Let me start off by thanking you for the very warm welcome. To be honest I was a bit worried about whether we’d get along but if the “well begun, half done” mantra is anything to go by our first couple of days together bode very well.
As the new kid on the proverbial block I’m obviously no expert on being in “my thirties” and there’s a lot I’m going to have to learn on the way. However, I haven’t arrived empty handed on your doorstep. Here are the essentials I’ve packed for our journey together:
1. Friends and family
The first one requires very little explanation. My friends and family are one of my most precious treasures. They have enriched my life immeasurably and I would not have made it this far without them.
2. The joy of exploration
We live in a crazy, beautiful world and it is a privilege to explore it. Whether it is the street I live on, or the furthest corner of the globe – I plan to spend the next ten years exploring the world in whichever way I can. I hope I will never misplace the joy that comes with exploration and fuels its ongoing pursuit.
3. Eyes wide open
I have always been challenged to go through life with my eyes wide open. I bring this imperative with me. My hope is that I will go through every day with eyes to see God, myself and others ever clearer.
4. The love of learning
In the humdrum of “grown up” life it’s easy to lose touch with the wonder of learning new things. I have set myself the goal before and have also packed it for our journey: Learn something new every day! Not because I have to or need to, but rather because every time I do something new to comes alive in my mind and heart.
5. Reading and writing
The “and” is of utmost importance here. As a three year old in the kindergarten my favourite place was the book corner, later it became the library and these days bookshops. I love reading – every book I open, opens a new world to me. I also love creating with words and plan to flex this muscle (10000 hours, anyone?) as we go on our way together – hold me to it.
To me music is not unlike a semi-foreign language: There is a sense of familiarity even fluency and listening to it cannot be divorced from feeling it, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t have a firm handle on the grammar of this beautiful language yet. First and foremost I love to sing and I’ve spent the last five years making peace with the fact that my voice is also an instrument and it being my primary instrument is more than ok. Having said that one of the things I plan to learn (see number 4) in the next five years is the language of music – basic grammar and all. Shall we set level B2 as a goal?
I listen to the radio every morning. Voices from all corners of the globe tell stories of pain, destruction and the smokescreen sides of human relations. My initial reaction is often exasperation: how can we even begin to tackle Ebola or the crises in the Ukraine, Iraq, Syria… And then I find myself praying for the individuals, the families, the communities who live every day in the unimaginable. There is a verse in the New Testament that has always resonated with me: Do not worry about anything, instead pray about everything. My grandmother, who spent her retirement in a sleepy coastal town not far from the most southern top of Africa, prayed passionately for the nations and for me. I have seen the effects of her prayers in my life and they serve as very real reminders that a gracious God is listening and responding. And so I pray, opening my heart to the wider world beyond my daily comforts and blessings; and trust that in that I too am being renewed and transformed.
A couple of years ago I heard a talk about the psychology of dance. When we perform choreographed dance steps we develop our brain’s capacity to solve problems that only have one possible solution. When we improvise or dance spontaneously we boost our ability to solve problems with multiple solutions. So, let’s keep dancing!
9. Life-giving, inspiring conversations
We tend to become like the things we meditate on and one of the key ways things stay alive and pertinent in our lives is though the conversations we have. I am challenged to consciously have life-giving, joy-instigating, inspiring conversations.
10. Hard work
The harder I work the more inspired I get. Enough said.
11. Loving God, loving myself and loving others
When I look back at 2014 in years to come it will stand out as the year in which this correlation of love really started to make sense to me. I have so much more to learn about what it means to love God, myself and others, but to my mind that sounds like an adventure of a lifetime.
12. Long walks
Long walks are one of life’s simplest, yet greatest pleasures. Whether I need to clear my head or simply breathe and be reminded that the world is so much bigger than I sometimes give it credit for, a good long walk does the trick almost every time.
13. Trial and error
“If at first you don’t succeed… Pick yourself up and try again.” In the drama of my twenties I often defaulted to lying in a ball on the proverbial floor bemoaning my failure. The courage to pick myself up and try again still lacks but I want that to be my default, to jump to my feet with hope and the security of knowing that I am not now or ever defined by my failures.
14. Afternoon naps
Oh, the delicious bliss of a siesta, even 20 or 30 mins does the trick. These little beauties remind me that so often luxury cannot be bought.
