So, I’m turning the big “40” here in a few days and while this milestone birthday can be a bit depressing for many, I find myself excited for this next decade and all that it will hold. Honestly, turning 30 was kind of hard for me. And yet, as leery as I was heading into those years, some of my greatest personal growth occurred during that time. Here are a few things I have worked hard at in the last decade that have also enriched my life immensely.
1.) Girlfriends that love fiercely.
One of the best things about being this age is that I’ve learned how to choose well when it comes to my friendships. I’ve discovered that great friendships don’t just materialize, they are made. It takes time and energy to form a deep and lasting friendship. A friendship that’s worth anything to you has undoubtedly endured misunderstandings, hurt feelings and a few bumps and bruises along the way. But that’s what makes them so valuable. You’ve invested your time and a decent amount of work into the relationship. You’ve taken risks and have shared vulnerable moments together. If it’s a truly deep friendship you have probably had to lovingly correct, ask for forgiveness and possibly even work through moments of jealousy. But strong, healthy friendships go there. They do the hard, deep work because they know the reward is worth it. These friendships, the ones that love fiercely, that go the extra mile and are committed to digging in and doing the hard work when life calls for it, these are amongst the sweetest gifts God gives.
I think one of the reasons that friendships can be so incredible at this age is that most of us have figured out who we are and who we want to surround ourselves with. We have settled into our lives and are more confident and comfortable with who we are which often time allows us to be a kinder, more gentler version of ourselves. I also think we’ve learned that it’s not only okay but also pretty normal to have only a few really close friends. We just don’t have the time and energy to be everyone’s best friend and we’ve realized that it’s okay. We’ve given ourselves permission to cultivate the relationships we’ve chosen. We have discovered that it is our choice who we decide to let into our inner circle. We have the right to choose who we let our guard down with, are completely honest and vulnerable with, and allow to speak over and into our lives. These kind of friendships are also usually pretty rare so when we find ourselves gifted with them, we recognize their true value.
2.) The ability to say NO.
This is an area that I’m still perfecting but have made great progress in. What is it about being a woman that makes it so hard for us to say no to things? We say “yes” all day long in attempt to make everyone happy and yet often times, at the end of the day we are the very ones who are unhappy. Unhappy because we haven’t done a single thing for ourselves the entire day. It’s amazing to me how discovering the importance of taking just a few minutes a day, every day, to do something that feeds you, can be such a benefit to not only you but your entire family. Reading a magazine or a book, taking a hot bath, exercising, taking a short nap, whatever it is that will feed you that day, take 20 minutes and do it! When I was housebound for years with my three little kiddos, ages 3 and under, I would hand them off to their father (Here, take YOUR children honey) the minute he walked through the door and I would GET THE MAIL. Seriously. I would walk to the end of the driveway, alone, no littles hanging off of me or clinging to my knee, and I would get the mail. I must’ve had baby brain to have not picked something a little more exciting, but it was my lifeline. Sometimes I would find myself circling the block before coming back inside. Of course there were the occasional longer lap days and one day in particular where I walked for 3+ miles contemplating whether there would even be a return trip. We laugh about my mail breaks to this day but honestly, there were days when that 5 minute break made all the difference.
I think it’s important to note that there will be seasons in our life when we are able to “yes” to more and also seasons where “no” will be our wiser answer. One of the best books I’ve read regarding this is Lysa TerKeurst’s book, “The Best Yes.” In it, she talks about making wise decisions in the midst of our endless demands. I think the key word here is wise. It’s really important for us as women to know what our priorities are and learn to start there with our time and our “yes.” From there, depending on how much we have left to give, we can fill in. When we start by saying yes to the things that are our non-negotiables or our core values, we give them first priority and they get the time and attention they deserve. We will have to learn how to say no to perfectly good things if we have any hope of saying yes to the best things for us.
3.) A husband who is a best friend.
I don’t think I really understood this concept when my husband and I were first dating. I mean sure, I knew I wanted my future husband to be my friend but I didn’t really understand the depth that our friendship would reach. A husband/wife relationship is so unique because it encompasses so much. I have no other relationship that combines the role of friend, lover and co-parent. We both know the importance of putting each other first, remembering we were first a couple before we became a family, and yet we also climb into bed with each other every. single. night. So there’s a very real struggle against the monotony of it all. Which is why I love that after all these years, 17 in August, he is still my very favorite person in the whole world. He is the one I always want to spend time with because he’s not just my husband, he’s my best friend.
