So I'll be 32 next week. Not a big deal, depending on who you talk to. My "middle aged" friends tell me I'm a baby, my younger friends like to remind me that I'm "getting up there". It does seem hard to believe that nearly 15 years have passed since I graduated high school. I still don't quite feel like an adult, though I suppose I should having four kids! I'm still as carefree as ever, but life has grown me up a bit, especially in the last couple of (rather rough) years! As I reflect on the past couple decades of my life, I realize I have learned quite a bit. Thanks to older and wiser folks, my precious children, life experience, and of course, God himself! Just a few things I've learned along the way:
1. Life sucks sometimes. I don't know how else to put it. I think it would make a great book title, actually. Life can be a real drag once in a while. We've all been through super sucky stuff! I grew up rather naieve, assuming that once I had a family of my own and could do things "my way" things would all fall into place and there would be no more problems. Ha! I was pretty cluess back then, to say the least! Instead of whining about it, I've learned to adjust my perspective. And of course, rely on God. Which brings me to number two:
2. People are not always constant, but God is. I knew all my life that God was constant, but realizing how often people let us down is a great reminder of just how constant God really is. He never leaves, never fails, never changes. I'm a dreamer. I like to believe things will always be good, that people will always be there, but let's face it...life doesn't always allow for that. Six moves later, I finally figured it out. People come in and out of our lives like a revolving door, but God remains put. Which brings me to number three:
3. Sometimes friendships are just for a season. My friend Jeanine reminded me of that this summer. I'm a loyal person by default. Be my friend, and watch out, I'm here for life. You'll have to try awfully hard to get rid of me. :) But because of the ever changing seasons of our lives, sometimes people are only in them for a short while. I have a handful of friends I've had since childhood, which I think is pretty good these days. Then I have my mommy friends, which mainly came from MOPS over the years. I've stayed in touch with a few of them, but many of them drifted in and out of my life like the tide. I'm okay with that. At the time, we were in the same place (usually that place was in the back of the room at MOPS, changing diapers or nursing on the floor together, or, hey Jen, nursing babies under blankets flapping in the wind at the park while trying to chase our toddlers up the slide!) Now my kids are getting older, and three out of four will be in school next year! I'm not so needy of the playgroups and such as I was a couple years ago. My life is changing, and so are other people's. Instead of grieving, I am learning to embrace it, to keep my eyes open for new friendships, and be thankful for them, no matter how long or short they last.
4. It's okay to be okay with yourself. Took me a looong time to realize this. I was super short growing up, always wanted to be at least six inches taller. My dad always said boys liked short girls, but I suspect he said that just to make me feel good. I finally discovered high heels, and got over it. I still wish my legs were longer, my lips fuller, my skin smoother, my uh, chest bigger. But as I get older, I realize that I don't much care what other people look like, and I'm pretty sure the feeling's mutual. Just yesterday I spent a day at an outdoor spa, where hundreds of women of all ages and shapes and sizes wandered the pools. Seeing a fifty year old woman in a bikini gave me a newfound confidence. I'm sure she's acknowledged her jiggly parts, but she's come to terms with them. And so have I. For the most part. Of course, appearance is only one factor. I'm also learning to be okay with the rest of myself. The person who will never, ever have a completely immaculate house, who will never be able to find her keys at a moments notice, who continues to burn cookies each time she makes them because she refuses to set the timer or completely forgets about them baking all together. So I'm a bit scatterbrained. But I'm okay with that. (So long as I don't lose my children...that I havent done yet! :) I do other things that make up for that. I think I'm pretty good at concocting meals without using a recipe, I play the piano pretty decently, and I keep up a good sense of humor that gets me through life. Oh, and I'm a child of God, which means I'm okay just the way I am, because it's how He made me! And that is okay.
5. My mother is really cool. Growing up, my mother and I didnt get along a lot of the time. I thought she was too rigid, she thought I was too free spirited. And I couldnt sew a button to save my life, which devastated her, I'm sure, as she could whip out a bridal gown with some thread and a needle in a matter of hours if she wanted to. But now that I'm grown with kids of my own, I see just how great she really is, how fun she can be, and what a great listener she is. We still have our differences, but I love her more than ever, and thank God for her in my life. I can't count how many times I've called her for a recipe, a piece of advice, a house cleaning question, or just simply to vent. And she's always there. A friend of the best kind.
6. It's okay to be real. I was never much for putting on a facade to begin with, but life has a way of sort of beating you up, making you question if you should wear your heart on your sleeve. We've all spilled our guts to someone, only to have them either blab it to someone else or brush us off in our dire straits. I now realize that it is definitely okay to be real, but we don't need to be completely transparent with anyone. We can be choosy about those we open up to and those we remain surfacy with. Good rule of thumb: if they don't ask, don't tell. As my wise friend Missy said once "Everyone doesn't need to know everything about me." Husbands are great, but any woman knows she needs her gal pals for a true heart to heart, especially when it comes to topics of feminine hygeine, bathing suit bulges, and PMS. Being real can mean being accountable, which is especially important as Christians. But spilling our guts can leave us vulnerable, so being careful who we share with isn't being snobby..it's being wise.
