Today is my 32nd birthday.

I have never been someone who was afraid of getting older.  I’ve always known that with age comes wisdom and to me, wise people are beautiful people.  As the years roll by in my own life I am often reminded of the verse in Titus (2:4) about how older women must train younger women to navigate marriage, motherhood, and their home.  This verse always causes me to realize that as I get older I have a responsibility to mentor younger women and that I still very much need to be mentored myself.

So instead of Mark’s typical birthday post about how awesome I am (all true, of course ; ) I’d like to share with you 32 pieces of my own personal wisdom.  As women, I really believe that we must talk about our own life lessons – good and bad – in an effort to protect, support, and empower each other.

MARRIAGE

1. I’ve shared this before: Act how you want to feel until you start to feel how you’re acting.  Feelings follow deliberate action.

2. Edify each other.  Build the other up.  Celebrate the good in your spouse (because its so easy to focus on the not-so-good, especially after several years of marriage).

3. Love is a verb – I try to think of ways to show love that Mark will appreciate.

4. Never stop dating, even when kids enter the picture.  Marriage can get boring and dating is exciting.

5. Its not perfect and that is okay.  You can read about how un-perfect my own marriage is here.

PARENTING

6. They’re in your world, you’re not in theirs.

7. Breastfeeding is way harder than anyone every mentioned.  If you can get past the first month, you’re set.

8. In my experience as a mom of three, kids don’t need options all the time.  I choose what’s for breakfast most mornings, not them.  I choose what they wear most days, not them.  This saves time and battles.  And when I do offer options, they are “either/or” options.  This is, of course, based on age and maturity level.  I was just never interested in being the mom who made three different meals for every meal, every day.

9. Just say no!  My kids do not have to be involved in every single thing.  We are extremely conservative with our commitments.  Being a slave to the calendar is exhausting and stressful.

10. Cultivate good characteristics while they’re young.  Selflessness, gratitude, sacrifice, grace, honesty, helpfulness, bravery should be taught and consistently reinforced as early as possible.

11. When my kids were babies I was always in a hurry for them to reach the next milestone. I wish someone would’ve told me to thoroughly enjoy each phases while we were IN it.

12. Unplug and be present.  Oftentimes I realize that I’ve spent more time staring at a screen than looking at the sweet faces of my children.  Major source of guilt.

FRIENDSHIP

13. I don’t need/want a lot of friends.  Five really close, faithful friends is all I’ve ever needed.

14. Gossip: if you can’t say it to the person directly, don’t say it to anyone else.

15. Don’t be so quick to judge.  We all have struggles, our marriages all take work, our parenting styles are different.  That’s okay.

16. Ask before giving advice.  A lot of times my friends just want to vent and aren’t seeking my extraordinarily valuable advice on the subject.  I try not to offer advice unless I know I’m being asked for it.

17. Don’t waste time on toxic people.  We’ve all had bad friends who have betrayed or hurt us.  Forgive the offense and move on.

18. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn) Choose wisely. Make sure their values align with yours.

19. Make friends with older women.  By older, I mean a different generation.  This is something I really wish I would’ve done in my twenties.  Older women in a totally different life phase are able to advise and guide you, and also give you hope and perspective from someone who has more life/marriage/parenting experience than you.

20. Girl time/trips are a MUST, especially after kids.  I struggled with being deliberate about making time for my friends due to the exhaustion of motherhood.  I had to suck it up and make myself go have fun.  I never regretted it.

21. Learning to give and accept difficult truths in friendship is not easy.  I have one friend who taught me the art of lovingly calling someone out in friendship by calling me out several times.  I never felt offended or defensive.  She helped me see things about myself that I didn’t see and she helped me grow as a person.

LIFE/HOME

22. Making my own coffee at home brings me way more satisfaction than paying someone else $3/day to make it for me.

23. The best gifts (to receive and give) are the ones where you know a lot of thought was put into it.  I aspire to be a more thoughtful gift-giver.

24. I often set my timer for 10 minutes to speed clean, just to see how much I can actually get done in 10 minutes (a lot!).

25. I never regret working out.  Ever.

26. Comparison is the thief of joy.  Stop looking around at what everyone else is doing or has.

27. I believe women should know how to cook – even if you don’t like cooking.  Men should know how to cook too.

28. The best books I’ve read so far: Captivating, One Thousand Gifts, Redeeming Love

29. I carry a taser and that baby has gotten me out of two potentially dangerous situations after events downtown.  Note: I’ve never used it.  Turning it on as a warning was enough.

30. The older I get the more comfortable I get with the reality that nothing is perfect.  As a recovering perfectionist, there is so much freedom in that.

31. Gratitude = joy.

32. Moderation and balance are so important.  Some days I just want a margarita (or a cupcake, or guacamole and chips, or whatever).  Its probably not a wise idea to have that stuff every day, but once in a while doesn’t hurt.  Life is supposed to be fun.  Obsessing over my health is not fun – or healthy.