This month, I will be celebrating my 40th birthday! Forty. Four decades. Some of you are reading this and thinking that I’m so old. Others of you are reading this and thinking that I’m still so young. Others of you are in the same season of life and are thinking, join the club!
The truth is that I’m honestly excited about turning 40. I have been experiencing an inner shift over the past couple of years. It’s still hard for me to put it into words, but it’s like my soul has been preparing for the shift from the “first half” to the “second half”.
In many ways, I feel like I’m only just getting started. And it’s both exciting and daunting.
As I enter my birthday month and the beginning of a new decade in my life, I have been reflecting a LOT. There are so many life lessons that I have learned thus far, however, I simply want to share four of them, which still frame my life today.
So, here’s one lesson from each decade…
My Childhood Years: “The imagination is where dreams come to life.”
Children are so creative. They get lost in their imaginary worlds and “let’s pretend” games. As a little girl, I had a whole group of imaginary friends and often invited them all over to my bedroom to have afternoon tea with my teddy bears. My parents would overhear me chatting away to the people in my imagination.
But something tends to happen as children get older and start formal schooling. Creativity becomes an educational criteria to be measured and daydreaming is frowned upon – especially in the middle of a maths class!
However, my imagination was the soil into which God sowed dreams of the future. At the age of four or five, I would often march up and down the long hallway in the home we had in Melbourne, Australia. I would pull a little suitcase behind me as I marched.
“Where are you going, Celina?” my parents would ask, somewhat amused.
“I’m going to Europe!” came the confident response.
My parents were shocked. They didn’t even know how I knew what Europe was. But I actually didn’t. Looking back all these years later, from our apartment in Copenhagen, Denmark, I can see how the Lord was already planting dreams of the future and I was acting them out in my imagination.
As I get ready to turn 40, I can honestly say that my imagination is still alive and well! My husband will notice me staring out the window and will ask me what I’m imagining this time. My answers tend to make him take a deep breath, knowing that the next faith adventure is about to begin!
The imagination is where dreams come to life. Pay attention to it!
My Teenage Years: “Friendships across all generations are vital.”
As a qualified high-school teacher, I can tell you, from my own experience observing students, that teenagers typically only want to hang out with their peer group – other kids their own age. This is totally normal!
However, when I was in my mid-teens, a woman, who was then in her forties, asked me if I wanted to go to a café and hang out! I was so surprised! She was more than double my age and wanted to spend time with me. This was a turning point for me. That one invitation started a life-long journey of cultivating friendships with people across all generations.
As I get ready to turn 40, I love that I have friendships with teenage girls, young women in their twenties, women in their thirties and forties, and women in their fifties and sixties. I learn so much from each and every one of them, and I am grateful for their different perspectives, insights and wisdom.
Friendships across all generations are vital. Intentionally cultivate them!
My Twenties: “The loudest voice isn’t always the most important voice.”
Throughout my life, I have completed several first aid courses. At one of the courses during university in my early twenties, the instructor was talking about what to do at the scene of an accident. He mentioned how the people who were screaming the most didn’t always get the paramedics’ attention right away. It was the person lying still on the ground, their eyes closed, saying nothing, that would capture their attention.
This information has stuck with me ever since.
The decade of the twenties is a major shift into young adulthood. Many move out of the family home, start university or vocational degrees, and enter the workforce. Many begin serious relationships that result in engagement and marriage, and I know of many people who started having children in their twenties.
In the midst of all these changes and new experiences, the twenties is a time of starting to settle into your own skin – but this often involves an inner journey of a lot of comparison and self-doubt!
During this decade of my life, I discovered that people have opinions. And lots of them. And they have no problem with sharing them – even when you haven’t asked for it! Combined with social media, the sheer volume of voices is vast and LOUD.
I learned, often the hard way, that God’s voice is usually a small whisper. And if you don’t pay attention, you can easily miss it. My twenties was a time of learning the sound of God’s voice through beginning to make reading my Bible a daily priority. It was also a decade of growing confident in my own voice – my own opinions, thoughts and ideas.
The loudest voice isn’t always the most important voice. Don’t get distracted by it!
My Thirties: “A disciplined life is not a boring life.”
Words like “self-control” and “discipline” aren’t exactly crowd-pleasers, are they? If my twenties was a time of growing confident in my own skin, then I’d say that my thirties has been the decade of doing the hard work required to create the type of life I want to live; a life that is becoming more and more aligned with my calling.
And this requires self-control and discipline – the decision to delay gratification, make short-term sacrifices, live according to your convictions and values, submit to authority, seek advice and help when needed, take steps of faith, and commit to doing certain things daily no matter the season.
Now, I know that this may not seem like fun at all. But as I get ready to turn 40, I can honestly say that life is not boring! It’s an exciting adventure filled with meaning, purpose and the unexpected!
I have learned (also the hard way!) the necessity of taking care of the health of all areas of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, socially, financially… you get the idea!
These days, I’m aware of my limitations, but I no longer see limitations as weakness – I see them as empowering boundaries that bring great freedom.
A disciplined life is not a boring life. Don’t be deceived!
Well, there you have it. Four life lessons from four decades of my life thus far. And I’m looking forward to seeing what my forties will teach me!