This fiftieth day of 2018 is my fiftieth birthday.
Wait. What?! Did I say fifty? How can that be? I truly feel like a twenty-five year old in my head. However, if I’m doing the math right, I WAS born fifty years ago and I CAN account for every one of those years, so I guess I should say that I feel like TWO twenty-five year olds in my head.
But FIFTY?! That used to be so old.
In anticipation of my milestone birthday, I determined last year that I would be at the top of my game at fifty so I toyed with adopting the slogan “Fit at Fifty” or “Fifty and Fabulous” and gave myself several months (plenty of time) to attain this goal. We joined a gym last June and I finally realized a long-time dream of getting physically fit. We began to think more about our health. I also made strides in being on a spiritual mountaintop when I came to my monumental birthday, studying the Bible and learning things that I could teach others also. I worked to come out of my shell more and be that happy social butterfly that I envy in other personalities. As I approach an empty nest, I could see that I would get more time with my aging mother and be able to do things for her I haven’t had time to do. I planned to have a photo shoot to document my happiness and publish my prettiest picture ON my big day. I would give other women hope that turning fifty was a joyful stage in life!
Well, that’s the paragraph I planned to write, but that’s not how last year went at all.
Forty-nine was not fun, not because it led to fifty, but because it was for me a year filled with many trials. Adjustments are hard. I do not run from change but the truth is that adjusting to a new reality is a shock to the system, even if it is something that is a joyful change.
We did join the gym, but I literally fell on my knee last Fall (appropriately) and figuratively fell off the workout wagon. I became the mother of an adult child who lives in another state and didn’t need me the way I was accustomed to being needed. My daughter was away at college and beginning to date. My energetic baby boy was left at home with no siblings and two boring parents. I didn’t know how to be who I needed to be in relation to this new reality and wished I had more wisdom to offer them as they faced new challenges themselves. My mother was in pain everyday and I had no way to relieve her. I was falling apart in so many ways and just not able to deal. I wanted to quit everything because I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer that anybody would value and my own imperfections discouraged me. All of these pressures took a toll on my marriage which then caused us to get real. We should really have this thing figured out by now and sometimes it seemed like we hadn’t learned a thing. My husband has had to find a strength and an understanding and a forgiveness and a patience to meet the challenge which has been revitalizing to our relationship. I pray I can be there for him the way he has been there for me when he faces his greatest challenge in life. He has certainly shown me how.
Turning fifty forces you to accept that what you wanted to be by this late date doesn’t match with what you actually are—there should have been more holiday decorations, more garnishes on the food, I should be a beacon of sunshine to the throngs who look to me for help, there should be no junk drawers (or rooms), etc. There’s a reason perfectionists get depressed—they can never do enough to make things just right and the only place that’s perfect is heaven. Others’ imperfections are annoying, but a perfectionists’ imperfections bring on self-hate which is no picnic for those who have to live with them. Reaching an age like fifty sobers you to realize that it was what it was and there is no going back to make it better. As a young person you have the joy of dreaming all the things you could do and become in life but older ages humble you as you realize that your story has been mostly written. It’s time to be happy with what your life turned out to be.
(By the way, those who know me as an acquaintance may be reading this in disbelief. Some seem to think I have it all together. Nope, I am human, too. It would take a lot of pressure off if I could tell this to the world.)
On January 2, my mother passed away. While I have every reason to be at peace with her passing, I do miss her especially today. After all, your birthday is about you and your mother, right? She had said every time I saw her last year that I had a special birthday coming so I know she wishes me a happy birthday. It’s nice to know it would have been a special day for her, too. Her departure leaves me as the eldest in my line for my children to look to and that definitely gives me the feel of being handed the baton. If I’m going to be a prayer warrior in my older years, I have got to be becoming that warrior now. As each of our Christian parents and grandparents pass away, we lose all the prayers they would have prayed for us. They have set the example and it is time for us to get on our own knees and stop depending on them to do the heavenly work for us. So the next time you are bored in the company of old people, just remember that the boring life they have come to may be what allows them the time to invest in prayer for you. If you have a prayer warrior who loves you, you are blessed indeed. No telling how many days those warriors prayed for my children more than I did. This dependence on one another as we depend on God is another life lesson of older age. We are all on a journey and each contributing to the other.
