I am 53. Would you have guessed? Someone called me ‘Miss’ the other day and later that afternoon a nice elderly man in Costa asked if I was going home to make the tea for my children 🙂 I am fortunate to look younger than I am (apparently people with a lot of moles on their skin have this advantage!) but the march of the years cannot be resisted. I have recently decided to choose quality of vision over vanity and have given up the contact lenses… though these wonderful glasses are the only ones I would have done it for! It’s a change of image, a recognition of the advancing years and I am now ‘Mary Poppins on drugs’ taking every opportunity to wear my favourite, matching hat 😉
Years ago I used to wear a hat – for work. Young and innocent at 19, nursing in London… so long ago and yet if I close my eyes I am back in that garden at lunchtime, waiting for my shift to start. Time is strange and fickle, expanding and contracting as it chooses. Photographs help the memory, but sometimes we don’t want to remember all the mistakes we made, the twists and turns of ‘fate’… Thank God for His redemption (see My Story for more about that)
Skipping forward from there, it was about 15 years ago I was making the children’s tea, dishing up beans on toast and petit filous in front of Blue Peter: that too seems like another life. What a lot happens over the years as we all grow, change… and move house! At the end of this month we will have been in for Loughborough for 10 years. It was a big move, a risky decision – a bit of a leap in the dark and a complete change for all of us to start life over again in the Midlands. Becca was 17 and Sam one term pre-GCSE’s: we left all their childhood friends, all that was familiar in Surrey, and started on a new adventure. It was certainly an antidote to mid-life blues and one of God’s good ideas, but now Reigate and 11 years of their childhoods seems as if it happened to another family. I was certainly a different person then…
But I do like getting older. I am happier in my own skin, know what I like and don’t like, know what I am good at and not so good at, have some great friends who know me very well and many wonderful memories. I have been stretched and expanded spiritually, personally and practically: the prayer of Jabez for enlarging of territory has been fully answered way beyond what I could have imagined over the past decade.
But what I don’t like is the aches and pains, failing vision and lack of energy. I don’t like this new friend Perimen O’Pause with her hot flushes: I will have to introduce her to my mate Percy Verance as I understand she will be around for some time as my body gets used to fluctuating hormone levels! Hmmm – it seems God made us mortal, weak and dependent, even though we don’t like it and try to ignore it. However much I try to cover it up with make-up and hair colour, I am feeling my age.
‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.’ Isaiah 40v6-8
The day before yesterday I was 18 years old and the next day I was 45. This July I will be 54: its a bit scary but surely I have a few years more to enjoy – retirement with my husband and HRT preventing complete disintegration? But perhaps its a mistake to have any expectations: in Swaziland the average life expectancy is 39… my own mother only lived until 34 and medical science doesn’t expect my son to reach 30. This is all I know – my days are in the hands of the Lord, every day is precious and I don’t know how many more I have, so I want to be fully me – fulfil His purpose for me and give away all I can before I go.
Last weekend I was at a conference, reconnecting with old friends. 5 or 6 years has put lines on faces and grey hairs on heads. There are funny reminders of the old days in the way things are still done, but while we have been trying to work out how to make progress it seems a whole new generation of young people has grown up. They are now doing the things I used to love doing, and I sit watching from the sidelines. Whenever the older ones try to take charge things stultify and become boring – but when room is made for new blood and the old voices are heard cheering them on – new life is released. I’m not saying I am past it – no, I know I still have much to contribute… but I am tired. It’s a reality check, an opportunity to be humble and step back. On Monday evening 2 girls (sorry, young women!) my daughter’s age prayed for me so powerfully that I was overwhelmed – and very blessed. It’s not a matter of age, but of spirit: I want to remain wholehearted as Caleb did, but without the Spirit of life, my flesh is getting weaker!
‘I was young and now I am old’ (Psalm 37v25): I don’t mind admitting it. My job now is to make room for the ones who have the energy and encourage them to lead the way. I have a whole stack of wisdom to share if they want it… though I know very well that cannot be forced. My task is to be a mother and love them, be available to help when they need it – and be sure to get out of the way to make room for what is rising. May God allow me to tag along with them! He is the God of the generations Who knows where we all fit and I am glad. He is the Ancient of Days who lives forever and gives strength to the weary, so that ‘planted in the house of the Lord I will flourish in the courts of our God. I will still bear fruit in old age, I will stay fresh and green’ (Psalm 92v13-14)
But the last word on this goes to Paul Simon, from his song, ‘Old’
The human race has walked the earth for 2.7 million
And we estimate the universe at 13-14 billion
When all these numbers tumble into your imagination
Consider that the Lord was here before creation
God is old
We’re not old
God is old
He made the mould