2 weeks ago, I turned 26 and with it came a bit of excitement and a wave of panic. Panic about how much closer to 30 I am than I was 3 weeks ago. Panic about the future and my goals. Panic over the fact that I really am a "real" adult and yet, I still don't feel like one half the time. I thought the laughter and frustration about "adulting" ended at 22 yet I still can't seem to get out of it. Maybe it never really goes away. Who knows? I'll come back to you when I'm 30 :). Anywho, over the years I've complied a list of things I've learned. I decided there's no better way to celebrate making it past 25 than share a list of......(drumroll please...) "the top 25 things I've learned in life!"*pop the champagne* Obviously, a lot can happen in 25 years but I figured I'd spare you from reading about how I learned to count and tie my shoes and just stick to sharing the more inspring things I've learned over the years.
1.) Keep short accounts
I have found that when I hold onto something someone said or did that hurt me, it only makes me more miserable and puts a strain on the other person’s and I’s relationship. I have learned that it is better to forgive and let go of things that were said or done. If a conversation needs to be had with the other person, have a conversation. Get things out in the open. It feels awkward at first but in the end, I promise you it’s worth it most of the time.
2.) Show kindness in small ways
Whether it’s a little note or text to encourage a friend or paying it forward at a drive-thru; it’s good to share kindness with others. You never know how a kind word or action could impact someone.
3.) Forgiveness is possible
No matter what you have done or someone has done to you, forgiveness is possible. I know that there are things that you have done that you feel like couldn’t possibly be forgiven. You can be forgiven though because Jesus has already paid the price for your sins. The forgiveness you receive through Jesus can give you the freedom and strength to forgive others for how they have wronged you.
(John 3:16, Colossians 1:13-14, Ephesians 1:17, Ephesians 4:32)
4.) Exercise is crucial
I find that when I am not making going for a jog, working out or going to the gym on a regular basis a priority, I feel less like myself. I have less energy or end up bottling up stress. I always feel better after a workout and am more ready to tackle the days ahead.
5.)Be open to new foods and experiences
Having a barbeque in the Domincan Republic in an open field that the locals call "tarantuala field" or eating some sort of rice dish with your hands while in Zimbabwe may not appeal to you; but give it a try. It’s good to try new foods when you are in different places and embrace the experiences before you (even if it means being aware of where you put your feet).
6.) Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone
Whether it’s joining that new kickboxing class at your local gym or trying a restaurant you’ve never tried before instead of the usual, it’s good to step out of your comfort zone. I have found taking on various leadership roles to be way out of my comfort zone but I have learned a lot through these roles and have grown in some of my leadership skills.
7.) It’s ok to be vulnerable
I think it’s easy to think that we all need to be strong and pretend like everything is okay all the time. We put on these masks that we don’t need anyone. Even a simple “I’m alright” when someone asks how you are if you’re really not doing well is fine. You don’t have to bare your soul to everyone who asks you how you are. You shouldn’t lie though if you’re really not doing great. Someone may ask what’s wrong or they will leave it alone. That’s ok. What matters is that you were honest.
8.) Find friends you can trust
It’s important though to find someone that you trust though to open up to. Someone you can trust and can open up to about stuff that’s bothering you or upsetting you. I know that I am thankful to have close friends that I can talk to about things. I often find that when one of us is vulnerable about something then that leads the other person to open up and we can look at each other and say, “yea me too.” We grow closer to each other and understand each other better. We know how we can better encourage or support one another.
9. ) God is closer than you know and He truly cares
I’m not sure how to explain this one. I have been learning this one for a few years now. It is something that I struggle to remember but I have be reminded of it over and over again through scriptures, through speakers, through others, through circumstances and conversations and so many other random things. He really is near and He really does care. That’s all I can say.
10.) Prayer is important and powerful
I’ve never seen the power of prayer until I went into full-time ministry and saw and heard God answer prayers in such visible ways in different people’s lives. In my own life, I have learned to open my eyes to the small prayers in my life that God answers and have learned to look back and see that God is answering my prayers more than I realize. I just need to open my eyes more and give Him credit. I also have learned that it’s important to pray even when you don’t see the prayers being answered. You never know when He will answer them or why He chose not to. It’s a tough topic to really get into but I’ll say this, don’t give up. Don’t stop praying because prayer can draw you closer to God. I can speak and say from personal experience that it’s worth it. Even though I don’t always see prayers being answered I feel more at peace when I pray and give things over to God.
11.) Go outside and set aside time to enjoy nature
The trees, the grass, the sun, the clouds, all of it is so beautiful! Go to your local park. Go to the beach and gaze at the sea. Go on a hike and look out over the mountains. I always feel so refreshed when I find spaces outside on a nice day to reflect and write or read.
