Tag Archives: birthday

Thirty-Five Things it’s Taken Me Thirty-Five Years to Learn

IMG_1062Today’s my 35th birthday.  I think it’s supposed to be some kind of a milestone.  It’s quite annoying to look for an image for this blog and find the internet full of things like “Trying to keep calm – I’m 35” or “I’m too sexy to be 35.”  But I’m happy.  I think there can now be no more doubt that I am actually an adult and that surviving this long is quite an accomplishment.  Although it’s an odd day.  I’m sitting on the couch in my pj’s at 4pm, my leg still a bit jacked up, thinking about how birthdays are less and less of a deal every year.   Maybe this is why people have kids… so that days like this will be more exciting.  Regardless, I have thoughts.  I thought it would be hard to come up with this many, but hey… have I met myself?  Here are 35 lessons I have learned, epiphanies I’ve had, or life philosophies I have come to embrace in the last three and a half decades…  There are so many I left off… I’ll save them for my 40th birthday… when I will probably give you 80…

  1. Embrace your weirdness.
  2. Don’t apologize for enjoying food.  If you don’t want it, just don’t eat it.  Don’t try to make me feel guilty about enjoying mine.  Gosh, that’s annoying!
  3. My story is different than your story.  That doesn’t make it easier or harder or better or worse.  It just makes me different from you.  But we’ve all felt the same feelings.
  4. I know of nothing more powerful than a good hug.
  5. Feelings come and feelings go, and they never ask permission.  This applies to the good and the bad.
  6. There are relatives and there is family.  Hopefully the former is embraced in the latter, but the two are not interchangeable.
  7. The older you get, the younger you realize you actually are.
  8. The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
  9. Don’t be afraid of time.
  10. Work with your flaws.  Use them to find creative solutions.  I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve gotten on my bathroom shelves that are intentionally designed so that “put away” means “leave out.”
  11. Define success in terms of people.  The happiest people I’ve ever met all have one thing in common: they all live their lives to invest in others.  Most of them are dirt-poor, but somehow that doesn’t matter.
  12. Parents don’t know everything, but they sure do know a lot.
  13. Legacy is a ripple-effect, and you might never know what yours is.  Don’t worry about it – just live how you want to be remembered.
  14. Teenagers are very often difficult grumpy mouthy know-it-all little humans who want to grow up.  Parents of teenagers are very often difficult over-reacting lecturing NO-it-all big humans who (75% of the time) worry too much.  It’s okay.  Everyone’s doing their job.  (And there’s always that 25% outside chance your difficult grumpy mouthy know-it-all little human is actually quite stupid.)
  15. God has better ideas than you.  If your life is turning out like you expected, then you need to figure out what the heck went wrong.
  16. Keep nursery rhymes alive.  Do you know about the man on his way to St. Ives?  Can you sing all the words to “London Bridge is Falling Down?” Does your kid know anything about Little Miss Muffet?  I rest my case.
  17. If you want to be an explorer, stay off the sidewalk.
  18. Learn about love languages, and learn to speak them all.  Fluently.  Love others with wild abandon.  The way Jesus did.  Just remember that true sacrificial love always hurts in the end… that’s why it’s called a sacrifice.  But yours will never hurt as much as Jesus’ did.
  19. British English is bloody brilliant.  Especially in Harry Potter and Doctor Who.
  20. There are times in your life when you just have to say, “I’m always alright.”
  21. Exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, keep your house clean, obey your budget, and don’t work too much.  And if you can figure out how to pull off more than 2 of these things simultaneously for more than a week you are a hero.
  22. Keep an eye on the people nobody notices, the ones who keep their head down and just do their thing.  These are the people who change the world.
  23. Seriously, girls, date the nerds.
  24. Don’t expect people to be as honest as you are unless you want to get burnt to a crisp, and forgive them ahead of time.  Unless you are not honest; then expect most people to be just like you.
  25. Life really does get better after 30.  So much better.
  26. Don’t spend your life waiting for “that thing” to happen.  If it does, great.  If it doesn’t, you just wasted your whole life waiting.  Go kill that bug yourself.
  27. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Be that person who is shockingly transparent and honest.  Be that person others can count on to actually keep their promises and not pass the buck and do what they say they will do.  Be that person that makes everyone mad when you actually do what you said you were going to do because they ignored you because they didn’t think you would and then they weren’t ready.  But if you’re going to live with this kind of integrity, stay out of any work environment where there are more than 3 supervisors above you… unless the guy on top takes the time to know and respect you as an actual person with feelings and ideas and stuff.
  28. Resting your mind is not the same as resting your body.
  29. Don’t confuse honesty or integrity for good intentions, professional conduct, or a smile.
  30. Mistakes are only failures if you don’t get back up and keep going.
  31. The only thing in all of His perfect creation that God said was not good was that Adam was alone.  So God made Eve so more humans could be made.  Because God made us with a need that He could not fulfill Himself.  Love people – you need them.
  32. Everybody matters, but everyone seems to think that rule applies to everyone except themselves. Or that it ONLY applies to themselves.
  33. Life is tough.  So what?  Embrace it.  Cry and feel sorry for yourself sometimes.  Ask for help if you need it.  If you give yourself permission to simply be, being will have a lot less control over you.  And it’s okay.  Feelings really do come and go, and they mean you are a living beautiful textured vibrant multi-chromatic feature of humanity.
  34. If you are the kind of person that has to obsess about things, embrace it and allow yourself to choose your obsession.  Pick something silly and unnecessary that makes you smile.  It’s much better than worrying about everything all the time.
  35. God is.  This encompasses all.  My favorite stanza of my favorite hymn, written by a madman:  Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade… to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.  Amen.


