Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What 32 Years Have Taught Me

I turned 32 on Sunday.  People ask me if I dread getting older but I just have to shake my head and reply "Nope".  With each passing year God stretches me, grows me, molds me.  He shows me each day that He loves me through His abundant blessings and His beautiful creation.  Each year brings a richness and depth to my life that I did not have the previous year, that depth is not always achieved easily, it sometimes comes through trials and hardships but without such hardships I would not grow.  In reflecting back on my life I thought I would post 32 things (in no particular order) I have learned in the 32 years the Lord has allowed me to walk this craggy ground.
Mark and ninety one year old Grace by Curtis Morton-Lowerlighter, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
Grace was 91 years old when she went skydiving in the photograph above.



1. Life is short, make the most of it.
Death is not selective, it comes to young and old and the in between.  I have lost loved ones who were toddlers, held crying mothers as they have buried their babies, wept at the funeral of a friend in her twenties, mourned over the young mother of three who perished in a car accident, and let the bittersweet tears fall as I prepared my dear mother-in-law's body for cremation after her battle with cancer.  Death will come to all of us, so how are you living your life today?  Even in the mundane and monotony there can be joy and peace.

2. My purpose in life is to worship the Living God.
There is a God, whether you want to believe it or not, and He loves His creation.  He has proven Himself to me over and over again throughout my days, from breathing life into my premature lungs and sustaining me as I exited my mother's womb at 24 weeks old, to supernaturally protecting me in various ways over the years. He continues to show Himself to me in both small and big ways.  My relationship with the Lord is the most important relationship I will ever have, I want to cultivate it, bask in it, and continually dive into His depths to discover more and more each day about this amazing Creator, the I AM, who created the stars and the oceans and this frail bag of bones and flesh.  My life is fuller and deeper and has meaning because of my Lord and Savior and until my dying breath I want praises for my King to ever be on my lips.

3. It is the simple things that are worth living for.
The contagiousness of a child's laughter, the joy that comes from tilling the soil and seeing it bring forth flowers and fruit, the beauty of a sunset, the twinkle in someone's eye as you surprise them with a gift, the smell of freshly baked bread, a romantic walk with the one your love, the cry of a newborn baby... don't take the simple things in life for granted.

4. Take a half an hour to yourself daily.
Such a simple practice is a huge sanity saver, especially for a Mom.  Take a nap, read a book, go for a walk, soak in a bubble bath... the point is to do something you enjoy for a half an hour every day.  It makes a big difference in your mood.

5. Be thankful in all things.
It is easy to be thankful when all is well but it is usually during the valleys of life, the dips in the road, the painful times, where we learn and grow.  I am not saying you have to enjoy them but finding ways to be thankful in spite of (or even because of) the chaos around you will help you to persevere through the hard times.

6. When you are feeling self pity... do something for someone else.
Doing something for someone else takes the focus off of yourself and you put someone else's needs before your own.
smile by david_mt, on Flickr

7. Life is too serious... make sure to laugh DAILY, even if it is at yourself.
With all of the hardships of this world pressing in on us from every side take some time to be light hearted.  Read the comics, tell a joke, laugh at something you did that was silly.

8. Pick up a pen and a piece of paper and write a letter.
Never under estimate the gift of the written word.  We have all experienced the joy of a handwritten letter in the mail nestled in amongst the bills... it really brightens your day and lifts your heart.

9. Read.
We are blessed to live in a country where most people know how to read, it is a precious gift.  In a world that is saturated with technology I am finding it more and more important to instill in my children a love for the written word and because of it their imaginations are rich and full.  Pick up a book today and enjoy the journey.

10. Take care of the Temple God gave you.
By eating well, exercising and drinking plenty of water you will be doing yourself and your loved ones a favor.  Taking care of your body benefits you both in the here and now and in the future when age takes it's toll.  It also benefits your loved ones as you will be able to do more with your children/grand children.  Wand to read more... click here.

