Monday, November 24, 2014

Things I Learned in My Thirties - Reflections Looking Back

This month I entered a new decade.  Turning forty was a ton of fun, with celebrations (big and small) that spanned more than week. THANK YOU to everyone who took time to spend with me. I loved my thirties and look forward to what my forties have in store.
My husband Curt and me at the surprise 40th birthday party he threw for me (with help from a lot of my friends)

My beautiful family on my 40th birthday hike.  I am blessed abundantly!
As I was looking back over the past decade I realized how God has changed me.  Here's a random list  of Things I Learned in My Thirties.

1.  Not Wrong, Just Different.  Several years ago Curt and I participated in the Love and Respect conference via a weekly small group session.  We learned a lot of practical tips to help in our marriage, but my biggest takeaway applied to all relationships, not just marriage.  The conference teachers kept coming back to taking a "Not Wrong, Just Different" approach to resolving conflict.  I realized how judgmental I had been: of different approaches to parenting, marriage, life, etc. labeling them "wrong" when they were merely "different." Learning to put this idea into practice revolutionized the way I saw and interacted with others.  It softened me and made me a much more gracious and likable person.

2.  Embrace Your True Identity.  I spent two decades crippled by insecurity.  When I let the truth of who I really am - A Daughter of The King - sink in I began to walk in true freedom and confidence.  God created me unique, in HIS image.  He knows my name.  He calls me chosen.  Dearly loved.  Holy.  Complete in Him. He says these things about you too.  Walk in this truth.

3.  Comparison is the Death of Contentment.  There will always be someone faster, smarter, prettier, thinner, more creative, and more talented than me.  More talented than you.  When we compare ourselves it kills contentment of what we DO have.  Don't compare.  Instead rejoice in all the unique gifts, talents and relationships you do have.  The Bible puts it this way: "Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else.  For we are each responsible for our own conduct." (Galatians 6:4-5)

4.  Celebrate Life Every Day.  My thirties were some of the richest years of life, but they were also some of the most challenging.  Life is unpredictable and much of it is out of our control.  Choose to find something to celebrate each day.  Your health. God's provision.  Your kids.  Your marriage.  Your friendships.  Each day is a gift, so celebrate it.

5.  Persevere in Your Relationships. Pour into, fight for, love fiercely, dig deeper into the relationships God has put in your life.  When you hit a rough patch, push into each other instead of away from each other. If you are married, figure out how to love your spouse well.  Invest in your friendships, your children, your coworkers, and your family.  You will never regret it, but you almost certainly will regret it if you give up.

6.  Extend Grace to Yourself and to Others. You are not perfect.  Your spouse, children and friends are not perfect.  You will screw up and so will they.  When that happens, extend grace to them.  Then extend it to yourself as well.  Don't beat yourself up for all you did or didn't do.  Be gracious and move on.

7.  Don't Keep Carrying Your Baggage.  We live in an imperfect world and as a result, we all have "baggage" - past wounds and hurts that are part of our story.  Carrying all that around gets exhausting.  I would encourage everyone to work through the wounds and pain to a point of healing.  Then drop your backpack full of that baggage at the foot of the cross and don't pick it back up again. Let Jesus carry it.  He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

8.  Laugh.  I have a tendency to get wrapped up in what I'm doing in the moment.  I'm ALL IN with every emotion.  If it's a tense or irritating situation, I will be uptight and grouchy.  I am so grateful for a husband who is hilariously funny and four kids who are wild, crazy and fun.  They remind me to laugh instead of cry or bang my head against the wall.  It's good medicine.  (Proverbs 17:22)

9.  Jesus.  I have known about Jesus since I was a toddler and loved him in varying capacities throughout my life.  But it was in this past decade that I really dug into the Word and fell head over heels in love with my Savior.  As He revealed himself day in and day out through what I was studying in the Bible, I became more aware of my need for Jesus.  The freedom that comes with full surrender to His plan and His will takes my breath away.  It is deeper, greater, sometimes harder, and more lovely than any plan I could concoct for my life.  Jesus continues to reshape and transform my life.  I know the beauty of the depth of his love will only grow with each passing year.  If you want to experience "life that is truly life" (John 10:10), surrender to Jesus.

10.  Take Care of Your Body.  I write a lot about running, hiking, and fitness related activities.  It would be easy to assume this has always been a part of our daily rhythm, but that's not true.  Curt and I were typical parents of toddlers and babies. We were exhausted.  Run down.  Out of shape.  Overweight.  Unhappy with how we looked.  So we decided to something about it.  I was 33 years old when we baby-stepped our way into a healthier lifestyle one painfully slow run at a time. (Read more of that story here.) Before we knew it healthier eating patterns, weight loss, energy and boosted self esteem followed.  Now exercise and decent food choices are part of our daily rhythm.  I encourage you to find a form of exercise that you can tolerate and get out there.  You may just find a new love.

