Dawn, over at fymoments, just celebrated her 33rd birthday this week. Reading her post brought me back to my own 33rd birthday, and made me relive some of those same feelings she expressed so eloquently. It is hard to believe that 10 years have gone by since then, and yet so many changes have taken place I had to pause for a moment to grasp it all.
At 33, my youngest child was three. At that point he was still permanently attached to my leg. He was a very needy baby and sometimes drained the life right out of me. I was certain he would be a wimpy mama's boy with that kind of start. One day, he heard the girls walk in the door from school and he ran to me and threw his arms around me. He scowled at his sisters and yelled, "NO! MY Mommy!" He wasn't about to share me. How times have changed! He's turned out to be an independent, manly man of a teenager and is no longer adhered to my side, which is a good thing when you have to go to school everyday.
Back then, I was pretty sure I would never be able to compete for a decent job in the marketplace, should I ever need to return to it. I felt that my youth was fading fast, and with it any chance for success. Well, that was silly, I can see that now. The fading youth part didn't really start to happen for another decade (like right about NOW), but to be honest, I was scared about the fact that I never finished a degree and that I'd already spent several years at home. My brain had disintegrated into mush with all the diapers and tea parties so it was not looking good. In the following ten years I DID have to start working again, but it has not been in the corporate world, and my lack of degree has never been a problem. I still want that piece of paper, but it will have to wait a bit longer. The good news is, your brain cells regenerate after your kids are potty trained.
In 1997, I had just picked up a paint brush for the first time, just to have a little fun. I had no idea that my hobby would turn out to be my living! I just thought painted flower pots and birdhouses would make nice presents for my friends. That's the part that still surprises me. You just never know what twists life will take.
Dawn shared about birthday disappointments and I remembered my own. That very year was an UNhappy Birthday for me. Tom and I were going through a tough time in our marriage and it is hard to feel celebratory when you don't want to be with the person you pledged to go through life with. I knew that neither of us would actually leave, but still. I remember the tears, the hurt and the anger from that day and even now I don't like to think about it. It was one of those times that you have to trust that you'll eventually come through and be better for it on the other side. Birthdays can bring out a lot of emotion, good and bad. Thank God there is cake to help you through.
There have been other changes. The girls have made it all the way through school and are now in college. One is even married! Ten years ago, it was hard to imagine my ten and eight year olds as young adults, but here they are. I wish I could say that I did a fabulous job as a parent, but the reality is that I simply muddled through: being more REactive than PROactive, leaving too many things to chance, and doing a lot of praying.
We moved from our little neighborhood to an old house on a little acreage. We started our business for real. We changed churches. We endured financial hardship and physical strain. We lost a baby. These years between 33 and 43 have been hard but wonderful. I've needed a lot of encouragement to keep going, to keep looking for the beauty in every day. It's always been there, even in the difficult times, and I'm thankful for the people who helped me along the way.
The next ten years may bring changes that I dread: Body-shaping undergarments to fight the downward sagging. Hot flashes and glasses, more gray hair to cover, and more reasons to consider Botox. But they may bring changes that will hold great joy: grandchildren, freedom to travel, new opportunities and chances to help others. I might even get that degree. I hope that remembering the past and God's surpassing faithfulness will help me embrace the future, whatever it may hold. Perhaps 53 will be the new 40!