The Acceptance That Comes After 40

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.

cake

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.

Lois Hair 3

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.

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Crystal Storms at Intentional Tuesday, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.


24 Responses to The Acceptance That Comes After 40

  1. Lois, we just pulled out the movies a few weeks ago also, before my son moved, and the kids had never viewed them. We also had some take-aways, and I am amazed at how we see ourselves one way in life, but when the scenes play in front of us, the view is often very different. Giving ourselves grace is so much a part of self-acceptance. I’m so glad for this post today! It was confirmation and encouragement my friend:)

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Crystal, I know exactly what you mean about how we view ourselves. I went to my first high-school open house this week (at a school with more than 2,000 students) and the first thing that struck me as I walked in the building was how old all the parents were! Granted, I’m used to being around elementary parents, many of whom are in their 20s and early 30s. But I realized that, at 45, I still think of myself as much younger than I am. Talk about a reality check! I’m glad the post was helpful for you this week!

  2. Heather says:

    This was so sweet, funny and true… I like to joke that I’ve finally grown out of my awkward teenage years now at age 36…! Growth is what God is after in all of us- no matter what stage we are in. Thank you for sharing your ‘hair-raising’ stories : ) and your friends gracious words. ♥

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Ha … that’s a good one, Heather! The awkwardness of those teenage years lasted a long time for me too. (groan) Thanks for giving me another reason to smile this afternoon!

  3. Lois, this is beautiful! I’ve come to adore my curly hair too. Blessings to you and your family!

  4. Julie says:

    Lois- I’m hoping as I turn 40 (in a year and a half) I can be more accepting of who I am versus trying to be someone else.
    I feel there is so much work to still be done in me, growth to still overcome.
    I enjoyed your post!
    Stopping by from #Grace&Truth,
    Julie

    • Lois Flowers says:

      The thing I’m finding about getting older is that there is ALWAYS work to be done, Julie! I think what might get a little easier, though, is seeing God’s hand in that work. When I look back at my wilderness years (which I was right in the middle of when I was your age), I can see the good that came from that season, although for the longest time I just had to trust that God knew what He wasn’t doing even when I didn’t have a clue! I’m so glad you stopped by today. 🙂

  5. Lois, I can so relate to the whole hair thing! After years of saying I’d never dye my hair, I started at age 47, did it for 5 years and then gave up for gentler low-lighting, which I only do every 4 months or so, so right now I’m at a moment where I have quite a few more gray strands in with my brown. And I’m okay with that. I think I’ll take my hair as a metaphor for what you’re talking about here. I’m thinking it’s okay to look my age, right? 🙂

  6. My sister turned 40 this week, my husband will next year, and I will in 2 years. I am actually excited about it now, but that may change before then. I appreciate your friend’s words!

  7. Lois,
    I realize now how young 40 is, but dreading the approach of any age just robs it of the joy! Looking back on the scenes of your life is illuminating and offers a deeper perspective, doesn’t it? Your friend’s wise words and courage to make a change of course at mid-life are inspiring. These stories of our lives offer reflection and accepting the seasons with grace, as you have, is worth aspiring to!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      You are so right about looking back, Valerie. Just recently I’ve come to the point of actually being grateful for some of the hard times I went through in my 30s … I can see some of the fruit from that season in a way I wasn’t able to before. I guess that’s another example of how God keeps working through what seem like the driest of times! Thank you for your kind words today, my friend!

  8. Linda Stoll says:

    Well, Lois, I loved 40. The whole decade. It’s when God re-invented me, when I went back to school, when I stretched and grew and doors opened right and left.

    50 was a nightmare of peri-menopause and anxiety and depression and surgery and all sorts of horrible things.

    59 was hard. ‘Cause 60 loomed.

    61 is a week and a half off. And now it’s just another number.

    For deep inside, I’m still that 40 year old …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Linda, this blog comment represents what I appreciate so much about you. Your honesty about the path your life has taken makes my heart hurt and hope at the same time. It hurts because (as you know) I’ve walked parts of that painful road myself, but the hope comes from the growth you experienced in your 40s and the settledness that permeates your words now. God is faithful in every season, isn’t He?

  9. I love this and I so agree with Beth’s words. 40 was a big turning point for several reasons, but one big one was being comfortable in my own skin. Now, do I wish it was a little more toned, sure – but I’m not so worried about what other people think or if they’ll like me or if I’m pleasing to them. It’s more important for me to be me, whether that’s with no makeup and a messy bun, or laughing with a friend over my most recent blunder. There’s something beautiful about that comfort and contentment – and I think it’s just where God wants us.

    Always love your words, friend – and your curly locks! 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I hear you about the toned skin, Tiffany! And the ability to laugh at ourselves and our lives with friends is a definite necessity in this decade, isn’t it? 🙂 “You be you” has been a big theme around here as my girls start middle and high school, and I’m hopeful that they can see an example of that when they look at me. That wasn’t always the case, and like you, I’m glad for the growth! Thanks for your encouragement, my friend!

  10. Lesley says:

    Thanks for sharing your friend’s words. It is easy to waste a lot of time comparing ourselves to other people instead of just accepting ourselves and being who God made us to be. I’m not 40 for a while but I find I am moving towards accepting that, though I definitely have a long way to go! It is encouraging that it tends to get easier as we get older.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Lesley, it does get easier, but I think it’s also a lifelong process. And you are so right about not comparing. The growing-older process is different for each person–what is really hard for one may not even happen to another! I guess that’s what makes life interesting, huh? 🙂

  11. It’s quite the process of accepting the me God created me to be. And while I’m still learning too, Lois, I’m loving the freedom. Thank you, friend, for the encouragement to be me.
    P.S. I went back to my natural darker shade too (minus the gray), and I feel so much better. : )

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Minus the gray, indeed! Crystal, I could write an entire blog post about the joys of premature gray hair, but I suppose I will refrain for now. 🙂 All I will say is that my “Tween Time” hair crayon is a lifesaver when the roots start to show! 🙂

  12. Trudy says:

    What a time-consuming job to get all those years on DVDs! But what precious moments you had together viewing those beautiful memories. 🙂 Does Molly have asthma or another illness that she often coughs? I hope she’s ok. Blessings and hugs to you, Lois!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Trudy! It’s so nice to see you here again. I hope your blogging break was restful and beneficial. Yes, Molly was diagnosed with cold-induced asthma when she was maybe four or five. She was sick quite a bit in her younger elementary years, but thankfully, she’s mostly outgrown it all. 🙂 Hugs back to you, my friend!

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