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Facing 40 birthday candles? Let me tell you why your future is even brighter than those birthday cake flames, but first, I’ll also tell you—I get the big deal about turning 40. Facing that lofty milestone wasn’t fun for me. The dread started early when I was a young 37, and a sibling turned 40. I’m next! I realized, and I pouted and whined at the thought for the next three years. All of that bad behavior couldn’t keep me in my 30s though, and honestly, it left me a little embarrassed.

Though this earthly tent is showing obvious signs of wear and tear, I’m pretty pleased to be this far in life. Nothing to see here any more, folks. The eyes are dim and suddenly require reading glasses, the middle is thick, the legs and hands no longer lovely. But the heart is better than ever and hopefully shines brighter than the packaging ever did. And I’m kind of digging the interesting grays arriving boldly by the day as they scheme toward complete conquest of my once-reddish head.

After four decades of living, I know myself. I know myself extremely well. I’ve tried more than a few things, and know what I like and what I don’t like. I know what works and what doesn’t. I know some dreams come true and some just aren’t going to happen. I’ll never be a gardener or handy with a needle and thread. I’ll probably never start that mythical Etsy shop I say that I will or piece a quilt out of that bin of clothes my little ones outgrew. My once-pure singing voice isn’t up for any more performances, so I’ll just be thankful for the songs I’ve already sung.

Every venture comes with the price tag of time, and I’m wise now as to how to spend that currency. We begin with a fortune, but we don’t recognize time as wealth until it’s half spent.

More wisdom I’ve gleaned from 40 years: Bags of clearance holiday candy at Target are best left right there on the store shelf—even if the price is unbelievable. What goes in doesn’t always go out. (Sometimes it gets quite comfortable and sticks around and even shrinks your clothes.) Chip dip should stay in the store too. A tub of frozen cookie dough may be a bit easier to tame than the temptation of baking from scratch. Oh, and the chocolates purchased for the mail carrier’s Christmas gift each year, never, ever survive as intended. Just get her a gift card instead.

Friends sail in and out of our lives. I get that now. Some keep sailing after a few months, a handful anchor nearby for good. I trust God didn’t intend me to be best friends with everyone or for every relationship to endure. I am thankful for both the many short-lived friendships and for the precious few with whom I’ll keep sailing till the end.

I understand that “church” isn’t the same as “The Church.” I love both dearly: my little local gathering and also the followers of Christ far and wide, across land and time.

I cannot possibly have cancer, MS, ALS, and Parkinson’s, plus every other disease all at once, so WebMD is not welcome to diagnose me anymore.

Laundry really needs to be folded right away or it will wrinkle. No one will pick up that penny from the floor except the mom. Cooking requires time. I stick to the basics when busy. Busy is always, so we eat more simply than we once did.

Little ones climb off the lap eventually and don’t want to hold hands after so many years. Everyone needs Mom less and less, which means you’re doing a great job, even though it stings when the little disappears.

Teenage boys don’t care if cupboards are closed or towels hung neatly or pillows placed back on the couch. (What they really want is food.) Now and then it’s worth reminding them to be neat but not worth a fight.

Regret barges through the door instantly whenever a loved one departs for eternity. Recognizing the unwelcome intruder of regret helps. So does loving your people well.

The pants still neatly folded after four years and waiting for “someday,” the ones hard won during those fleeting months of the unsustainable diet? They sure were cute, but they served their purpose. They don’t fit. They’re probably out of style by now anyway. Donate and carry on.

Life is a teacher whose lessons are long. I don’t garden, I don’t cook (often or well), and I’m not a runner. From four decades of experience, I realize these things. I know. I understand now. And here’s the best news—your 41st birthday might be your favorite, because you realize you never, ever have to turn 40 again. See? I told you it’s bright over here. You’re going to love it.

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Heidi Mosher

Heidi Mosher strives to point others upward. She writes from Michigan where she is always on the lookout for the best views.

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