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40 By 40 | the final update

I turned 40 last week.

You may remember that on my birthday last year I shared a list I created for myself: 40 things to do before I turned 40. I called it my #40by40 list.

I got the idea from my childhood best friend who wrote her list and shared it on Instagram. Her life at 39 looked different than she dreamed and God was so gentle in prompting her to make a list of things she wanted to do – things that brought peace to her hopeful heart.

Like Joanna, my life at 39 didn’t exactly look as I imagined. From the outside – sure. I am married with four adorable kids, we’re healthy and live in a pretty house in a charming town. But on the inside – my heart and soul were longing for wholeness. It’s been a four-year process and this simple act of slowing down, thinking through a few things that sounded fun/fulfilling to me and committing to do as many as I could was one little step on my journey of identity. I’m so happy I did it.

I am also happy to tell you that I accomplished most of what was on my list. Sure, there are a few things that I didn’t even attempt (like taking my grandma’s ring in to be fixed), a few that are halfway complete (I bought the rope to macrame!) and a few that I’m checking off even though they look different than I thought.

I wrote a long post at the first of the year with updates and details of what things I had already completed (read it here). Since then, I’ve been working through the list.

Ready for the final results?!

make sourdough bread

Done and it was delicious. When we visited family in San Diego for spring break, my cousin taught me all her fermented sourdough secrets. Then she sent me home with some of her starter. I nurtured that thing, made bread, waffles (so good!), rolls from this great cookbook. Then one day, I accidentally turned on the oven to pre-heat and forgot I had put the starter in there to keep warm overnight. Oops. Cooked that starter right up. And that ended my sourdough baking. I know I could get more starter, but it is a lot of work! So for now, I just feel good about trying and having success and I’ll call that good.

get a Le Creuset

Not the same brand, but I do love the one I have and use it all the time.

make apple fritters

Done, fun and tasty. I found the recipe in Magnolia Journal 2017 fall edition.

feel good in a swimsuit

I edited this one to go to barre twice per week and I mostly stuck with it for the entire year. I feel stronger, I love going to class, I’ve even added another class to the mix. It feels good to focus on my physical health and see some of the results. Ultimately, it did make me feel better in my swimsuit this summer. Plus, I did some work on accepting my pale skin and that was healing.

go to Nashville

We went, we ate, we concert-ed, we had so much fun.

write a children’s book

Did I really think I would finish this one this year? I’m not sure. But it is on the list because it is still a dream of mine and while it may take many more years before it is actually a thing, I believe this one will happen. I did take the first step and start a journal just for the book where I am jotting down ideas, little sketches, things God is teaching me that I want to go into the book.

plan 40th birthday trip with Ryan (to Italy? England?)

We did not go to Italy or England, but we did just return from Oahu and it was delightful.

see a whale

I did not see a whale. Boo. But we did see a black bear late one night this summer in our backyard and that was thrilling!

decorate our bedroom

Still undone. Sometimes other things take precedence and you make do with what you have.

intentional date with Ethan
intentional date with Brady
intentional date with Mason
intentional date with Audrey

In my mind, I had grand ideas of going skiing or seeing a Broadway show or doing an overnight in a hotel with each of the kids and that never happened. But you know what I realized? I’m a good mom. I love those kids and spend a lot of time with them. I talk to them and read to them and pick them up from all their activities. My goal is for them to know how important and special each one is to me and I think I am accomplishing that.

heal my gut

For years I’ve had gut health issues and with the help of my naturopath and a heavy dose of supplements, things are mostly under control. BUT, I truly believe the source of my health issues stem from a deeper spiritual place and since experiencing healing there, my gut seems to be healing as well.

 host girls craft night in studio

Well, I didn’t get to this before switching out offices with Ryan but I’m okay with it. My social life looks different now than it did years ago and while we may not gather around a table to craft, we do gather around a soccer field, a dinner table, the church foyer, at the barre studio, in a coffee shop, at a concert or auction or high school football game and I feel very good about that.

plant dahlias + anemones

I didn’t plant any, but I did find a great u-cut place up the road and visited there a few times this fall. And also? These dahlias brought about more healing in my heart (can you sense a theme for my year?!).

frame road trip photos

I framed a few and found other ways to use them around the house! (here’s the post about that)

look into Invisalign

First priority is to put braces on my kids. Then I’ll look into doing it on myself :)

whiten my teeth

After a bit of research, I ordered this teeth whitening kit and have used it a few times. I haven’t noticed huge improvements, but I probably should do it more than twice before coming to that conclusion.

