The other day I was scrolling through social media when I saw a friend panicking about her upcoming fortieth birthday. As soon as I saw it I replied: “❤️❤️❤️ I know it seems like a milestone, but 40 is awesome. By this time you’re old enough to know who you are in Christ, who you want to be, and respect yourself more than we ever did in our 20s and 30s. The best is yet to come girl!“ The best part is that I honestly meant it. Last Thursday, when I had yet another birthday, I started thinking about all the things I’ve learned in this decade and all the freedom I’ve discovered. This week, I’m sharing my list with you. Here are the truths that have settled in my spirit and made me more than happy to be over forty. 1. Being forty taught me that it really is true, “If I like it, that’s all that matters.” When I was younger, my Dad used this phrase to express his disapproval when one of my clothing choices were too loud or colorful for his preference. For years, it was a source of pain for me. Yet, in this decade, I’ve realized it’s absolutely true. Whether it’s what I wear or how I decorate my home, what matters isn’t what others think or some magazine says I’m supposed to like. What matters is whether or not I like it. Taking this point a bit further, I also learned that just because I’m not a size 6, I’m not going to dress in black because it’s slimming. Because even though black may be slimming, it’s also sad. I’m not sad—so I’m embracing color and prints. Upon realizing this, last year I bought my first pair of red pants—-and I love them. I’m also wearing the bright blue flowered dress that I saw and thought, “Can I wear that?” I’ve really embraced that if I like it, (and Jesus likes it) that’s what matters. 2. Forty taught me, no matter what happened in your past, it doesn’t have to control your future. Do whatever it takes to overcome it and gain freedom. Eventually, we have to take a cue from “Frozen” and decide to let it go. Yes, I know it isn’t a simple process—it’s more of a journey. That’s why I wrote a whole book, Finding Healing, about it. Still, the truth remains—all of the efforts that you put into overcoming your past is worth it for the freedom and victory you’ll gain. I mean, honestly, how long do you want to be bogged down by the weight of the past? Forty is a great time to say, “Goodbye, to the past!” 3. Forty taught me, hot flashes are real and so is everything else involved with peri-menopause. Contrary to a popular sitcom where the woman received her diagnosis before the first commercial, dealt with her symptoms before the second commercial, and was all cured before the show was over (never to be mentioned again in future episodes), the symptoms of peri-menopause don’t arrive and wrap themselves up in a half-hour—-they go on and on and on. However, like all trials, this challenge can teach you so many things about yourself and how you want to live your life. So while the physical symptoms have been difficult, I’ve learned so much about myself through the struggle, it’s been a blessing. (Remind me of that the next time I’m having a hot flash.). One of the biggest things I’ve learned is: 4. Being forty taught me, you can’t do everything—prioritize the things that only you can do. Before forty (and peri-menopausal) I said “yes” to everything. Mentally, I equated “no” with failure or weakness. When I started really experiencing difficult peri-menopause symptoms I had to prioritize the things that only I could do, the things I wanted to do, and the things that would go on without me. More importantly, I had to learn to forgive myself for not being able to do everything and find my value in more than overachieving at my “to do” list. This process taught me the importance of: 5. You need to be kind to yourself. Being a perfectionist who derived her value from accomplishments and the approval of other people, this was so hard for me!! And yet, finally learning this lesson has changed my life. You have to be kind to yourself. You have to eat right and get proper rest. You need to learn to say “no” to unnecessary things that you can’t handle. Some days you need to let yourself off the hook and say, “I did the best that I could….that has to be enough.” Sometimes you need a pajama day. Other days you need a good cry. You need to stop talking negatively to yourself about yourself each and every day. Instead, you need to give yourself the same kindness and compassion you extend to others. You need it, too. 6. Being 40 taught me that comparison is a HUGE waste of time and energy. The world is big enough for us all to succeed. This was such a big lesson for me!! Before peri-menopause, I was very competitive. When I saw someone else succeed, I compared myself to her and viewed myself as a failure. When hot flashes and dizzy spells made me realize that there was a limit on what I could do, I began to see that there was more than enough room for all of us to succeed. Now, instead of seeing other women as competitors—I see them as teammates. When they succeed, the kingdom of God succeeds and we all win. Rather than being a competitor, my attitude has completely changed to being a cheerleader for other women. It’s so freeing!! 