Tuesday, January 14, 2020

4 thoughts on four decades

Last year I turned 40…
Sounds kind of crazy to say that because I never thought I would make it to 18. The last twenty years have been a wild ride for me. Giving my life to Jesus, getting married, having children, finishing a graduate degree, and more are some of the highlights. 

We’ve lived in six different homes since we got married and three different states. We’ve served in three churches and want Coastline to be a long-term ministry call (Ventura is a great city!). 

For the last couple weeks I’ve thought about this new decade in my life. I’ve thought about the former decades and what I’ve learned. I didn’t want to write a list of 40 things I’ve done or 40 ways to eat chicken (that sounds good though). I figured I’d give one thing from each decade. Some I’ve excelled in and others I’m growing in. 

Family is important 
This is a big one for me. Growing up my family was broken and mended. I shared a bedroom with my grandma when all we could afford was to live with her. As I grew I became a bratty teenager. I shunned my family and looked for independence. I found a great group of friends but we made some bad decisions. I got in a big fight with my dad and we didn’t talk for 2 years. I upset my mom. I hurt my sister. I ignored my grandma on her deathbed because I didn’t know how to deal with emotions and anger and frustration and bitterness. 

Then I gave my life to Jesus and realized that God is a healing God. I learned about reconciliation and restoration. I lived with my sister for many years while in college. My mom and established a healthy relationship. I met my wife and we had kids. I also did a graduate degree and saw that I spent a lot of time away from my family and that was tough on them. 

When I look at the last decade and the coming decade, I know that family is important but more of my decisions will be based on that. I want to spend more time with my kids. I want to make dating my wife intentional. I want more vacations where my phone is left in a car, backpack, or pocket. I want more memories and less “likes” on social media. That is what I’m aiming for. 

Have fun 
This has never really been a problem for me. I love an adventure, a hike, riding dirt bikes, jumping cars, and surfing. But I’m learning that fun doesn’t have to be an adrenaline rush (although it’s not bad). Fun can be jumping on the trampoline with my kids, walking on the beach with my wife, or taking my mom to a coffee. I’ve had a ton of fun watching my kids grow and learn. Fun is laughing at Chick-fil-A or riding bikes around the block. 

I played dolls the other day with my daughter and we had so much fun. I’m actually laughing while writing this. We smiled and played creatively. I want to focus on continuing to have fun in life. I’m going to be looking for more ways to have fun. If you’re planning something fun, invite me! 

Life is a lesson, learn from it 
When I was 17 I was in a confused place in life. I was raking pine needles with a close family friend (my mom’s best friend from high school). We would work hard and then talk while working. I shared some of the dumb stuff I was doing and she said something I have never forgotten. She said: “Neal, you need to know three things about life. First, life is a lesson learn from it. Second, life is a lesson learn from it. Third, life is a lesson learn from it.” 

Life is a lesson. We are not going to be perfect. I strive for perfection and fail regularly. But when I think back to my conversation with Lil, I am reminded of all I’ve learned. I’ve learned how to flip a truck over after you roll it, how to tie a knot, how to braid my daughters hair, how to grow a backyard garden, and more. Life is a lesson. Keep learning. This decade I’m committing to being a long-long learner. 

Take God serious 
When I was a little kid my mom took me to church. I didn’t apply much of what I learned. I retained the info, but didn’t allow God to transform my life. When I was twenty I really trusted Jesus with all I had. A couple years later I learned about taking God serious. Not that God is always serious, I think God likes to have fun too (read about the time a donkey talked to a man). 

What I mean here is, be obedient to God. Spend time in prayer. Listen to God. Serve others. Give generously. I’m not talking about religious legalism, but radical obedience. I want to end my life knowing that I took God serious. I want to live my life knowing that I took God serious. I want to have serious fun while doing that! 

Here’s to the next decade! 

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