“Will You Still Need Me…?”

This week marked a momentous occasion–  my 64th birthday.  Were you humming along?  Those of a certain age immediately recognized this classic Beatles tune which continues on to say,  

 “…will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” 

I am delighted to report that I am not yet in need of someone to feed me.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow. (Let’s just keep singing, okay?).  I am, in fact , thriving; content with my lot in life and grateful that I’m still here on earth to live it.  

My actual birthday began with  hot coffee delivered  by my dear husband, followed by a delicious free birthday breakfast at Good Stuff,  a complimentary beverage at  Starbucks, a massage courtesy of my friend, Paula,  a free dessert from Buca De Beppo and several  beautiful bouquets of spring flowers.  I was showered with good wishes all day long.  By way of the blessing/curse of  social media, texts, voice messages, actual phone conversations, birthday cards and  meals shared with friends and family, I received birthday greetings from over 100 dear friends in more than 10 states.  I am a rich girl.  Obvi.  

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Birthdays are for celebrating! 

I rejoice in every birthday and have never been able to grasp why thoughtful, intelligent people avoid them like the plague.  There is such disdain for birthdays, growing older and letting go of youth that we have become a culture that fails to appreciate that every birthday is a blessing.  They mark another year of life we’ve been given-another year to love and live and serve and grow. They also mark a new beginning, another trip around the sun ahead of us.  So, why, pray tell, do we view that as a curse and not the blessing it is? 

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It’s your birthday.  Make a wish and then make it happen!

I say it’s time to rethink this whole birthday thing.  Instead of wincing at the thought of another year we’d rather not admit to, why not celebrate the fact that we’re still here–the fact that we’ve been  given the opportunity to do better than we did before.  We’ve been given another year to right wrongs,  reconcile division, serve our communities, love our family and friends  and share the wisdom we’ve gained.  We’ve been given an opportunity to let go of the things that don’t matter so much and focus on the ones that do.  It is, in effect ,  a  personal New Year’s celebration.  So, let’s stop bemoaning the fact that  we have more lines and fewer smooth surfaces on the gloriously made bodies we travel around in.  Let’s  own who we are and how old we are and claim the blessings that come with aging.  Yes, there are many.  If you are hard pressed to come up with them,  you might need to look a little harder.  ‘Just sayin’.   

For many years I worked in the Assisted Living field.  While there I came up with a theory that something happens to our vision when we reach the 4th quarter of our lives.  We look in the mirror but we no longer see the actual reflection.  Instead, we see the person we are inside.  Hence, 90% of the people who visit  an Assisted Living community leave with the same response to their families:  “All those people are OLD.”  But inside each of those “OLD” souls is a person with hopes and dreams still yearned for.  When we dismiss ourselves or someone else because we or they are aging, we fail to acknowledge that there is still a heart beating, willing and quite able to contribute to the world around them.

I am quite blessed to be a part of a faith community that doesn’t merely tolerate the over 50 crowd, but, embraces it and  endeavors to utilize the gifts and abilities of those who have over half a century of experience here on earth.   Intergenerational gatherings and  activities are the rule,  not the exception.  Young women actively seek out the wisdom and counsel of  more mature women who have lived lives, had careers, raised children, made mistakes, maintained relationships, endured hardship  and learned their way around the block.   I walk with a group of  both young and old women  every week.  Our conversation is always lively, often deep and sprinkled with laughter, counsel and prayer. The older bring life experience and the younger help us olders keep up with current trends, jargon and perspective. It’s a great mix. 

When we stop trying to hide our age and instead celebrate it, we are choosing to  live more authentic and joyous lives. That doesn’t mean we won’t occasionally look in the mirror and bemoan the wrinkles around our eyes or  the awful truth that our chins are multiplying while our necks are  disappearing, but, we cannot allow the passage of time to define us.  We still have work to do and have been given the time to complete it.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and like the woman in Proverbs 31, smile at the future.  There’s still a lot of living to do.  

