Tomorrow, I'll turn 50. With a little luck, that means I'm only half way through life.
Maybe it's because it's a milestone year that I've been especially thoughtful this week. Remembering, savoring, listening, enjoying. Yes, also worrying about wrinkles, and wondering about the future. Wishing I'd picked up a box of Clairol for the occasion.
Mostly, I decided on a few things.
I decided that I should finally unpack my bags and settle in to a new season of life. I guess I've been in denial that my kids are grown up and that my "hands-on" parenting years are done. I was so very tired by the end of it, and yet it's been hard to let go. I should embrace this era and not be afraid of it, now that I'm over a year in.
I decided I should accept that I'm the messy one in our marriage. We all know it anyway.
I decided I ought to figure out who I am, what I love, and what my passions are. I sort of missed that boat in my twenties, and am just now realizing it might have helped me navigate life a little easier.
I decided that I know less about my faith than I thought. That God is bigger than I imagined, that his tent is wider, that the Bible holds deeper mysteries, and that anyone who says they have it all figured out is either selling something or is delusional. I'm OK with not knowing everything.
I decided to ask "what if?" more often, and not be afraid of the answers. I'd love to discuss things like science and faith, and wrestle with big ideas that challenge my thinking. I want to be that person who is willing to dig and get uncomfortable, if it means understanding the world and my faith a little better.
I decided that I'm good with being a late bloomer. I was too busy with raising kids and paying bills to realize the things I have to offer this world. I have art and words, and experience and empathy. These are things of value for somebody, and there is something pretty grand about slowly coming around to valuing these gifts myself. For too long I thought I had nothing to give except a nice personality. And I was wrong. I have a lot to give, and I'm finally learning that.
I decided that no one really has it easy. That rich people don't have happier or more fulfilled lives, perhaps just more stylish ones. I decided to accept that we will always drive an older vehicle, always have another one on the fritz, and always have to rob Peter to pay Paul. There are so many truly hard things people deal with in life - ours are just money and time. They are small things in light of what others bear. I will count my blessings.
Turning 50 has made me feel very, very thankful. My children are grown up and all the angst over "am I ruining them?" is over. No, I did not ruin them, thank God. They turned out so beautifully, and yet I always hesitate to brag on them when I know other parents are struggling. People who did a much finer job of parenting than us, but whose kids are making poor choices or straying from faith, and it just hurts. I hurt for them. I feel a humble gratitude, and a deep grace for the family we have. I do not take it for granted for one second.
And now I have a grandbaby, and I decided that I really would like a lot of them. My heart, oh my heart.
I know this is long, and it's not my usual kind of post, but I sort of thought, "Dang it, if I can't spill my guts on my 50th birthday, what's the point?" So here is my conclusion.
Life in these first fifty years has been full and wonderful and often hard. I've had more failures and disappointments than I know what to do with. But I've also had beautiful, sparkling moments - years, even - that have filled my heart til it hurts, and they've gotten me through. I've had faith, and Jesus and a good man who reaches over to hold my hand at night. I've had laughter and memories and everything that makes life sweet in the middle of it.
And all of it without any guarantees. Just faith that each day there will be enough. Enough strength to find joy, enough trust to pray to a God who hears, enough courage to live free.
I can't help but think that the next 50 will have more of the same. And I welcome all of it with open arms.
I love you, dear friends. Thank you for being a part of this first half.
Rachel Anne, at the big five-oh
PS No Small Thing today - in honor of this Big Birthday!