminded that they "have what it takes" in Christ. If you act like a woman on a sitcom or take the lead from the women of Wisteria Lane, you are going to get a baffoon for a man.
19. There are only a few kindred spirits that will truly rejoice with you over your highs and stick by your side through your lows. No matter what. Treasure those people always... they are gifts.
20. If you want to receive friendship, you have to give friendship. For a friendship to bloom, you have to be vulnerable and let it open up. Buds are pretty, but to see them open up and display their true beauty is a marvelous thing to behold.
21. No friendship or husband is going to ever meet all your emotional and spiritual needs. Sometimes friendships endure for a lifetime. Sometimes God brings specific friends into our lives during specific seasons. Friendships change and grow, and some even run their course, so to speak. None of them are everything we need... because Jesus is that complete friend. He's the BFF.
22. Christianity is about Christ. It is about being redeemed by Him, receiving His love, grace and forgiveness, and loving others as He loves us. It's about shining His truth and glory. This can be done with or without organized programs... it's all about the focus. Jesus.
23. Satan will try to convince you that Christianity is about judging others, shame, works, and religiosity. He is dead wrong. Why would Jesus sacrifice His life and be willing to die for stupid stuff like that?
24. Even if it seems like God has abandoned you, He is still there, walking you through the valleys. That is where true faith, beyond sight comes into play. That's where the 23rd Psalm becomes more than a Hallmark card.
25. If you want to find out how selfish and impatient you really are, get married and have children. Your husband and your children will teach you more than you ever thought possible about yourself and how much you need to grow.
26. When your kids (or any kids for that matter) want to talk, sit down and really listen to them. They have a lot to say. They are special people. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Their eyes twinkle when they talk to you.
27. Having perfectly well-behaved children who are always model students is overrated. Children need a safe place to learn from their mistakes. And relationships with God and others is far more important than anything they might portray on the outside with their temporal actions. It's also kind of funny when they throw strained peas at you. Don't lose your humor over the terrible two's.
28. It's good to act like a child on a regular basis. Star gaze, play games, build forts, fly paper airplanes, go on a rooster hunt, have a squirt gun war, and do spit takes at the park. Smile and laugh and be silly. You are never too old for that.
29. When a day arrives when you think you've got things pretty together, fasten your seat belt and get ready for a crazy ride. God has a lot more he wants you to learn. Get ready to eat a good helping of humble pie.
30. People who like to argue all the time and control things are usually the most insecure people. They are hurting inside, and they are trying desperately to make sense of their world. If you can see through what's happening on the outside, you may catch a glimpse of what's going on on the inside.
31. Gifted writers and musicians have written amazing prose and lyrics to go with just about anything one could experience in life. It helps to read them and listen to them to know you are not alone. Sometimes they make you cry... it's good to let it out.
32. The only book I've read that always seems to apply to where I am in life is the Bible. The same passage can seem brand new and take on a totally different meaning ten years down the road. It's living and active... it's The Word. And it's good to never stop reading it.
33. Success comes in many forms. Don't measure your successes with someone else's yardstick. Rejoice in what God has done in your life, and be equally as willing to rejoice in what He has done in the lives of others, too. Realize He has different purposes in each of our lives.
34. Holding tightly to money just makes you a hoarder. Give freely and spend wisely. Money can bring temporary happiness when you go out for some retail therapy, but learning to be a good steward of what is God's in the first place can bring true joy.
35. Doctors know a lot, but they don't know everything. Only you know what your body is experiencing. Doing research and being an advocate for your own health and well being is important. God is the ultimate healer.
36. Try to be at peace with people as much as it depends on you. When you have done all that you can, let it go. The other person may not want to be at peace, and you just can't control that. Don't stress over it. It will eventually work out.
37. It's good to hug people and cuddle often with your spouse and your children. Appropriate physical touch is healing and comforting. Tickling is good, too. My youngest always reminds me it's good for me as he sticks his little hand in my armpit!
38. Sing and dance. Don't give a hoot who's listening or watching. Just sing and dance with all your might. It makes you feel good. Endorphins or something.
39. Little family traditions and inside jokes are good. They make you unique and connected. They can be the simplest things. They don't have to cost a thing. Making memories is priceless. Make memories.
40. Don't stop living. Fight against bitterness and disappointment. Keep believing in God and His plan for your life. Be the life giver that God created you to be.