Plus 4 screws and 2 pins...

Plus 4 screws and 2 pins…



In a few hours I will officially be thirty-two.



  • There are 32 adult teeth in a full set, including wisdom teeth.
  • The international direct dial code for calls to Belgium is 32.
  • The average comic book has 32 pages.
  • 32 is the atomic number of germanium.
  • At sea level, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 32 is the ninth Happy Number.

People seem to operate on a belief that passing a specific moment in time magically changes something.  The second you turn 16 you are responsible enough to drive.  At 21 you have enough maturity to drink without doing stupid stuff.  The moment a degree is placed in your hand you are more intelligent and worthier of professional respect.  The moment you get married you are free from a fate of destitute loneliness.  The moment you turn 30 you’re not young anymore.  The moment you turn 40 you’re old. I think this is hilarious.  When it’s in black and white we realize it’s absurd, but we still think it.  It’s just not true.

We don’t TURN something . . . we BECOME it.  If it sneaks up on you, it’s your fault for not paying attention.  If you spend your 20s dreading your 30s . . . well, I feel sorry for you because it turns out that I’m way happier in my 30s than I ever was in my 20s.  My body still works, and I’m way smarter now.

I completed 5 years in my current job the same month that I finished my Master’s Degree.  My longevity at work felt like much more of an accomplishment than the degree, but no one else really noticed.  It got me a lot of attention and new business cards, but I wasn’t any better at my job the day after I got the degree than I was the day before.  It’s about the process of becoming, of growing, of allowing God to continue molding and making me into what He wants.  He’s the Master Sculptor: sometimes smoothing, sometimes chiseling, sometimes hacking off great chunks . . . we all know it can be an extremely painful process, but things always turn out best in the end if we just go with it.

So here’s a snapshot of the last year of my becoming . . .

Last summer I discovered Anti Icky-Poo.  This stuff is expensive, but actually eradicates cat pee and cat pee odor.  It has saved my couch, my bedding, and changed my life remarkably.  Definitely worth mentioning.

Dad was going for this look. . .

In October I got to spend a week with my parents at their time share in Acapulco.  It was my first major solo trip inside of Mexico, and I aced it.  The trip was amazing.  I got my first pedicure and drank a piña colada out of a coconut.

Me and Jojo

In November I surprised my whole family and showed up in Indiana for Thanksgiving.  I got to spend lots of time with my little cousin-niece, JoJo.  Her mom, Ellen, is the closest thing I have to a sister, and we got up early and went shopping on Black Friday.  It was a special time, especially since they live in Kenya and I never know when I’ll get to see them again.

In January I started going to my new church, New Harvest Christian Fellowship.  That triggered a whole cycle of growth that’s lasted all year and hopefully will never end.  I developed something I wasn’t sure I’d ever accomplish . . . a life outside of work.  I made friends . . . numerous friends, in fact.

