And She’s 52!

Middle-aged Kangxi Emperor, age about 40-50.
A Middle-Aged Emperor! Image via Wikipedia

She is me. Today I am 52. 52-year-old bones, skin and teeth. 52-year-old joints, muscles and eyes. 52-year-old toenails, fingernails and hearing. I can just see younger readers dying right now thinking “Good God! Turn her off! Shut her up! Turn down the volume! It’s too much! She sounds so…so….so…decrepit old!”

But let’s take a look at another perspective – I woke up to birthday wishes from across the globe. Before I even had breakfast I had wishes from Finland, Kuwait,Mongolia,Afghanistan,China, Egypt, the Philipines, the United  Kingdom and all over the U.S.  I’ve had 52 years to love and learn. 52 years of watching the miracle of life. 52 years of loving to talk and learning to listen. 52 years experience with conflict resolution management. 52 years of music and stories. 52 years of food from all over the world. 52 years of travel to countries and continents. 52 years of watching sorrow turn to joy. 52 years of learning more about hope, more about people, more about life. 52 years of loving and being loved. And 52 years of God. Looking at the whole picture, I have an amazing résumé!

So at 52 what do I want? I want to take those understandably undesirable things about growing older and sprinkle them with a good dose of humor, joy, and grace and see what comes out of the oven. And….I still want young hair. (is that wrong of me?) Happy Birthday to Me!

PS – Let it be publicly know that I hope I am NOT middle-aged! I do not fancy living until I’m 104.

Bloggers Note: I’ve done a couple of posts on aging – today I’m giving myself a day off  of sorts but feel free to take a look at these!

Too Old to be Cute; Too Young to be Wise!

It was on the phone that it first hit me. I was speaking to a patient and had to ask her age for my assessment. She sighed “I’m 51” she said. I said “I’m 51 too!” “How’s 51 going for you?” she said. I laughed and the words came quickly.

I’m too old to be cute and too young to be wise!

So true! The word ‘middle’ in middle-age is so depressingly descriptive. Who wants to be in the middle of something? The middle of the line? Not fun. The middle of a book? It takes all your will power to not skip to the end. The middle of the family? Everyone worries about the middle kid! The middle of a conversation? Someone interrupts. Middle. What a word. Being too old to be cute, and too young to be wise, right in the middle.I think I know when I ceased to be cute. It had to do with seeing my wrinkles reflected in a car window or trying on bathing suits. But when will I turn wise? The unfairness of it hits me in the middle of my used-to-be-cute 51-year-old forehead.

And then I thought of something that I read the other day. It’s from Amy who writes a blog called The Messy Middle. She lives in Beijing and one of the sentences in her introduction is this “My name is Amy and I have been Redeemed from permanent muck and live with the tension of the Already and Not Yet.” She goes on to say that the messy middle is “where the pains, joys, boredoms, frustrations, interests, relationships, and God reside” Read more here!

And that’s it! The messy middle. The messy middle-age is where I can’t rely on cuteness and I certainly can’t rely on wisdom. I’ve seen much of the goodness of God but I’m not sure it will take me into old age. I need grace like I’ve never needed it. I need to know that there’s more to life than cuteness and need God’s infinite wisdom because I don’t have my own. Amy’s tag line? The Messy Middle: Where Truth and Grace Reside. What a great place to be!

So thank you Amy! I have no idea how old you are but your words are wise.

Bloggers Note: Head on over to Amy’s Blog: The Messy Middle. Check out Finding Yourself in A Foreign Land and other posts. 

Goodbye Chin – Hello Gravity!

If the mirror didn’t tell me, the picture did – I need to say goodbye to my chin as I knew it.  Oh I still have one, actually several, and therein is the problem. Gravity and age are winning the fight they have fought and won through the ages. It’s funny, I don’t look at younger women and long for their legs, or hair – I want their chins. They are so firm, so wrinkle free, so young!

Years ago when I still had no idea what it was like to not have a chin I saw a movie with Goldie Hawn as the star. The only thing I remember about that movie is the part of the mother-in-law sitting on a silk comforter, eyes covered by cream and flapping a fan of sorts against the bottom of her chin.  I didn’t get it at the time but now? Now I try to grab whatever I can when no one is looking and pat the bottom of my chin upward, hoping with a strange sort of hope that this action will prevent the inevitable.

As I wistfully ponder pictures and memories when I had a chin I see my life in a succession of events. There was the scowl on my face in the picture when I was 3 and had a chubby little chin. Then 10, where wanting to be like some Pakistani teenage girls who I admired, I attached fake braids to my shorter, less thick locks and my chin is held high, unaware of the awkwardness of my stage of life and thoroughly convinced of my beauty. 15 and 16 saw me as a teen with a defiant chin – quite defiant at times with photos from the past sometimes showing the defiance and sometimes disguising it behind a sweet smile.

At my wedding my chin and eyes are raised toward my ‘husband to be’ as I “thereto pledged him my troth” saying vows that my 24-year-old self could not keep on her own. A picture of a birthing room and there I am with my first-born, my chin touching her soft head in a moment of pure joy – subsequent babies and more moments of joy through the years show slow aging but youth still shining out of that chin.

