Today is a big day for me, my 39th birthday—which puts me just 366 days (thanks Leap Year) away from being “over the hill.” Sure, forty is the new thirty, and age is just a mindset, and all of the things. But the big 4-0 is still quite a milestone, and one I’m rapidly approaching.

With that big birthday looming, it’s inevitable that the coming year will be reflection heavy for me. (Not to be confused with literally every other year that is also HIGHLY introspective. My brain is a busy place, let me tell ya!) I cannot think of a better way to jumpstart this last year of my thirties than with some musings on what this past season has taught me.

1| There are four essentials for a healthy soul: rest, responsibility, restraint, and relationships.

This brilliant observation came to me from Judah Smith’s How’s Your Soul by way of a recent sermon at church. (I have yet to read the book, but plan to.) According to Smith, these four soul-healing essentials are all indicated in God’s original plan for mankind as seen in the Garden of Eden, where God modeled rest and provided Adam and Eve with responsibilities (caring for and naming the animals), restraint (a command not to eat from the tree), and relationship (with Himself and with each other). I will be returning to this when my soul feels off, asking which of these four essentials is lacking and in needed of replenishing.

2| God will equip me to do what He has called me to do.

Last year, God started nudging me to lead a women’s group through our church. The nudges grew into all-out shoves, to the point where I knew choosing to say no to this opportunity would be clear disobedience ton my part. There were many roadblocks that nearly caused me to abandon ship, but these were cleared up (some in ways that were nothing short of miraculous) and my weekly women’s group is under way. Despite all my reservations, I am now deeply excited about this group and how God is working in my life and the lives of the women who are participating.

3| Making a decision is about much more than the ultimate outcome.

For several months now, Luke and I have been praying over a big decision for our family. My prayer is that God will provide a very clear answer that will give us total assurance in our decision. That answer has not yet come, but the process of discernment has led to many other revelations and blessings: Luke and I have grown closer to each other and to the Lord as we seek His will in this decision; I have come to a better understanding of how the easiest choice is not always the best one (but it could be); and I am learning what it looks like to be faithful where I am RIGHT NOW, before receiving an answer. Even though our decision has been postponed, God’s work in and through us has not been suspended.

4| “Scary” transitions are rarely as difficult as I anticipate they will be.

Many things have been difficult with the twins, but sleep has not been one of those things. For the most part, they are great sleepers and have always done amazingly well in the same crib. Which is why I was nervous about transitioning that crib into a toddler bed; what would this mean for the sleep habits of our remarkable little sleepers? It turned out that it meant very little: Kali and Sully continue to sleep well in the same bed, going down easily at naptime and bed time and never trying or asking to get out of their bed without permission. I had so much fear going into this change and it has brought nothing but good things; I want to remember this lesson next time I’m dreading a big milestone (like a 40th birthday, maybe?).

5| When it comes to purchases, don’t give in to the hype!

In December I was “influenced” to purchase a few internet-based courses and activities that were fine but not necessarily worth the money or energy we ultimately gave to them. Charleston had this same realization with many of the toys he requested for his birthday and Christmas, realizing that those flashy toys didn’t bring as much joy as he had hoped they would. Contrastingly, Charleston observed how much he is loving some of his other gifts that are more classic than novel (like his new art kit, a stuffed animal, and some board games). I felt the same way about many of my own December purchases: the $5 Christmas prints I picked up at Dollar Tree were some of my favorite purchases of the whole year, and we all really loved the new Christmas picture books we acquired and the old-fashioned but awesome Advent blocks tradition we began this year. I think the lesson for me here is that for our family, physical items are better than digital ones, and tried-and-true should take precedence over new and novel.

6| Memory work is always worth it.

Charleston memorized the entire Night Before Christmas story in December. It was a stretch for him, but he did it and experienced a huge sense of accomplishment. Since then, whenever he encounters a new academic challenge, he reminds himself, “If I could memorize that whole poem, then I can totally do this.” I experienced similar feelings after memorizing all of Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount) last year. In addition to the confidence boosting and cognitive benefits of this long-form memorization, I have reaped innumerable blessings from having these passages hidden in my heart. I am hoping the same for my kids as we continue to prioritize memorization (especially Scripture memorization) in our home.

