Yesterday I asked my mother if I would be “officially” middle-aged today, as it is my 45th birthday. She informed me that since the average lifespan for American women is 85, I have actually been middle-aged for 2 ½ years.
Well, let the celebrations begin!
Actually, turning 45 is pretty interesting. I don’t feel old at all, even though many people my age are grandparents. Nevin and I got married later (28) and started having children later (32), so my sons are 12, 10, 7 and 6. I am just now entering the “middle school” age, while still learning with a kindergartener.
I do feel caught in the middle at times. My “child rearing” contemporaries are mainly younger – most in their early 30s. My friends my own age, however, mostly have children who are late teens. So our paths rarely pass at playgroups. Sometimes when I realize that I am almost (!) old enough to be the mother or some of my friends, it takes me aback a bit.
One of the things that I have been facing this year is my own vanity. I realize that many, many women all over the world are facing much worse issues, but this has been a struggle for me. Being confronted with my own sin is always difficult, but being confronted with my own sin and a sagging jaw line at the same time can really wear on the spirit.
I will admit it – I have always taken pride in my appearance. I have always tried to present myself well, most of my life I was very thin (thin=beautiful, you know) and while I’ll never be on a magazine cover, I thought I usually looked pretty good.
The first gray hairs didn’t bother me. As they have increased, I find them very interesting, but they still don’t really upset me. I don’t see myself ever coloring my hair. I am 45; it is okay to be going gray. And I am too lazy to keep up with roots, so there you go.
The creasing around the eyes was okay. Those are laugh lines. Varicose veins? No problem, now I know why women my age wear Bermuda shorts. Lots of fashion options.
Hmmm, my eyes are getting smaller, though. I wonder what has happened to my eyelids?
Weight gain – ack! I have gone from someone who could eat anything and still be thin to someone who counts my Points every day – just to stay where I am. I am not particularly unhappy with my current weight and body shape – some things (c-section scars for instance!) are badges of honor to a body being worn out in service. I think that as I am seeing the need for diligence in what I eat, and seeing parts of my face sliding down, that I am not so much distressed about my present, but sort of anxious about my future….
This is probably the time of life that I really need to focus on some regular exercise. I’d like to, I really would. You hear such marvelous things about women my age who start exercising and have wonderful results. Of course, by my age most of those women no longer have small children in the home to care for, or are homeschooling four children who still need my attention, or any of the myriad of excuses I can use. I guess my main excuse is that I am on my feet a lot of the day, I am physically and mentally tired by the time I go to bed, and when I do have free time I don’t want to use it on the treadmill or with my Weight Watchers exercise dvd. I want to read things on the computer, visit with friends, enjoy some fellowship, or pursue my intellectual interests.
Now there is a difficult choice at times – take time to pursue reading and scholarship or exercise. I feel like I never get to read and study enough, and my husband is very gracious in never criticizing a messy home, decorated in stacks of books. I do get plenty of time to read. I choose to use that time to read instead of exercise. I LIKE it better.
But I know that as an “older mother” with four active boys, I will need to still be in good shape ten years from now, when Henry is 16 and I am 55. I have taken steps in eating better, even including dreaded “Healthy Goals” each day (5 servings fruit and veggies, 2 servings dairy, etc.) and reading vitamin catalogs with interest. I’ve eliminated artificial sweeteners, and am considering a purchase of coconut oil in lieu of my beloved Butter Flavor Crisco next time I am in Schnucks (thanks to Sherrie E., my healthy-eating guru!).
I am trying, people!
So, dealing with the basic vanity, dealing with health and body issues, dealing with the idea of dressing like a 45 year old woman, and all that entails. But more than that, there are the spiritual aspects of growing older.
I don’t just want to get old. I want to get wise. I want to grow old in the wisdom of Christ. I want to be able to share this with the younger women. I want to be able to minister to those around me – not so they will be impressed by “me” and “my” knowledge, but so that I can serve Christ through serving them. I have felt this calling on my life very strongly in the last year or so, but I am not sure how it plays out in the real world. I don’t always want to be known as “Paula with really big earrings” (though I do love big earrings!) but as “Paula who loves Christ and others”. I want to be known for my countenance, and for a gentle spirit.
If God can part the Red Sea, surely He can give me a gentle spirit, right? RIGHT???
But I know that God in His sovereignty will give to me the gifts that can best be used to serve Him. I know this. And I know that the Holy Spirit dwells in me, and the fruits of the Spirit are there for the picking, if I only cultivate them. When I look at who I was when Christ saved me, and look at who I am today, I truly see a miracle. Not that I am so wonderful now, by any means, but that I was really a mess back then. Not only just by Godly standards – even by the world’s standards, I was a mess.
But God is gracious; He has been gentle in His leading. The bumps I have hit have mainly been of my own making, through my own sin. And when I am in pain from my sin, and I repent and cry out to Him, He is faithful to forgive. Again and again. And we go on.
So, what is the goal?
“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.” 1 Tim 2:9-10
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to too much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3-5 (emphasis added is mine)
So much more scripture on this topic – I’ll save that for another day. For today, the goal is that in whatever I do, the word of God is not reviled. Christ is honored.
That is the goal.