Well, maybe not 40.
That’s a lot of thoughts.
yesterday, last Wednesday, last week, two weeks ago (it has taken me a bit to get around to finishing this)–
I turned 40.
And it felt a little like I went to my own memorial–
To be in a room surrounded in surprise, by so many people who I love, all sharing things they love about me.
They shared old photos and things I’d written in the past. They told crazy stories of memories that made me laugh and also cry. And looking around the room, each face was a witness of God’s grace and extra kindness in my life.
I felt overwhelmed with love.
Totally underserving of the outpouring.
And so full of thankfulness.
My friend Eve wrote later, that it made her think about the things that really matter and will be remembered. And that’s exactly the same effect it had on me.
It made me think about what (and who) has really mattered in my life and what I want my life to matter for during the next however-long-God-has-me-here.
Over and over God gave His people and still gives His children reminders to– remember.
I’ve written about that before, those Jordan River Stones:
“Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone…that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord…so these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever…so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4: 5, 6, 7 & 24
My birthday weekend was a weekend of looking through remembrance rocks.
Of taking time to pause and thank God for all of the people and blessings He has placed in my life over the last 40 years. Of taking time to really thank Him for His love and faithfulness.
And it was also a looking-forward-weekend.
One of possibilities.
So in no particular order, here are some of the things that turning 40 has made me think about (and don’t worry, there aren’t 40):
1. I am thankful for my parents and my childhood.
Perspective is a good thing– and while I am sure over the years, I voiced complaints to my parents about their parenting (because middle schoolers have everything figured out–right?), as a now-parent of children ages 15 to 6, I have a deeper appreciation for my parents’ faithful relationship with God and that I saw them daily read their Bibles. I am thankful for their steadfast marriage. I’m thankful for the way they allow God to keep working in their lives now and that they share what He is currently teaching them. And I am thankful they let me hatch duck eggs in an incubator. Clearly some things about their parenting stuck.
2. I am thankful for my husband.
He is hard working and kind and generous and funny and there are many reasons why I love him. We have walked through difficult seasons, but with God’s help, have grown closer and more candid over the last years. The birthday celebration made me feel so loved. But really it is the little daily interactions and self-sacrifices that have brought us closest.
3. I am thankful for our children (and all of their stages).
Over these past weeks, I’ve had several deep-hard-concerning-good-breakthrough-reassuring-conversations with our kiddos. I love catching glimpses that God is real to them, as I find them reading His Word on their own or memorizing a passage, asking good questions, or when we’ve had negative interaction and they come and ask for forgiveness. I need to remember to do this myself. Humility is powerful and breaks down walls. I don’t want to miss or wish-away any stage, even the difficult ones.
“Parenting is all about living by the principle of prepared spontaneity. You don’t really know what’s going to happen next. You don’t really know when you’ll have to enforce a command, intervene in an argument, confront a wrong, holdout for a better way, remind someone of a truth, call for forgiveness, lead someone to confession, point to Jesus, restore peace, hold someone accountable, explain a wisdom principle, give a hug of love, laugh in the face of adversity, help someone complete a task, mediate an argument, stop with someone and pray, assist someone to see their heart, or talk once again about what it means to live together in a community of love. What you do know is that Scripture gives you the wisdom that you need and your always-present Messiah gives you the grace that you need to be ready to respond to the moments of opportunity he will give you.” -Paul Tripp
4. I am thankful for my friends and church family.
The 20-years-of-friendship that filled the room on Sunday– it is precious to me. I want to be a good, faithful friend who rejoices with and weeps with. I want to be the kind of friend who says the hard things when they need to be said and who says nothing, when it is better to just listen. I want to look for ways to encourage– both through words and practically meeting needs. I want to not give up or walk away when there is disagreement or conflict. Those are the kinds of friends that God has given me and I am so thankful.
5. God’s Word is something I need daily and I need a plan for that to happen.
Sometimes I read the Bible out of obedience because I know I need it. Sometimes out of JOY. And sometimes I am not consistent. But I know deep down that I need His Word daily to convict me, encourage me, strengthen me, lift my heart, guide me…and I need it because I want to know, really know, God. This year, my friend Anne-Marie suggested that we follow along with D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God. And I’m also reading through Tim & Kathy Keller’s The Songs of Jesus.
6. Hard things are often what draw us closer to God.
Pausing and looking back can be good. In the last 40 years, the hardest times are when I often felt-found myself closest to God. I want to remember that.
“But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” –C.S. Lewis
7. Hard things are often what draw us closer to each other.
Looking around that room full of faces, I also realized that the hardest times were often what ushered in a level of intimacy and trust in all of those friendships.