As for me, I’m not being fed myself,  but feeding someone else this afternoon.  I’ll be delivering homemade, hot bruschetta soup to a young family going through a hard time.  Because I can.  It’s a great way to begin my 65th trip around the sun! 

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“One Good Decision…”

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all photos by hollykatephotography.com

“One good wish changes nothing.  One good decision changes everything.”                   -anonymous

Forty years ago today, the husband and I stood together in front of the fireplace of our living room, and said “I do”.    A small group of friends and family joined us that evening  to witness two woefully unprepared  souls coming together in the hopes of building a life that would endure.  Who knew then, that it would mirror the name of my favorite ice-cream?

Yep.  Rocky road.

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Four decades down that road, this merged life has never been sweeter.  Full disclosure:  it’s often been more bitter than sweet.  We’ve taken some pretty significant detours to get where we are today.   Back roads which took us through  infidelity, separation, divorce,  addiction, re-marriage, rage, sorrow, hopelessness, futility and multiple mountain ranges of frustration.  There have been hair-pin turns, comparable to the Amalfi Coast, where each curve left us gasping for breath, knowing one wrong move could plunge us over a cliff we might never come back from.  There have been potholes the size of Montana and some ice that sent us spinning into guard rails.  But, we are still standing on this side of those ledges.

I married an imperfect man and he married and imperfect woman.  He thought he could control me and I thought I could save him.  Obviously, we were both deluded.  So we went over the cliff and called it quits.  It was ugly.  I moved cross-country, seeking a new life as far away as I could get from the old one.  He stayed put, determined to salvage what was left of him.  By the grace of God, we both survived our mostly self-inflicted  injuries.

Then. one  day,   what had been legally pronounced dead, was resurrected.  It was miraculous beyond anything we’d experienced, before or since.  Twenty Six years ago, we stood in the garden of the same house and repeated vows much like those spoken forty years back.    We began the long journey  to rebuild what had ostensibly been destroyed.  It sounds like a fairy tale, but there was no “happily ever after” in the immediate future.

It has, in fact, been the greatest undertaking  of our lives.  We have struggled to know and understand each other.  We have failed to fight fairly.  We have been selfish and angry and struggled with bitterness and hopelessness.    We have forgiven offenses, large and small.  We have yelled and cried (mostly me) and have been silent for inordinate amounts of time(mostly him).    We have teetered on the edge of giving up.  But, mercifully, we did not give in to that temptation.    We have stood firm, believing  the miracle that brought us back together would hold us together. And, it has.

We made a decision and we have stood by it.  Through all the heartache, tears, grief, arguments, misunderstandings, lack of communication and sorrows,  we have slogged through them all.  Because,  we made a decision.    The miracle of reconciliation.  The miracle of forgiveness.  The miracle of life made new.  The miracle of redemption and grace.  We have learned a lot about patience and endurance.  We have pressed in and through, knowing there was something worth all the effort on the other side.  We have worked hard when it would have been easier to give up and walk away.

We are slow learners, for sure.  We took the long and winding road to get here, without question. But we are here and we are  standing.  Through wind and rain and sleet and snow,  (what are we, postal employees?) we have endured.  And we are grateful beyond imagining.

What if we had ignored the miracle?  Common sense told us that to reconcile was folly.  Many loved ones called us crazy.  We were still two dramatically different people who seemed to be  traveling in opposing directions.  But we chose to move forward,  a little older and a little wiser, knowing it would not be easy.  We counted the cost and decided  it was risk worth taking, and so we dove in.  We have weathered many storms to get here.  We are both older, wear a few extra pounds and have a few more wrinkles and rolls, but,  we are still together, stronger and more in love than we ever thought possible.

We made a decision.  The  conviction that it was a wise and worthy decision, has held us all these years.  We are still held by it. We rest in it. We rejoice in it.

“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”  -Deuteronomy 33:27

The family the “decision” built.