15. Night swimming
I don’t go night swimming all to often but if I were to collect the happiest memories from the past two years on a mantelpiece at least two of those would include a round of it. Why mess with a good thing?
A couple of years ago one of my new year’s resolutions was to play more games. Disclaimer: Not of the emotional or psychological variety. I had reached a point where I couldn’t bear even trying something new for fear of not being exceptionally good at it from the get go. I know, I know! It was a very sad state of affairs in part remedied by a strong dose of trying my hand at chess, board games and above all else card games. Let the games…continue!
17. The cultivation of memory
One of the things I spend a great deal of time thinking about is memory. How we remember, why we remember certain things but forget others, how in remembering we sometimes create narratives that resemble legend more than autobiography. But recently what has occupied my mind most is the fact that everything around us seems to encourage us to forget, to always look on to the next best and brightest thing. Novelty and innovation keep our heads spinning; and our eyes glued to the blinking messages that dance across our hands. I need to be intentional about remembering who I am, where I come from, what I have seen and experienced during my life – especially in those years before I had the technology to document and store it all online. Here’s to remembrance of things past.
18. Prioritizing health
Body, mind, soul, spirit – their health is my priority and neglecting the health of one will affect all the others adversely. What I am having to learn and remind myself of daily is that healthy living is not a means to an end it is an end itself.
I want to go through life ready to share what I have in my hands. Whether it is time or my home or ideas or skills or that extra lunch I packed. I have no shortage of things to share and on top of that I’m incredibly fortunate to have role models in every sphere of my life who are all already further on their way in this respect. I hope to learn from them and become more hospitable and generous.
20. The Bible
A lot of books come and go. There are some I love others that I really don’t, but the one that stands out, the one I keep returning to is the Bible. For many years I associated this book with guilt. One leitmotiv was: I really should read it everyday. Guilt is a sneaky emotion isn’t it. It has the ability to keep something front and centre in our minds while rendering us incapable of doing what we would like to do, because we are so very busy feeling guilty that we haven’t done it yet. I keep returning to the Bible for the simple reason that it is unlike any other book I’ve ever read and I refuse to let guilt hamper my exploration of it for another second.
21. Living within my means for the generations
When you throw a word like “means” out there people immediately think: money. Yes, I am referring to the importance of stewarding money well and living within my financial means but it goes beyond that. I also need to live within the time and energy that is available to me. Of course I should do this as efficiently as possible but at the same time I must be realistic about how many hours there are in a day and what can be achieved in them. This is a skill I hope will help me build a strong foundation for future generations and one I hope to pass on to them.
22. Laughter especially laughing at myself
Karl Barth said that laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God – what a magnificent observation. I spent a good chunk of Sunday thinking on these words and he is so right (I will write another post about that, it certainly warrants one). To laugh is to extend grace to ourselves and others. So let’s get our LOL on.
8 hours a night. Every night. Non negotiable.
24. Biting off what I can chew
Far too often I have wanted to have and do it all, but saying yes to everything compounds stress and diminishes excellence (not to mention joy in working and living). I’m learning to say no to a lot of good things so I can really throw myself into the great things.
Faith is defined as complete trust in someone or something. I have found the greatest freedom in putting my faith in God and from that an ability to trust myself and others has over time blossomed. It’s a beautiful mystery that in this surrender I continue to find greater freedom to be who I am.
26. Walking the talk
One of my life goals is to be a woman of integrity whose words are backed by actions in every area of my life.
Giving thanks every day in every situation is a discipline I will continue to cultivate until it becomes second nature.
I’ve been uncomfortable with the word “sorry” for a while. Largely because I often throw it around with far too much ease while the things I apologize for continued happening. Repentance on the other hand signifies a sincere turning away from the things I am doing that hurt or distance me from God and the people I love.
29. Dreams and actions
These two are a powerful, life-changing combination. Actions lay the foundation for dreams to become a reality and what I forget far too easily is that to take a small step in the right direction every day is an essential part of living the dream. Do not despise the day of small beginnings.
30. Wise counsel
It is not good for (wo)man to be alone. This definitely applies to me! I need family and friends to help me see myself and the world clearly.
Here’s to a decade of peace, discovery and living life!