Best Before [d.a.te]

I have come to both love and rely on Robynn Bliss as a regular contributor to this blog. Those of you who read regularly will recognize her – those who have just begun are in for a treat. Enjoy this Guest Post from Robynn Bliss

I’m about to turn forty-two. The last 3 or 4 weeks I’ve started to hurt in odd places. The top of my spine, bottom of my neck is really sore. My right knee is suddenly aching. The elbow and wrist on my right arm are also giving me grief. How did this happen?

Up until a year ago I was in really good health. In fact last year my annual physical was the day before my 41st birthday. The doctor, a friend of mine, quizzed me on the usual. I had nothing remarkable to report. I was doing well. She did note that my blood pressure was elevated. That seemed strange to me. She ordered some blood work to check my cholesterol levels among other invisible ills. A few days later the nurse called me to inform me that my cholesterol was also high. What??! I had been perfectly healthy and now my blood pressure was up and so was my cholesterol!?

Since I turned 41 I’ve struggled with various aches and pains. It’s uncanny, really. It’s like I reached my “best before [date]” and now there’s no going back. I’m beginning to spoil. I’m beginning to rot.

I often take comfort in the reality that the houses we live in are really just tents. We are passing through. We are transients.  Recently a friend reminded me that these bodies of ours are also tents.  These bodies house our real selves. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating gnosticism or even a Buddhist sense of detachment. We are wholly us. There is a mysterious connection between our bodies and our souls, between what we eat and how we feel, between head and shoulders, knees and toes and our hearts and sorrows, dreams and hopes. We are wonderfully knit together, an integrated pattern.

However there is a sense that the outer frame is wasting away. The tent rips, the poles rust, the pegs are lost.

In January my mother-in-law, Belva, turned 75. My mother in law has suffered for years from chronic facial pain. This particular disease is nicknamed “The Suicide Disease” because the pain is so intense and there’s no real hope of relief. It’s debilitating and yet she endures. And she never complains.  As I write this she is at the doctor’s office. They are trying a new thing. Somehow they’ll insert a pain blocking tool. I don’t understand at all how it’s supposed to work. I pray it does work. She needs relief.

I’m sure Belva felt years ago that she had passed her “best before [date]” too…. And yet though outwardly she’s been wasting away, inwardly she’s been renewed and equipped and graced with joy. She’s made choices that have kept her young. She’s learnt how to play piano in the last ten years, as a way to distract her brain from the pain that threatens to eat her sanity and peace of mind. She’s taken up the computer. She’s actively participated in a women’s bible study for years; finding solace in scripture and the comforts of the character of God. She’s enjoyed photography and has entered several competitions at the local fair.  Family celebrations are always out at the farm. Mom takes great delight in decorating the table for each occasion. This year she chose one of her granddaughters to do it with her. Next year she’ll choose another.  She’s passing on her love for beauty and space.

She has not allowed her pain to spoil her. Although on many days I’m sure she’s been tempted to give into it, to allow it to consume her, she has resisted those temptations with grace and courage. Her tent has failed her repeatedly but she continues on.

Our baby turned ten on the same day. Bronwynn is on the other end of life. Her tent is new and full of vitality. She has energy and enthusiasm for life and learning, for playing and pretending. Watching her invigorates me and fills me with hope.

I’m trying to resist the downward spiral. I’m trying to ignore the pains of age. I may be past that “best before date” but I’m trying to hope that the best is still before me. I’m not going to give into it. I want to be like my mother in law: brave and full of life, ready to try new things, engage new pursuits.

The tent maybe falling apart but I’m believing by faith that inside I’m being renewed every day.

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19 thoughts on “Best Before [d.a.te]

  1. Robyn, I am about to celebrate my 84th birthday – I’m exactly twice as old as you are! My most fulfilling years were after 50. Oh yes, the body tent is getting pretty frayed. I will spare you my “organ recital”. But thanks be to God, the inner woman is renewed day by day. Someone said, “God’s children never grow old – they are always His children.”
    And I am Polly, but not SweetPolly. I would love to meet her. There are not too many Pollys around. I’d also love to eet your mother-in-law. She sounds like quite a lady. Blessings, and Happy Birthday!


  2. What a wonderful post, such an encouragement to look beyond the physical and enjoy life and give joy to others. As one who is in her later 50’s this voices my heart amidst the aches that come our way as this outerward body decays. What a wonderful example Belva is to those who come behind her and now through this blog has inspired many. Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing this post by Robynn.


    1. I loved it as well Lou Ann. And to be reminded of our “tents” and all that means is so good for me as I’m in the stage of life where my wrinkles are reflected in car windows! (I wrote a post about that!)


  3. I think if you are a spiritual person your tent will never fall apart. As spirituality renews your soul everyday. It empowers you to go on expeditions which normally you would think are impossible. So have faith in yourself, because an old tent with enormous wisdom if far more valuable than any tent with just arrogance and worldly materials.


  4. Well I guess this is a little out of my element (considering I’m quite a few years under 30!) but I will say that the people who have challenged and inspired me the most, were the ones who chose to live beyond their limitations – who knew that they were nearing the finish line, but who chose to live with a passion for Jesus in everything they did. May He bless all of you readers who are living for Him in spite of limitations … in spite of physical pain … in spite of difficult circumstances! Thanks, Robynn Bliss, for the inspiring post!


  5. Think about it. The “Best By” date is not as threatening as the “Expiration” date when applied to our bodies. Robynn, I have many years on you. Thankfully, I am enduring with few aches and pains. I find that a regular exercise routine helps to keep the body in motion. Meditation is also helpful. Sometimes it’s mind over matter.


    1. Thanks Auntie Polly! I remember I called my grandmother when I turned 23 and complained to her that I didn’t feel old enough to be 23! She laughed and said we never feel as old as we are! That has stuck with me! She took computer classes in her early 70s, she memorized large portions of scripture to keep her mind young…. she was always very young until her stroke. Even then there was a youthful innocence and sweet bewilderment to her!


      1. Just a correction Robynn – this isn’t my mom! Polly – thanks for coming by! My mom’s name is Polly as well and at first I thought it was her too!


    2. Did you hear about the 101 year old woman who celebrated her birthday by paragliding?! So fun and right on this topic. If she had believed the “best by date” then she never would have gone.


  6. I was once young, beautiful and foolish, now I am overweight, a bit wrinkled but hopefully much wiser. I have lost in looks but gained in knowledge, understanding, experience and most of all friends. I have found friends unlike the friends of my youth who were only concerned with enjoyment. I have found friends who care, and with whom I can share my thoughts and emotions, friends who can understand and advice, friends who listen. Moreover friends with whom I am on the same mental and spiritual plane.
    Life has its compensations, we do not have everything at one time but over the period of our lifetime we receive many precious gifts.
    Your mother in law is a gift, her ability to be able to go beyond her pain and live a fulfilling life is a gift not just to her but to all those who can be inspired by it. So in a way she is a gift of inspiration to others. Thanks for sharing.


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