And now I am saying goodbye to that chin and hello to a new one. A chin that doubles when I laugh and sags a wee bit (or more) in my profile. But even as I say goodbye to the chin, I am saying hello to an upcoming wedding of my son and the love of his life. (They have young and remarkably beautiful chins). I no longer face insecurity with a career, instead being fully established in a job that allows me to use creative gifts that I didn’t  know I had when I had that young chin. I have a husband who loves my chin and sister-in-laws and friends with whom I can laugh about lost chins, the aging process, and lots of other lost and sagging things.

And as I say goodbye to the former chin, I know in the depths of my heart that though “outwardly my body may be wasting away, (decaying, aging, losing a chin) inwardly I am being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 – paraphrased) and I can only imagine how amazing a heavenly chin will look.

Middle-Aged Woman, Little Black Suit

Continental breakfast
Image via Wikipedia

Bloggers Note: In keeping with the unintended theme on women this week, I’ll relay a story that showed me just how hard it is in some cultures for middle-aged women to be taken seriously….

Location: London, England

Time: March 2009

Place: Fancy Intercontinental Hotel – breakfast

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  My sister-in-law had told me when she entered middle-age that middle-aged women were not taken seriously in the western world unless they dressed up.  I heard her with part amusement and part interest.  I was to find once again that Hearing and Experiencing are not the same.

I walked down to the breakfast area of the Intercontinental Hotel in London, England in jeans and slip on flats.  I had almost overslept breakfast and the meal as described on the brochure was not to be missed.  The descriptions of butter croissants either chocolate, plain or almond; pastries of every kind;fresh fruit and juices; and an omelet bar topped off with whatever kind of coffee drink you so desired were mouth-watering.  More over, we had only three nights in the fancy hotel, heading next to Hotel Jubilee, a ‘cold toast and bad jam perfect for our budget‘ hotel.

I waited at least 10 minutes to be seated, growing increasingly frustrated.  The waiter who seated me gave me the up and down look making snap judgments on  both my intellect and budget before seating me with no eye contact.  I helped myself and people-watched.  I was the invisible person – I was the middle-aged female frump, a nuisance to be ignored.  Let me make it very clear that there were middle-aged male frumps who were doing just fine.  But not the female…

So I decided to do some non-scientific research.  I obsessed and planned over it all day long.  The next morning I jumped out of bed, even later than the day before.  I had no time to shower but I put on my little black suit and the highest heels I own.  I topped it off with make up on an unwashed face.

It worked – “Good morning Madam!  Would you like to be seated?”  No waiting, no frustration. I gave what I hoped was a charming sophisticated smile through teeth, unbrushed and fuzzy with sweaters still on them, and followed him to a premier spot with sunlight pouring through the window. The excellent service continued and culminated with a copy of The Times brought to me on a silver tray.

The research had ended, the results were clear – Middle aged women need little black suits in order to be recognized and taken seriously.

Thankfully I have several role models who are on the other side of this stage and have not allowed poor service, middle age, black suits, or Botox to take over their identity.  They have instead focused on growing increasingly wiser, humbler, and more fun. And as those characteristics are molded deeper into their wrinkles, they have become more beautiful.

Note from the blogger: This post is dedicated to Pauline Brown, Ruth Johnson, and  Bettie Addleton – Beautiful women who don’t need little black suits.

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Confessions of a Middle-Aged Faith

By all counts, my faith is middle-aged.  It began as a child – fear and wrinkle free.  It grew as a turbulent teenager with angst and rebellion, heartfelt sobs and belief that I, not God was the center.  My faith then went into its twenties with belief that it could change the world, the thirties where it sobered up and grew theologically, and now – now as I am thoroughly “middle-aged”, it is scarily, chronically, beginning to ache and feel like there is no way it will hold up until it’s 80’s.

This is the place where my soul sat in church one day – disconnected, disenfranchised and discombobulated – looking at the younger and far more vibrant souls and hair of those around me.  Watching their ease and enthusiasm with one another did nothing to comfort me or help me to say “Wow, I’m glad I’m here – I’m glad I left the warmth and lack of accountability that my couch offers me and came HERE to this place!”  Though thoroughly familiar with the church since I was a young child, I felt a stranger and completely alone.

And the speaker (who I will admit is over 48 so did not fall into my judgmental inner diatribe) began with the genealogy of Saint Matthew.  “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob….Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar…Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz Begot Obed by Ruth” and on and on we went until the end of the chapter.  In what could have been the dullest sermon of  the decade  I felt my middle-aged faith begin to revive on the power of scripture.  I felt a bit like Augustine when in his doubt he heard a small child say “Read”.  The speaker’s words entered my soul with life-giving nourishment.   God with his infinite understanding of the human condition placing this first chapter of Matthew full of names not theology was a balm to this soul, for what is theology if it can’t transform the human condition?  Recognizing how my life related in some eternal way to this genealogy that in the past had been just names was transformative.

My connection with a duplicitous woman (Tamar), a woman who was a prostitute (Rahab), and a foreigner forbidden from the temple for 4 generations (Ruth) was a connection only a sovereign God could make.  God’s supernatural ability to allow me, in the words of the speaker, to have “No regrets – an abiding and deep confidence in the Providence of God – that I in all my faults and flaws am woven into the tapestry of his redemptive plan (paraphrased) was a gift to me in this season of life – and a gift to me as I continue my 5th decade of life.

A middle-aged faith is still how I would describe my journey– but just as I have seen the graciousness of God in my past decades I will “entrust myself to a faithful creator and continue to do what is right” and I will never dismiss Matthew 1 again.