In January I also vowed to take care of some financial stuff I’ve been putting off for years.  I have life insurance now, and started a small retirement fund.  I’ve become an avid coupon clipper and save an average of at least $50 in coupons and sales during a typical grocery shopping trip.

In March I was unexpectedly slammed with a financial situation that left me more broke than I’ve been in years.  It took 3 months to resolve, and God was beyond faithful.  Tithing has never been scarier, but somehow each of those 6 paychecks managed to stretch just long enough (down to pennies enough).  God’s provision was miraculous; I didn’t go hungry, didn’t get too far behind in other bills, and never went into overdraft even though there were a few times I definitely should have . . . debit transactions just took a full 36 business hours to clear for some strange reason.  No biggie for God.

In April I started a blog.  I can’t believe it’s only been 3 months.  It’s good for me to have a place to process stuff, even though lately I’ve been so busy everything is sitting raw inside my brain.  It’s validating to know that people read it, and encouraging to read your comments.  It’s fun and slightly self-indulgent (to be honest) to know that my words matter to someone enough that they want an email when I write more.  So thanks to my handful of faithful readers.  When I’m a rich and famous author, know that you were the first.  (juuuust kidding!)

June . . . this has been a big month.  I bought a $30 hand mixer.  It’s not the $50 hand mixer, but it’s not the $20 hand mixer, either.  It is replacing the $6 hand mixer I’ve been using for the last decade, on high speed because the others don’t work anymore.  My $30 hand mixer is fantastic.  Turns out that low speed on this mixer is more powerful than high speed on the other one.  It has attachments that beat, knead, stir, and whip.  It runs on 2 point something amps, and has a retractable power cord.  Not to mention the ergonomic soft handle.

My Birthday Cake!

I celebrated the acquisition of my new grown-up kitchen gear by baking myself a German Chocolate birthday cake, during which I discovered two things: 1) my $30 hand mixer is absolutely phenomenal and also weighs about 5 pounds; consequently, my right shoulder muscles are still sore more than a day later.  2) Cakes baked from scratch are better from step one. Seriously, I was tasting from the moment I had 2 sticks of butter and 2½ cups of white sugar “beaten until light and fluffy.” By the time it was all done . . . good grief! It was like chocolate milk, only smoother.  I can’t wait to taste my cake in the morning!  You heard me.  Breakfast.

Last week I also took a step that I should have taken years ago: I stuck up for myself.  There’s not really more I can say about it in a public forum.  It took courage, and things are different now.  I’ve learned (or re-learned) two things: 1) It’s worth it.  2) There’s power in numbers.  It took two of us to feed off our meager courage until it grew into something useful.  Things are starting to change now that probably would have changed years ago if I had been braver from the beginning.  I’m sorry for that, but looking forward to a much less stressful life.

My favorite thing that has happened in the last year was very gradual.  It snuck up on me, continues to happen, and amazes me every time I stop to think about it.  Years ago, I had a friend.  A best friend.  He probably knew me better than I knew myself at the time.  We talked about everything, challenged each other, grew and learned together.  He’s the sort of guy I’m never gonna marry but raises the bar so high that I might not marry anyone else, either.  Then, about 6 years ago, we stopped being friends.  The how and why don’t matter.  We were stupid, and it wasn’t pretty.  After a couple years of silence we managed to regain neutrality.  A couple years ago we reconnected and slowly but surely have begun to rebuild a friendship.  We’re older and wiser now, have better boundaries, and are better communicators.  But most of all, this is a testament to God’s healing power in every area of our lives.  Through this overwhelming healing and the return of my friend God is teaching me that His mercy knows no bounds and that His grace is great enough to cover and correct anything, no matter how royally I screw it up.

So the process of becoming thirty-two started the day I was born.  The last 12 months have been an adventure full of change.  Tomorrow will be a day like any other except that I will eat cake for breakfast, open some cards and a present from my cousin, and (thanks to Facebook) people will wish me happy birthday and make some jokes about how old I am now.  Mostly, though, I enjoy looking back at the process of becoming.  I take great comfort in knowing that I am still becoming.  I’m in the process of becoming thirty-three, fifty, ninety-seven.  The process starts now, just like eternal life starts the moment you give your life to Jesus.  I’m in the process of becoming a better therapist, a wife and mother (hopefully someday), a Christian, and friend.

God ain’t done with me yet!

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