* I am loved!
Probably no lesson has been so easy nor so hard to truly own than this one. It was easy because my formative years, when I learned what love really looked like, were spent with a mom and dad who made this lesson easy to understand. They taught me what unconditional love really looks like. Comprehending that God was a loving parent was not a stretch for me because loving parenthood had been modeled for me consistently. For that, I will be forever grateful.
At 20, after repenting of my sins, I began to walk with the Lord. To say that He has shown me how deep His love for me truly is would be an understatement. Just as I learned with my parents, He has taught me that true love is unconditional, but must have clearly defined boundaries. Love is lavish, but love has responsibilities and turning from that love has consequences. Without daily affirmation of His love for me, I know that life would be terribly void of meaning and purpose.
23 years...23 years of loving and growing with the same man. 23 years and 5 kids later, I couldn't imagine having a family that would bring me more joy and help me understand in a more profound way how fun and messy and fulfilling love really can be. Whether it's been 23 years of full-time ministry, attempting to merge 2 wills in as painless a way as it was to become one flesh, gazing at a sweet newborn face after birthing their huge bodies, hours spent nursing, 17 years of homeschooling (which have been awesome and stressful all at the same time), bedtime snuggles, glances made my way for affirmation during an at-bat or after making a basket, midnight counseling sessions or hours spent involved in kitchen creations (because I firmly believe "food is love")...all of it has ultimately shown me that I am capable of giving and receiving love to the point of physical pain!!! Extending true agape consistently has been the tricky part of love, though, because sometimes I just don't feel like it!!
* Walking with Jesus is THE most amazing struggle I have every engaged in!
I surrendered to the Lord's relentless pursuit of me when I was 20. It has taken 30 years to begin to subdue the flesh and tame the tongue and I have a sneaking suspicion that however many years I have left will be filled with pop quiz after pop quiz to keep these lessons sharp and in the forefront of my mind.
* Grace is essential!
This could potentially be the most difficult lesson learned over the last 50 years for it is a multi-faceted lesson. It is the tension between understanding that the grace extended is not just for us to horde and bask in ourselves, but it's for the purpose of learning how to turn around and extend it to others...and it's generally required for those least deserving...just as it was for me!!
* Beauty has nothing really to do with what we readily see on the outside!
Defining and embracing BEAUTY is a tricky thing...especially when we are bombarded from all sides by a decidedly different view of beauty than how God defines it. Scripture says that charm can't be trusted and beauty will slip away and that may be one of the greatest understatements ever. All we need do is research the amount of money spent annually on beauty products to realize that the relentless pursuit of outward beauty is real. I believe one of the greatest challenges in growing older is embracing the reflection and the resulting inner dialogue that greets you every morning...embracing the wrinkles and the redistributed body parts...embracing the added weight and our silver crowns. If beauty is not more than the sum total of our weight and dress size, then there is no way that joy can be something we are able to take with us to the end of our days.
* Last, but not least...life is so much more meaningful with good friends by your side!!
I have a few friends I have journeyed with for many, many years and they are scattered throughout the world. One of these friends, Janet, was the catalyst that God used to catapult me into His arms and I will be forever grateful! She and I are in it for the long haul (ever since Mr. Richardson's 8th grade French class) and I hope we get to grow old together. I have friends we have met in ministry and life would have been much more difficult over the years without their partnership and encouragement. I must say, though, that when Tim and I came to this church Papa threw open the floodgates of friendship and I now have more friends than I ever thought possible. Some of you, like it or not, are my safe place to process things and help keep me out from under the bedcovers. Your encouragement, wise counsel and inappropriate cartoons are an integral part of me being able to do what I do. The large majority of you bring me so much joy and some of you make me feel like a proud Mama as I see you learn to trust and grow.
I don't know how many years I have left, but I do hope I'll continue to learn and grow...no matter what number is attached to the year!!