1. Aside from following Jesus, choosing who to marry was the most important decision I have ever made and will ever make. To my unmarried friends, I cannot emphasize this enough: CHOOSE WISELY, because that one choice will impact your entire future, literally.
2. Social media will enslave you if you let it. It’s subtle, but crippling. Don’t spend your whole life in front of a screen comparing your valleys to everyone else’s mountain tops. Every single person on earth, including the person you’re envying right now, is insecure and awkward and unsure and self-conscious about something.
3. Don’t be high-maintenance about everything, but it’s okay to figure out what’s worth being a little *boujee* about. For me, a few of those things are hair products, professional photography, and bedding (especially mattresses). Speaking of bedding, here’s another lesson I’ve learned – going to bed is freaking awesome. Can I cash in on all those naps I refused as a kid??
4. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life. It’s okay to change your mind a bunch of times. It’s okay to like 37 different things and have no clue how they all connect. Annnnd it’s okay to know exactly what you want to do and actually do it. All of those things are completely normal. You. are. normal.
5. Taking care of yourself becomes more difficult and more important as you get older. This is especially hard for parents and people-pleasers, because it feels selfish, but the truth is that if you spend all your energy pouring out and never allow yourself to be poured into, you will wear out. Count on it. It’s cliche but true that “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So go take a hot bath. Play with a dog. Get coffee with a spiritually encouraging friend. Turn your phone off for a few hours. Spend one-on-one time with Jesus, because you will always need more of that. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or over-indulgent, but give yourself permission to intentionally rest and recharge sometimes without feeling guilty about it.
6. Community is absolutely vital. Find people who will walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you through the good, the bad, and the really bad, and cherish them. Tell them often that you love them, look for ways to serve them, and let them take care of you when you’re the one who needs help.
7. Break-and-bake cookies will never be as good as homemade ones. Stop being lazy and just buy some baking soda already.
8. Some stuff matters a lot less than you think it does, and some stuff matters a lot more than you think it does. For example: I always wanted to marry a guy who could sing. It was actually a deal-breaker for a really long time. But when I met Daniel, that *thing* that I had held up on a pedestal for so many years just wasn’t as important anymore. I would much rather keep him for all of his other qualities – his wit, integrity, discernment – than trade him out for a guy with a great voice. On the other hand, certain things about him have proven to be a lot more valuable than I expected. When I was writing down my list of qualifications for a husband as a boy-crazy tween, I never once considered asking God for a guy who was financially savvy. But that’s exactly what I got, and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that undeserved gift from the Lord. Long story short? Some qualities are secondary (musical ability). Some are primary (wisdom). Know the difference, and don’t settle.
9. Call your parents more often. And your grandparents. Write them letters, even! They’ll love it, and no matter how much you do it, someday you’ll wish you had done it more.
10. Every New Year’s Eve, you’ll swear time can’t possibly go any faster than it already is. But it will keep happening, again and again. Every single year will go by faster than the one before it, faster than you can possibly imagine. So be present in each one. Don’t spend all your time waiting for the next thing. Just be, right where you are.
11. Money matters. It shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life, but it also shouldn’t be something you treat carelessly. If you spend spend spend without really thinking about where it’s all going, STOP. If your long-term plan doesn’t go any further than randomly tossing money into a savings account, STOP. Don’t be a slave to money, now or later. Make your money work for you. Ask God to make you a good steward, get some wise financial advice, give to your church and community with a generous heart, save up a little for an emergency, and then put the rest to work (rental properties, retirement accounts, etc.).
12. As much as I hate this fact…you can’t eat whatever you want and refuse to exercise without consequences. You may not notice those consequences until 5 years or 55 years go by, but you will pay the price eventually.
13. You HAVE to stop worrying so much about what other people think. Seriously. Sometimes, it does matter. But a lot of the time, it doesn’t. And half of the time, they probably aren’t even thinking about you anyway.
14. Go get a piece of paper and a pen. Got them? Good. I want you to write down your plan for your life, as many details as you want. All done? Perfect. Now crumple up that paper and throw it away. (Sorry if you actually took the time to write stuff down.) But seriously, so few things in life go the way we actually plan. And thank God for that. Because if my life had gone how I had planned, I would have gone to OU instead of OBU, which means I wouldn’t have met the guy in my J-term math class who told me I should work at Falls Creek. Those three summers on the ropes course ended up being one of the biggest spiritual turning points of my life. If life had gone how I’d planned, I would have married one of the hundreds of “good guys” from OBU and probably become a youth pastor’s wife, since that was my dream in high school. But instead, God introduced me to a finance major from another college in The-Middle-of-Nowhere (aka Durant, aka D-OK, aka The Shady 5-80) who has taught me more about myself, love, forgiveness, sarcasm, and nerd board games than anyone else I have ever met. And if life had gone how I’d planned, years of unexplained infertility would not have been part of my journey to parenthood. But if I hadn’t experienced that pain and loss, I would never have understood the power of fierce, healing, all-consuming love from God, our families, and our best friends the way I do now. God works ALL THINGS together for the GOOD of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes for them (Romans 8:28). I believe it because I’m living it.
15. Trying to change someone is a major waste of time. God is the only one who can cause genuine change in a person’s heart. Praying for them is much more effective, not to mention freeing.
16. Directly related to #15, an even harder lesson to learn is that sometimes, you are actually the one who needs to change. Contrary to what you might think, you aren’t right about everything.
17. Traveling is AWESOME. Go as many places as possible, as often as possible. You CAN afford it if you prioritize it and make decisions accordingly. But be prepared – there will always be at least one thing that doesn’t go as smoothly as you planned. Sometimes flights get changed, traffic makes you late, and stuff costs more than you thought it would…but it’s okay. Plan as much as you can, accept the things you have no control over with grace, and thank God for allowing you to travel as often as you do.
18. High heels are overrated. Do I wear them? Yes. Do I regret it 11 out of 10 times? Yes. Do I still continue wearing them? Also yes. (What? I’m a work in progress, people.)
19. You don’t have to have an eating disorder to have an unhealthy relationship with your body. Self-obsession and self-loathing are both forms of idolatry, and God did not create you for that nonsense.
20. Change is inevitable. And I still hate it. I think it’s instinct, human nature, to resist change internally, even if we try to appear flexible on the outside. Friendships evolve, some fading and some strengthening. Our bodies age. Our preferences change. We can’t fight the fact that things just don’t stay the same forever. But honestly…thank goodness. Can you imagine what life would be like if we never moved on from being a baby? Or from being a teenager?? I wouldn’t want to live in that world. Adulthood doesn’t necessarily mean liking all the changes that take place in your life. It’s just learning to accept them as gifts of love from the God who wrote your entire life story before you were even born. We can’t see the big picture, but He can. In seasons of good change and not so good, God is trustworthy, and He only gives good gifts. ♥
Hats off to my 20’s, the best decade of my life so far, and here’s hoping that my 30’s will be even better!