I recently celebrated my birthday or as some would say “another turn around the sun.” Several years ago I began the practice of coming up with ten things I had come to value or appreciate in the previous year. I call it taking stock. I have lived long enough (sixty-six years) that I have the joy of looking back over my life in its different seasons and seeing where I have changed or hopefully how far I have come. Some of my observations are light-hearted, some are practical, but I believe that all are true. At least they are as of today.
These are the observations I recorded for my family and friends. I share them with you in order to encourage you to do the same. And if you do, my one imperative is that you would most of all be gentle and kind with yourself. We are so often our own worst critic, but God loves and delights in us both and I know that he would encourage you to be both gentle and kind, not with only everyone you encounter, but most of all with yourself!
Without further ado, here are my “Top Ten” from the past year!
- Embrace your age – whatever that may be – and don’t waste time wishing you were something other than what you are. In my case, embracing means accepting a few more aches and pains, age spots, and wrinkles.
- Wherever you live, make it a priority to get to know your neighbors. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed. My little cul-de-sac is filled with younger families who have busy, busy lives, but we have a text chain that allows us to keep in touch. We know who is traveling and when they will return; we vote on whether the cat caught on camera at someone’s house is a domestic cat or something more exotic, we borrow eggs and flour, run errands for each other, and if we are extremely fortunate, we get to go over and sit in a quiet house with sleeping babies so a young mother can run a carpool and not have to wake the little ones up. When I was younger and working full time, I never dreamed how important my neighbors would be. Now I count them among one of my sweetest gifts.
- Celebrate someone or something daily which is just another way of trying to make someone else feel special. It doesn’t have to be much. Perhaps a note in the mail or a phone call. I recently checked in with an elderly aunt to celebrate her and came away with three new books to add to my reading list and a heart filled with renewed love.
- Ask God for big answers. Trust Him even when the heavens seem silent. When you reach my age, there are situations and people that have likely been on your prayer list for a very long time. If you forget that you are asking for a BIG answer, you can become easily discouraged. That’s why I always try not to lose sight of the bigger and deeper work that God is accomplishing behind the scenes. This fall when I visited a famous opera house, I was fascinated to learn that the area behind the stage was as large as the entire opera house – seats and all. Backstage is where the real work takes place. With God, something is always happening, even if it is behind the scenes.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it’s really hard. I am not an artist. Never have been and likely never will be, but I took up watercolor painting a couple of years ago. I like to paint things that I love: birds and flowers and dogs and grandchildren. But I do have a problem. I cannot paint human faces. They are beautifully complex and beyond my level of mastery. My children laugh when they see the faces I try to paint. I laugh, too. But I persist. My failure doesn’t bother me. I just like trying to get a bit better, and I do it over and over and over again. And you know what? My birds are looking pretty good.
- Delight in the simple. Look around you and find joy in the most uncomplicated things.
- Take a nap if you need it. And please don’t feel guilty about it. All my friends and family and neighbors know that I take naps, and if they call in the mid-afternoon, they are certain to find me “resting.” Resting as in snoring in my bed or on my sofa with my new puppy curled up next to me
- Never pass up a homemade chocolate chip cookie because life is short! Forget the waistline and enjoy!
- Love deeply and well whenever and wherever you are given the chance! This life is a gift – no doubt about it.
- Say your prayers. Morning, noon and night and in-between. Learn to ask that most important question very gently, “May I pray with you?” It works amazingly well with friends and with strangers alike. People like prayer. People need prayer. I need prayer. I keep a running commentary with God. I like to say it’s so that He won’t forget the sound of my voice, but the truth is that He cannot ever forget me. He bought and paid for me with a price – the blood of Jesus. I am his forever. And I hope that you are too. For that I am eternally grateful. Let’s be grateful together. Today.