We all know them. We've seen them embroidered on pillow cases, etched in stone, and laminated on our bible bookmarks. The 10 commandments were some of the first words in the Old Testament that people could relate to. I mean, how hard is it to not murder or covet your neighbor's ox? To avoid sounding blasphemous, let me explain. We are a rules based society. We crave guidance and restriction on all of the things in our life.
I find rules quite primitive. I understand their purpose as they keep us from creating chaos where free-will lies. Without rules, we are left to our own devices, many of which cause harm to ourselves or others. For this reason, rules and I have a mutual agreement. I value them for the important stuff and they value my ability to challenge a rigid life by following every rule ever written. In case you were wondering, it is IMPOSSIBLE to follow them all.
I often watch in wonder as friends, family and colleagues spin themselves in a mess by their constant efforts to get everything right. Its just not possible folks. I am often asked, "How do you get it all done?" The fact of the matter is...I don't. And I'm ok with that. I understand there are ramifications from rule-breaking, but when the ole scale of pros vs. cons comes out, the free spirit in me wins out every time. I simply don't desire the stress and predictability that come with a procedural life.
I was raised in a very conservative home in a super liberal area. One thing I learned very quickly was that all people didn't see things the way I did. A harder lesson in that was to grow to a point where I saw value in people that were not like me. I'm sure I was the source of lengthy prayer vigils by my parents and loved ones, but I was more intrigued by the human spirit and the lessons I could learn about the Lord from them.
One of my favorite examples of this is from a story when I was around 12 years old. We lived in a large, brick farmhouse. My parents often rented the upstairs to tenants to help supplement the household expenses. I can remember vividly memories of going to the top of the stairs and laying by our tenant's door so I could smell the smoke from his pipe. I realize now how strange this seems, but in my life, I never knew a man who smoked a pipe and I found it fascinating. Upon further investigation, I found him to be an extremely intelligent man with a lifetime of experiences all over the world. I loved to see him sit in his "smoking chair" while he read or wrote. I imagined that he might be the smartest man on earth.
I have since met many folks that would classify as smarter, but what I learned from him was the art of learning. He modeled for a 12 year old girl that the need for learning never ended. It sparked something in me that still resonates today. I often sense the need for a quiet moment to frame my knowledge, reflect on it, and then express my views on what I learned with no real purpose or restriction.
As I sit on the eve of my 40th birthday, a swirl of expressions seem quite fitting. I reflect on the past and how it has framed the person I am today. I marinate in the present, knowing that life will never be quite like it is today. I dream about the future and what it holds for me and my family. In classic AO style, I find myself goal setting for the next 40 years.
A Quite Unorthodoxed List of "Thou Shalt Nots" for the next 40 years
(Not to be mistaken for a list of rules to follow)
Thou Shalt Not Wear Doc Martens
I admit it. In my youthful life, I had a pair of Doc Marten Mary Jane brown leather shoes. They were the most comfortable shoes that travelled some pretty weary roads. The year before I became an administrator, the strap broke on my beloved Docs. It was probably perfect timing as I quickly transitioned to high heels and belted dresses. As the old saying goes, "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl." I'm not much of a country girl, but I am a girl who longs to wear Doc Martens and jam out at a concert with some awesome music. Even in a high-profile job, I find myself expressing that Doc Marten side often. What I have found is that I don't need a pair of shoes anymore. That music-loving, free spirit still makes an appearance frequently even while wearing her black patten leather heels and matching jewelry. I love that part of me and hope I can always see glimpses of her regardless of what shoes I'm wearing.
Thou Shalt Not Refuse Turkey and Dressing
My dad ruined Thanksgiving for my entire life. Its true. One night, I sat at my kitchen table until very late refusing to eat the turkey and dressing that was for dinner. My dad was pacing around the house telling me how people in Ethiopia were starving. You can imagine my response to this - I calculated how much it would cost to mail my cold turkey and dressing to those hungry people. My mom, on the other hand, was playing the peace maker role and trying to love me enough to make me WANT to eat all of the food on my plate. I finally gave in and ate several bites before I threw up the entire meal all over the kitchen. I have never liked Thanksgiving dinner since. While I will probably never get over my distain for tryptophan or corn bread shredded up with nasty stuff, there is a part of me that recognizes the need for flexibility. Yes, I admit it. I'm stubborn. Over the years, I have found myself choosing battles. Sometimes I choose the right ones and other times, I choose ones I have no business hunkering down at the table on. It usually leaves me with a cold plate of food and an upset stomach. While the fighter in me will never die, I hope my years lived will guide my perseverance to fight with purpose and not with tired emotion.
Thou Shalt Not Stand in Line
I read a text last week that irritated me. I quickly realized the reason I was bothered was because it came from someone that didn't really know me, but had given his advice regardless. It is all too easy to listen to the advice of others and change your compass frequently. As I have outlined in this lengthy post, I am not a "Stand in Line" kinda gal. I thrive on the relationships in my life that help me grow to be a better person. I try, with all my might, to be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, family member and employee that I can be. I fail. Everyday. The constant falling from mis-trys has skinned my knees. Oftentimes, it has left scars. The thing is, I am perfectly ok with it. It is most important to me that I act in kindness and love in all that I do without compromising my core. Its a constant balancing act that I don't take lightly. There are times when I speak harshly to my husband or over-correct my kids. There are also times when I express my unconditional love when its not due or display patience when my rope is thin. I challenge myself in this life, to do the best I can, learn from my mistakes, and never stand behind someone just for the sake of standing.
Thou Shalt Not Sit on the First Pew
Growing up as a pastor's daughter is tough. You are constantly under the microscope and understand fully the ramifications of every decision you make. I spent many Sundays on the first pew at my dad's church, Flint Creek Church of God. Each week, a movie reel of mistakes would flood my mind reminding me of every single sin I had witnessed that week. I am thankful for this time as it provided me a strong spiritual foundation. Simply stated, I learned to pray through my inadequacies to the only person that could forgive me of them. Those prayers continued through my journey at a small Christian college where everyone knew you, but many misunderstood you. It was in the balcony at Lee College that I realized the most important factor in salvation. While many focus on the "Thou Shalt Nots" all he asks of us is to focus on the "Thou Shalts." My craving with a personal, REAL relationship with my savior surrounds my core being. I am thankful that he loves me and that he gave his life for me. I'm not sure I could do the same.
I would be remiss if I didn't close with a few thank yous.
*Thank you to my husband for taking every step with me. Its not easy. Its not a fairy tale. Its real life. You will always be my missing piece.
*Thank you to my parents for falling in love 42 years ago. You have given me space while molding me at the same time. I'm sorry I didn't always see it that way.
*Thank you to Lily and Tate for showing me that the best things in life come from God's way. I couldn't imagine my life with you and now I can't imagine breathing without you.
*Thank you to all of you, family and lifetime friends. To say that you change my life daily, would be an understatement. I thrive on knowing you.
*Most importantly, thank you to a savior who forgives and models love. I hope I make you proud.
And with that, I bid farewell to my 30s. Looking forward to rocking another 40!