A while back, I shared 30 things a woman turning 30 could learn from a woman over 50. It was a birthday gift to my friend, Sarah (who lives in England) – and it honestly was a beautiful gift to me as well, as it reminded me of the things I’ve come to know and the things I’m still learning. I was asked today what tip I would give someone who is pursuing their dreams. I thought about sitting on a comfy sofa, cup of hot tea cradled in my hand, having a long, rich conversation with you. What would I say – how might I encourage?
And I realized that the list – that 30 things list – is what I would still share. With perhaps one or two additions.
1. There is too much worry about clean eating and organics and such. That worry does far more harm to your heart and soul than the food does to your body. For goodness sake, just eat. And enjoy it.
2. In this world that demands so much, it is good to simply STOP sometimes. Mark the calendar with a big “nothing” on it. Just stay in your pajamas and lounge in the bed all day, savoring the sound of birdsong while sipping a cup of coffee or a glass of something lovely. Quiet is quite becoming when we allow it in our lives.
3. Those with hands that are open to give can’t help but receive. It’s like the words of an old song I learned as a child, “Give one heart, you get back two – that’s the paradox of ‘I love you.’”
4. Jesus loves to dwell in the weak places, the hard places, the rough-around-the-edges places. That’s where He shows His greatest strength. The more I ask Him to make Himself at home in every little area of my life, the more my life makes itself at home in Him.
5. Crooked, wonky, broken things are often the most beautiful things, if we allow them to find their place in our lives. I’m learning to celebrate physical flaws (like a crooked smile or a sagging bum) with enthusiasm – knowing those flaws are just as much a part of the “fearfully and wonderfully” made me as my button nose or lovely fingernails.
6. Every day, be mindful of and thankful for every single step you take. They all count, even the ones that are small – the ones that seem insignificant. Even the ones that seem to stumble backwards.
7. It’s OK to ask “why,” and it’s even more OK to find comfort in the tension when the response is “just because” – or when there is no response at all.
8. We need to watch our words more. And not just in the “please” and “thank you” spaces. In the United States, “fanny” means buttocks. In the UK, it means (dare I say it) vagina. In the UK, “blow me” indicates surprise. In the US, it means, well, you need to be put in time out. Please see #5 and you’ll better understand why using the right word is important.
9. Folks struggle so hard to find their “voice” in this world. The real beauty is that we don’t have to find anything. Each of us IS a voice. We all have a story to share. And we all have an audience of One just waiting to hear it. If that audience happens to grow as we speak, it’s just icing on the cake.
10. I used to think of the phrase “quiet time” as a lovely religious ritual – an opening of the Bible to read, a listing of prayer requests. But it is so much more. “Quiet” is not merely an adjective. It is a verb. Time and space become still in His presence – He hushes them to make room. Moments are set rightly when first presented to God.
11. Every barn is better painted. And by “barn,” I mean face. And by “painted,” I mean makeup. And by “every,” I mean mine. I have come to accept with gratitude that my face is a pallet on which to be painted. The shade of oatmeal that is the natural, unadorned me loves a little dash of color on the eyes, lips and cheeks. It’s like a little party.
12. I used to read “faith without works is dead” as a prodding to get myself busy and do something to prove out my belief in God. I’ve come to understand that the more we press into the transforming love of Jesus Christ, the more He moves our feet to live out that love in service. His heart leads our hearts, and we can’t not follow.
13. Cowboy boots are the perfect all-purpose footwear, even if you don’t live on a ranch or ride horses.
14. I always thought there would be nothing more precious than watching my son grow up. Then I watched him become a dad, and ‘precious’ found new definition.
15. In the day-to-day of life, I can become forgetful. So I am learning the importance of milestones – markers in my life that allow me to peek over my shoulder on those forgetful days and remember what God has done. Stones of thankfulness, stones of victory, stones of overcoming and first times and try-again-and-agains. Stones of bite-sized chunks of living and sunrises filled with new mercies. It’s in the remembering that I’ll see the miracles in the day-to-day.
16. I am so thankful for everyday, ordinary people. They trump pedigrees, resumes and fancy titles any day. In a world where everybody wants to be a somebody, I think being a nobody just might be the most profound thing ever.
17. A little butter makes most everything better.
18. Lines on paper are confining. Lines on your face are liberating. It’s lovely to let everyone see where your laughter lives.
19. Everyone needs hand-written pages filled with moments just waiting to be lived. Don’t dare call it a bucket list though – rather, let it be an adventure list, full of all that is glorious about living. Because life is a strange, beautiful, joyful, painful, messy miracle of an adventure.
20. I’m continuing to learn the beauty in giving thanks when sunburn accompanies sunshine, when steps forward include potholes, when a flower’s sweetness is thwarted by the sting of a bee. Yes, I’m continuing to learn the depth of that word “give.” It means offer, donate, share. But it also means yield, bend, surrender. There is a depth of thanks that can only be discovered when the giving is sacrificial, when the act of offering itself leaves me feeling naked and vulnerable. It’s in those moments when the giving becomes sacred – transformational.
21. This life – your life and my life – is but a season, wrapped in seasons. It is a memory book filled with small moments. It is a breath, a fragrance, a song, an ever-so-delicate bloom. It calls for divine gentleness. Be kind.
22. Sometimes you just need to do something that scares the holy bejeebers out of you.
23. Things are beautiful in set of threes. Words and groupings of pictures on walls and flowers in a vase are all lovely in threes. I like to think that God finds particular pleasure in threes, given His attention to the number in scripture.
24. God teaches His sovereignty in trees that willingly yield to the change of the seasons. They don’t brace against the coming cold; rather, they lean into it, shedding the bounty of summer and quietly resting as life abounds unseen. They shimmer like gold and dance at the thought of His unending provision. If we allow, He will give us the power to embrace the abundance that lives in both plenty and in need.
25. A dining table is a powerful minister. It offers safe haven for conversation, for confession, for communion. It is a place for “I love you” and “We’re in this together” and “How may I pray?” The table is a divine reminder that we are here for each other. Come and sit.
26. Don’t be afraid to “grow down” a little. Dance in the rain. Play in the mud. Take funny photos. Lie on the soft green grass and stare into the sky until you feel you’re going to fly up into the clouds. This world is in desperate need of a little more simple happy.
27. There are glimpses of eternity everywhere to those who can see them. Keep your eyes open.
28. I’ve come to realize that most people don’t necessarily want to be famous. Few really want to be in the limelight. Most are content with being a simple nobody rather than being a fancy somebody. But no one wants to be anonymous. We all want to know we matter to someone – that our presence is felt. That our time here counts for more than just taking up space. Perhaps that’s why simple things like smiles do so much for people. They let us know we’re here.
29. It’s important to celebrate the unfinished things – the doodles and threads and scraps that long to become the creation. The Lord’s vision is great, and His strength is too. He sustains. He sees the unfinished as finished.
30. I have learned to be thankful not only in but for every good and horrific thing that has happened in my life – every hug and encouraging word, and every moment of abuse and neglect. My circumstances have not defined me but rather refined me, crafting in me a heart that aches for justice and mercy. There is no such thing as a hopeless cause. I am living proof.
And the bonus things?
Great joy awaits in a motley crew, a team of misfits, a clan, a tribe, a community of people who embrace you and let you live life with grace and purpose. Run to them. Don’t be afraid.
Ask yourself, “Where do I feel truly and fully alive? Where could I ‘dwell’ for the longest of times? Where does my heart find its home?” It’s there your greatest dreams live. Pursue them…
So, what are things you’ve learned? What would you share with me? What would you add to the list?