Several months ago, Randy began the time-consuming task of transferring many years’ worth of home videos to our desktop computer so he can later burn them to DVDs.
There was no quick way to do this. Every minute of every tape had to be played on the camcorder so it could be digitally captured and saved on the computer.
The computer is in our basement family room, which was in the beginning stages of being remodeled. It was chilly down there, and seating options around the office desk were sparse.
But Lilly and Molly weren’t deterred. As Randy worked on the family room, the girls sat watching those tapes unfold for hours. At times, all four of us crowded around the desk, talking, laughing and occasionally cringing as we relived memory after sweet memory.
A few random things stood out to me as I watched.
Lilly never, ever stopped moving.
Molly always seemed to be coughing.
And my hair was different in every scene.
I went through a phase in my 30s where my brown locks kept getting lighter and lighter, sometimes with streaks of red and purple thrown in for good measure. The color was expertly done, and the hair itself was pretty, but I never liked how my skin looked with it.
At the same time, my naturally curly hair was mostly shorter and often cut to look best straight, which also was not my first preference.
Around the time I hit 40, however, I decided to stop fighting the curls. I started looking for a stylist who would work with them, not straighten my hair whenever I went in for a cut. I also began wearing my hair longer and in a shade much closer to my original brunette roots.
I don’t know exactly why I waited so long to embrace the mane God gave me. Looking back, though, I think what I finally experienced might be indicative of the freedom that often comes with middle age.
When I was younger, I was so wrapped up in my own immediate insecurities and issues that I didn’t really think much about future decades. I had good friends who were in their 40s and older, but that season of life seemed so far away and even a bit scary.
Now that I’m there myself, it’s not scary at all. I don’t feel old or washed up, like I once feared I would. If anything, I’m more confident, more secure in who I am, and much more accepting of what I’m not good at than I ever used to be.
I still have plenty of struggles, of course. It’s just different somehow. And I don’t think I’m the only one with this perspective, either.
Take my friend Beth, for example. After staying at home when her kids were younger, she went back to school at age 47 because she had a dream of becoming a teacher. Now this empathetic Army mom teaches kindergarten at a school on a military base.
Beth was a faithful participant in a class I taught at church recently. One week, when we were discussing the comparison trap, she made some observations that were so powerful I asked her to put them down on paper for me.
She graciously obliged, and today, I want to share them with you. My prayer is that her words will be life-giving and hope-filled for women of any age who might be looking ahead to future decades with fear and trepidation.
Here’s what she wrote:
When I turned 40, I remember thinking, “You know what? This is who I am.” In my 20s and 30s, I felt like I was always wishing, longing or striving to be like other people I really admired—or a trait about them that I thought I should have or wanted to have.
At 40, I realized, “What you see is what you get.” It wasn’t a “giving up” or a feeling of failure, but instead a new freedom to accept myself for who God made me to be—my physical characteristics, my spiritual gifting and personality, my socio-economic status—all of it. God made me who I am—the good, the bad and the ugly—to use me as He sees fit. He didn’t make me to be like someone else.
And it’s not that I think I am perfect the way I am now, either. I know that God is still working on me—cleansing me, healing me and forgiving me so that I can be more like Him. I know that He is a God of miracles and can do anything in my life He chooses. I am very open to those changes that He might choose to make.
I am just done trying to change myself into something or someone I was never meant to be. It is also much freer and joyful to celebrate those things in others that I thought I should have or be, when I am accepting of who God made me to be. Rejoicing with a pure heart is so freeing and fulfilling!
I don’t know if what transpired in Beth’s life happens to everyone. Generally speaking, though, I think she’s on to something. It’s called growth, and when God is at the center of it, it’s a beautiful, lifelong process.