I have had a couple of days to come down off my birthday project high. It has given me some time to reflect on two eventful days that nearly collide together each year, my birthday and the new year. It is all a little more monumental this year as I turned 40. Naturally with that comes surveying the landscape of my 30s.
In a nutshell, my thirties were a time of great upheaval, turmoil and yet, growth. The birth of my two youngest children, the building of our house, moving twice, the illness and subsequent death of my sister, the breakdown of several familial relationships, changes in my own friendship circle, examining and discovering what really matters in my life, my own health issues including major back surgery, from weight gain to weight loss, becoming a stay at home mom, to starting a new business, to homeschooling my kids, learning new skills and exploring new hobbies, to the constant challenges, successes and failures of parenting. Actually, that is a lot for 10 years when I write it out. Wonder what I forgot?
In retrospect, here are my top life lessons from my 30s - in absolutely no order and vastly simplified. Can't wait to read these when I turn 50 and laugh.
1. If it doesn't feel right, don't keep trying to make it work. Walk away, change it up...something. Just don't keep trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The only exception to this being marriage. Marriage is not a commitment based on how you "feel."
2. Food. Only necessary to survive, doesn't have to be enjoyed. Although one tiny piece of chocolate a day can stop any binging or over indulgences in a basic healthy eating plan.
3. Keep your mouth shut. Yeah. Still working on that one. With the exception of spreading the gospel, offering a word of emotional encouragement, or asking forgiveness, no word is ever actually necessary.
4. Friends will come and go. It is alright if you don't stay close to everyone you have ever been close to. Life circumstances, daily routines, and your personal growth can lead to your circles changing. It is natural, normal and not a reflection of your self-worth. Ask for forgiveness over any grievances and move on.
5. Avoid political conversations. Just avoid them. Same can go for "religious" conversations. I could really care less about religion these days, but will never refrain from a discussion about Jesus if asked.
6. Trusting God as the sovereign God will get you through anything in this life with joy and peace that surpasses all understanding. We waste so much time on the what-ifs of life. Knowing a God is ahead of me eliminates worry, anxiety and panic. A hard lesson to learn, but wow, life is so much easier.
7. A consistent, team-approach is the key to parenting. Even with the best intentions, you will fail, dislike your kids, and question everything you have ever done.
8. Every once in a while try something you have convinced yourself you really don't have an interest in doing. You might find you like it and are actually good at it!
9. Believing in #6 means that you do not have to worry about giving your kids every possible opportunity to try out every activity, hobby, and academic endeavor in the world in hopes that they find success and happiness in this life. It will not damage them to be at home in the afternoon after school. Still a work in progress on this life lesson.
10. Prayerfully decide on what you commit to do, knowing that saying no is always ok. If you commit to something, you are committed. Give it 100% regardless of whether you are tired, something better comes along, or you just don't feel like it. The phrase "good intentions" is always followed by some comment of unmet expectations.
11. Know when to ask for help before you get to the point where you can't. Be your own advocate in matters of your mental and physical health.
12. From Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Everything is temporary, especially life on this earth. Therefore, ALWAYS be the first to ask for forgiveness and ALWAYS be thankful for your blessings.
I could rally a few more funnier ones like always check the pockets, pocketbooks, hands and mouths of your wildest child before leaving the house and don't assume that a yes or no question gives the full story. Oh, how about there is rarely a completely innocent bystander in a childhood fray. I'll just leave those for the "Things I Never Expected to Learn as a Parent" list.