Happy birthday to…..me! It was my birthday a couple of days ago and I turned the ripe old age of 36, a number that is well, just a number. I didn’t making a big song and dance about my birthday this year like I have in years past. Rather, I kept it low key, choosing to just reflect on my life and dreams in between catching up with my nearest and dearest people. Upon reflection, I thought I would share some thoughts about how I feel and what I’ve learnt. And no, I will not be doing a ’36 things I’ve come to learn’ list because quite frankly, I can’t think of 12 things, let alone 36. But here are some things that come to mind.
At 36 years old, I have come to learn that I am a few parts awesome, a few parts interesting and a few parts complicated. And after all this time, I am okay being all those things. Not everyone is going to love you, I can tell you that from experience. Over the years plenty of people haven’t liked me, let alone loved me, but for every person that didn’t, God blessed me with multiple that did, and still do, love me, along with many people that like me. I have come to accept that I am who I am, oddball flavours and all. And I’m at a point in my life where I like myself; despite occasionally doing my own head in, I would be friends with me. That may all sound a little obnoxious or conceited, but it’s really not. It’s just me treating myself the way I treat others, with love. For so long there were parts of myself that I didn’t like and I was constantly critical of myself, but I reached a point where I figured that if God loved me enough to show His love through His Son, then I should cut myself some slack and be nice to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I can still be a little harsh on myself, but overall I have accepted myself enough to be happy and content with who I am. It is rather freeing and something I would encourage others to try because when it comes down to it, we all deserve love, but if we don’t even like ourselves, why would others?
Another thing I have come to understand at 36 is that every season has its beauty and its burdens. Life is a constant mix of happiness and sadness, joy and heartache, peace and anger. There is an ever present tension between being happy and sad. Life can turn in the blink of an eye and within a heartbeat, your calm waters can turn into a raging sea, leaving you gasping for air and searching for something, anything, to hold onto. We will all, at some point or another, face this. It is just a fact of life. There is no escaping it and no amount of good deeds or positive thoughts will protect you from this because in this life there are way too many things that are out of our control. So I am learning to let go. I’m learning to reflect more. To look at all the beauty that the season blessed me with and to cherish it and tuck it away in the corners of my heart. I am learning to deflect more. I’m guarding my heart and not letting the burdens of the season pierce my soul and make me bitter and hard because that will only birth ungratefulness and pain, which will completely strip me of my joy. Instead, I have, and will continue to make the burdens my teacher. I will use those hard moments of pain and anger and despair as a way to be refined and shaped into the woman that God wants me to be. I know that God has great plans for me, so I refuse to let the struggles deter me from achieving all that I can. It’s not always easy, believe me I know, and like everyone else I have at times just wanted to bury myself under the blankets and not be an adult for the day. But the older I get, the more I am reminded that the only way you can refine and shape gold is by putting it in the fire. So I will use every fire that comes my way to my advantage and grow and learn as much as I can from it. I have no doubt it will be painful and there will be times when I won’t want to play anymore, but in those moments I will remember the beauty the season gave me and press on.
At 36 I have also come to accept that it is okay to have big crazy dreams. It is okay to dream and imagine and pray for big crazy things to happen. There is absolutely nothing wrong with bold prayers that may seem impossible at first. Playing it safe has lost its charm; I am not content with just getting by in the life and hoping and praying for the ordinary. It’s time to dream big and bold and crazy. I am looking to my great, big God and believing for mighty, mighty things! It’s never too late for dreams to come true, regardless of how old you may be. What is for you will always come and find you. Last year taught me that God hasn’t forgotten me; He hasn’t forgotten the promises that were made, the visions that were shown and the desires He placed on my heart in the still hours of the morning. He has not forgotten any of that and He will bring them to be in His time, not mine (regardless of how desperately I want them.) At 36 I understand that I need to just guard those visions and dreams and promises and wait patiently. Now, considering patience is the least of my strengths, I can only promise that I will wait and not give up or let go, as I can almost promise you that I will grumble and sulk and get frustrated from time to time. But all those feelings and reactions are okay, as long as I don’t make them my normal. God is not offended at my frustrations and lack of patience. If anything, He is likely amused by it. So I will continue holding on and continue dreaming and praying and watching and waiting until what is mine comes to pass.
Aside from all that, I think the biggest thing I have come to realise, properly realise, is that I am only responsible for my own actions. What I say and do and think and feel is on me, not anyone else. I cannot blame the actions of others for my reactions because my reactions are determined by me; I choose what I say and do. And with the exception of those rare life and death situations where you only have one choice, most situations and events in life offer us choices. We can choose to love in the face of hatred. We can choose to smile in spite of the pain we are in. We can chose to forgive when the world tells us to hang onto our anger and resentment. And we can choose to respect life, both our own and the life of others. This world is so full of anger and hatred and violence but in the midst of that, I chose love and compassion. I choose to accept that some people live life in a way that I don’t agree with and that’s okay because it is their life, not mine. I am not called to tell people how to live their life, or judge people on their actions. I am called to love people the way Jesus did and regardless of what you believe, or how you live your life, or what you wear, I will choose to show you love and respect. When I stand before my Maker, I will only be answering for my own actions while on this earth, not the actions of anyone else. And because I am only responsible for my own actions, I will no longer be wearing, or carrying, the actions of others. I will no longer sit in anxiety over what other people are saying and doing, which is something I did a lot of last year. Worrying over the actions of others does nothing more than waste my time and give me heartburn. And nothing is worth experiencing heartburn people, nothing!
So, as I look ahead into another year, I am content. I am at peace with myself, my age, my life and my God. As I stand here at 36 years old, I can smile knowing that I am holding nothing back, that I am embracing life as best as I can, and know, with complete and utter confidence, that it’s going to be a good year. And in the words of my pastor, the best is yet to come!