My 5th decade. 50 years. 18,250 days of breathing, beating, living.
And many things about this week caught me off guard. Sadness. Disappointment. An old grief I thought was buried and could no longer touch me.
"Surely," I thought, "God will finally answer this one big ongoing prayer." He didn't.
"Surely,"...I hoped and wished and waited about so many "fill-in-the-blanks."
As I approached the big 5-0 day, I found myself thinking back to my 40th birthday. We celebrated with a picnic at Cove Park, surrounded by my then-intact family and many good friends. Life was easy and sweet and good and full...with so much to look forward to. My sons were 6 and 4, full of life and love and all the time in the world for "mommy." At the party, my mom was running after the boys, playing and feeding the ducks.
I have a framed photo of that day. In it, my arm is around Honey--he is grinning, and I am toasting the photographer--an appropriate gesture--it was a season for "toasting."
And then...life seemed to fast-forward to 5-0. My sons are now 16 and 14, full of life and love, but not nearly as much time in the world for "mom." My mom is now completely dependent on a walker or wheelchair, and is quickly sliding into that January diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
My 50th party was supposed to be in a far-away, exotic place with a person I dearly loved, a person I shared so many dreams and plans and secrets with. But she is gone. She left in a heart-rending way that still, at times, feels like some wound that won't quite heal. She remains my biggest "Surely..."
So...there I sat on Monday night, in my bed, feeling sorry for myself (even after a wonderful family-filled birthday weekend where people I dearly love celebrated with me).
About that time, I turned to Honey and asked, "What time do I need to be ready for Prairie Home Companion?" (...only one of two things I had asked for.)
"I haven't ordered tickets yet," Honey answered calmly.
SURELY I had heard him wrong..."What do you mean you haven't ordered tickets YET? The concert's day after tomorrow."
"I'm ordering them tomorrow" he calmly responded, glancing up from his book.
"WHAT?...I TOLD YOU WEEKS AGO THAT'S WHAT I WANTED FOR MY BIRTHDAY. THAT SHOW WILL NEVER BE IN KNOXVILLE AGAIN. YOU'RE ALWAYS SAYING I'M TOO HARD TO BUY FOR. SO THIS YEAR, I ACTUALLY MADE IT EASY BY TELLING YOU WHAT I WANTED, AND IT'S STILL TOO HARD? THERE WON'T BE ANY GOOD SEATS LEFT. I DON'T WANT TO GO SIT IN CRAPPY SEATS. JUST FORGET IT."
And...right there...Honey got mad.
But...I was packed and loaded...and the trigger had been pulled.
"What about Rosetta Stone? Did you order it YET?" (The other thing I had ASKED for. I think I'm being called to the "mission field" of Italy, so I figure I better learn Italian.)
"I'm ordering it tomorrow, too." (By that point in the conversation, Honey REALLY didn't want to tell me that, so give the man points for honesty.)
I won't bore you with all the hurtful words...back and forth...but we both went to bed wounded, and woke up pouting, backed into our corners, licking our wounds.
That evening, I decided to put on my big girl panties and take myself to the movie "Eat Pray Love." I ended up being THE ONLY PERSON in the theatre, which was a good thing, given that I was having one of my "let's-just-cry-til-we-make-animal-noises-moments". The whole experience was a bit surreal and probably held deeper lessons on many levels, if I had just been willing to listen.
By the time I got home, the boys had gone to bed. So I told Honey goodnight (no kiss, of course) and spent the rest of my 50th-birthday-eve still pouting.
The next morning, Honey and the boys woke me up with a cup of coffee, a song and a card. A good start--even though Honey seemed a bit like a pup afraid of getting kicked again--cautious, guarded, crouching around the edges.
"Surely," (I thought).
The morning was filled with "Surelys..."
Eventually, I decided to kick this 5th decade in the butt and go for a run. I sometimes talk to Jesus when I run. (That morning, I talked AT Him.) "SURELY...you can make it so that, when I go to the mailbox today, there will be a letter from VA saying they've approved mom for benefits....SURELY....You can show up today."
And He did.
No, there was no letter from VA. And, at first, I didn't recognize Him.
He showed up quietly...in a letter from my oldest son that I will ask Jesus if I can take to heaven with me.
He showed up in lovely words on Facebook and in text messages and e-mails and phone calls and long walks and yummy lunches with cherished friends. He showed up in surprise visits from old friends, who came bearing sweet, thought-filled words and gifts.
And...that first night of my 50th year...He showed up in Honey's gift, which...thanks to me..was given a bit sheepishly.
(The gift requires a little explanation. You see, Honey has heard me say at least 1,000 times that I will always be thankful to Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church because that's where I first heard about this amazing thing called GRACE.)
As I sat there looking at Honey's gift, trying to "figure it out," he had to explain that the images in each of the five photos spelled out a word. Armed with that hint, I started looking at them a little closer
Honey explained that he had gone to the Cedar Springs campus--where I first experienced GRACE--and taken the photos, and then recruited our talented friend, Julie, to PhotoShop them into just the right "look."
And to think that, over and over again...all week long...I had let "Surely..." beat up on "GRACE". (Isn't that just like the "Surelys" in our lives?)
Thankfully...in the end..because of HIM--that amazing Giver of GRACE--and His GRACE-filled people (especially my Honey) who pour out GRACE on me...every day...throughout each of my decades...GRACE won!
GRACE always does!
"So we're not giving up. How could we!
Even though on the outside it looks like things are falling apart,
on the inside, where God is making new life,
not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
Hard times are small potatoes compared to coming good times,
the lavish celebration prepared for us.
There's far more here than meets the eye.
The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.
But the things we can't see now will last forever."
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message)