I am arriving at age 32 today just where I always dreamed I would be at this point in my life. I’m married to the love of my life and high school sweetheart, I have two amazing children with one more to arrive just weeks from now, I have a beautiful home that we are slowly making into our dream home on the street I always dreamed I would live on, and I get to stay at home with my kids while also working a job that I have wanted to do since high school.
Looking back on my past year, I am amazed at how I have grown. God has worked in my life this past year like I have never quite experienced before, and I have matured in ways that I can only explain that have been God led.
And yet, I feel this deep restlessness that my everyday life is not how I want to live the rest of my life. My life may look like I have always dreamed it to be, but in my head I barely allow myself to enjoy any of it. For the past few months, I have been moving at record speed, but if I’m honest, I probably have for the past year and really most of my life.
Much of my pride lies in the fact that I am a hard worker, and I don’t rest. I keep going going going, checking off the to do list, running a constant list of things that need to be done in my head. I never celebrate what is completed, what I have accomplished, but yet am always beating myself up for what is not done.
I seem to go through this same cycle every year about this time when work is so crazy busy, and every year I feel like I am just getting through. But I don’t want to just get through any of my life. The past year, God has been showing me that there is a better way.
As though in perfect timing, in the heart of my craziness, Shauna Niequist’s new book, Present-over-Perfect arrived a couple of weeks ago. I read this passage, and it hit me so close to home I was brought to tears.
And I’m so tired. I miss my friends. I sleep terribly. I snap at my kids more than I want to, and then I lay in bed at night feeling guilty about it. I spend more time asking my husband for help with the dishes or the kids than I do asking him about his life and dreams and ideas.
Who wins, then? I handled it all! I showed them! But who is “them”? Who cares? Whose voice am I listening to? What am I trying to prove? What would happen, what would be lost, if I stopped, or if I slowed down to a pace that felt less like a high-speed chase all day, every day?
What if I trusted that there would be more time down the road, that if that book has to be read or that party has to be thrown or that race has to be run or that trip has to be taken, there will be more time to take it/do it/read it/write it later? Later. Later.
I don’t operate in later. I’ve always been proud of that. But look where it’s gotten me. Stuffed. Exhausted. Wrung out and over-scheduled to the point where even things I love to do sound like obligations, and all my deepest desires and fantasies involve sleep and being left alone. My greatest dream is to be left alone? Things have gone terribly awry.
There has to be another way. And I’m going to find it. I’m going to make the space to taste my life once again. I’m going to find a new way of living that allows for rest, as much rest as I need, not just enough to get me through without tears, but enough to feel alive and whole, grounded, and gracious. Things I haven’t been in years.
In the last days of my mom’s life, one of the things she told me was that she shouldn’t have worked so hard. That’s all she said about it and I could see the hurt and the mom guilt in her eyes. My instant reaction was, “Oh mom, you were always there for us.” She was always a stay at home mom, and other than cleaning houses the last few years (which she did a lot of) she didn’t work outside the home.
But now I am starting to see, I don’t think that is what she meant. I come from a long line of very hard working women, whether it was at their job or at home, they were always working hard. I am the same way, there is always something to be done. My mom didn’t mean that she worked too much out of the home, but that she worked too much in her every day.
I value hard work, but I also want to value rest. Rest in the form of not just sleep but reading, writing, praying, reading my bible, playing with my kids, going on a walk, hanging out with my husband, and enjoying my friends…all without the running to do list in my head. Right now, I really don’t know how I am going to get to this place, having been chained to the achievement of crossing off my to do list for so long, but I know I am going to have to do some serious deep inside work to get there. And I think 32 is the year for it!
There are a few age numbers that I have always felt would be the rough ones to reach, and they are not your typical 30, 40, or 50. Twenty was hard because I had been alive just as many years without my dad as with him. At age 32, my uncle passed away suddenly, which now reaching the age of 32 seems impossibly young. 36 will be a hard one, the age my dad passed away. And I sure hope to reach 53 and surpass it, the age my mother died. All this to say, life is short and can even be cut way shorter than we ever expect. So why would I spend my time worshiping my to do list when I could spend my sweet days worshiping a perfect, flawless, and loving God and the beautiful life he has given me?
At church on Sunday, one thing really stood out to me from the sermon. I 100% believe in the facts of my Christianity, whole-heartedly, but I don’t necessarily live as if I feel them. I don’t let myself feel unconditionally loved by God (I’m still always out to prove my worth), and I don’t let myself feel as if I have been set free from sin. I keep thinking how amazing it would be if I let myself truly fee the assurance of God’s love and the freedom I have.
Last night, I told Trevor I wanted to be able to go on an early morning walk for my birthday. My kids wake up so early that I never get a moment of peace to start my day lately. I walked out of my house, tennis shoes laced, crisp breeze at my face, and the first song I heard was Amazing Grace. At first, I quickly thought let’s get to the next song, and then as if hearing it for the first time the words hit me…my chains are gone, I’ve been set free…and I felt it for a moment. Yes, I am set free. This is the year I really want to feel it.
This is what 32 looks like for me. 🙂