8. With God, there is hope for things that feel broken.
9. I love to write. And I used to actually do it regularly.
And I want to do it more again.
10. Self-forgetfulness is freeing.
This concept, which I first really thought about after reading Tim Keller’s book–The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness has had a big impact on my life. It did bring freedom. I want to read this little book every year. Our son is finishing it up, but when he’s done, I’m planning to read it again. It has changed the way I live. I can enjoy blessings, take more risks and not fall into people pleasing
anymore as much.
11 It is healthy and good to ask for and accept help from others. It is prideful and joy-robbing to only be willing to give help.
12. The battle with fear and worry is still ongoing, but God is winning.
My article about this was over at The Better Mom website last week. I am encouraged that I see glimpses of God changing me in this area. Trillia Newbell’s book on this topic– Fear and Faith is really helpful (review to come shortly).
13. God can redeem the wasted-hours-days-years eaten by locusts (Joel 2:25).
At a surprise 40th birthday party, no one lists all of the ways you’ve squandered your time, energy, resources, abilities…because that would be fun, right? But I know them. And God does too. And I am thankful for the ways He has restored and redeemed and healed what I have damaged or wasted over the years by my own sin.
14. But I also want Him to teach me to number my days.
So, on the flipside, let my prayer be–“So teach me to number my days, that I may present to You a heart of wisdom.” -Psalm 90:12
15. I want to memorize Psalm 40 this year.
Our pastor suggested memorizing your birthday Psalm this year. So I get Psalm 40. And it’s a good one. I am thankful I’m not turning 119… but I guess at that point, I’d just be thankful I was actually 119.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” -Psalm 40:16
16. God’s eyes hold the lens I want for seeing people.
I’m sharing in a few weeks about this at our church. And it has a huge hold on my life and heart. I long to walk through life with His eyes for people and opportunities…taking time to see beneath the first-glance-surface. In my mind this often falls into looking for layers: perceived needs, needs, and the ultimate need. And Jesus, in His compassion, looked for and often met– all three.
17. Daily habits and choices eventually determine who I am becoming.
I really believe that. The last 40 years leading up to kara-now are an accumulation (both good and bad) of daily habits and choices. And even when I think I’m abdicating, or standing still… doing nothing is still something.
“You don’t need a big resolution to change your life, because your life is defined by 10,000 little moments.” –Paul Tripp
“The difference is Christ in me. Not me in a different set of circumstances.” –Elisabeth Elliot
18. I can trust God to nudge me when I need to pray-reach-out-serve-share-act.
I have promised God that I will respond when He makes it clear that He wants me to act-pray-give-serve-extend. We dwell within a large, well-connected church and community and hear of needs and hurts and heartaches daily. And I am wired to want to fix-help-meet-needs. So my promise to God is that I will be listening and looking as I will wait for His nudge to step out. And it happens almost daily. This is not an excuse to self-protect and avoid serving, but a place of trusting that He can prompt me to respond as He wants me to. And I want to extend that grace to others. I try to assume that I don’t know what is really going on in another person’s life unless we are very close, so if they say “no” to an opportunity or need that I present, I want to trust that God has a different plan. And I want to rest in that myself. I mostly just need to listen well and be ready to obey. That’s the key to #18.
19. Margins are essential. And I want to welcome His interruptions to my plans.
When I fill my life to the brim and write clear out to the edges of the paper, I don’t leave room for the Holy Spirit to nudge, or for me to listen and respond. When productivity becomes an idol, I am prone to frustration and anger when God allows an interruption. But I want my trigger response to be prayer and willingness instead.
“Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.” –C.S. Lewis
20. God is faithful, even when I am not.
I’m so thankful for this. SO thankful.
21. Not ending on an even number seems right.
After 40 years… I feel a little uneasy about anything that cleans up too perfectly. I remember when our daughter Selah died and we had enough towel racks for all the towels in the kids’ bathroom. It made me cry. Stretching, shifting, growing– it’s good. There is something about a formula that offers 5-simple-steps-to-fill-in-the-blank that makes me uncomfortable. Maybe its because my walk with Christ the last 40 years has been full of mountains and valleys and I still feel like I am the one reaching for the fringe of His garment.
The Gospel– now that is clear and defined. Our sin separated us from God and God in His love sent Jesus to live a perfect life and die, even in His innocence, to pay the penalty for our sin, so that we could be rescued, redeemed, and restored into relationship with God, that we might live to bring Him praise and glory.
And that’s why I am so thankful for #20– so much hope.
But 40 years have taught me that there needs to be a #21.
Because #21 is where I daily find myself…
I will reach for the fringe of His garment.
With grasping faith.
The Giver of Faith.
Help me to walk–
The One Who is faithful.
Thank you so much for joining me here…