I celebrated a birthday this past week. My age is inching, ever so slowly, toward forty. And that is okay. When I was younger, thirty seemed like a label given only to ancient people. Now that I am several years beyond that milestone, I recognize that thirty is really no big thing. I was not nearly as smart and put together in my youth as I thought I was. None of us ever are, right?
I look forward to the life that stretches out before me in the next several years. I see the accomplishments and milestones coming in my children’s lives: graduations, college, weddings, and (dare I say it??) grandchildren. If our oldest daughter becomes a parent at the same age I did, that is only ten years away. Sigh.
I think there is something that often gets overlooked in one’s thirties and forties. Some of the best years of our lives happen right in between the youth of our twenties and the maturity of life after the kids leave home. And I think a lot of us are missing the joy of those middle years.
I am smack dab in the center of what could be the best years of my life. And I want to enjoy them. Savor the memories as they are made. Look forward to waking up and taking on the challenges of tomorrow. Not dread my busy schedule, cry over my ridiculous to-do list, and feel sorry for myself because I have too many tasks taking up valuable real estate in my brain.
I have an aversion to boredom and sitting still. I struggle with waiting in line patiently. I only nap if I am sick. Todd has to remind me frequently that it is okay to use the word “relax” in a sentence. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I have always struggled to “enjoy the moment.”
I am often so busy planning and preparing for the next thing that I fail to see what is going on all around me right now. And this past year, I made an honest effort to reverse that trend. I am trying to give myself grace.
I have to.
Because I have at least another twelve years left to raise my kids. Because Todd and I have many decades left to enjoy our marriage. Because our extended family is important to us, and we need to create margin in our family schedule so we can spend time with them.
Because someday I want to look back on this time in my life without regrets. I had a six year old who needed to start dyslexia therapy in December. Right in the midst of Christmas preparations. Therefore, I have no regrets about not getting around to sending out Christmas cards this year. Or making smaller than normal cookie plates as gifts to others. Or keeping the decorations around the house to a minimum.
I am homeschooling three kids right now. As a result, I am okay ignoring some of the cleaning tasks around the house that used to really bother me. Our home is picked up and sanitary. It does not need to be spotless.
My health matters just as much as my sanity. I go to bed and get up at reasonable times. I eat a healthy diet. I am not a sedentary person. But I just cannot make exercise a regular part of my routine right now. I would rather use the time fostering relationships with my family.
I cannot and will not do it all. So, as I grow one year closer to forty, I am promising myself this: I will continue to give myself grace. This year, I will create more margin in my schedule. I will let more non-essentials fall off the to-do list. Because I must focus on what really matters.
I have an arthritic hip, a few gray hairs, and really wrinkly hands. Otherwise, my body is still serving me well. Other than a small emotional meltdown last week, my mental health is fine, too. And if I want to stay that way, I need to continue paring things down. So, here’s the criteria I intend to use this year:
- Will this activity or commitment strengthen my faith in God?
- Will this activity or commitment benefit my physical or emotional health?
- Will this activity or commitment make me a good steward of my time, talents, and treasures?
- Will this activity or commitment strengthen my relationships with family and/or friends?
If I cannot answer in the affirmative to at least one (and hopefully two) of these questions whenever I am posed with a choice, then I need to give myself some room to breathe. And say thanks, but no thanks.
Because my birthday gift to myself this year is grace.
How do you give yourself grace in the midst of chaos? Send me an email or comment below!