11.  Learn to Say No.  We live in a culture that values being over scheduled and busy.  Ask anyone how they are and more often than not, "Tired and busy" will be their response.  It's tempting to want to say "Yes" to every opportunity that comes our way.  However there is great benefit in learning to say "No" to the peripheral things - even good things - so you can say "Yes" to the most important things.

12.  Follow the Way of Love.  A few years ago I was angry with someone who had intentionally deceived me.  I called a godly, wiser mentor to help me process how to handle the situation.  With little hesitation she asked, "What does God say about love?" and pointed me to the Love Chapter in the Bible.  (I Corinthians 13).  The author Paul makes list of what love is and isn't according to God's definition of love.  When Paul is done defining love he transitions to his next thought with this phrase: "FOLLOW THE WAY OF LOVE." This one phrase has transformed how I approach conflict in relationships.  So often I get my shorts tied in knot by what the other person did (or didn't do) and I want to retaliate or lash out.  But when I step back and ask God how I can "follow the way of love," it's always a much softer, gentler approach.  I am NOT a crafty person, but I hand-painted a hideous looking plaque and hung it above my kitchen sink as a daily reminder to follow the way of love.

13.  Repent Quickly.  I have a tendency to say things without thinking.  I'm constantly going back to my friends and family and asking for forgiveness for being thoughtless.  When we damage relationships we need to be quick to repent and seek reconciliation as soon as we know the relationship has been broken.

14.  My Response is My Responsibility.  This is a tough one, but has been so helpful.  My response is my responsibility.  Period.  I can't control what other people do or say.  I can't control what other people don't do or don't say.  The only thing I can control is my behavior.  I am accountable to God for how I behave, so I need to be responsible to behave in a way that brings Him glory and fame.  I have drilled this into my kids as well and we're all learning together to be responsible for our behavior and our response to people who wound us.

15.  Make Good Friends and Invest in Them.  My friends are some of the most beautiful gifts in my life.  They are God's tangible expression of His love for me.  (Read more here.)  Many of my best friends are total opposites of me.  These friends model to me what gracious words and patient parenting looks like.  They teach me how to be still and embrace rest.  They remind me to take time to invest in beauty.  My other friends are similar to me.  These friends join me in my crazy adventures and push me to be stronger, smarter, faster, and offer encouragement along the way.  Life is not meant to be lived alone.  Make friends and then invest in those relationships.

16.  Be Authentic.  Keeping up a perfect facade is exhausting and isolating.  Be authentic in your relationships. Dare to be vulnerable.  Be real and honest, then enjoy the joy that comes with deep and intimate relationships.

17.  Take Risks. If you would have told me two years ago that I would be running my own business as a professional photographer, I would have laughed in your face.  But God has a crazy way of taking the skills He gives us and using them to bring Him glory if we let him.  It was risky and scary to launch my own business, but I am living out a dream.  I still can't believe it.

18.  Offer Encouragement.  We all need encouragement.  God has used well timed words of encouragement from my friends and family as tools to shape and change me.  Encouraging words are life giving.  Look for ways to offer authentic encouragement to your spouse, your kids, your family and your friends.

19.  Be Excellent.  If you're going to attach your name to something, don't do a halfway job.  As long as it depends on you, be excellent in what you do.  This could be parenting, marriage, friendship, work, life.  The Bible says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (I Corinthians 10:31)  It comes back to the point of learning to say no.  When we say no, it frees us up to be excellent in the things we are saying YES to.

20. Take Time to Rest.  To keep up with our fast-paced, busy lives we need to incorporate a regular rhythm of rest.  God modeled this when he created.  He worked hard for six days and called his work good.  And then he rested. And called the rest good.  He commands us to "Sabbath."  We have learned to implement this regular rhythm of rest into our lives and it has been so healing and restorative.

21.  Thrive Within Your Limitations.  I never knew, until the past few years, that one of the reasons I love the rugged wilderness is because big crowds and lots of chaos gives me anxiety.  The thought of going to DisneyLand makes me sick to my stomach.  The more in tune I get with my body and emotions, the more aware of my limitations I am.  This awareness has enabled me to make choices that I can thrive within, instead of shriveling up internally.  We all have limitations, but we can learn to thrive within them.

And there you have it.  Just the tip of the iceberg of all the things God has taught me in my thirties.  I'm excited to see how what He has up his sleeve for the upcoming decade.  To my family and friends who I adore, thank you for being a part of my story.  My life would be so much duller and empty without your beautiful influences.


  1. This is a beautiful post Jodi. I am so glad you made it. I think I should make my own "ugly plaque" to hang in my kitchen!
    We watched "love and respect" also. There's a lot a person can take away from it if they want to. ( you're stepping on my air-hose!)
    Happiest of birthdays to you! Welcome to a new age group :)

    1. I didn't know our birthdays were so close until I read your "turning 40" post. Fun of us to be birthday buddies and in the Masters Category now. I forgot about the "stepping on my air hose" comment. They do say that a lot in Love and Respect. Happy birthday to you too. So glad you're running again.