Monday, August 19, 2013

twenty-six before twenty-seven.



my twenty-seventh birthday is the end of this month. another year of life, another candle on the cake. [it's red velvet with cream cheese frosting in case you're wondering.] as i reflect on the last three hundred sixty-five days, i see how the experiences, struggles, highs, and lows from 9,862 days on this earth have shaped me. learning doesn't just take place in a classroom. i am thankful for every hard lesson learned. i'm grateful for every blessing in disguise. i praise the God of Heaven's Armies for hand-knitting me, for the ones i love, and for this crazy-beautiful journey. i know i have so much more to learn, but here are twenty-six life lessons i have learned before turning twenty-seven.


1. a relationship with Christ does not happen if the bible collects dust. a relationship with Christ does not happen if i'm only a christian on sunday mornings. a relationship with Christ is not one-sided. a relationship with Christ is exciting and beautiful and essential.

2. family is everything. i only get one daddy, mama, and brother in this life. they've seen me at my highest of highs and lowest of lows. they still loved me during my rebellious years. at the end of the day, they always have my back, but aren't afraid to tell me when i'm wrong. family time is the best time. some of my fondest memories are with my family, and we're usually not doing anything outrageous. sometimes just sitting in the living room, joking and messing with mama. God blessed me with a close family bond, and i love them so much!

3. be present. if i knew exactly how much time i wasted on social media sites, i'd be ashamed. don't get me wrong, i love being connected with family and friends all over the world, but i don't have to know every little thing that is happening all.the.time. when i look back at my life, i won't remember tweets or status updates; i'll reminisce on cherished memories with loved ones and friends. i'll smile at the experiences and thank God for undeserved blessings. it's time to put down the iphone and soak in the moment.

4. when my parents told me "no", it was for my benefit. they weren't trying to be mean or un-cool. they were protecting me. i read a quote the other day that hit the nail on the head: growing up, the cool parents were actually bad parents. my seventeen-year old self would roll her eyes at this next statement, but i am thankful for their "no's". i am grateful that they loved me enough to protect me from situations that i had no business being apart of. daddy & mama, if you're reading this, thank you for being un-cool and caring about my well-being. i love y'all.

5. serve others. this isn't something i learned until recently. for a long time, i was a very selfish person. i didn't see why helping people was so important, especially when they didn't ask for help. i asked my mama why she was always at the church and she said that she enjoyed helping others and serving the Lord. hello, guilt. that conversation left an impression. i prayed for God to change my ungenerous heart. He did, and it has opened my eyes to another way to love people. when i serve others, i'm showing them the love of Christ. and if i'm not loving people, how do i expect them to believe Jesus does? 

6. spend more time cultivating good character than standing in front of the mirror. being a girl is fun. pretty nail colors, trying new makeup, and hello: clothes. but these things are fickle. beauty fades; character is a lifetime. i spend so much time covering up my acne scars and imperfections when in reality, those things do not matter. society wants me to believe so, but society is dead wrong. a woman of good morals and character is more beautiful than any supermodel or celebrity. a woman of integrity emits a humble beauty that even the most beautiful, airbrushed, surgically altered face cannot touch.

7. haters gonna hate. not everyone is going to like me. this one is still sinking in. i like to think i'm a happy, upbeat, down-to-earth girl, but there will be people in this world who don't like me. i've learned to not take this personally. i'll still smile and know Jesus loves them.

8. admit mistakes and apologize. i'm not always right. i mess up. i'm not perfect, no matter how hard i try. i have come to terms with this fact. when i make a mistake, i admit it. i apologize and learn from it. and if it's not too serious, i even laugh at myself because failing doesn't make me a failure; it means i'm human.

9. always, always be kind, even when the receiver is not. kindness can turn someone's bad day around. kindness can break down walls and let the Light in. kindness won't just change others, it'll change me, too.

10. i do not have to conform to society's standards. i'm not dumb because i didn't go to college. i'm not unloved because i don't have a husband and kids. i'm not a loser because i still live with my parents. i am walking with Jesus in this life. i am knowledgeable. i am patiently waiting. i am loved by the One who is Love.

