Life Lessons

It was declared on the chat with the pastors this week that my 59th year is going to be epic. Not sure what made me say that or even mention that it was my birthday, I’m kinda private about stuff like that. I’ve never much liked a big deal made about my birthday, I mean it’s not like I worked hard to earn it – that would be my parents, and my mom most specifically on the actual day of my birth. But let’s face it, what have my moom and dude gone through over the last 59 years with their youngest daughter?!? I might not have been the easiest child to raise. I know, right? Hard to believe given my laid back personality, overall winsome nature, and lack of any diverse moods . . . O.k., even I know I’d better stop before I get struck by lightning, and given the weather this week, it could happen.

One of my heroes is author Anne Lamott, and as she was approaching the end of her 60th year in 2015, she decided to: “write down every single thing I know, as of today.” You can still find it. My warning is that she is unafraid of using colorful language, I mean, really colorful language, so it’s not for the faint of heart. AND, it’s full of truth and grace, simply in her very real and very raw way. I read it at my friend Jayne’s celebration of life services in Feb. 2016. Jayne had just turned 60 two months earlier on December 8. That perhaps has no small amount to do with why this 59th year seems somehow different. Her journey through ALS was as hard a battle as I have witnessed, and the moments of conversation, even when it was through a computer she could look at and spell words, I still hold most precious. The wisdom of Anne Lamott fit Jayne because neither of them pull any punches about how hard life is and how wonderfully fabulous life is all mixed together. I tend to live a bit more in my head, and they live(d) way out loud. I mean I know I AM loud, but that’s sorta different.

I’m not sure I can write down every single thing I know as of today, but maybe a few things I’ve learned along the way that continue to be foundational.

  1. Things that are hard to do are most often worth it. Those things that you aren’t sure you should try because the possibility of some kind of failure is at least half as likely as some kind of success. They’re usually worth doing because whether they turn into success or failure, the value is in the strength to take the risk and what you learn about yourself.

  2. God has a way of getting your where you need to be sometimes with you, sometimes in spite of you, sometimes without you realizing it until you’re suddenly there and don’t really know how it happened. Trust God’s goodness.

  3. Being generous with everything is usually way better for you than for anyone or anything that is the recipient of your generosity. It’s the great paradox.

  4. Sometimes life is simply hard and there isn’t anything you did or didn’t do for it to be that way. It’s always better to face into the struggle than to pretend it’s not hard and decide you can skip it or deal with it later. Hard stuff never goes away until we face it. And believing there is a perfect way to face it and survive without struggle or pain is just dumb. I continue to learn that the hard way.

  5. No one else is you. We can empathize and we can sympathize and we can work hard to understand, but finally no one else is you. I think that’s one of the best and worst things about life.

  6. A person can eat an entire bag of Chester Cheese corn without realizing it and maybe still have room for more. Same way with sleeves of thin mint Girl Scout cookies.

  7. Setting goals and achieving them is a gift, and so is setting goals and realizing you will never achieve all of them. Learning internal peace with both is the challenge of a lifetime.

  8. The gifts you have to share in life both are and are not about you. It takes your acceptance of them as a part of yourself for them to be effective, and it takes a realization that they really aren’t about you for them to be effective for the world.

  9. Kindness is choice.

  10. “Winners never quite, and quitters never win,” and “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” are both as much wrong as they are right. There are times to persevere and keep going and times when the greater wisdom is simply to stop. Knowing which to do when is the tough part. There are times when toxic words don’t land and it’s best simply to move on, and times when they land in more injurious ways than physical harm, and being a non-violent voice and upstander for yourself or others is the better part of faith and valor.

Ten is a round number so I’ll stop there for now. What I know for certain is there is more left to learn than anyone can ever imagine and I believe that’s much of why God gave us life on this earth. And learning is as much about the heart as it is about the head, as much about the neighbor as it is about the self, and as much about God and forgiving grace as it is about the much misused belief that we must or even could ever earn our way into God’s good favor.

While I’m not sure what epic will look like for this next year, it will unfold a day at a time and perhaps patience will become more of a reality for me . . . or not. On this fifth day of Christmas it is good to be alive and that’s the best gift of all.