37 things I’ve learned in 37 years

It’s my birthday today, so I thought I’d rework a post I first wrote eight years ago now that I’m older and wiser! I certainly don’t know everything, but I’ve lived a lot of life, and I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way. So, here we go!

  1. Stop going to bed without taking your makeup off. I know you’re tired. But your skin will thank you.
  2. Your worth is not based on your performance or productivity. You are not a machine, and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You are allowed to rest. You deserve to savor the hours instead of burning your way through them. You will be much happier doing your work, whatever that work might be, when you’re able to approach it from a place of deep rest and joy. 
  3. Don’t drink caffeine past 1pm. Just trust me on this one.
  4. Stop shrinking yourself to fit into spaces and places you’ve outgrown. It’s ok if that relationship is changing or even ending. It’s ok to take that leap of faith. It’s ok to set that boundary. It’s ok to buy pants in a bigger size. You are growing and evolving and you deserve to take up all the space you need for your one, gloriously messy-beautiful life.
  5. Hard work is often holy work, and there’s something to be said for doing it anyway. It’s much easier to take the wider path, but there’s a particular satisfaction that comes from choosing to walk in the narrow way.
  6. You will not miss out on what is meant for you, and just because something isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.
  7. Only you can decide what a rich and full life looks like for you. Don’t measure your successes against any others. You get to write the script, fill in the plot lines. Don’t worry about others say should matter, or even what you think should matter. What does matter? Spend your days pursuing that.
  8. You have to feel your feelings. Even the really dark and really hard ones have a way of teaching you something you didn’t know before.
  9. Invest in your real-life relationships. The Internet can be a wonderful place, but ultimately, the connections forged over the tapping of fingers on a keyboard, of likes and comments and notifications on a flickering screen are false.We need more. We are meant for relationships. We need heart-and-soul connection, ones that are tangible, ones with skin on; we need what’s deep and real and rich and true. We need to see the fire in each other’s eyes, to encounter the God that lives there. We need each other’s laughter, and tears; we need safe spaces in which we can talk and share and feel and be changed, somehow. We need to hear one another in full sentences and honest conversation, in inflection and the way we sometimes stumble over the words. We need to listen and be listened to to walk away and know we are heard. Time is valuable, but so is relationship; and like Mary, we need to choose the better thing that it may not be taken from us.
  10. Prioritize your sleep. It doesn’t matter if so-and-so does just fine on six hours a night; if you find that you feel best after eight, then work those eight hours into the rhythms of your days. And while we’re on the subject of it:
  11. Listen to your body. You hold so much wisdom in you, and your body is your friend, not your enemy. Tune into what it needs and don’t be afraid to give it. Don’t pay attention to any clock other than your internal one. If your body is tired, let it rest. If it’s hungry, feed it. Work with it instead of trying to change it.
  12. Love does. I know that’s kind of a witty slogan that floats around in Christian circles sometimes, but it’s absolutely true. Love is active; it is participatory; it doesn’t think of self or what we want but instead of the other person and what he or she needs. Love is embodied; it’s great to say “I love you,” but for so many of us, actions are what walk the talk. How can I show you that I love you? That’s the real question. Love hurts sometimes, but that’s a telltale sign that you’re doing it right, and though it might feel like your heart is breaking, it’s really only growing pains that are making room for your heart to love even more. Love says “you first,” not “me first” or “mine first.” Love is an active participant in the life of the ones you adore.
  13. You are going to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to try new things because you don’t want to mess it up or do it the wrong way. You will mess it up sometimes. It will go wrong sometimes. Don’t let fear keep you stagnant. Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is begin again.
  14. Normalize changing your mind about things. It is totally ok to change your opinion on something after you’ve been presented with new information! Just because it’s always been a certain way doesn’t mean things are not allowed to shift and evolve, and that includes you. Don’t stay stuck.
  15. Don’t spend money you don’t have. This is probably one of the most adult-y things I will ever tell you, but this is really important. Credit cards are fine; just make sure you have the money to pay off your balance. And I know–the economy is kind of a dumpster fire right now, and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, so there are always exceptions to the rule. More often than not, though? Stick to your budget.
  16. Stay in your lane. As you grow, you are going to realize that there are things you’re really good at, things that perhaps come naturally to you, things you might even consider yourself an expert in. This is your lane. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked and distracted by whatever so-and-so is doing in her lane; focus on what’s in front of you and doing it the best you can. (This often applies to opinions as well, but that’s a whole other story.)
  17. Always forgive, but…remember that forgiveness doesn’t automatically mean you have to go back to the way things were with that person. If boundaries have been broken or trust destroyed, you are allowed to say thanks but no thanks if you’re not ready to re-establish the relationship. People may try to guilt you into rethinking your boundaries; don’t let them. Sometimes, you just gotta shake the dust from your feet and keep on moving’. (That’s Jesus’ advice, by the way. Matthew 10:14).
  18. You don’t have to earn food. Moving your body should be something you do because it feels really good, and it brings you joy. You do not need to burn a certain number of calories to allow yourself to eat. Exercise should not be a punishment, and if it’s become one, maybe ease off for a bit until you can reframe your thinking about it.
