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Yesterday you turned the big 3-0. Thirty. Take a deep breath. That’s right. You are officially out of your 20’s.
Your 20’s were good to you. They brought you your husband. Your kids. Your career. Your passion.
But they were rough, too. The loss of your brother, your parents. Chronic sinus problems. Back trouble. Bad feet.
You’ve had some good times – times you’ve laughed until you’ve cried, times you’ve cried until you laughed. Sometimes those events were the same day! There’s been lots of lessons learned. Lots of friends made, and more than a few you’ve lost touch with over the years. You’ve learned relationships are tough. Sometimes really tough. Tough just to keep going – tough to put the extra work in to keep the flame alive. But oh, so very, very worth it.
I guess I wanted to write you this to give you some advice. Advice you probably won’t listen to, but you’ll nod and smile and say you’ll listen, and I wanted to write it out here so there were witnesses, so to speak. So here it is. The big advice for you going into your 30s: Do hard stuff.
Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Friendships are hard. Work is hard. Faith is hard. Cleaning is hard. Downtime is hard.
Cooking is hard to find time for in light of all that other stuff.
Be kind to yourself – but also, be good at doing hard stuff, because at the end of the day that’s really what life is about. Dig in to the moment, be present and real with people. Acknowledge that you’re doing something hard, and then do it. Give yourself a break when you fail, because you’re going to. Just be ready for it. Every day you’re going to wake up with 57 things to do and you are going to fail to do most of them.
Try to do them anyways. Don’t half-ass it, either, because who wants half-ass attention? No one. So do one thing really good. And then do another, and another, and another. You may end up with 14 good things by the end of the day. Awesome. You did good. You failed at 43 things, but they don’t matter because you rocked at 14 things.
When you turn 30 (if you’re me) you start to think about your legacy. At the end of my life I want to be known as someone who was real. Someone who had to dig her way through life with broken nails and tear stains and dirty tennis shoes who was a real person to the people she interacted with. I don’t want people to think I’m something I’m not. I’m a mess – just like every other human being on this messy broken earth.
By the grace of God I’d like to fight against that brokenness – the brokenness that destroyed my parents, the brokenness that threatens to take others every day… I’d like to BE KIND and DO HARD STUFF because it helps fix some of that brokenness. And if on any given day I can only do 14 good things, or even just 1 good thing, it means the world is that many more things better than it was yesterday.
This year has been a whirlwind of change, the least of which is not the leaps and bounds my child is growing in. I wanted to write a few memories down, just so I won’t forget them.
- A few nights ago we sang our bathtime song, which goes “Bath time, here we go! / Bath times a good time, you know! / Bath time, everybody LOVES bath time it’s bath time, you know!” and repeats ad infinitum. We sang it before bath time like we do almost every night. After bath, we were downstairs snuggling and playing and I told Justin that we needed to put Benjamin to bed, soon, so we could take a shower. Benjamin proceeded to look at me and say, “No Mommy, I need shower too, it’s shower time. Shower time, here we go! Shower times a good time you know!” Sorry, Benjamin, but it didn’t get you out of bedtime.
- I made whoopie pies for coworkers and as the cakes were cooling I gave Benjamin one. He enjoyed it a lot – “Yum, delicioso!” After a few minutes, he started whining, and I asked him what was wrong. His response? “I don’t have a cookie in my mouth!!”
- Did Benjamin get another cookie? Yes, yes he did!
- I feel bad sometimes, because I work so much and everyone else gets to be home with Benjamin more than I do. To combat that, I try to take Benjamin with me to social events that would drive me husband crazy. So the other day we went to a concert in a local park where they were playing 80s music. Benjamin and I danced and danced and danced. We had SO much fun!
- During the concert, Benjamin got antsy and wanted to get away from the loud music, so we took a walk. I followed him all the way to the edge of the park, where we played around. At the end of the walk I told him it was time to head back, and we could be like Dora and go “through the woods, across the field, to the concert!” So we did that, and midway through I made the mistake of saying “We need to keep an eye out for Swiper! That tricky fox is always trying to get out stuff!” So… we get ALMOST to the concert, and he turns to a random stranger and starts holding out his arm yelling, “SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING!!” I was so embarrassed. Apologized. Moved on. Poor lady was freaked out…
- Last night Benjamin was cranky and overtired. It was a rough hour before bedtime, but we survived, and I was snuggling with him in our rocking chair before bed. I asked him if he wanted to pray, or sing, and he wanted to pray so we did. I said, after our initial prayers, “Benjamin, who do you want to bless?” He said Frankie (our dog). So we prayed, “Dear God, please bless Frankie.” Then I asked him, “who else do you want to bless?” He thinks for a minute. Lucky, he says, the other dog. “Dear God, please bless Lucky.” I ask him who else. He says, in the cutest voice, “Me.” Oh, Benjamin, you want God to bless you? “Yes,” he says to me, and my heart swells and gets all sentimental, and we pray a blessing over him too. I thought how brave of him, to be willing to ask God, but then I realized he doesn’t know any better. He is at the age where he can boldly go to the throne without baggage. What a lesson for me!
I just had to share this quote because, well, I think it needs to be read. And reread. Sarah Bessey is one of the few reasons I haven’t completely given up on reading blogs. Some days there’s too much anger and misunderstood words on the internet, and she is a peace to me in the storm. I love her writing, so let me share what she wrote about the Shikh Temple shooting.
