Today is my 34th birthday.
And as I sit on American Airlines flight 201 headed to Port Au Prince, Haiti, I do a little math: I’m 34 years old, which means today marks my 12,410th day on planet earth. My 12,410th gift packaged in the format of 24 hours.
A day is a precious gift. Today is a precious gift. Every 12,410 days I have breathed in air have been a divine and wildly magnificent gift.
Life is a gift. Sure, that statement may seem like a sentimentalized cliché, but the longer I live the more I realize it may, in fact, be one of the great revelations of all. And if we aren’t careful, it can be a revelation that remains hidden in the shadows of stress and regret and bitterness and disappointment and pain and fear for far too long. Without proper care, precious and rare days become rusty and tarnished trinkets we easily dismiss. We diminish the value of a day, seeing each 24 hours as nothing more than to-do lists and a lack of sleep and errands to run and meetings to have and Instagram stories to post.
When we ask someone how their day is, they reply with the usual, “Fine.” “Good.” “Okay.” “Alright.” “Nothing to complain about.” “Same ole, same ole.”
I have yet to hear someone respond with, “It’s a gift!”
But it is. Each day is a gift… Because each day we wake up to another shot, a new beginning, a brand new chance at something extraordinary. A chance to love deeply, to speak boldly, to serve graciously, to risk bravely, to hope unswervingly, to learn relentlessly.
Each day is a gift. My birthday is a rare gift because it has granted me the invaluable exercise of reflection… to recognize that in the highs and lows of 34 years of life, in the rather remarkable mix of magnificent beauty, heart-breaking pain, and everything in between, I have loved, I have lived, and I have learned. Not always gracefully. Many times, painfully. Every now and again, awkwardly. But I have learned. I have learned from the love of God how to love this life I’ve been given. I have learned from the Pioneer of Faith how to venture forward into the unknown. I have learned from my Humble Savior how to bow and serve. I have learned from the Healer of the Broken-Hearted how to live mended and whole. I have learned from the Miracle-Maker how to dream big dreams. I have learned from Jesus, my One and Only Jesus, how to live life and life to the full.
I’m still learning. In many ways, I am just getting started. In the big scheme of things, I am still quite the novice in life. But I’m learning, and I am treasuring each day for the lessons they bring.
Last year, when I turned the big 33, I shared 33 lessons I had learned in 33 years. And I’ve decided to officially make this a tradition, providing you this go around with 34 insights in making the most of this precious life we’ve been given. And in very Adele fashion, I have titled this blog and this list “34” after my age, though I do hope my content will be a little less depressing than Adele’s lyrics. (No offense, Adele, I love you dearly. In fact, after attending a recent concert of yours, I am convinced we should be friends. If you ever want to grab coffee, hit me up!)
My hope is that these lessons, ones that many times came at a great cost for me personally, would be richly beneficial for you. And ultimately, I pray that you would rediscover the gift of the everyday… embracing the extraordinary lessons waiting to be unwrapped by your simple and intentional choice to be fully present. Here they are, in no particular order:
- Have a critical eye, but not at the expense of developing a critical spirit. And never elevate critique over contribution.
- Sometimes, your smartest move is to not say (or post) anything at all.
- Love that is real and lasting will always require sacrifice. Always.
- Peace is not the absence of a storm, but the Presence of Jesus in the midst of the storm.
- You’re never going to make everyone happy, so stop trying.
- We learn the most through good ole fashioned hard work and responsibility. Actual Hustle, makes you smarter. It’s called the School of Experience.
- Compassion is not true compassion unless accompanied with some action.
- Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they are wrong.
- A soft heart is not a weak heart. Never confuse the two.
- There is a time to heal, and a time to move on. A healthy soul is one that does both.
- Resist the urge to complain about the things you now have that you once prayed for.
- Casualness in relationships ultimately leads to casualties in intimacy. Don’t take for granted the people you love.
- Never stop asking questions.
- Jesus’ teachings, not man’s opinion or culture’s latest trend, is truth that sets us free.
- If you have something to say, say it kindly and say it directly. If not, let it go.
- Go ahead and cry, but shed your tears on things that matter.
- A true mark of an encourager is not simply that people like you, but that after spending time with you they like themselves more.
- Make stories now that you’ll want to tell your grandkids about later.
- What you say ‘no’ to is just as important as what you say ‘yes’ to.
- What happens within us will always hold more power than what happens around us.
- You will never be free until you forgive.
- Failure is not the end, but simply a lesson to be learned.
- People are not one size fits all. Love everyone, but love them uniquely.
- Authenticity requires vulnerability.
- Only character can sustain you in the places where your gift and talent will take you.
- You are loved more than you know, and every day is an opportunity to discover a little more about the love God has for you.
- Great people are humble people.
- Nothing will sabotage destiny quicker than a sense of entitlement.
- What you do when no one is watching defines you more than what you do when everyone is watching.
- It’s never too late for someone to change.
- Just because the mission is serious business doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves so seriously. Laugh often.
- When leading others, maintain a tender heart while having thick skin.
- Great things in life take time, so put in the time and give it time.
- Take risks, have new adventures, travel to far off places, and read often. Refuse to live a small life of comfort and safety.