Birthday Reflections: Lessons Learned | Ashley Varner
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Birthday Reflections: Lessons Learned

I’m celebrating today because I will soon be a year older. I am nearing my 33rd birthday, and so I wanted to take some time to have some birthday reflections.

People always talk about aging gracefully, and usually that means looking younger than your age (but not too young), taking care of your looks and your health, and things like that.

I know that 33 is not a big number by any means, and I’m definitely not going through some mid-life crisis or struggling about my age. I’m 33. I’m proud of it. But, I do pray that I’m aging gracefully. As I age, I am praying that I am living it with more grace each year.

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There are a few things that I learned this past year that I want to share with you! I hope that the things that I’ve learned will help you and we can move on to the next year with excitement, and just really knowing that we are further in our walk with the Lord than we were a year ago.


Lesson 1: It’s okay to put yourself first.

The first lesson that I learned this year is that it’s okay to put yourself first.

We’ve all heard the example of being on an airplane, and if the oxygen masks fall down through the ceiling, you know you’re supposed to put your mask on first and then help the people that are around you.

We’ve heard the parallels with that in our lives, and how many of us, especially moms, need to do this.

I get the logic behind it. You can only truly help other people if you’re coherent and receiving oxygen, but I don’t know many moms that actually practice it.

I really sought to do that this year. I was really intentional to take time for myself, and I didn’t allow guilt to come seeping through that decision.

In the past, when I’ve tried to take time for myself, the entire time I’m getting a pedicure or massage or whatever, I’m just feeling guilty that I left dishes in the sink, or that my husband was watching the boys.

But this year, I didn’t do that. I took time for myself, and I didn’t let that guilt infiltrate my thinking.

One of the ways that I took time for myself was to unplug, and I usually did this during a massage.

My phone was turned off. I wasn’t receiving any calls. To be honest, almost any emergency can wait for 30 minutes, and I think that in this day and age, we’re kind of fooled into believing that certain things are emergencies when they’re really not.

So, for that 30 minute massage, I would turn off my phone, and I think letting go of that need to always be reached is one that made a big difference for me.

One Sunday after church, I forgot to turn my phone off of silent, and about three or four hours later, I realized that I had forgotten to do that.

My first thought was “Oh no, what if someone had called?” I got up worried I had missed something. To be honest, I had a few text messages, but it was nothing that had to be replied to right away. My husband had his phone. If something was truly an emergency, people would know how to get a hold of us.

What I did that day on accident, I now try to do on purpose. Sunday afternoons are probably the only downtime that my little family has together, so I really want to value it.

I’ll admit, it was hard at first, and I felt guilty, but something started to happen. I started feeling happier, I started being more at peace, I started being less stressed.

When I unplugged, whenever I let myself not be reached, that made me a better person. It made me a better wife, a better mom, because I was not rushing to return that message or return that email. I was just living in the moment, and not really pushing myself.

One thing that I’m planning to do later this year, probably in the fall, is take a prayer retreat, just for myself.

My husband’s family has cabin in the mountains, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to go up there overnight, and just sit quietly, and pray and seek Him. There is a phone up there, but only people in the family would know how to get a hold of it, and so I think it’ll be a great time for me just to be alone and to seek the Lord. That’s definitely something that I’ve found that’s important in my life.


Lesson 2: Laughter is Important

The second birthday reflection that I have for you is that laughter is important, and rest is important.

This past year, we took a 10-day vacation, and it was a-mazing.

When you own your own business, it can definitely be hard to get away. In fact, the first couple of years that my husband and I had the business, it was just the two of us for a while, and I remember one year, we took separate vacations, because we couldn’t take a vacation together otherwise the business would be shut down.

We had kind of let the importance of rest slide, even though now we have a great team working with us. So we decided to get out of town. Now, we didn’t go the entire 10 days without checking in, or getting a few phone calls, because we want to be available for our people, but we were able to unplug enough to make a difference.

Another aspect of laughter that I learned was to just stop being so serious, and start seeing the humor and the fun in every day. I let myself laugh easier, and I didn’t let the little things get to me, and I let things go. If my little boy farted at the table, we just laughed about it, instead of me grilling him about his manners. Things like that, just letting things go, and it made such a big difference for me.

And not just for me. There have been tons of studies that have been done that show a good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, that it leaves your muscles relaxed for almost an hour afterwards.

Laughter boosts the immune system, it decreases stress hormones, and it increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, so it improves your resistance to disease.

