Turning 40 back in October was far less traumatic for me than all the black balloons and middle aged marketing would lead one to believe. Perhaps it is because so many of my friends had walked the road ahead of me. I didn't mind turning 40 so much.
Actually being 40 has been a bit more of a shock to my system. For the first couple of months the age felt a little weighty. I suppose it is fact that with a 4 in front of my age, I am certifiably, undeniably an adult. (As if home ownership, marriage and three children weren't enough to make that plain...)
Some days I step back and giggle at my middle aged self.
I now choose classical music, noise cancelling headphones, NPR and the National Geographic Channel.
I enjoy historical fiction when not reading non-fiction.
I dress in layers.
I am trying to actually use a purse and wear a few accessories.
I don't get carded when I purchase a bottle of wine.
I no longer prickle when I am called ma'am.
And my great aunt's old fur coat that has been hanging in my closet unworn for 10 years is actually starting to feel close to age appropriate.
I have realized there are some parts of being 40 that I greatly enjoy...and they are not things I would have guessed. Tonight I was thinking about my top three lessons from the first three months in my 40s.
Last month I had an opportunity to join my husband for a quick two night trip to Montreal for a meeting. He was busy for 9 hours the one full day we were there, leaving me alone in a French speaking city that I'd never visited. I brought lots to read and had planned on simply retreating in my hotel room, until I looked outside the window and felt that would be a shame. So, clueless and Francais-less I put on a coat and boots and went exploring alone. Much to my delight, it was OK. I figured things out. I got lost and didn't panic. I ate alone. I watched a parade by myself. And unlike a similar experience 15 years ago in Hong Kong where I gave up and went back to the safety of my hotel room rather than brave the unknown, I felt strong, competent & Ok with being a stranger. I didn't feel like a lost little girl, but rather, an adult adventurer.
This is the part of middle age I wish more people celebrated. Not the wrinkles, sags and grey hair but the moments of realizing the strength and confidence God has built line upon line in our lives. It presents itself in interesting places, especially as we navigate the often foreign terrain of parenting, marriage and the other responsibilities of adulthood.
I had some funny conversations with God as I wandered the grey, chilly streets of Montreal. I was a foreign stranger with a silly grin on my face as I walked, thanking the Lord for all the LIFE that had happened in 15 years that had taught me to trust Him and to be brave.
I love having lived long enough to see the 'broken road' moments of life have really been forming a path. Especially in ministry, I am blown away when I step back and consider how God has used so many parts of my life that I thought were lows to equip me to love others decades later. Pausing long enough to look back always reminds me of His Faithfulness and that He's always had a plan.
I could write an entire other post outlining some of the ways this has come together incredibly lately...I continue to see how nothing is wasted in God's economy and so many life experiences I would not have chosen have molded and shaped my story into something that can encourage and support others in unlikely places and ways.
I have always been a communicator. Always. I am a talker, a writer, a verbal processor...but lately I have realized that the more strongly and passionately I feel about something, the more cautious I am in speaking about it. Once upon a time I would have considered quiet a cop out or complacency. I am in a season where I increasingly see it as wisdom.
I was recently watching a youth basketball game with a player who dominated ball possession. Each time he got the ball he shot--it didn't matter if it was a good shot, he just took advantage of every single opportunity. It was frenetic and although there were 3-4 dozen opportunities, he missed every single one. It occurred to me that this has been my approach to words at various points in my life. I have them. I should use them. Every single time I get the chance.
The young basketball player and I share similar issues, immaturity and a lack of self control. This is expected at 10 years old and annoying at 40. Ironically, it is equally ineffective at both ages. In the next game he was more selective in his shooting. He shot less and scored more. I keep thinking about the lesson I learned from that kid. He wasn't the MVP of that particular game, but he left a powerful lesson in my heart.
There are stories I want to share-- much happening in my life I don't want to forget--but like Thanksgiving turkeys that must roast for hours, these birds aren't ready yet.
So this middle age lady is learning to watch, wait, ponder and exercise some self control in when I decide to shoot with my mouth or my typing fingers. And it is good.