seven meditations on my golden birthday
"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well." ~ Voltaire
As my golden birthday approaches, here are seven reflections on my shiny new age.
1. I've been married for almost seven years.
Sometimes it's better than a fairy tale. Other times it involves throwing a bag of McDonald's at Jeff's face in a fit of rage. (Don't worry, it hit the car, not him. And our burgers miraculously remained intact, a la Jussie Smollett.)
I'm so glad we didn't quit during the roughest times because being married has been the most character-shaping seven years of my life, and there is nothing quite like spending most of your time with the best person you know.
Most importantly, seven years of marriage has taught me that love is more than being attracted to each other or doing nice things for one another or having fun together. That's all part of it, but love is a commitment to the truth -- the truth of God's love and the truth about ourselves (both the good and the bad.)
2. Friendship is hard when you're a grownup.
Now that I'm a mom, I think a lot about Vivian's future friends. I was blessed with a small group of amazingly kind, funny, smart, loving, quirky friends through most of middle school and high school, and I pray for the same for her.
That said, as I officially enter my "late" twenties, I find myself more acutely aware of how much friendship changes when you don't have any kind of organic activity like school bringing you together. (That, plus all the new tasks that must be tended to, like paying bills and raising children.)
These days, friendship requires work and intentional planning. It also requires purposefully making myself go beyond shallow, safe subjects of conversation so that I can actually get to know someone and let them know me.
At this stage in my life, I can't say that I've mastered this, but I want to. I'm more convinced than ever that friendship is one of God's greatest gifts.
3. Being a mom is a pretty sweet job (but I need help.)
Stay-At-Home Mother is (by far) the best job I've ever had. Being pregnant was weird and fun. Giving birth and holding my daughter in my arms was surreal. Spending every day with Vivian is a joy. If I could pick only one career, hands down, I'd pick being a mom.
And still, I am one hundred percent a-okay admitting that I ask for lots of help. I ask Jeff for help so I can rest. I ask my mom for help so I can write. I ask my sister for help so I can workout. I ask my parents-in-law for help so Jeff and I can travel. I ask my church for help so I can stay involved. Everyone's help made my transition to motherhood so much smoother.
When I first started asking for help, sometimes a random, comparison-fueled thought would cross my mind, like, "I only have one child. Other people have more and they seem to manage without any help." Or, "Single moms don't get as much help as I do." Then I felt a weird, vague guilt for being married and having one child.
I don't entertain those pointless thoughts anymore. I don't think about what other people might think of me or my requests. I just figure out what I need help with and ask people for their time or expertise. More often than not, someone helps out, and it makes mom life so much sweeter.
(I'm sharing this because if you need help, please ask for it. You can start with me, if you want. We're in this together, mamas!)
4. Today's feminism sucks.
I consider myself a smart, strong-willed, imperfect woman. I like being empowered, and I like empowering others. I also prefer thinking for myself and not being entirely ruled by my emotions. That's why I don't like postmodern feminism. It offers women nothing of value.
Thanks to progressive feminism, we get to murder our full-term babies as they're being born or shortly after. We get to compete with males pretending to be females and be beaten. We get to be drafted. We get to claim to be poor, helpless, oppressed damsels in need of allies while simultaneously screeching that "girls run the world." We get to be terribly afraid of men and their "toxicity." We get to wear the ugliest pink hat ever designed and march for rights we already have. We get to base our political decisions off of hashtags and touchy-feely media designed to manipulate us. We get to be unique and celebrated, as long as we conform to progressive ideals.
No thanks. I'll pass.
Women have more power (and much better choices) than feminism says we do, and I'm increasingly thankful for women who are willing to go against the grain.
5. It's okay to make embarrassing mistakes and big changes.
Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to be an English professor. Another time, I thought I wanted to be a international missionary. Another time, I thought I didn't want to have any children. Another time, I thought being part of a church wasn't important to my faith. The list goes on, and it proves that I've been mindbogglingly incorrect in my assessments about myself more than once.
I have dated the wrong people, entertained the wrong friends, and taken the wrong jobs. Even worse, I prolonged some of these mistakes by refusing to acknowledge that I screwed up. Thankfully, I've finally learned that there's no reason to lock yourself in a foolish decision out of fear of looking foolish for changing it. It was only when I made big course corrections things started changing for the better.
We can stop hiding from our missteps. Mistakes are inevitable. Free yourself from them and grow. I realize now that most of my mistakes were the result of me trying to get the approval of some person or group instead of staying true to my own convictions.
6. Personal discipline is a war against evil.
I'm convinced that people cultivating instead of consuming could change the world for the better. I think too many of us are content with projecting a certain image of who we are rather than cultivating who we truly want to be.
Consider this: How would you feel if everyone believed that you are a kind, smart, accomplished, loving, talented, compassionate, consistent person, but you aren't really any of those things? Would that truly be satisfying?
When you're ruled by what other people think of you, you're tempted to think the answer is yes, and that's why so many people (myself included) have wasted time perfecting their outward appearances instead of their inner qualities. That mindset offers an explanation for why it seems so easy for prejudiced, hateful people to make grand, meaningless gestures against prejudice and hate.
What if we stopped signaling that we have virtue and actually cultivated it instead?
7. God doesn't exist to help me achieve my goals. I exist to help him achieve his.
As a goal enthusiast, this realization is tough and liberating at the same time. It's tough because I like my goals. I like my plans. I like my vision for the future. (And I like pretending like I have more control than I actually do.) And I've spent a long time thinking and acting as if God was my personal assistant rather than recognizing him for who he is, which is someone far more significant than I am.
But, it's also liberating because I love God and trust him. Every year my faith is increased by who he is and what he's done, and I know his goals are better than mine. They're more selfless, more challenging, and more important. And because he loves me, we get to work together. That's better than anything I could've come up with.
With all that in mind, this golden birthday feels like a good one.