There are certain times of year that naturally push me to spend a bit more time reflecting than I spend doing. Those times of year tend to coincide with natural transitions–the turn of a new year, the change of seasons, and of course birthdays. This year, as I inch closer and closer to the three-decade milestone, I am finding myself feeling both nostalgic and reflective.

The result is this series of blog posts over the 10 days leading up to my 30th birthday in which I am sharing a total of 30 lessons that I have learned in 30 years of life.

Busy is Not a Badge of Honor
In my early and mid-twenties, when I would get together with a group of friends or youth ministry colleagues, it wasn’t unheard of for us to sit around a table bragging about how busy we were. We would talk about this program, and that student’s game, and the five projects we were working on in our “free time,” and how we were headed back to our college to volunteer as a group leader on a weekend retreat, and… and… and… Now that I’m closing in on my thirties, I think back to that time and get exhausted just thinking about it. It’s not that I’m no longer busy, because boy am I ever! But I no longer brag about that busy-ness, because I’ve learned that all that busy-ness is taking away from other, far more important things. Like family, friends, and self-care. I’m certainly not perfect, but I am far more aware of the pace of my life than I was in my early and even my mid-twenties.

Make Time to Slow Down
And, while we are on the topic of the pace of life, I have found in the past five years or so that it is absolutely necessary for me to regularly make time to slow down. One way Scott and I have forced the issue in our house is to every so often cook dinner over a fire in the backyard. There is something about sitting around a fire and watching your dinner cook that just demands attentiveness and slowing down. In the past several years I’ve also made personal and professional retreating a priority in my schedule. Every fall I attend a retreat for youth and family ministers with some of my favorite co-laborers in the kingdom at which we slow down, dream, and retreat from the hustle and bustle of fall youth ministry, and each spring I try to take a few days of silent retreat and renewal for my own sanity. Those times of slowing down along with the natural ebb and flow of busyness in my youth ministry lifestyle are absolutely essential to my own health and sanity.

How to Unplug
My husband will be the first to tell you that I have not yet learned this lesson, and while he’s probably right that there’s no way I have possibly perfected it, I have begun to make some intentional strides. Scott and I always talk about how our generation is in a sort of unique position technologically because we grew up alongside technology. We experienced high school without and then with instant messenger, we got cell phones as college students, we started college before Facebook and finished with hundreds of “friends,” and we didn’t get smartphones until after we were married. So, we’ve experienced most stages of our life both with and without being constantly connected. And, honestly, most days I miss the good old days of coming home from work or school and no longer being “connected.” In a world where there is often pressure to be always available to everyone, I find that it is important to occasionally unplug–to put my phone on do not disturb (or even *gasp* turn it off!), to shut down the laptop, stop crushing candy, and just be with the people I’m actually with. Sometimes I have to force this by actually going somewhere that has no cell reception or internet, but I’m really hoping that in my thirties I can develop a little more discipline around putting down the screens and spending time with real live people.

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