11. Think before you speak... it will save you a lot of heartache.

12. Have a routine.
Waking up, eating, and going to bed at the same time each day/night is a healthy habit to get into.  I have also found it very helpful to have a daily routine for cleaning my home, teaching my children, running errands and every day life.  It helps me and my family to know what to expect and it breaks up large tasks into manageable bites that are easy to accomplish.  What you do every day matters MORE than what you do once in a while.  The every day maintaining of a home makes the dreaded spring cleaning much easier.  :)

13. Fellowship with others.
While we each have days where we would rather just be by ourselves, do not forsake the important art of getting together with others to laugh, encourage, and share joys and struggles with one another.  We were created for fellowship, we were not meant to be alone.  Invite people into your home for a meal or a game night or just dessert and coffee and find the joy that comes from being in the company of others.

14. Invest in your friendships.
It is funny how as a teenager your popularity is measured by how many friends you have in school.  Just peeking on facebook some people have hundreds of friends, others have thousands and still others have less than a hundred.  No one can nurture and keep up with hundreds of friends let alone thousands.  If we look at our inner circle we would find that we have a handful of close relationships that are meaningful to us.  Invest in those relationships, make sure your friends know that you are here for them if needed and that they are loved.  Call your friends, meet once a month to catch up and enjoy a sweet time of fellowship, and try to be involved in their lives.  Some friendships that are near and dear are separated by many miles... in which case it is not possible for a monthly visit but phone calls, letters, and emails can keep the connection going strong until you are able to meet again.

15.  I am not in control.
I cannot even begin to tell you how this one little lesson has brought immense peace to my life.  I am a Type A personality which means... I am a control FREAK and in being so there have been many times where I have tried controlling things/situations that are totally out of my control and I have ended up stressed out.
Over the years the Lord has taught me that "I am not in control" only He is.  He holds me in the palm of His hand and when things become insurmountable, He reminds me to lay it down at His feet.  I have learned to do this with both the big and the little things and I have so much more peace and joy in my life.  So try reminding yourself that you are not in control... once you get the hang of it you will not want to get back in the driver's seat again.

16. Urgent vs. Important
Not everything that seems urgent is actually important.  For example: the phone ringing during dinner, finishing the dishes or reading Beatrix Potter to your toddler, etc.  It has taken motherhood to teach me this important concept.  You can read more about it here and here.

17. Pray with your spouse often.
Praying with my husband opens up a whole new level of intimacy in our relationship.  We are taking time to come together before the one who made us and brought us into each others lives, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask for help in areas where we need guidance, and to ask Him to guide us on this journey together.  It is a beautiful union that I am so glad we partake of.  You can read more about praying with your spouse here.

18. Wake up before your family.
This little habit has proven to be such a sanity saver for me.  I can get much accomplished when I wake up an hour or so before everyone else.  Sometimes I sleep in, which is glorious too, but I am not as productive in my day.  It is nice to have things prepared for when the kids wake up and it is fulfilling to have hubby's lunch packed and ready before his feet hit the floor in the morning.  Plus it gives me some alone time with the house is quiet and the sun is just starting to wake up on the horizon...

19. It is okay to say "no".  In fact, it is healthy.
Okay, so this little nugget of wisdom took most of my 32 years to learn but now that I know it you better believe I am putting it into practice.  Saying "no" is healthy when setting boundaries so you are not burning yourself out and allowing yourself to be a doormat.  Saying "no" is vital for your own sanity as well as your family's.  To read more click here.

20. Get enough sleep.

Vintage Postcard ~ Little Girl Sleeping by chicks57, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  chicks57 

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture and we so often afflict ourselves with this form of torture daily.  The average American needs 8 hours of sleep but is only getting 6.  It is amazing how much more energy you have after 8 good hours of sleep and how much more happier you are.  I know when I do not get enough sleep the day drags on ahead of me, I am short with the children, and small issues become big ones because I cannot keep things in perspective.  Feeling well rested when I wake up is vital to how I function.

21. Mentor and be mentored.
There are so many people out there searching for answers, aching for someone who will just invest a little time into their lives to get to know them, to listen, and to offer hope in such a sad, lonely world.  I am sure that we each know of someone we could be ministering to.  Grab a hold of someone you know who could use a friend, set up a regular meeting time (it does not have to be weekly, it could be monthly) and be a friend to them.
Along the same lines, take the time to evaluate those around you.  We all have people that we look up to/ admire.  See if you can get together with them on occasion to build your relationship and sit at their feet to glean wisdom.  Sometimes mentors are older than us and sometimes they are younger, sometimes they are peers and other times they are elders.  We can learn a lot from each other if we are just willing to set aside our pride and let ourselves be taught.

