So, in a few days, I will be 35. Most people consider this middle age, but I guess I have to echo the trite sentiment--"But I don't feel middle-aged!" But I have never understood what people meant by saying they feel an age...what does an age feel like? I haven't noticed any marked changes that have occurred at a given age...you know, like 16, 18, 21, 30...the supposed "milestone" ages. And thank the Lord and good genetics, I have never actually looked my age. When I was 16, people thought I was 12, which I hated...then. Then during my twenties, when I was having babies and being a grown-up, people gave me pitying looks like I was a teen mom, or asked questions like "Are those all your kids?!" (In an incredulous voice, of course.) So, age has always been just a number for me.
But now that I am about to reach yet another "milestone" age, I have been thinking about what I might say about such an event. I mean, according to the "three-score and ten" principle, I am halfway through my allotted span. So, have I reached any conclusions about life that I could share? Have I learned any lessons that I can pass on to younger moms and wives to save them maybe having to learn them the hard way? Are there things that I have yet to learn that I can get busy on in the time I have left? I have been mulling over these points and thought I might share a few things on my li'l ol' blog. So, here are a few things I have had occasion to try out, fail at, try again, learn, re-learn, and practice in my life. It's my hope that something will encourage you, challenge you, make you laugh, or remind you of God's direction in your life.
1. God does have a plan for you---even if it not the plan you thought. This was a big one for me early on in my life. You see, I am a planner. But often, God's plan for my life was to change the plan I had. One early lesson I learned in this was when we moved right before my sixteenth birthday. This was a difficult time of my life, and I was not very pleased with my parents (and to be honest, God) for disrupting my life and uprooting me just when I felt I was "coming into my own." Unfortunately, I struggled with this lesson for a while before finally just giving up. (Yay for a senior trip to the Wilds!) I decided that it might be easier for me to let God plan my life for a while...you know, just to see what might happen. Well, things did happen, and three years after that "traumatic" move, I was married! Which leads me right into my next musing...
2. Marriage is good...but hard. I mean hard. No one really tells you this. You hear the trite phrases about love being blind or deaf. And you expect to have a spat here or there with your spouse. But no one tells you about the flat-out, gritty reality of marriage and the work that goes into making one work. The sleepless nights where you are emotionally so drained you think maybe this was a mistake. The days where nothing goes right and the only thing you can do is take it out on the person whose fault it seems like. The times where you would cheerfully punch the daylights out of the person you said "I love you" to earlier that day. But after this is the plain out satisfaction of getting through all that. Together on the other side...hopefully wiser, closer, more together. So, all you newbies out there, my advice would be tough it out. When the shine is off, when the stress takes it toll, when you want to walk away, or wish the other person would. Stay. Fight. Don't quit. Talk. Yell. Love. Beat the odds...together. Because...
3. People are watching. Looking to you, even though you have no clue what you are doing. This is one I am still not comfortable with. I don't think I have it "all together" like--oh, I don't know--several hundred other people that are way more "together" than me. So when the thought crosses my mind that people are looking to me to be a leader, I still kinda freak out. I don't really want to be one. Because, let's face it...it's way easier to say "Follow someone else." But, at some point--although I don't really know how it happened--I was a leader. People came to me for advice. They looked to me to set the tone of a situation. They assumed that since I was there, I was in charge. When, mostly, I just wanted to say, "Wait...I'm not a grown-up...you can't put me in charge! I've never done this before!" I guess this is part of point number one that I am still working on!
4. There is no magic formula for parenting. At some point, early on, maybe even before you have kids of your own, you have already had a mental dialog with yourself about "well, when I have kids, they will never..." And you assume that there is a set formula of love, patience, discipline, and firmness that you can plug in and out will come a well-adjusted, well-behaved little person. And there pretty much is...but the formula seems to change everyday...sometimes multiple times a day. And no one tells you that some days you will just be happy with kids that are still alive at the end of the day...because some days that's an accomplishment all by itself. It is hard to choose the battles to pick...but critical to win the ones you choose. And people will give you advice, article, books, dissertations, blogs, and criticisms...all in the name of good intentions. And you have the best intentions to try and follow it all. But then life happens. And all the good intentions go out the window and your husband comes home to find the children in pajamas, in front of the television, eating carrot sticks out of a bag while you just stare at him. Vacantly. And he takes you all out for supper, because he is great. And then the next week you find the "magic formula" one day, and he comes home to happy kids, a warm supper, good dessert, and a clean house. And he just smiles and says, "How was your day?" because he is great. So, mommies, hang in there. The magic formula is simply this--there is no formula. Pray for, take care of, and love your kiddos...so easy--yet so challenging.
5. Life is full of big challenges, but little things are what's important. As I look back on my life up to this point, I can remember the "big" things most clearly. Getting married, having babies, losing babies, major illnesses of family members, natural disasters, job changes, moves, conflicts, trials, loss...all the things that make the milestones that people use to measure their life by. You know, "It's been three years since this tragedy" or "It's been two weeks since that happened." I guess it's human nature to quantify our life on a timetable of what has happened to us. But we need to be careful that we don't get trapped in measuring our lives by the negative things that have happened. If we are simply waiting for the next complication with which to measure our life by, we may miss the everyday blessing that God sends. The phone call from a friend, the chubby fistful of flowers from your toddler, the new book you started reading, a fancy coffee for no reason at all, a trip to the grocery store by yourself. The time you wished you had cookies, and the next day a church member brings some to church. The wonderfulness of your washing machine, dishwasher, or Crockpot. A thing you have always harbored a secret wish to do, and out of the blue God gives you a chance to do it. Don't forget these seemingly little things. Because they are the things that God send us to help us get through those challenging times. We can store them up and take them out and look at them and remember that God is there, and He loves us, and He will help us through the hard times because look how good He was when we weren't looking for it. Little things are still important...which is kinda what this blog is about after all.
I have by no means mastered anything on this list. I don't know if it is even something that can be "mastered" or not. But looking back, these are a few things that stick out to me as lessons that I have revisited the most often. Now I have a place to come and read them the next time I need a refresher course!! Keep looking for those little things! And remember, age is just a number! ;)