It’s a list upon list of things that laughter does for us, but even if we don’t look at any of those studies, we can find the truth in Proverbs 17:22, that says, “A happy heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” So, laughter, joy, happiness, is like medicine to our hearts.

Go watch some crazy, hilarious videos. Here are a couple that have had me rolling around the floor laughing, so if you need a good laugh, make sure to watch a couple of those videos, and you will find that you’ll feel better. Just tell them, “The doctor said.”




Lesson 3: Your Health is Your Responsibility

This year, I realized that my health is my own responsibility, and that is my own journey.

Ladies, you have to fight for your health. If you don’t fight for it, you can’t expect other people to. Don’t be a victim to busy doctors.

Think about the job that you do. Do you sometimes make mistakes? I know I definitely do. I might not file something correctly, or I forget a task. It happens to everybody.

Doctors are not superheroes. They’re humans who make mistakes too, and that’s why you have to be vigilant about your health. Now, I’m not trying to talk bad about doctors or anything like that, but I want you to know that they are human just like us, and there can be mistakes that are made.

I recently had an ultrasound on an organ in my body, and I googled the images of ultrasounds of that organ.

Just to be clear, it was not a pregnancy ultrasound, I just want to be clear about that!

I googled all these different ultrasounds of the organs, because I wanted to be in the know. Now, that doesn’t mean that I automatically assumed that I know more than the doctor, but it’s important to be actively fighting for your health.

You have to know what’s happening.

You need to know the side effects of whatever medications you’re taking, because you’re responsible for your health, and you have to fight for your health.

One of the other lessons that I learned in regards to my health was to give myself grace.

If you take anything from this blog post, I want you to know that it’s okay if your health journey looks different than everyone else’s.

It’s okay if your weight has to be on the back burner while you deal with emotions or struggles. It’s okay. Nobody is the same. Nobody has the same past or the same physical struggles.

What I have found is that sometimes, physical weight is an outward expression of something going on inside.

I wrote a post a while back about forgiveness and your health. Unforgiveness will affect your physical health.

God made us spirit, mind, and body, so we need to realize that those three areas affect each other. If your heart is troubled, then you can expect your body to be stressed.

In the same way, if your body isn’t in good shape, it will take a toll on your heart and your emotions. I think we can all be honest with that.

Whenever we’re not in the best shape, or whenever we have kind of let our health go on the back burner, it takes a toll on your heart. It takes a toll on your spiritual walk, and on your emotions.

It’s okay, because your journey looks like no one else’s. It’s okay to take your health in stages.

Whenever I was taking control of my health, the first step I had to take was to deal with the emotional and the binge eating that was so prevalent in my life. It was so life-changing that my program, Faith Food Freedom, was birthed from that experience.

If you struggle with emotional eating, please listen whenever I say: Don’t try to fix the outward issues, like excess weight, first. Go right to the heart of the matter, and you’ll be glad that you did.

If you want to check out Faith Food Freedom, it’s a 12-week program that you can grab at the Grace For Life Academy.

I would say that it took about six months to break free completely of that emotional and binge eating, but it took another year and a half for me to really be ready to take the next step in my health.

I had to get used to the freedom that I had with food, and I had to understand and create healthy barriers for myself.

Recently, I let you guys in on the next step of the journey that I’m taking, so if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, make sure to go back to Letting God Refining the Gold in You, because I really expound a lot on that and what I learned about that.

I’m taking that next step, but my health journey has looked completely different from anyone else’s. This year, I learned that that’s okay. I’m choosing grace over guilt, and you can too.

I hope that you’ll come alongside me and take this journey and find tools for yourself and for your family to recapture the joy of the Lord, and surprisingly, it can start with your health, with your physical health.

In upcoming posts, I’m going to be sharing tools and resources that I found for a healthy spirit, a healthy mind, and a healthy body, as well as creating a home environment that does the same thing for your family.

This site’s not going to be about healthy recipes and workouts, because, let’s be honest, you can find those with a quick search on Pinterest, and you probably already have a board full of them, but it’s about creating health God’s way, experiencing God-confidence, no matter what your size, and raising healthy kids from the inside out.

It’s about letting go of fears that cause you to crave junk in the first place, and as always, it’s about having a Godly motivation for being healthy.

It’s about making a physical change for a spiritual reason, so that you’re strong, and able to do what God has called you to do, because whenever I really look at it, whenever I look at the past year, the past 30 years of my life, I want to know that I am strong and capable to do what God has called me to do, and I know that you want the same thing.

I hope that you will join me in the next couple of posts as we talk about that, and I hope that you find them helpful, and I will talk to you soon!

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