22.                                            "Do what you can, 
with what you have, 
where you are." 
Theodore Roosevelt - 

It is easy to say "Well, I can't do that because...".  For a long time I hesitated inviting families into my home for dinner because it is so small and I did not want people to feel cramped.  Finally, I realized, that my family was missing out on an integral part of worship/fellowship because of my pride.  So now, I do what I can ( I can entertain/ cook for people/ have a game night), with what I have, where we are and guess what... no one has commented on how cramped it may feel.  In fact, they say how cozy it is.  Yay!  :)

23. Live within your means.
Know how much money you bring in and how much money goes out.  Keep a budget and stick to it.  Financial peace is a wonderful thing.  Try not to be a slave to the lender.  I know that some loans seem hard to avoid, such as a mortgage, but I strongly urge people not to have credit cards... it is too much of a temptation to charge items.  If there is something you desire, then save up for it.  The satisfaction that comes from saving up for a purchase and then buying it with your hard earned money is so gratifying and you appreciate the purchase better.

24. Eat meals as a family.

This simple practice that used to be so common is now almost unheard of.  Try to make it a regular occurrence in your home.  We are blessed to have dinner every evening together and all three meals together on the weekends.  It is a sacred time of sharing for us and enjoying one anothers company.  To read more click here.

25. Say " Thank You".
When someone gives you a compliment rather than trying to shrug it off, just say "Thank you".  I am a person who has a hard time accepting compliments and so often I would almost excuse the compliment rather than graciously receiving it.  I am still learning but I am more apt to smile and say "thank you" now rather than making an excuse.  I try to put myself in the other person's shoes, if I was complimenting someone I think it would be frustrating if they disputed it.

26. Do not compare yourself to others.
This seems to be such a common area to struggle in, especially for women.  It is very damaging and can foster resentment, bitterness, discontent, and more in your heart.  The grass does look greener on the other side until we walk a mile in that person's shoes.  Remember my beloved readers, no one is perfect.  We all have flaws and mistakes, and we are all learning.  No one has "arrived" and if they say they have then they are lying!  :)  There are going to be days that are rougher than others and on those days you just need to "do what you can". There is only one you, so be the best YOU that you can be and stop worrying about trying to be someone else.

27. Smile!
Smiling takes less energy than frowning.  I love walking into a store and watching people... when someone smiles at me it is contagious and I just have to smile back.  I have also noticed that even if I am cranky, if I smile... then it makes my outlook better and the grumpiness seems to disappear.  Try smiling more... it's like a vitamin for the soul. 

28. Tidy up before going to bed.
Having my home in order before climbing into bed at night means I sleep better without having a mental to do list cycling through my mind as I am trying to rest.  It also means I awake to a clean, clutter free home.  "Outer order = Inner calm" (from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project).

29.The days are long but the years are short.



Being a Momma is not easy and the days can really wear us out, but these years are going to fly by, honey. so cherish and embrace them... in spite of the mess, the fights, and the tears. One day these days, these years, will all be but a memory to an aged mind as we rock in our rocker with weathered, wrinkled hands that have seen the passage of time and we will be grasping at the memories wishing we could of had "just one more day".

30. Don't be so focused on attaining the next goal that you miss out on the here and now.
I have been guilty of this recently.  I had been dreaming so much of our "future home" which is merely a dream right now, that I was not focusing on living in the moment.  I would daydream about our new home and stay up late at night drawing out floor plans.  I was becoming discontented with these four walls that the Lord has so graciously blessed us with.  When it comes time to attain the goal of purchasing/building a new home there will be even more challenges presented as most usually happens with each new dream that is attained.  Example:  Looking forward to the birth of another baby yet when this little one arrives there will be more challenges such as scheduling, juggling four children and taking the time to settle into a new routine.  It will all be worth it but I need to make sure I am living in the now and not so absorbed with the "what could be".  

31. Modesty matters.  Dress to be pure, not to lure.  


32. Enjoy the journey, no matter what stage you are in.
Our time here on earth is so short... try to find the joy in each day

With love,
Dawna

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