Hard conversations are coming, perhaps legislation, around gun control, about hatred, racism, religion, about our culture’s glorification of violence, our nationalism, and the divisions between us, yes, those conversations need to happen, but not just now: now is the time for grieving, now is the time for loving, for burying, for mourning with those who mourn, for gathering humanity together, and for compassion.
I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down, mourning with those that mourn, grieving and honouring, loving and praying. Love casts out fear, and may the mouths of the faithful be filled with words of Love and hope and peace, never fear.
Thank you, Sarah, for your beautiful words.
Today is my first day back to technology for almost 3 weeks. The vacation was amazing and lovely, and I came to work with 1000+ on my Google Reader and over 600 work emails. As I work through the deluge of information I came across one scripture listed two different places (here and here). I really, really, really like the scripture – which is one of the types of scriptures that you’re just going to read over until someone makes you stop and see it for the first time all over again. Here is the scripture in its entirety:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)
There is one other part of the bible in the New Testament that sums up what we should do:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40, NIV)
I like how it’s worded in both portions of scripture. The second one is much more well-referenced, and for good reason since Christ says it is the greatest commandment. But the first – to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly – I think it sums up a lot of what we need to do now. But when I think about how much outrage and judgement I see on a daily basis (not just from Christians, mind you) I think that the first scripture from Micah is a good reminder that we maybe should see a bit more often. Because loving mercy is hard. Walking humbly is difficult. Acting justly – while loving mercy – now THAT is tough. If we can maintain love throughout it all I think the world would be pretty amazing.
So for lent, all the things I gave up, I failed at. I did not increase my prayer time, I did not read my bible more. I did not grow closer to God. I did not stop checking facebook, I just stopped posting. I did not cut out my sweets, I just didn’t go out of my way to eat them. I did not stop watching TV with my son, the whole family got sick and that was all we could do. With just two weeks left I’m calling this Lent a spectacular disaster.
I suppose, though, that if I look at it honestly – I did become more aware of my utter brokenness. I am now, more than ever, aware that I fail at being good on my own. So I guess it wasn’t a complete disaster. In fact, I suppose, I kind of actually accomplished something in my failure. Or maybe I’m just saying that to feel better. Who knows?
I guess I’ll just keep being me, and keep trying (and failing) and eventually, maybe, I’ll get the hang of this thing called faith. If not, it will probably continue to be quite an adventure…
Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1979 Book of Common Prayer (source)
My prayers are tiny and my soul weary; I look forward to Lent for the renewal of my spirit.
I think this year I will observe Lent. I found a great set of questions on Rachel Held Evan’s blog that helped me make the decision to do so. I really like her (and her blog), even more now that I know she agrees with one of my basic tenets I hold close to my heart: that really, everyone is broken.
I had already been thinking about Lent this year, thinking about changing a behavior, thinking about the timing, thinking a lot of things. When I saw that RHE’s feed had a post on ideas for Lent I was all ears. The first question I read on her list almost knocked the breath out of me:
When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?
Well. In all the times I have observed Lent, I don’t think I ever took the time to ask myself that question.
Growing up in a Pentecostal church gave me a pretty decent grasp of the bible, but did not help me learn anything about the history of the church. I mean that seriously. We never learned about the differences between catholic and protestant, or about how communion is different in different churches, or why some people baptise and some sprinkle. For the most part that stuff wasn’t even on my radar at all.
Over the past, say, 10 years or so, I have met many people who have opened my eyes to a different way of looking at my faith: a way that is steeped in history and culture. While I find it creates for a much messier faith, I think it is also much more beautiful. Over those ten years I have attended pentecostal churches, non-denominational churches, emerging churches, catholic churches, episcopal churches, baptist churches, and methodist churches. Each one had its purpose to increase my education and help shape me into the person I am now. Each church helped shape my faith in a different way.
So now, even though I attend a baptist church, I still keep in mind the little bit of education on Church traditions and history I’ve gotten over the years. For instance, even though my current church doesn’t follow it, I love the church calendar. I fell in love with it when I attended one of the Episcopal churches in Houston. I love how each church season creates a new focus in your walk with Christ. How we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice building up to Easter and we celebrate his birth in Advent. The first time I received ashes on Ash Wednesday I spent the rest of the evening feeling like I was walking on holy ground – or better yet, as if my body was marked as holy. I never knew there could be so much holiness in an action, but I found that there was.
While I try to observe the church calendar I don’t always have it all figured out. Like others, I’m sure, I am learning as I go. I always viewed Lent as a way to put myself in Jesus’ shoes when he fasted 40 days in the wilderness. I knew it was supposed to make me a better person and draw me closer to God, but those goals have always been pretty undefined.
The question: “How will I be different?” makes me look at Lent as more than just the very generic “self-improvement” or “exercise in holiness.” Suddenly I don’t want to look at Lent either of those things, or even as a time for me to give up my bad habits (I should give those up anyways) but more as a time to remove something from my life in the hope that after 40 days without it I might possibly be more Christ-like. Suddenly my priority has shifted from looking internally in a selfish way, but looking internally in a holy way. I like this.
With all this in mind, I’ll spend the next few days praying and trying to decide what to “give up.” I think I’m going to go to one of the local churches that has a Ash Wednesday service, too, since I don’t think mine will have one. I don’t know that I necessarily “look forward” to the next few weeks, but I do hope they are helpful to me in the long run. We shall see.