re-read The Kitchen House
re-read The Red Tent

I re-read both, loved one, did not love the other. Both of these books are on my mental list of top favorite novels. Now that I’ve re-read them, I can confidently say that The Kitchen House remains on that list and The Red Tent has fallen off.

take a photography class

I haven’t made it to the photography class I want to attend, but I did create my own iPhone photo class (does that count?!)

back-up both computers

The night before we left for Hawaii as I was packing and tieing up all the lose ends (do you know how long it takes to write out a schedule for four kids when you’re gone for 10 days?!), Ryan told me not to mess with my computer. “Why?”, I asked. Because he is the most thoughtful husband and he was backing up my computer for me! He knew it wasn’t something I would get to before my birthday and actually not really something I wanted to do anyway, so he did it for me. Good job, Ryan. And thank you.

visit K.C. in Flagstaff

We did our annual college girls weekend in Arizona just a few weeks ago and had such a great time together.


get iphone 7

I went all fancy and got an iPhone x instead. I’m very happy with it.

volunteer in the nursery

We’re on the schedule every couple of months and enjoy it every time. I also signed up to help with MOPS childcare and on my first time I came home BEAMING. Toddlers just do something to me.

attend a Barre3 class

I did Barre3 online for a bit, went to my first in-person class right after my birthday last year and quickly found a local studio that offered barre. It’s been such a great practice for me.

go to Enneagram coaching

The Enneagram is a personality typing system that has been so transformative in my life. My favorite Enneagram book is by a local author who also offered coaching. I decided to step out and set up a meeting with her. That first meeting was really good and we decided that what I desire more than enneagram coaching is spiritual direction, so she is now my spiritual director. It’s been so cool to see how God uses our monthly sessions to grow me deeper into my faith and identity.

wear earrings

For a girl that has spent nearly 20 years not wearing earrings, I converted to an earring wearer quickly. I am most often seen with earrings on now. These gold hoops are my fave.

start on road trip book

Here’s what I’ve decided about this one: there are things you do in life that could possibly be made into a book but it doesn’t always mean they should. Our road trip was awesome and I was so happy to share a lot of it on the blog as we went (catch up on all of that here). But the true purpose of the trip was for our family and we’re just going to hold those moments in closely.

get a mammogram

I need to schedule this!

write one handwritten note per month

Receiving handwritten notes is so great so I wanted to commit to sending them as well. I did very poorly on this. Better luck next year.

put up Christmas lights

We did and it was so pretty. Especially when it snowed on Christmas Eve.

weekend with Ellie

Ellie is my three year old neice whom I adore. She spent the weekend with us this spring and was a total delight. We’re putting another weekend on the calendar for this fall!

have grandma’s ring fixed

My grandma passed away last year right before my birthday. She was ill and frail and her passing was peaceful. We celebrated her life and did not mourn too deeply – it’s hard to when it was a life well-lived! But you know what? I have missed her so much this year. I think about her at the most random times – when I smell a garden rose, when I see those candied orange slices, when I get in the water and it’s a little brisk and make the silly sound she used to make.

She gave each of her granddaughters a ring from her collection of mostly antique rings and mine is in need of some maintenance. I am nervous about wearing it before I have it looked at by a jeweler, but I decided to wear it on the plane to Oahu for my birthday trip. It just felt like something I wanted to have with me as I turned 40.

We spread my grandparents’ ashes this summer as a family and it was such a sweet moment.

make a macrame hanging

I bought a pattern (from this incredible weaver) and the rope, but I haven’t made it. Yet.

update JDC about page

Oh, if I could just let you into my brain and heart for a minute so you could see that this is not quite as simple as it sounds. As I’ve been on this journey to answer the question WHO AM I? I have discovered things about myself that are informing decisions about what I do and how I live now. It’s not all clear, but becoming clearer. I just still haven’t figured out how that impacts JDC and, therefore, what gets written on the about page.

go paddle boarding

I like being on the water. Give me a boat, a paddle board, a giant inflatable swan … it doesn’t matter. I am happy to say I spent quite a bit of time this summer on the water.

practice daily silence + solitude

What I really meant by this was practice listening to the voice of God. I often hear him best when I am silent and alone, so that is my go-to. Since I’m not an early morning type of person, it means I have to make time for that quiet at other times of the day. There’s a little stretch of time in between getting my 7th grader off to school and before getting the elementary kids up and ready, so I like to take that time to be quiet, pray, read and journal. My college roommate used to make fun of me when she would come into our dorm room and find me laying on the bed doing nothing. But I wasn’t doing nothing … I was thinking! I still do the same thing; sometimes I’ll just pop up to my room for a few minutes to sit or lay in silence. I’ll turn off the radio in the car and drive in silence. I’ll wash dishes or vacuum the house and be quiet (sometimes I’ll put in headphones and listen to a podcast which I like as well, but sometimes I choose to be quiet so that I can make room in my heart and mind for the Lord to speak).

