June is a special month in our family, because two out of the three of us have birthdays. And I love birthdays. I love cake, presents, the Happy Birthday song, blowing out candles, and the thoughtful and funny cards. I especially enjoy those paper noisemakers that magically unroll when you blow into them and then automatically roll back up. Inevitably spit will create a soggy hole in them, rendering them worthless, but until that happens they provide a solid 5.2 seconds of fun. I love those things.
Just a few days ago our son turned nine, and this week I turned forty. There was a time when I couldn’t wait for forty to come, because I figured then nosy strangers would stop asking if we were going to have more children. “Nope,” I imagined I would say, “I’m getting too old.” And people would nod in agreement, seeing that, yes, I was old…and satisfied.
Now forty isn’t merely in my imagination anymore – it’s my reality.
Thankfully these days I’m not bombarded with questions and advice from strangers about the size of my family (I assure you this will be its own post at some point).
But “old” and “satisfied” are not exactly the descriptors I would probably use for my life right now.
For starters, I don’t feel old in my spirit. I still feel like a kid at heart. I adore rubber chickens, funny t-shirts, socks with cartoon pictures on them, and big scoops of ice cream. I happily wear my Chewbacca onesie that more closely resembles a Bigfoot costume, completely embarrassing my husband. It’s a good thing to have a light-hearted side!
However, my body feels old. I’m not worried about the facial wrinkles that naturally come, chronicling times of joy and sorrow in a life well lived. Or the gray hairs that have sprouted up all over my head (hair dye remedies that issue anyway!). No, it’s ongoing pain issues and exhaustion that make life difficult in this body of mine.
And satisfied? Yes and no.
In many ways, I couldn’t be more satisfied. I have an amazingly supportive and handsome husband. And our son is the funniest, kindest, most creative boy I know.
We live in a small but great ranch style house that is perfect for us. Inside, you will find a ping pong table covered in laundry (at least the potential to play ping pong is there, right?!), a guitar that doesn’t get used, a piano that is played everyday, IKEA bookshelves, and an extensive inventory of LEGO bricks, pieces, and creations. It’s a good house.
We have two vehicles in our driveway, pots of colorful flowers on our deck, and elementary school artwork hanging on our refrigerator.
We also have friends and family who have loved us well through our difficulties and victories. It’s incredible to have such a support system.
God’s kindness is overwhelming when I think about it.
And in these ways, life feels satisfying. There are all kinds of reasons to be thankful.
But on the other hand, I have heartaches that will never be fully healed this side of Heaven.
As I have gotten older, I realize living with loss is a part of life. The loss of health, the loss of loved ones dear to me, the loss of certain expectations and dreams. These are common but profound losses that many others experience as well. Somehow we keep moving forward, though, learning to function as new realities set in.
Experiencing many losses myself these last few years in particular, there are times when I wrestle with my faith and my understanding of the world. I just can’t understand it all. And when I try to make sense of things, life feels terribly unfair.
It’s during these times, I’m not satisfied. But then again, maybe that’s the point.
If we knew all of the answers to life’s problems, we ourselves would be God. And if we had everything that could give us satisfaction, why would we ever search for meaning outside of ourselves?
A few years ago when my son was four, he asked to help water the lawn. (We didn’t have a sprinkler at the time.) The night before, my husband had applied fertilizer on the grass. Because of this, the watering needed to be steady and even, and I knew that my energetic son wouldn’t be able to do that. The nozzle on our hose was also difficult to operate, and it would be setting him up for failure if he tried to use it for this particular task. So I told my son no, he wouldn’t be able to help this time.
Of course he was upset, because to him I was simply being mean and unreasonable. In his mind, he was fully capable of helping. Instead of trying to explain all of the reasons and nuances behind my decision, which he wouldn’t be able to fully understand anyway and would have unreasonably argued about, I just reassured him that I loved him deeply, and he needed to trust me that I had other, better jobs for him to do. Of course this didn’t go over too well at the time, but I was able to find another way for him to help me that day.
This scenario, in many ways, parallels what trusting in God feels like when I don’t understand His reasoning but am asked to trust His heart anyway. Like my son at age four, I can be adamant that my ways are best, even though I don’t have the full picture.
I have to remember my Heavenly Father loves me, has a much more thorough understanding of the world around me, and always has my best interest in mind.
When the path is easy, it’s easy to trust. When life is hard and the future uncertain, it becomes so much more difficult. Sometimes it feels like I’m holding on by a thread. But God is the same – He remains the same day and night, through seasons of clarity and seasons of unrest. Circumstances change, but He doesn’t.
I’m grateful to be forty. These past four decades have taught me a lot, and I know I still have much to learn. I’ve had times of despair, desperation, and delight. I guess that’s what life is – a mixed bag of emotions and situations that can ultimately drive us mad or drive us closer to our sense of purpose.
For me, my purpose is to trust God wholeheartedly and encourage others along the way.
And, of course, to enjoy as many of those paper roll-out noisemakers, rubber chickens, and ridiculous T-shirts as humanly possible.