Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A 50th Birthday Cairn

On Monday, I celebrated my 50th birthday. Actually, I started celebrating on Saturday (thanks, Amanda), continued on Sunday (thanks Mama and Daddy, Anne and kids), and kept going strong on Monday (thanks, my sweet family who let me celebrate by doing things I love, working in the garden and cooking a meal for friends. I got pampered on Sunday, so I cooked on Monday. Thanks, dear ones, who let me cook for you) The celebration even extended into late Monday night and early Tuesday morning when Jonathan surprised me with a phone call from Seattle, telling me that he had a two hour layover here early Tuesday morning. I got to go to the airport and share a coffee and some birthday cheesecake with him. My in-laws arrive tomorrow for a short visit and Thomas comes home this weekend. So, my birthday stretches on into the weekend. I'm happy to keep on celebrating!

A few nights before my birthday, I couldn’t sleep so I got up and spent some time thinking about the people and events of these past few years. I wanted to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. I turned each thought over in my mind, like turning a stone over in your hand to explore its contours and feel its texture. Then, as I started to write, these thoughts grew into a cairn – a stack of stones pointing to thankfulness for God’s goodness in the past, and a few hopes and dreams for the future. It’s a rough cairn yet, a jumbled pile of thoughts and reflections, randomly ordered, but for what it’s worth, here is my 50th birthday cairn. “Hitherto hath the Lord led,” this pile of Ebenezer stones says, and "'further up and further in' by His grace, shall He lead on."

I am incredibly privileged and grateful beyond words to have reached this age, married to the same man for almost 28 years. I have six healthy, loving children and one precious son-in-law who are all following Christ. These are stunning blessings. I know I still have lots more to learn about being the wife and mother God intends me to be. I want to keep growing.

Most women in ages past didn’t make it to this age. Death in childbirth, poor health, and back-breaking, life shortening hard work sent women in earlier years to their graves much younger. I don’t take my life span or my health for granted. Every day is a precious gift from God.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection more deeply in the next 50. I want His word to dwell in me richly. I want to be a more winsome Christian, to more truly reflect and magnify the beauty of Christ. I want to memorize more scripture than I have so far. I know that will get harder as my brain gets older so I’d better get busy!

I do not want to waste my life on worthless pursuits. In five years, I will finish the marathon task of homeschooling my kids (if I’m able to keep on til Joel finishes high school!). This has been an incredibly worthwhile and joyous pursuit. For whom or what will God have me pour out my life when there are no more scholars at home?

The last five years have been the hardest ones of my life. More pain, more tears, more disappointment – but also more grace. If need be, I am well content to have suffering shape me. I know that compared to the suffering of persecuted believers around the world, my pain is miniscule. Still, God has used it to refine me.

The last five years have also included some of the happiest milestones of my life. Erin and Luke's wedding stands out as one of the most wonderful days ever, in every imaginable way. Thanks, you two, for being the kind of people that made planning and having a wedding both a witness to God's sovereignty and greatness and a whole lot of fun!

I am not afraid to start something new. Sometimes I think that when my kids are all gone from home, I’ll go back to school and study nursing. Then I could be more useful on the mission field, if God sends us there again. Or maybe I’ll study landscape architecture and really figure out how to fix that gaping hole in my backyard. I would also really like to write more. The older I get, the more I realize that I have to focus. I may not do any of these things, except I do really desire to write more, but it is exciting to think about launching out in new directions. I don’t ever want to be afraid to do that and I want to always be a learner, depending on God’s guidance to head me in the right direction.

I am looking forward to being a grandparent (no pressure, Erin honey!) and seeing Coty as a grandfather and my boys as uncles. I think that Erin and Luke are going to be incredible parents and that my boys are going to be wonderful uncles. And Coty will be absolutely out of control when he is a grandfather – he LOVES babies, which is a great thing, since we had six of them! I was always happy to hand them over to him after a long day, but I may have to fight him off when I want to hold our first grandchild.

I haven’t read enough these first 50 years. I’ve got some catching up to do! My booklist is long.

