33 Things I'm Thinking As I Turn 33-Years-Old

I turned 33 this past Sunday. I know that’s not old, but it's worth pondering. I remember as a kid not being able to imagine what it would be like when I was in my 30's. And now here I am.

So, what am I thinking? Well, here are 33 thoughts.

  1. Grace is real. I used to believe grace as a theological concept, but I believe it now as a theological truth and an existential reality. It is a theological concept, but it is also the felt reality of the Christian life. I sin but God is gracious. The sweetness never wears off, and I never stop needing more.
  2. I treasure my wife. Sarah is my greatest love, outside of the Lord. I depend on her. I rely on her. I need her. She's the first person I see every day and the last person I see every night. I long for a conversation with her more than ever before. She's my greatest supporter, advocate, encourager, and helper. She listens to me whine and redirects. She listens to me weep and comforts. She listens to me ramble and enjoys it. She spurs me on. She prays faithfully. To know that I am included in her prayers often is, perhaps, the kindest thing of all.
  3. Being a dad is amazing. I have three sons. Three sons! My house is crazy fun. We laugh. It's loud. I have the privilege of raising three men. God, give me the wisdom to know what to say and what not to say. Give me the courage to say the hard things at the right time. Give me the grace to lead and provide. Give me the boldness to raise bold men for Christ. 
  4. Work is good. Work is not a result of the fall. God gave Adam something to build and to defend before he ever sinned. Working hard is satisfying. I'm grateful for rest, but it should prepare us for work, not relieve us from it. I'm learning that more and more as I age. Work is less about doing stuff than it is about serving people -- and people will never go out of business.
  5. Books are a treasure. My bookshelves are overwhelmed. I have stacks everywhere. I just used birthday money and gift cards to purchase 30 more books! I know I have some sort of problem but I can't stop. Books are too important to not have. If you think about the time, energy, and research that goes into creating just one book, it's astounding that we can purchase it for $20. Some of our heroes live only inside of books. The world's great ideas found their microphone in the printed page. The Word of God made flesh gave us a book to treasure, to remind, to lead to saving knowledge. Books are more than a treasure. They are indispensable. 
  6. Friends are necessary. It's not fun to live inside my own head for too long. I need friends to make me laugh, to make me think, to give me ideas. I saw this over the weekend. Sarah put together two surprise parties. One with friends I've known a long time. Another with friends I've known only a year or two. It reminded me that life cannot be lived alone. We need each other. Friendships are beautiful.
  7. Donuts on Saturday are a gift from God. My oldest son loves sugar. If he could walk around with a bag of sugar and a spoon all day he would never want anything else in this life. Donuts have lots of sugar. Therefore, my son loves donuts. Every Saturday he and I go out and he hand picks the donuts of the day. It's a small thing, but it's a happy thing. It's our thing.
  8. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to do. I'm not good at resting. I feel this urge to always be productive. But sometimes I need to do nothing. I need to sit on the front porch and listen to the sounds of the birds, to watch the leaves sway in the wind. It reminds me this world is not centered around me.
  9. Waking early is the most helpful change I've made in the past year. I wake up at 4:00 AM. It's early. Sometimes, it feels really early. I do it because it's the time I think clearest. There are no distractions. The quiet reigns. Stillness has not yet been disturbed. I can write, read, and pray with a settled heart. I may be tired at 8:00 PM but I won't trade 4:00 AM mornings for the world.
  10. Doing the right thing is always the hard thing, but worth it every time. Taking shortcuts is always easier - on the front end. But it's always more work on the back end. Doing the right thing is always the hard thing but in the end it's the only right thing to do. You can trust me on this. I've cut enough corners for all of us.
  11. Hebrews 7:25 is still the sweetest verse to me. "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." Jesus is there, triumphant through the cross, ushering us to the throne of grace. He will never fail you - or me.
  12. It's ok to enjoy your salvation. God's gift of salvation leads us into joy. What father gives their child a toy and expects him not to enjoy it? 
  13. I suppress the desire to pray too often. Oh, if only I saw the wonder prayer is! Tim Keller has said, "The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access." How is that not more beautiful to me?
  14. God is faithful still. Last week he wooed my into the prayer closet. I was resistant. He was persistent. He always wins.
  15. Writing is hard - really hard. But there's nothing I enjoy more. The task is great, but the reward is sweet.