12.) Don’t be afraid to take risks
I feel like this one should come with a warning. Don’t decide to cross the street and think you can beat that car coming towards you. Don’t decide to drive on a broken bridge or climb something really high and unstable. Take risks that don’t involve physical danger. If you’re making new friends, don’t be afraid to ask them to hang out or maybe you are thinking about starting an etsy shop to sell some art but you’re unsure of how successful it will be. Go for it. You’ll never know how something will turn out unless you ask or go for it.
13.) Walk in step with the Spirit
Growing up, I always heard of the Holy Spirit as something that Christians receive when they trust in Jesus and then that’s that. I have learned so much lately though that there is power in the Spirit. The Spirit is working in us, teaching us how to pray (Romans 8:26-27), giving us new life (2 Cor. 3:6), and gives us freedom (2 Cor 3:17)
14.) Look for opportunities to bless strangers
Pay it forward at your local Starbucks or Dunkin Drive-Thru. It’s just a nice thing to do and I promise you it will make your day.
15.) Don’t sell yourself short
Every single person in the world has something to offer. We all have gifts and talents. They may not all look the same but all our talents are important. You have something to give. You have a kind word that someone needs or maybe they need your sense of humor or your guidance on finances. Whatever it is, it’s important. You’re needed and you matter.
16.) Build space in your life to recharge and refresh
As an introvert, this is a big one for me. I find that I need at least one evening in my home. Sometimes 2 depending on how busy my week is. I lose energy when I spend time with people. I gain energy though when I step away from people for a little bit and have time to think and reflect. I have found that it is important for me to build time in my week for myself so that I can enjoy and support those around me better.
17.) Give grace to yourself and those around you
I’m going back to the Gospel here but it applies to life too. Give grace. No one is perfect. You or someone else is going to say something stupid or unintentionally hurt someone or yourself or forget something. It’s just bound to happen. I find that when I learn to give myself grace in things then I am able to give others more grace and not place high unfair expectations on others. If you have hurt someone with something you said and they tell you, you hurt them. Apologize then move on.
18.) Be creative with your wardrobe
This one is a bit more light-hearted of the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve always enjoyed adding random pieces of jewelry to simple outfits. It’s fun to try bolder accessories that are different than something you normally would wear or wear one of those Blair Waldorf-esque headbands even when they’re no longer in style. Because, why not?
19.)Try new looks
Whether it’s buying a top in a brighter color than you would normally go for or dyeing your hair or getting it cut differently. It’s fun to try new things. It’s a nice simple way to make a change in your life when you don’t want to switch careers or remodel your house.
20.) Keep a list of gratitude
I am a huge fan of Ann Voskamp and her book “One Thousand Gifts”. After I read her book, I was inspired to keep my own list of gratitude on a daily basis. When I stop to write down something I’m thankful for it helps me to be more content with my life rather than look at all the things I want but don’t have. Living a life with more gratitude ends up filling me with more peace and joy.
21.) Don’t hold back from telling others what they mean to you
It’s good to share with others what they mean to you. If you’re thankful for someone, tell them. If you have a good friend that you care for, send them a text to remind them that they are loved.
22.)Recognize your daily need for Jesus
I need Jesus every dang day. Personally, I cannot be a decent person without Jesus. That’s just the truth. Only Jesus can make us more brave, kind and holy.
23.) Say “yes”
Unless you have a problem of saying “yes” to everything, then learn to cut back. If you find yourself in a time of life though where you have space to say “yes” to hanging out with people, “yes” for volunteering for something a friend told you about, “yes” to running that 5k your friend mentioned then say, “yes”. It’s good to be open to new opportunities.
24.)Let faith drive your decisions instead of fear
I can sometimes let fear decide my decisions rather than faith. I like to play it safe and trust in what I can see and know rather than the unknown things or the things out of my comfort zone. My decision to move to Ireland was so hard to make. I liked my life at home. I had family and friends and a job I loved but through various conversations and God making things clear in this weird way that He occasionally does, I knew I had to move to Ireland even though it would be really hard. I had to put aside my fears and trust that even though moving so far away would be scary, I would be okay. It’s been a roller coaster for sure but I don’t regret it. (or at least not today :) let’s be honest it depends on how homesick I’m feeling)
25.) Be yourself (cliché but crucial)
I’ve heard this one since I was 12. I’m 26 now and I still hear it. It’s so true though. It’s so freeing to just learn to be content with who you are. It’s exhausting trying to be someone you’re not. I used to be hard on myself for being quieter and someone that doesn’t really open up or show their goofy side until people really get to know me. I saw quietness as awkward and a weakness. Growing up, I wished I could be more outgoing and funny in school. I have accepted though that that’s just not my personality and that’s okay. There’s moments I have to step up and be more outgoing, especially in ministry but I am also able to see quietness as a strength and be okay that I’m not going to be the most outgoing person in the room.