All I can say is that by making room in my life for quiet, by being intentional and diligent on working toward healing, I am experiencing transformation, renewal and a deep closeness with God that fills my soul.

buy a new pair of great jeans

I bought a few new pair of jeans over the year, but maybe my new favorites are these bootcut jeans.


Whew! I made it! You made it! (that was a lot of words).

39 was a year of joy and hard work and deep healing. It did not go exactly as expected and yet, in so many ways, it exceeded expectations.

Doing this 40 by 40 list was not only fun, but it also helped me find the things that made me excited, helped me learn, that felt important or necessary. I really don’t think there is anything magical about doing it before a big birthday – do it when you’re 14 or 32 or 67! The most important part is to pay attention to what makes you come alive and do a little more of that.

34 Responses to 40 By 40 | the final update

  1. Sherri Len Amundson November 6, 2018 at 10:24 am #

    if it matters at all what a 54-year-old stranger’s opinion is: one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever seen of you is the one in the car under your Barre 3 heading. So natural and beautiful!!

    • emily November 6, 2018 at 8:36 pm #

      Ah, thank you. It is a very natural photo!

  2. Genelle Andersen October 18, 2018 at 7:26 am #

    Thank you for this. I’ll be 40 in April this year and this weird nesting/accomplishing/fixing feeling has come upon me….like what I had at 8 months pregnant! Your beautiful writing and thoughtful insights have given me some direction with what to do with these feelings of urgency. The Lord is using this pretty little blog of yours to touch a lot of ladies and draw us closer to Him. Thank you!
    xoxo, Genelle

  3. Dani October 18, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    I live and die by Emilie’s book. The best recipes I’ve found so far! I also have starter so if you ever feel the need to start making bread again, I’m happy to share!

  4. Tiffany October 17, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

    What an amazing way to celebrate a big milestone! You are truly inspiring. Also, it was so nice to meet you in person at MOPS a few weeks ago. Thank you for being so nice and not making me feel awkward about it.

  5. Vicki October 17, 2018 at 12:38 pm #

    This might be my favorite JDC post ever. It was so interesting to learn how you decided what to pursue and what to let go and the way life happened and preempted some of the other items. I particularly appreciate the sharing of the steps you’re taking to heal and grow closer to God. Those are two things I have on my own list as well. Life has a way of dictating what gets done and what doesn’t but it sure helps to have a guide to try to keep things on track. I really appreciate your honesty and transparency.

  6. Bonnie Goodwin October 17, 2018 at 6:43 am #

    Emily, you are amazing and such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Carrie October 17, 2018 at 6:07 am #

    Happy Birthday! You look like you are 30, not 40! Your list was inspiring- thanks so much for posting it. And, as someone with 17 years of gut issues, I am happy to ear you are experiencing improvement. I have been too lately- drugs or diet were not the solution.Take care!

  8. Beth October 17, 2018 at 2:27 am #

    Happy Birthday!! Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your journey – I so love getting to follow along. Praying many blessings over you in the year to come!

  9. Leen October 17, 2018 at 1:22 am #

    So inspiring… and to have come across this right after turning 39… light-bulb moment! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Leah October 16, 2018 at 11:47 pm #

    Curious if the Ennegram book you listed also provides a test to see what number you are? Or did you know that prior to reading the book? Definitely going to get the book – thanks just need to know my number lol.

  11. Nicola O. October 16, 2018 at 8:53 pm #

    What a lovely, personal post. Now you need to start on your 50 by 50 list! ;)

  12. Lisa F October 16, 2018 at 8:51 pm #

    Well happy 40th birthday – the best is ahead! My sourdough sad story… my mom gave me some starter that had been passed down for 80+ years and I stored it in a Marie’s blue cheese dressing jar. My sweet husband decided to clean the frig while I was away and thought it was some old dressing and yup he threw it out. Haven’t had any since.

    • emily October 17, 2018 at 10:02 am #

      Oh no! That is a sad story!

  13. Lisa F October 16, 2018 at 8:50 pm #

    Well happy 40th birthday – the best is ahead! My sourdough sad story… my mom gave me some starter that had been passed down for 80+ years and I stored it in a Marie’s blue cheese dressing jar. My sweet husband decided to clean the frig while I was away and thought it was some old dressing and yup he threw it out. Haven’t had any since.

  14. Meghan October 16, 2018 at 8:30 pm #

    You are so inspiring in every way! Cheers to a beautiful year ahead. HBD!

