A Quarter At A Time…
So, it happened. I turned 25. I found a grey hair and an alarming amount of wrinkles in my new magnified mirror (because that’s what all the old ladies are using these days…). I am single. I am loved by a really big God— and nothing is how I imagined it would be at this age. Nothing.
I suppose I stand firm that the older I grow, the less I actually know. It may actually be a part of the sanctification process itself… the realization that we know very little… but our faith grants us the ability to have peace with the vast world of terrifying “unknowns.” Maybe that makes me want to throw up on myself a little bit. Maybe I just did.
In the spirit of bestowing useless/ridiculous knowledge onto my readers—and in the spirit of the newfound aches and pains my quarter of a century body is experiencing… I thought a “Top 25” list would be pertinent. So in no particular order or reason or rhyme or structure….here are 25 things I have learned in my 25 years on earth.
25) Never paint mental pictures of your future. It doesn’t matter how vague or detailed your little day-wanderings may be, they are always going to be ridiculously far from reality. And furthermore, even if your day-wanderings turned out the way you wished they had, you’d inevitably be disappointed because we are fallen and depraved creatures. Seriously though, either way… disappointment will loom its ugly sinful head.
24) Everyone is lonely. It doesn’t matter if they have five kids, or are unmarried and childless (like me). Everyone has to “deal” with him or herself, everyone feels unloved and unworthy on a regular basis, and even in a crowded room packed with people…it is normal to feel unnoticed and isolated with your thoughts. Keep pressing on, keep fighting for holiness, and just revel in the fact that the God of the universe can hear you and loves every ounce of you. When we are blessed with glimpses of just how brief this world is, our loneliness shows us how to love more like Christ—a man who had nothing stable in his life on earth, besides his Heavenly Father.
23) Drink a lot of water. I remember my mom telling me this. I ignored her. I think I probably could have delayed these newfound wrinkles until year 26 had I made hydration a priority. [Yes, I know it makes you pee an inordinate amount throughout the day….just suck it up…. And think that each trip to the bathroom is like a much less painful Botox shot. You’re welcome.]
22) Dance in your underwear. Bad days are a dime a dozen. The only cure I have found is Wilson Philips’ jam “Hold On” blasting the pictures off my wall….and dancing in my underdwellings. It sounds inappropriate, and maybe it is—but so be it. After replay number 15, you’ll be cooking yourself dinner and giggling non-stop. For those of age, follow the above steps with a cold beer. Problems solved.
21) Give grace. This world is a little on the sucky side, at times. Some days, that suckiness will be because of your own sin—on other days, it will be because of someone else’s. The perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, took all of that upon his shoulders… so that we would be able to hold others, and ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection. Remember that when somebody wrongs you. Be quick to give it, and when you give grace, give it in abundance.
20) Paint your fingernails once a week. The time period is less important than the result. Your fingernails are something you look at everyday. You shake people’s hands. You type on your computer. Even if your face/hair look like a hot mess, make sure your fingernails look good. You can trick yourself into looking and feeling pretty when you have pretty fingernails. Unless your house is filled with mirrors, the rest of your bod can fade away into a happy denial if your hands look freshly manicured.
19) You can only do so much. This is a biggie. Some studies say that the average human is only able to sustain FIVE legitimate intimate relationships in their life at any given time. Those five slots may be swapped in and out for different reasons, but the general idea remains the same. Time is finite, your energy is finite: do not feel guilty dispersing those two resources on the five people God has placed into your life for you to invest in right now. Do not feel guilty if those five people change. Do not take offense if you have been swapped in someone else’s list of five. It is life. God is infinite. Pull your strength from him, and keep trucking along.
18) Write down your blessings. This one is straight from my mommy. Whenever I am feeling rough, down, or having a hard time, she encourages me to write down my blessings. It is way too easy for me to dwell on what I lack than to see what I already have. Make this a habit. Thank God for that list you are able to make. The glass can be half full if you make a commitment to look at it as such.
17) Be real. This goes hand-in-hand with number 18. There is nothing more unattractive to me than people who pretend that life is hunky-dorey, full of butterflies and rainbows, and walk around trying super hard to look perfect. If something is weighing on you…just be real about it. Share it. Let it out. Cry in front of people you don’t know very well. Be honest (with yourself and with others). I promise you, even through your stellar “look perfect” skills—everyone can always tell there is pain beneath your smile. I double promise you, people will respect you more when you confess that pain to them instead of lying by omission by way of your fake demeanor. Just be real. Do life authentically. Others will return that favor.
16) Send random notes of encouragement. Notes that arrive with no purpose, no holiday, no thank you, no general idea… are the ones that spur me on the most. Write down a day a month that you can send out 5-10 “I love you” cards to people in your life past and present that you have done a poor job communicating with, may need encouragement, or just feel called to pour love out to them. God will use these cards in big ways.
15) Give love well, without strings attached. Our culture has manipulated love. Some think it is a “give and get” idea that has a return for their investment. I’m convinced that this entitlement mentality is one of the biggest reasons marriages are falling apart in the United States. Don’t worry about receiving it. Don’t worry about getting hurt. Just give—give—give… and even if you get nothing back, or even if your heart is broken into a trillion pieces…. You can look back and say, “Thank God that I loved WELL.” There is nothing more important than this.