7| There is so much power in having a strength observed and called out by a friend.

Twice in the past month, I had friends recognize two (separate) strengths in me that I had never observed in myself. I found this so empowering in that the friends’ comments opened my eyes to skills I did not know I had and emboldened me to pursue these specific skills further. I want to do the same for others: looking for and commenting on areas where they shine so that they might feel similarly empowered to live out these gifts.

8| Those numbers on a copyright page have a purpose!

I have always wondered about that row of numbers and never thought to look it up until a few months ago. Apparently this is called the Printer’s Key and is used to indicate the print run of a particular edition. In the first run of a book, the key usually consists of the numerals 1 through 10. For each subsequent printing, the lowest number is removed. So, for example, if the Printer’s Key on a page is 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 then this is the fourth printing (since 4 is the smallest number remaining). The reason numbers are removed instead of added is that in the days of letterpress printing, where each character was a metal block, the printer could simply pull the relevant blocks from the sheet for each reprint. I am more than a little sad I did not always know this, and now look for the Key on every book I open.

9| Jesus was 100% truth and 100% love, always.

I have needed to lean into this reminder a lot this season in moments when I find myself veering too far towards the truth side of things (neglecting grace) and, alternately, when the pendulum swings and I overdo it on the loving side in ways that downplay truth. Jesus never stopped loving, AND He never sacrificed the truth. If He is to be my example, I can’t forsake either one. I won’t always know how to be loving and truthful at the same time, so I am ever-so-thankful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this.

10| I am happy to do without many luxuries I assumed I needed.

I have not gone to the salon for my customary monthly pedicure since last September, and I learned to cut my own toe nails. (Yes, I am admitting here that I lived nearly four decades before acquiring this essential skill.) Our dishwasher decided to give up the ghost in December, and we replaced it with a drying rack and some new sponges. We canceled our Disney Plus subscription in January, and I like that our kids’ screen time is now limited to DVDs. We did not make any of these “sacrifices” out of necessity, and none of those things were inherently bad. But each relinquishment has had its benefits, not the least of which is becoming less beholden to resources, tools, and things.

11| There are few things cuter than having a mini Cinderella toddling around the house.

Since receiving a Cinderella outfit for Christmas, Kali has taken princess duties very seriously and wears her princess garb as often as possible. It is so precious, and a continual reminder of how fortunate I am to have been blessed with a “girly girl” with whom I can share my own love all things accessories and beauty.

12| Exercising discernment is not the same thing as being cynical.

When it appeared that revival was occurring on the Asbury campus, I was initially skeptical. This skepticism was immediately replaced by guilt over my doubt of the work of the Holy Spirit. I do believe that revival is possible, and it is something I have prayed for, so I regretted my own spirit of doubt. In praying through this response and hearing from a variety of Christian leaders, I see that my first reaction was not wrong. The Lord invites us to question what we observe, and not all that appears as light is good. I can maintain a hopeful and believing attitude towards this movement (and towards the work of the Spirit in general) without trading in my spirit of discernment for blind naïveté.

13| There is a balance between spending time learning about God and being with Him.

I spent a lot of time studying God (by way of apologetics and deep dives into Scripture) at the end of 2022. I love relating to God intellectually, but it is easy for me to over-intellectualize my faith. God wants more than just my mind, he wants my heart, too, and that comes when I stop consuming information about Him and simply rest in Him and with Him. I have been doing more of that resting these past two months, spending time in meditative prayer and slowing down my study in order to allow all that information to marinate. My theology will inform my connection to God, but it is no replacement for communing with Him.

14| We are a generation that is hungry for the truth of God’s Word!

I have a number of friends who are reading through the Bible this year, many for the very first time. I am also participating in two formal studies that are setting aside more superficial/Christian living studies for in-depth study of the Bible itself. I believe this is an unexpected result of the widespread disinformation (and subsequent decline in our trust of institutions) that we have all experienced in the last few years. Instead of turning to other sources to tell us what and how to think about the Bible, we are reading it for ourselves. I LOVE THIS!

What have YOU been learning this season? I would be honored if you would take some time to share a recent lesson or takeaway with me.

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