7. Being 40 taught me to be myself and let others be themselves, too. Again, this has been so freeing!!! God didn’t create me just like you or vice versa. Our only responsibility is to be who God created us to be and let others do the same. When we let each other out of the “little boxes of how people should be” we learn that variety is the spice of life. We can enjoy the freedom to be ourselves and enjoy the differences that another person’s perspective brings to life. Here are a few other things that being 40 has taught me: 8. I don’t have time for unnecessary drama. I’ll help anyone through a genuine heartache or trauma, but I’m not riding the roller coaster of anyone else’s unnecessary drama anymore. It’s too exhausting and they don’t want a solution anyway—-they just want to be dramatic. Now that I’m in my forties, I’m not attending the performance. 9. Embrace advice, but stay away from pointless criticism. Genuine advice given by a loving friend will change your life and prove invaluable. Pointless criticism from someone who just wants to tear you down is simply destructive. I don’t need it. When they call, I’m not picking up the phone. 10. Not everyone is going to like you, understand you, or agree with you. It’s ok. You are called to follow Jesus, not popular opinion. 11. Laugh at yourself you are funny. Actually, you are hysterical. Learn to laugh at yourself and let others laugh with you. Life is a lot more fun that way. 12. Life didn’t turn out the way you thought. Who cares? You were young and stupid when you made that plan. Let it go and find out what God wants you to do with your life. Follow His plan. 13. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. No one is buying your act anyway. Just be who God made you to be. Be genuine, be authentic, and people will actually like you more. They will be able to relate to the real you, and you’ll be able to reach more people for Jesus when you are simply yourself.
14. People matter more than projects.
Take time to listen, to laugh, to love, to tell silly stories, and let someone cry on your shoulder.
15. Your voice matters. Don’t ever let someone tell you it doesn’t. God gave you a voice. He gave you insight. He’s given you a perspective. He wants to use your story as a testimony to bring people to Him. Don’t let fear, intimidation, or embarrassment steal your voice. Never let anyone tell you that your voice doesn’t matter or isn’t worth being heard. You have a voice—-use it for the glory of God. 16. Learn to trust your instincts. Since I turned 40, there been several times when everything inside of me was screaming “Danger!! Danger! Stay away! This is wrong”. Doubting myself, I thought maybe it was my problem. I had issues from my past, I was insecure, I was overreacting.
Turns out, it was none of those things. I was actually right and those feelings were the Holy Spirit using my instincts to warn me. These instances have taught me to stop doubting myself and trust my gut. I’ll never doubt it again. 17. There is more than one way to do something—allow the Holy Spirit to use you how He wants, where He wants, and in whatever way He wants. Sometimes we get an idea in our head of how things have to happen. When the Holy Spirit wants to take us a different route, we balk because it doesn’t fit into our plan. In my forties, I’ve learned to abandon this practice. Instead, I’ll take whatever route is open to fulfill God’s plan for my life. The truth is that today—-methodologies are changing. Clinging to old ways of “this is how it has to be” can leave you waiting forever. Being open to new ways and embracing change can open doors you couldn’t even imagine. Most importantly, I’ve learned: At the end of the day when you take off your makeup and put on your pj's, you need to be able to look yourself in the mirror and like what you see. You need to be content with yourself, and be able to say with a clear conscience that you did all that you could to live a life worthy of your calling. You need to know that you and God are okay, that you’ve done all you can to live in a way that pleases Him, that you’ve avoided sin, and that you are walking in His plan for your life. It’s important that when everything else is stripped away and you turn off the lights that you can truly say it is well with your soul. When you can do this, forty, or any year of your life is fabulous. You’re at peace with yourself; at peace with God, and at peace with the fact that this is forty.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.