14) Be “others-focused.” I’m convinced it is my selfishness that causes my feelings of sadness. When I begin to think about all that I lack…it is because I am only thinking about myself. When I think about others, how I may bless them, what I can contribute to their lives to make it easier on them…I am happier beyond measure. When you stop throwing yourself pity parties, you can celebrate the joy in life. All you need is Jesus—his example of the cross, to remember what this is supposed to look like. Lay down your life.
13) There is a difference between boys and men. Some boys can trick you because they can grow facial hair and shave on the reg… but shaving does not define manhood. Men have jobs. Men take initiative in leadership. Men fight for the woman God has placed on their heart. Boys are cowardly. Boys manipulate because they need attention and affirmation. Boys are smelly and whiney. Boys can become men—only by the miracle and grace of God… not by the well-intentioned “fix-it” maneuvers of any woman (godly or otherwise). God changes boys to men. If you want a shaving-boy to change… delete his phone number and start praying like crazy.
12) A church family isn’t “like” your family… it IS your family. This past year at Imago Dei has shown me this in remarkable ways. I don’t do life with single girls around my age… I do life with families that are married with children. I do life with people who were once married and have ample wisdom to give. I do life with my pastors, students, and 3 years olds that steal my heart every time I see them. Stop using the qualifier “like.” Your church family is your family. Treat them and bless them as such.
11) The past is prologue. This one is a Harry Mueller-ism. So you’ve made mistakes? So you look to your past with deep regret? Join the club, kiddo! That’s the beauty in the word “past.” It is not your present, and it is not your future. You cannot change it or fix it—God can use it to sanctify you, though, so swallow the bitter pill, stick your tongue out and say “neener-neener you already happened and will not, God-willing, happen again.” Be done with it. Commit to being done with it.
10) Read and know your Bible. It won’t happen in one day. It will happen over your lifetime. Especially in your days of singleness, commit to spending your “extra” time reading the Word. Before you know it, God may bring a man into your life, children shortly after… and this time of studying and preparation can help cover you with wisdom and grace during a season in which you have little time to dive in deep to God’s word.
9) Talk to God all day long. Set up sticky notes and visual reminders that alert you to pray about something that is important to you. Make it a habit. See the reminder and immediately open up your heart to talk to the Lord and praise him for working for our good. Noone has time for three hour prayer sesh’s… but 30-40 “breath” prayers throughout your day, could accumulate to three total hours together. He wants us to know the sound of his voice. Do you KNOW or RECOGNIZE any voices that belong to people you do not speak with regularly?
8 ) Write. I don’t care if you suck at it. Journal. It can be as insignificant as the documentation of your bowl movements for all I care… but put it to paper. After some time passes, pray first, then look back to see your growth in certain areas, or lack thereof. I guarantee you— evidence of God’s grace in your life will be there… and you will be both convicted and encouraged.
7) Be conservative in all areas. Vote for conservative leaders. Go to conservative churches that preach the Gospel. Dress conservatively. Conserve your electricity so you don’t have to pay for it. Spend conservatively. I could go on and on….
6) If single: prepare for your marriage now/ if married: fight for your marriage now. As a single gal, I can attest that this is often difficult and ambiguous feeling. My only advice is to continue to work the Gospel down deep in your heart—studying it and loving it— and when God brings the person along for you to partner through life with… the transition could be far less dramatic. If married, fight like hell. Ladies, if finances are difficult, don’t complain—your husband, as the provider is intimately slashed by those comments and worries. Men, if things at home are not as they should be—don’t complain, step up and lead your family…it will make a world of difference.
5) Eat and exercise well. This is another one of those “duuurrrrr” ones, but it is important, so just keep reading. Learn what works for you. Make healthy choices. Start now, and you’ll thank me.
4) Rest and Recoup. This one is the hardest for me, but after every “crash” I am convicted to be better and better about it. Our bodies were created with the need to rest. Take time to do this. If you’re single, map out one day one weekend a month where you literally have no responsibilities. If you’re married, hire a babysitter, go to a hotel, order room service, and do nothing but sleep and chat. You’ll be able to pour into serving others with greater vigor if you are fully rested. You will also prevent getting dramatically sick like I do once a quarter. Ekkk.
3) Learn to say “No.” This is another one I am still learning. Prioritize your commitments: Priority 1- work, church, fellowship, (the essentials). Priority 2- acts of service for your church family and family, organizational projects that make life easier, activities that bless others. Priority 3- things that wouldn’t rock the world if you didn’t show up to or never happened. Learn to say “no” to some of those Priority 3’s.
2) Be discerning in your amount/quality of media ingestion. What amount of that time is giving glory to God? Are you wasting away hours that you could be investing in someone’s heart and life? Are you filling the deep, dark, black “void” in your heart with an easy distraction? Our culture and generation must heed the warning pertaining to our rampant technology advances. Use them when convenient… but be intentional about taking time to communicate and love others the old fashion way: face-to-face.
1) Ask yourself in every situation, “What does the Gospel say about this?” In every sphere of your life, every person that crosses your path… make this your question. Before you know it, you’ll be sharing the Gospel through the actions of your life—not just in words.
There you have it folks. [All of which I’m writing to remind myself so I may continue to learn and be sanctified by them.] Hope you enjoyed my 25 years of silliness and wisdom. Weigh in with some of yours!
Just a girl fighting like crazy to be the woman the Lord wishes for her to be, striving to keep others well before herself, and love-love-love….all people, all places, and all nations… for the glory of God.