  19. It’s not all about you. In fact, very little of it is. Are you patient with your children? Are you righting your wrongs? Are you concerned with the well-being of our culture’s most marginalized? Are you gentle with your spouse? Are you working in your own little pocket of God’s kingdom to bring about love and justice and joy and hope? That’s what really matters. That’s what it’s all about.
  20. Quality over quantity. Pretty much all the time. Something that lasts the long haul is worth way more than short-term mass accumulations.
  21. Consider your words. Weigh them carefully, and be sure to say what you mean and mean what you say. Take the extra second to think about what it is that you actually want to communicate, and be purposeful in the words that you use. Don’t talk just for the sake of talking; it’s ineffective.
  22. Floss. Like Nike, just do it.
  23. Chase your dreams with all the heart and soul you’ve got in you. Time is precious, and we have a responsibility to use it wisely. If there’s a dream within you that simply refuses to die, listen to it. Take that scary first step, and then run after whatever it is you were made for. This world needs more people who are living out their days with passion, guts, and glory.
  24. Becoming a parent is one of the most terrifying while simultaneously rewarding things you’ll do. You’ll love your little humans more than you ever realized was possible, and you’ll constantly worry that you’re messing them up. You’ll also need to make sure you’re making time for yourself so that you don’t get lost in your role as a parent. Which leads me to:
  25. You also need to make sure you’re making time for yourself so that you don’t lost in your role as a spouse. And:
  26. You also need to make sure you’re making time for yourself so that you don’t get lost in your career.
  27. Sometimes we can’t see the goodness because we’re still going through the grit. But the goodness is there all the same. Practice chasing it down.
  28. Don’t despise your days of small beginnings. There’s this really great verse in the Bible where the prophet Zechariah tells one of the ancient provinces’ governors to not dare despise the days of small beginnings. Sometimes we feel like what we’re doing isn’t important or significant enough to make much of a difference. Maybe we feel like no one sees our work anyway, so what’s the point? Perhaps we feel like we’re just never going to get there — wherever “there” might be for us. But nothing of substance grows overnight. Nothing lasting is given to us in an instant. So keep at it, whatever your work is in these days of your small beginnings. Publish that book. Record that podcast. Teach those students. Write that letter to your senator. Create that art. Build that business. Keep at it. The world needs your unique gifts and what you bring to the table.
  29. You are allowed to let a quiet and simple life fulfill you. Life does not need to be a big, grand adventure if you don’t want it to be.
  30. Take care of the earth. One of my favorite books of the Bible is Joel. More than once in those three chapters, the “joy” and “gladness” of God’s people is intricately linked with the earth, the harvest, crop abundance, an overflow of wine and oil and grain. Meaning when the earth is well-taken care of and the harvest is plentiful, joy abounds. It’s easy to say “not my problem.” But it is. We have been entrusted with the earth. What are we doing to preserve it for future generations? If we want peace and blessing for the holy hill and beyond, it’s about time we recognize it starts with us. Take just one step towards creation care. You may do it imperfectly, but imperfect is better than not at all.
  31. There are very few things in life that a good laugh, a good cry, a good meal, or a good nap can’t fix.
  32. It’s ok to disagree with people, even people you love and respect. How boring would life be if we all thought the exact same things as one another? We need to be able to have difficult conversations about challenging topics with one another without it going off the rails. Let’s release our need to make others wrong, shall we? Can’t it be ok that we think different things and that be the end of it?
  33. Wearing white is the only way to guarantee you will spill coffee/tea/pasta sauce/red wine all over yourself. You’ve been warned.
  34. Your gray hairs are a story you should not be ashamed to tell. They are a part of your body’s natural aging process, and getting older is a great privilege that is denied to many. Human beings wear the memories of the lives we’ve lived in our bones and our flesh. If I were to lift my shirt a bit, you’d see squiggles of varying shades that tell a story years of disordered eating and too-fast-too-soon weight gain after the death of my father. They tell of a seven and a half pound baby who lived in my womb for forty weeks, of an unplanned c-section after 58 hours of labor. The lines around my eyes and the circles under them pay homage to how I squint when I laugh–and I laugh often–and how I had insomnia once for over a year before I finally made the decision to have my anxiety disorder medicated. The creases in my brow are a tribute to the years I spent worried about money, about having a place to live, about feeling like my heart was in pieces all over the globe and I didn’t know when I’d ever feel whole again. And my gray hairs; they tell a story, too. A story of a bloodline of silver-haired Scots, a story of multiple losses and early heartbreak and an inner child who feels she was forced to grow up so soon. And so when I think about all this–the beauty and the mess of the life I have lived, the scars and stories and memories, the times I thought I would never get through and the sheer miracle of who I am today–why in the world would I want to hide that? Why would I want so much of me covered up? Why would I want to dull or mute huge pieces of myself that are screaming out to be remembered, to be handled with care and dignity, to be honored and shown off to the world? Think about that next time you want to dye your hair.
  35. Parent your inner child. Even if you had a happy childhood because let’s face it; nothing is perfect. There are always residual effects that are felt in the years to come. But we get to rewrite the story. We get to be who we needed when we were younger. And you deserve to be as whole as you can be.
  36. Wear sunscreen. You might think you don’t need it, but you do.
  37. No matter what, at the end of the day, this truth is forever chasing you down: You are beloved. Nothing you do, nothing you don’t do, nothing in the world can change that fact. You are loved with a great, furious, beautiful love, and it’s always, always calling your name.
1 Comment
  • Katie Geihs
    December 10, 2020

    I am breathless and speechless ???❤️ You have such a way with words! Happy Birthday ?