  16. Life is made up of small things, moment by moment, that really matter. Spring arouses this feeling in me more than any other time of year. A new leaf budding. A clear, sunny sky. A crisp breeze. Fresh cut grass. A hug from my kids. A kiss from my wife. Coffee in the morning. On and on it goes. Those small things I never notice -- until I do, and could weep over the beauty.
  17. A hug from one of your kids is the best gift you can receive at 33. My one-year-old looked at me last night before bed, smiled, said "Dada," and fell into my arms from his mother's. He rested his head on my shoulder and stayed there for a few seconds. No one gave me -- or could give me -- anything better.
  18. Time goes faster than it used to. Everyone told me it would. They're right. I find time to be precious. But I can't obsess over it. I have a short time here on this earth but God has promised me an eternity with him. So, come what may. I have heaven ahead of me.
  19. My body doesn't hold up like it used to. Throwing the ball for half an hour makes me sore. Riding the new bike I just bought makes me stumble in the morning. Sickness hurts more and lasts longer. One more reason that resurrection promise looks so good!
  20. Music can make you feel happy - so listen to it. My kids love the Trolls movie. Justin Timberlake's Can't Stop the Feeling is on repeat at our house. The other night, we were driving home and my middle son, Luke, said over the beat, "Mama, this music makes me feel happy." It does, my boy. Enjoy it. It's what it's for!
  21. Inter-generational friendships are beautiful. It is a wonderful thing to sit down with an older friend and share life together. They have a different perspective. I have the youth they've lost but they have the wisdom I haven't yet gained.
  22. The Church is God's Bride, and I love her. We were sent out from our beloved church in 2016 to help plant a new church in our hometown. It's been an incredible journey. It's a different church, in a different city, with different people, worshiping the same God. The way Jesus loves his bride amazes me. No matter where I am, he is there among his people. 
  23. I need tools to help me more than ever. I used to remember everything. Now I forget everything. Without my iPhone and tools like Evernote and Todoist, I might never accomplish anything in my life. Technology can be a distraction but it can also be really helpful.
  24. Rushing to accomplish something without proper planning rarely works out well. Always count the cost. Always monitor the progress. Always plan ahead. In life, anything big requires care.
  25. Family vacations mean more than I realized. Every year in May, I take my family to Gatlinburg. Every year, my kids spend the first four months of the year planning what they're going to do and what they're going to take with them. When we get back, they spend the rest of the year talking about the memories. It's a short trip, and it's not very flashy, but it matters. They're gonna remember it forever.
  26. Taking a day off work every now and then to spend undistracted time with my family is time well spent. I took last Friday off work. We ran errands, went to the zoo, rode our bikes, played at the park, and had a picnic for dinner. Not one second was wasted time. I need to do it more.
  27. When I'm frustrated I need to pray, but I usually need to be told I need to pray. My tendency is to work harder. My need it to pray harder. My thick skull needs someone to pound that message into me.
  28. Sometimes taking a walk can fix a thousand problems. I was frustrated this morning. I couldn't get the juices flowing well enough to write. I didn't feel like reading. I was tired. I blame it on my birthday -- a birthday hangover. Sarah told me to take a walk. So, I did. And I prayed while I walked. It fixed everything. 
  29. An encouraging word to another goes a really long way. Last weekend, we went to visit a friend from high school. Her dad was also my track coach. I still remember the encouragement he gave me when I was a slow, sixteen-year-old kid. I trace much of who I am today back to his words and example all those years ago. I wonder who I'm encouraging now that will make an impact decades from today.
  30. Studying the Bible with other men is time I won't ever regret and time I must always prioritize. Every Friday morning, a group of men from my church meet to study the Bible. It's the highlight of my week. New insights flood in. God becomes more real. Joy enters our hearts. We are convicted and changed. I never leave without a greater view of God.
  31. Enjoying the moment is harder than you'd think but better than missing it. I'm really bad at this. I'm always looking ahead or brooding over the past. But the present moment holds a lot to be grateful for. 
  32. Beauty is moving. Beauty stirs our hearts. It can be simple yet profound. it can be a smile or a mountain range. It can be a song or a skyscraper. Whatever it is, enjoy it.
  33. Following Jesus is the most joyful life of all. I never want to do anything else but follow him. He's worth everything.