I remember when I was a young girl thinking about the characteristics I wanted most in a future husband. My top two were that I wanted him to be my best friend and I wanted somebody who likes to laugh. If you know me, you know how really true this is. I love to laugh!!! I have an obnoxious snort that sometimes escapes when I’m laughing and has kind of become my signature trait over the years. If you get a snort from me, it essentially means that you are hilarious. If you know Aaron, you know that I got what I wished for with him. He loves to laugh and is highly entertaining when telling stories. His sarcastic humor is something I cannot get enough of! I can’t tell you what a gift it has been over the years to have my best friend by my side, laughing through the ups and downs of life. We have literally laughed our way through some of life’s hardest moments. A good sense of humor trumps almost anything in my book and it seems the older I get the easier it is to laugh at not only my circumstances but also myself. And this is something that comes with age as well I think. The older you get, the easier it is to take yourself less seriously and learn to roll with whatever life throws at you. I am so incredibly thankful to have a partner who values laughter as much as I do.
This friendship, even more so than with my girlfriends, has not just happened either. It has taken hard work, tears, learning to communicate (honestly, still working on that one) and a sacrifice of self. It has been a daily decision to remember the commitment that I made (to both God and to my husband) and then a living out of that commitment. It hasn’t always been easy but it hasn’t always been hard either. The work that we have put into our marriage over the last 16+ years has yielded a great reward. I get to do life and ministry with my best friend, and for this I feel incredibly blessed!
4.) Having a healthy body image.
Okay readers, this one probably took the most work and longest time to finally come by, but I did it! It only took me almost 40 years, bahahaha. I am such a quick learner. Listen, before you start either hating me, fighting back jealous thoughts or just flat out suspecting me to be a liar, let me explain. This does not mean, not even for a second, that I don’t have moments where I feel ugly, fat and downright unloveable. I am a woman after all. These thoughts still creep in from time to time. What it does mean is this: I have a genuine appreciation of my body. I am thankful for my health and a body that allows me to do the things I enjoy doing. I am grateful to have the strength and energy to exercise, go on bike rides and hikes with my children and take my dog for a walk.
I have come to the conclusion that I will never be in as great of shape as I sometimes wish I could be because of this one simple fact: I love food. Like, I just really enjoy food. And over the years I’ve realized that for me, good food > a perfect physique. I basically work out so that I can eat and I’m totally okay with this. I have also gotten to a point where I can look in a mirror and feel comfortable with the skin I’m in. Those incisions across my lower abdomen remind me of the three lives I carried into this world. The scar across my belly button and to the right of it, a reminder of God’s protection over me when my appendix burst. The wrinkles and laugh lines, proof that I’ve savored countless happy moments with my people.
There will always be areas that we wish looked a bit differently. Perhaps a little fuller here, a little less full there. Overall though, I am content and thankful for this body that God has given me. Over the years the things that I once thought held such beauty have fallen away. I used to think that a nicely toned bikini body was beautiful but now I can honestly say I don’t think there’s anything quite as beautiful as the smile that exudes from a woman who is confident in the love God has for her.
5. The art of choosing celebration over comparison.
Theodore Roosevelt got it right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s so true. And it seems to be an area that a lot of women struggle with. I’ll admit, it’s been a struggle for me over the years. In a world where we are critiqued and judged for the way we look, the decisions we make regarding our parenting, our health and even our finances, it can be hard not to compare. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is the positive effect that celebrating others has had on me personally.
When we make the decision to celebrate others, we are also making the decision to take the focus off of ourselves. And honestly, this is where it starts. When our focus is on us, we find ourselves looking inward and we tend to live very small, self-absorbed lives. When we switch that focus outward though, we are able to embrace the beauty of a spacious life. When we understand that there is room enough for all of us to flourish, that God in his infinite wisdom has shaped each of us with unique gifts and talents that are only magnified and multiplied when celebrated collectively, we can see the distinct advantage to exchanging our comparisons for celebrations. So go ahead, start celebrating the wins that are all around you. You’ll find that when your win comes, you’ll be surrounded by an even larger crowd of people cheering you on!
These are a few areas that I have worked hard at over the last several years and they have been such a source of comfort to me. In many ways, these decisions and these relationships have made me who I am today. I am so thankful for a God who is patient with me as I learn and grow and make mistakes along the way. I’m thankful for my husband, my family and my friends who add so much to my life! I am praying for all of us that as we make those hard but good decisions that God will bless our efforts and that he would be our constant companion through it all.
“Find rest, Oh my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation.” Psalm 62:5-7