As a 50 year old woman, I am happier with my body, hair, and appearance than at any other time in my life. I am thankful for a husband whose example of self discipline in regular exercise spurs me on and helps me stay in shape. I like my gray hair and wrinkles – no hair color or botox for me! Perhaps that is because, as I age, I am becoming more like a child, comfortable in my skin and more interested in what’s going on around me than in checking myself out in the mirror. Or perhaps it’s because I’m just content at this point and long for ease and simplicity. Or perhaps it’s because I love the words of Proverbs 16:31 which tell me that gray hair is a crown of splendor attained by a righteous life (I hope so!). Or maybe it’s all of the above.

I want to be more cheerful, not because I’m a Pollyanna, but because I have deep joy in Christ. I don’t want to be a grouchy, complaining old lady that talks about her latest ailment. But when I inevitably do have ailments, I want cheerfulness to be my best medicine.

I hope I am like Helen Roseveare when I am 82 and that I will be able to spend the next 32 years in faithful, persevering, quiet service. I hope I always say, as she said, “The Lord took me me there. How could I complain?” Unfortunately, I will not say it with the lovely English accent she does. But hopefully a soft, Southern drawl will tell others, just as convincingly, about a grace filled life. Or maybe I will really learn French!

And speaking of French, I really would like to learn to speak in French. That way when I go to visit Andrew in France (if indeed he goes there in the next few years, which, Lord willing, I think he will), I’ll be able to go to a café, order crepes, and not embarrass him!

I have a precious extended family that I have too often taken for granted. Loving, giving beyond all imagining parents; a sister who is a dear friend; a brother who makes me think hard; generous, supportive, fun in-laws; nieces and nephews who make me aware of what a privilege it is to be an aunt. I want to be a better daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt.

I have been blessed with incredible friendships with women. Distance and time do not seem to matter for us. Thank you T, G, M, A, and C. You know who you are, but I do not think you fully know how deeply thankful I am for your friendship.

God has given me two “adopted” daughters who entered my life when they were college students. I am thankful we have remained close and want to be more connected to them in the years ahead. Thank you, Jen and Lillian for letting me be a part of your lives.

God has also brought some young men into our lives in the last couple of years who are becoming like sons to me. One sign of that is that they don’t mind rubbing my shoulders! And they talk to me about women and other big things in life. I love being a listening ear for all of my guys. I hope they will always want to talk.

A well designed compost bucket was a good birthday present for me. So were spring bulbs. And I might use a little birthday money for a load of mushroom compost. It didn’t come on my birthday, but I’d love a steady downpour to water my drought stricken garden. I realize how much I think about plants and growing things. I hope gardening will help to keep my body fit and my mind sharp. I enjoy being around elderly gardeners. Maybe one day I'll have a garden like Tasha Tudor...probably not...but I can keep my hands in the dirt and dream!

I would like to go on a long hiking trip sometime. I would like it even better if Coty’s knees got strong and pain-free enough to allow him to hike more.

I would like music to fill my life more in the years ahead. It’s time to get new pads on my flute and start practicing the piano again. Time to play my way through the hymnbook like I did when I was pregnant with Erin.

I hope I will always have people around that I can cook for. I do love it when my family and others compliment my cooking. I love the smells of fresh baked bread, onions sautéing, and curry simmering on the stove.

Sometime in the next 50 years I’d like to live in Africa again. And I want to go to China, too.

There it is…a jumble of stones. Starting to take shape to mark the way ahead….


Rob said...

Bless you and thank you for opening up your life and sharing your heart-felt reflections, Beth!

All glory to the Lamb for His image being continually carved out in your life and character -- oh how it can be a painful work!

hehe, and yes, it would be quite something to see Grand-daddy Coty and 'Cookie' ;-)

Nicole said...

Happy birthday, Beth! It sounds like it was a good one! I'm glad you got to see Jonathan, even if for a brief time!! What a nice surprise!!

Josh and Dana said...

This was such a precious read! I know it wasn't written primarily to be read, but thanks for letting us anyway. I love how you put your heart on display in beautiful, rich writing. Please don't stop doing that.