Last year was the most prolonged time I have ever had of being in a valley. While I would never ask to go through such an extended time of trying, I have to say that my awareness of God is at an all-time high. I am now very aware that all I have is God and am excited beyond my ability to express it to know Him better. It’s like a colorblind person putting on those glasses that allows him to see colors for the first time in his life or a deaf person being given a device to allow him to hear the sounds that have been undetected until now. The more I know of God, the more depth I see that there is to see. My black and white world is now in technicolor and it is amazing!
I do not presume to live one hundred years or even eighty, but if this birthday can be seen as a midpoint in either my life or my adulthood, I want to focus even more in the second half on knowing God, who has allowed us to have a personal relationship with Him. Incredible! I can already see that the troubles I have come through this past year have brought me to a point of growth where I can make decisions that I now need to make. My thinking is now adjusted to be able to think thoughts that never entered my mind but now I have eyes to see and ears to hear. These are obviously decisions the old me would have gotten wrong.
One of the main things I realized at Christmas was that I do not want to attain any new thing as much as I want to keep the things I already have. I already have the greatest things I could have asked for in this life. Above all, I have salvation in Jesus Christ. Not only is heaven guaranteed for me but I can live a life in amazement of Almighty God and grow more like him as I follow him daily. This is all because I placed my faith in Him, humbling myself and trusting that it takes His perfect blood to cleanse my sinful soul. I have lived a wonderful life, largely at the hands of my parents and husband. Yes, they have bought me many gifts and provided for my needs, but I am mainly speaking of the life and love they shared with me. I have three off-the-charts children (I won’t enumerate which charts) and we are all in good health. Do you know how much my life would change if there were a health problem with any one of them? We coast along as if this is the way we deserve it to be and the way it will always be but it wouldn’t take much to turn our lives upside down and we would then beg God to please put it back how it was when we didn’t realize how wonderful we had it. Good relationships, having everything we need, celebrations, health, freedom—we are rich, People!
So, now you’re thinking that I had a birthday and invited you to my pity party! That is where I have lived for far too long, though I realize my problems are small (and are not over). I have close friends whose children or grandchildren have died this year. In light of that, I have no problems. But any problem can overtake us if we do not lean hard on God and those He has placed in our lives to be His hands. In my case, I needed to learn what true leaning was and to value the blessings I already enjoy. Let me encourage you to see through “I’m fine” and know that everyone is hurting over things they CANNOT tell you. I have gone to church with great needs inside and wanted to hug everyone who gave me a smile or a brief encouragement. You cannot know how much a thirsty soul needs that love. Why be stingy with it? It’s free and it’s priceless. A kind gesture makes a huge difference.
Fifty feels like it should be my prime—definitely not in looks or memory skills, but to be young enough to do things yet old enough to have learned a lot. If you’re counting by fifties, my birth was a big celebration of which I was not aware and being one hundred would be a big celebration which I doubt I will see, so this is THE birthday that I am now guaranteed and I celebrate it as a milestone of God’s goodness. I can never thank God enough for my salvation. Heaven will be beyond description. The family and lifestyle He has given me is more than a person could ask. But my salvation is not just about heaven; it is about God changing me. To walk with Him every day and to trust His wisdom and care and to have new understanding of the world and awe of Him with each passing day is a blessing I constantly enjoy and I will enjoy more and more of it every new day that He gives me.
Today is definitely a turning point in my life. In many ways, it feels like my old life has died and my new life is beginning. I am thankful for everything God brought me through, every blessing He gave me, and every person that contributed to my life, but I am also thankful for the excitement I feel for a future of exploring how good and holy my God is!