  15. Lauren October 16, 2018 at 7:01 pm #

    Would love to hear more about what’s been working for your gut issues!

    • emily October 16, 2018 at 8:13 pm #

      My issues did not respond at all to diet but are a more pervasive inflammation and a very severe iron deficiency. My naturopath worked with me for about a year to find a combination of supplements that feed my body what it needs. I highly recommend seeing a functional medicine doctor or naturopath if you have similar health issues. I loved how determined she was to get to the root of the problem and not just treat the inflammation.

  16. Rachel October 16, 2018 at 5:39 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, and for being so real. I confess I’m slightly relieved because I’m about 10 short, and turn 40 next week. Happy Birthday!! Wishing you every good thing.

  17. Jenn Anderson October 16, 2018 at 4:49 pm #

    This is a wonderful update. Thanks so much for sharing so much here.

  18. Chelsea October 16, 2018 at 4:03 pm #

    Thanks for sharing the update to this list, love it! What a fun thing to do, but also wonderful to really try and figure out who you are. :) Thank you for taking us along on this journey! I need to be more mindful about things that make me happy/grow my faith and spend more time on those! Happy Fall Emily!

  19. katy October 16, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

    The one about having intentional dates with your kiddos made me cry! The line where you said “You know what? I’m a good mom!” (or whatever it was) just made my heart swell. I feel this way, too, with my babies. I may not check every box, or do every activity or whatever, but my kids will grow up knowing that they are adored/loved/wanted/cherished, and that is good enough for me. <3

  20. Sara Black October 16, 2018 at 3:52 pm #

    Just thought you should know that you made it to my 50 by 50! Amongst 48 other goals, I’ve signed up for two of your classes to learn to edit and organize photos. Lol! Now I just have 6 months to find the time to listen to the classes! Maybe I should have put, “find time for classes” on my list!

  21. Emily October 16, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

    I love this so much. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  22. Katherine L. October 16, 2018 at 2:55 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your journey and your list. It’s strange to feel like a kindred spirit to someone I’ll likely never have an actual face to face coffee chat with. ;) But, as a fellow 9 that just turned 40, I am walking a similar path to greater self discovery, pressing into hearing His voice, and finding such freedom in this beautiful phase of life.
    I always open your posts knowing I’ll find inspiration and encouragement. Thanks for that, and welcome to the 40s club!

  23. Karen Yarnell October 16, 2018 at 2:34 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this list. My favorite is making quiet in your life so that you can hear the voice of God. Also, I would love to know more about the connection between spiritual healing and gut health, should you have time to share. Thanks for sharing your life.

  24. Pat October 16, 2018 at 2:30 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It’s inspiring!

  25. Maureen October 16, 2018 at 2:20 pm #

    About braces… when I was 39 (20 years ago), two of our children needed braces. I got the info and prices and took them to my husband who said, “that’s great, but they get braces only if you get them too.” I’d always wanted and needed them, but I cried and protested especially because we couldn’t afford it. When I turned 40, three of us had braces. I love my husband for this! It was life changing for me. I smile and never think about my teeth… just the reason to smile.
    It was also a very bonding experience with my kids few parents get to have.
    Just wanted to share my journey as you are making this decision.

    • Susan October 16, 2018 at 11:50 pm #

      This is great! Also, as a mom of 3 with the last one just out of braces, the expenses don’t lessen after the braces because now we have one in college and the next going next year and the college expenses for 1 year are so much more than we paid for braces for all 3 combined! That last kid done with braces is a freshman in high school, so by the time we’re done paying for college for the older 2, we’ll be paying for the 3rd! I would be about 55 if I waited for all that to be done.

      • Carmen October 17, 2018 at 6:19 pm #

        I too put of getting braces for fear of it being ‘too selfish of a thing to do’ since I am a stay at home mom of two toddlers living on one income, but my husband was so encouraging of my decision. He knew how badly I had always wanted and needed them and it’s been so awesome to not have to worry about smiling or laughing because of embarrassment. I feel like a new woman!

  26. kris October 16, 2018 at 2:16 pm #

    Congratulations on a great year! I love seeing how much you’ve accomplished. Would you mind posting the apple fritter recipe? The Fall 2017 Magnolia Journal has been out of stock forever and I would love to try this recipe. It looks so yummy!!

  27. Milo October 16, 2018 at 2:04 pm #

    Happy Birthday!!

    Thanks for updating us on this journey! So glad to hear about all the healing over the past year.

    <3

  28. Milo October 16, 2018 at 2:04 pm #

    Happy Birthday!!

    Thanks for updating us on this journey! So glad to hear about all the healing over the past year.

    <3

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