11. forgive and extend grace. forgive quickly because holding onto that bitterness is like drinking poison. it will destroy me, not the other person. give the same grace that Jesus so wonderfully gives me. and forgive even when they're not sorry.

12. choose friends wisely. friendships are wonderful. doing life with people who love me as i am is valuable. but who i surround myself with matters. some friendships are not healthy and will not last. this might be one of the hardest lessons for me. but nonetheless, it happens. people come into my life as a blessing or a lesson.

13. read good books. reading takes me places, opens my eyes, and gives me new perspective. trashy magazines will not.

14. "follow your heart" is the worst advice ever. my heart is deceitful and evil and selfish. i choose to follow Jesus. His ways, though not always easy, are always for His glory and my good. His plans lead to abundant life, while my wandering heart will lead to destruction every.single.time.

15. if a guy wants to see me, he'll make plans in advance; if he texts me after 7 pm, he doesn't want to "watch a movie". true story: i walked to my car by myself at night because i wouldn't hook up with the guy. he hasn't wanted to watch a movie since. respecting myself for the win! and a little side-note: if a guy doesn't love Jesus and treat the women in his life with love and respect, i have no business dating him. don't even give him a second look. run, homegirl!

16. just because you have money doesn't mean you need to spend it. and it won't buy happiness; just temporary thrills.

17. time doesn't heal all wounds; Jesus does. He will heal and renew and restore.

18. do not get a haircut without thinking it over for at least two months. find a trustworthy stylist who understands hair. furthermore, don't ever go near the crazy, scissor-happy girl from supercuts in walmart again. this was nine years ago. i'm scarred for life.

19. modesty isn't boring. i can still look darling without showing off my body. dressing immodestly might get a boy's attention, but character and morals won't leave me with a broken heart and regrets.

20. if they gossip to you, they will gossip about you. end of story.

21. always be thankful. life is messy and hard and beautiful and crazy and fun and it can knock you on your booty. whether life's storms come like a hurricane or it's smooth sailing, find something to be grateful for. choosing joy in the midst of whatever circumstance is putting faith and trust in my Almighty God instead of fleeting emotions and situations.

22. what is popular isn't always right. i can either conform to popular belief, or i can stand for my convictions. i choose the latter, even if it means i stand alone.  

23. godly wisdom from older people is an unappreciated asset. by older people, i mean... oh, geez, this could get me into trouble. let's just say 65+. their advice and life experience might seem outdated to some, but they've gone through the same things i have, just in different ways. my grandma gracie died when i was twelve, but i still remember how much she loved Jesus and how she lived out her faith. she told me often that Jesus loved me. there are many older people who could teach us all a thing or two.

24. words matter. words reveal what's in the heart. they have the power to give life or destroy it. words can wound and scar worse than any physical blow. once they leave the tongue, they can't be taken back. words can create chaos or bring peace. but in any instance, they matter. and sometimes it's better to say nothing at all.

25. love myself. this one is still a learning process. for so long, i did not love me. i picked apart every inch of my body, relived my disappointments and shortcomings, and believed the lies that satan fed me. i didn't like the girl staring back at me in the mirror. i defined myself by pale skin, crooked teeth, and the hurtful words from kids growing up. when i started following Jesus, the lies i believed as truth began to fall apart. His word says i am wonderfully made. the same God who parted the red sea, the same God who spoke the earth into existence, the same God who created the moon, sun, stars, flowers, and all of creation - He made me. if He made me this way, then i will embrace the imperfect beauty. i will see past the flaws and love His creation. i will learn to love me. i am not my mistakes. i am not my past. i am redeemed.

26. and last but certainly not least.
the best lesson learned in my twenty-six years on this earth is i cannot live a second of this life without the redeeming love of Jesus. i've ran from Him, only to come crawling back. i've yelled at Him, only to praise Him moments later. i've questioned His plans, only to see the beautiful pieces come together. i've strayed, only to be welcomed back with His open arms. i've disobeyed, only to be consumed by His grace. i am a sinner, yet He bore my sin and shame on the cross. i will forever praise the Lamb of God.