On my birthday...

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When I was a child my favorite holiday was July 4th because I knew that there were only 25 more days till my birthday.  The anticipation and excitement leading up to that day was everything, and when you are young summer days go by very slowly. I loved my birthday so much because it was the only day outside of Christmas when we got gifts.  We had a very modest upbringing and there were no such things as trips to the mall or presents for no reason. So birthdays were a very big deal.

Now that I am in my "mature years" turning 54, the thought of birthdays is drastically different.  I no longer count down the days leading up to it, but ponder how many more the Lord will give me here on earth.  I look back on the years I spent being married and living in 4 different states in soon to be 11 homes, raising three babies and losing two to miscarriage, having three of our parents die too young and I'm amazed at what I have lived through so far.   I always think of what I have learned with another year in the books; lessons that I should pass on to my adult children and others who are earlier along on their journey of life.

So today, here are 5 of the most important life lessons I have learned.  Some of them come with regret because I cannot change the past, but most give peace that I did ok and I will leave this world better than when I arrived.  

1.  You will meet many people in this life, but only a handful will be your life long friends.  I always assess my friendships with "who would I call in the middle of the night if there were an emergency?"  Truly only a few of those have sustained the test of time, but that is enough.  I'm grateful for their love and prayers along our journey.

2.  Date your spouse for as many years as you have together.  We have been married 30 years in October and we always made it a priority to get away together every 6 months- if even for one night at a local hotel.  The investment you make in your marriage when the children are around will pay off when they leave and you are still best friends with your husband or wife.

3. Let your children do what they love.  Not all children should go to college.  My Dad put so much pressure on me and I never wanted to do that to my kids.  Our culture puts too much emphasis on a college education but maybe it's not for them...and that is ok.  Let them discover their passions and talents and find a way to make a living out of it.  Going into debt for a 4 year degree is not always the answer.

4.  Not everyone is looking at you.  I have always been self-conscious about my body, my wrinkles and my image.  This comes from a deep wound that I have carried from childhood ( thoughts for another day) but it may come as a shock to you that no one is really paying attention to what you are wearing, how your hair looks and how much weight you have gained.  A kind heart, a gentle word and generosity are the most beautiful qualities you can possess.  Nurture them, practice them and others will be attracted to you.  Trust me, I'm still working on this one.

5.  This world is not the end of the road.  The sooner you find the peace and joy that true faith in God brings, the better your life will be.  Having a hope in my eternal home makes the birthdays one step closer to being in Heaven with my Savior, and that changes my perspective on everything.  My spiritual journey started in my 30's and I wish I could have had this for all the years prior, but that was not God's plan.  I am thankful that I know Him now, feel His peace and trust that He is working ALL things for my good.  Yes, even the painful things...but I trust in His sovereign plan and redeeming work.

Take time to reflect each time you are blessed with a birthday and write down your thoughts for others to read.  If nothing else, you can read them each year to see how you have grown, your perspective has changed and what you would like to focus on for the next 365 days.