7.It's okay to do nothing sometimes. I learned this lesson the hard way these past few months when I got so sick. I had no choice but to do literally nothing at times! My eyes hurt so badly I couldnt even read a book, one of my favorite pasttimes! So I took naps, listened to sermons on the internet, prayed, took long baths, and called friends I hadn't talked to in months. And it felt good! I used to feel guilty if I (heaven forbid!) stopped moving for even a moment of the day. Resting meant something around the house wasn't getting done. Now I realize much of this guilt was self induced. My husband wasnt telling me to do more, my kids weren't telling me to do more, my friends weren't telling me to do more. If anything, they were all happy for me for resting after what feels like years of living in a whirlwind! These days, I know it's okay if the dishes don't get done, or the laundry doesnt get put away. No one ever died from eating hot dogs and canned Ravioli three nights in a row.
8. Most exciting things are really not that exciting at all. I used to try to plan these lavish vacations for the family, assuming my kids would be utterly bored if we didnt fill up every minute of the day with energizing activities. Then I realized they were perfectly content digging in the sand, throwing a ball around, rolling on the grass, telling silly stories, and twirling on a tire swing. Viola! Money saved and happy kids, which means everyone wins! We live in a world that practically demands that we schedule ourselves silly. Have a fifteen minute block of spare time? Yikes! Hurry and fill it up! Surely you can squeeze two more things in! Sure, I'm into the whole soccer thing, and I think music lessons are pretty cool. But sometimes just sitting at home watching a cartoon or making a fort out of pillows is just as much fun, if not more!
9. Taking care of myself is not being selfish. Ahh...it's the ultimate mommy mantra: But I have no time for myself...I have to put the kids first! We can't be good mommies if we can't even take care of our basic needs. I learned this lesson, again, the hard way this past year. I reaonsed I could not "find time" to eat, so my blood sugar got so low the doc said she was amazed I didnt go into a coma. Not good! I took a good look at myself in the mirror and winced. Years of skipping the sunscreen on my face "becuase I didnt have time" has left me with more sun damage than I care to discuss. My hair has six inches of split ends because I never "find the time" to make an appointment at the salon. And my clothes? Let's not even talk about them! If I didnt get them off the Target clearance rack, they most likely came from a garage sale and sport holes and stains on them. Yikes! I'm not saying I feel led to spend thousands of dollars trying to doll myself up, but it wouldnt hurt to make a trip to the dentist and the hair salon every now and then. And what's wrong with having a few new outfits to feel good about? Yes, I splurged on a $150 pair of 7 jeans last year. But they made me feel like a million bucks, even if I paired them with a three dollar tank top from Target. Happy, healthy mommy equals happy, healthy kids. Or at least that's the idea.
10. Marriage is worth it. I'll be honest. I dont like my husband a hundred percent of the time. Maybe not even ninety percent of the time. But all in all, he's a great guy, and definitely worth keeping. I've seen a lot of marriages fail in the past few years, mostly because one or both decided to give up. It breaks my heart, but in an age that says "If it doesnt work for you, be done with it!" I'm not surprised. Thankfully, God is for marriage! He wants us to succeed! Sadly, Satan is not. He'd love nothing more than to get into each of our homes and destroy. He tried pretty hard when we were in Arizona. I remember one day looking sadly at my husband in bed and wondering why on earth he hadnt left me already. We were just NOT getting along! Thankfully, God is so kind, patient and merciful. He gently steered us back in the right direction, and today we're doing great! (Most of the time) I still get irritated when he leaves his socks on the ground, or even worse, throws his used floss on the carpet instead of the trash (He would kill me if he knew I was revealing this!) But I've learned to deal. I've seen a friend lose her husband, and I'm sure she would give anything today to have him leave his socks on the ground. Marriage can be fun and exciting! My parents are just now renewing their marriage, enjoying each other's company with an empty nest, and traveling to Hawaii after 30 years of talking about it! They are a picture of hope, because there was a time when things weren't super terrific between them. I'm in it for the long haul, because it's worth it.
11. Chocolate, not diamonds, is a girls best friend. I never was much into diamonds. I lost my diamond ring a couple years ago, which was devastating, but if I never get another one, I'll live. Living without chocolate, however, is not an option. Thankfully, it's a tad cheaper than the shiny gem, and comes in many forms. Any works for me. Candy, ice cream, chunk, dark, milk, white, chip, you name it, I'll eat it. Especially two days before my period. Bless, bless, bless the person who discovered the cocoa bean. May they have a special reward in heaven.
12. I'm not done learning. I'm only 32. Assuming I don't overdose on chocolate, I might be around for a few more years. I'm sure I'll have many more lessons to learn along the way. And that's good. Living means learning, and learning means living. I'll take the good with the bad. Because it's worth it.