44 Things I've Learned Along the Way

6:19 AMHeather

As I tend to do around milestones, I've been quite reflective this week. Pondering life lessons and future dreams and God winks that have shown me time and again that God is always showing up.

So, on this auspicious occasion of my 44th birthday, I present to you 44 things I've learned along the way.

1. While moving may be hard, it also brings great new opportunities, friends and memories. Make the most of opportunities given to you. You never know how long they will last.

2. While moving across country as a preschooler in your mother's big huge tan car, the Glenn Campbell 8-track leaves an impression. Thus, the song Rhinestone Cowboy will forever remind me of the long stretch of road between California and Rhode Island. Music can mark memories. It's awesome that way.

3. Some grandmas are fun grandmas, while others are more practical. (P.S. when your bubble bath finger paint from one grandma is spilled in the home of the other...it might be a problem).

4. Be the fun one. Or if you are the practical one, take steps out of your comfort zone regularly to make some memories and surprise those around you.

5. Some state school regulations are a collasal waste of time. Like a daily prolonged lesson in speaking English while living on an Army base (with ALL English speakers) in Hawaii. Also relevant to the STARR test in the Lone STARR state.

6. You can learn hard things. Like how to spell your kindergarten teacher's name--Mrs. Fujigama. Or, geometry. Or the capitals of the 50 states. While it may not all be useful, learning hard things proves to yourself that you got what it takes.

7. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Shake it off. Shake it off. (WHERE was Taylor Swift when I was teased in grade school?)

8. Some childhood dreams never leave you. So keep chasing them. I may not be a published author and illustrator...but I got this blog. I'm chasing away.

9. Your sister is like a built in best friend. Only maturity and time will prove how right this is. But try to always remember this truth when you are fighting over the red Reebok high tops: When bad things happen and life gets hard, your siblings really do got your back.

10. If you don't have a sibling, then just decide which friend you want to be your "framily."  (Or, even if you do have siblings).  Because family by choice is a most unexpected and wonderful gift in life.

11. Play and use your imagination. A lot. Make time for creativity, even as an adult. 

12. Capture the memories with photos. But not on Polaroid. They won't last and your entire childhood will be lost. And selfies don't count. I mean for real memories--not posed ones. 

(P.S. Purely hypothetically speaking...if you are a thumb sucker way later than you should be, you outta take the dang thing out of your mouth for pictures lest there be photographic evidence of your latent development).

13. Don't hang large creepy paintings of clowns in a child's room. No explanation needed.

14. If you have a chance to pull off a surprise--even a small one--do it. It makes for the best memories for both the surprisor and the surprisee. Say, like giving a sentimental gift. Or showing up unannounced at your aunt and uncle's family camp in Canada.

15. Write letters. By hand. In your handwriting. Even if it's not pretty. Because it will mean so very much to those left behind when you are gone.

16. Never underestimate the power of gaining contact lenses and losing braces and headgear. It makes you feel like a new person.

17. But don't ever buy the lie that your looks determine your value. That's not true. Look to the heart. Just like God does.

18. Don't be a hateful sassy teenager. It reflects poorly on you. And it's no way to treat people. Besides, you never know how long you will have those people in your life.

19. Take time to teach your kids how to show up for their friends when bad things happen. Compassion and kindness are incredibly valuable life skills. And teach them to take a meal with them when they show up. Food is always a good idea.

20. Give. At every opportunity. Just give. Your time. Your talents. Your money. It all belongs to God and you are the merely the steward of it. And the Bible promises that he who refreshes other will himself be refreshed. Besides, you can never outgive God.

21. There is no gold star chart in heaven. God doesn't want our good works or our efforts. He just wants us to know and love him more all the time.

22. Careless words spoken during painful times are hard to forget because the wound is so deep.

23. Kind words and your mere presence during painful times are hard to forget and can make all the difference.

24. If at all possible, show up for family events. It's important. Funerals, weddings, baby showers, holidays. Don't neglect time to connect with extended family. Even when it's hard.

25. When it's really hard, keep the time together short and sweet. Then, make time to be with your framily.

26. God hears your heart cries. And when the unspeakable happens and leaves an awful wake in your life, you can rest assured that you are being held. That may be all you got. But it's enough.

27. Look for divine appointments. They happen all the time. Make the most of them. And be thankful for every last one.

28. Nothing ever takes God by surprise, even when it takes us by surprise.

29. Sometimes, God just plain shows off by giving you way more than you deserve. So never neglect thanking him when you are married to your best friend.

30. Children are the best mirrors of your habits. Learn well. And be patient. Because just like life, parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.

31. In about 3 nanoseconds, those crying infants and tantruming toddlers and finicky preschoolers will be taller than you. And while you used to beg for even a moment alone to go potty...you really will someday ask your teenagers if they will just spend some time with you. (Really! Trust me on this one).

32. Dive into the Bible as God's love letters to you...not as a long list of rules and laws. Ask him to even help you understand it and hear his songs that he sings over you.

33. Don't speak ill of people. If you have to preface your comment with, "But don't tell anyone I said that"--then you probably shouldn't tell ANYONE what you were about to say.

34. Junior high can be brutal...but high school is fleeting... and college can be magical. Take the good and bad in stride. Don't live for the applause or approval of man (or women). We are incredibly fickle people.  (See #7).

35. No moment spent seeking the applause of heaven and pleasing God is ever wasted.

36. Learn to recognize cup fillers. Friends who encourage your faith and cheer you on. Make time for them.

37. And be one of them. 

38. The things that stress you out to the max will be but a distant memory someday.  For real. So decide how much of yourself and your sanity you are going to allow to be taken.

39. Parenting is the hardest, most brutal, most wonderful, most frustrating, most endearing, most everything experience. It's beyond words. And in the really bad moments... turn your thoughts to the last really good one. Or imagine the endless and amazing possibilities to come.

40. Take time to reflect. Make your own list of things you've learned along the way. It builds faith.

41. Look at old pictures and videos as you reflect. Even if they are really bad quality polaroids where everyone looks like they have a weird spray tan.

42. Your family are your people. Treat them as a priority. Your husband. And your kids. And even your dog. (But not your cat...I'm a dog person all the way).

43. People come before tasks. All people. People are eternal. It's the best investment of your time. So when possible, show up for them. Take time for them. Laugh with them. Let them know you care.

44. You cannot change your heritage. But you can always change your legacy.

Now, I want to hurry up and age more. Because I got lots more to say.

But for now, be blessed by my list. Consider it my gift to you on this day of my birth. 

You're welcome.

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