Do you have any idea where you were and what you woke up thinking about on New Year’s Day ten years ago? As implausible as it sounds, I remember well.
The day after Christmas, I had torn my meniscus, three seconds of blinding pain that would soon lead to surgery. Adding insult to injury, we had a new insurance policy that wouldn’t go into effect until six days later. My husband had resigned from his job that had given us a magical year in Germany, and three weeks without coverage hadn’t seemed like much of a risk at the time; up until that fateful moment, I hadn’t had a sick visit in years.
Our downstairs guest bedroom was a Godsend. Any movement at all was painful to my knee, so even the idea of climbing stairs to get to our bedroom almost made me cry.
It is likely that because of my pain and displacement, I remember exactly where I was and what I was thinking when I woke up on January 1, 2013 –
This is the year I turn 50.
My heart felt uncharacteristically desperate and needy. Our future had never been more uncertain. Though we were sure about Tad’s decision to leave his job, we didn’t yet know what our next move would be. And, with neither of us working at Christmas, it had been a very subdued holiday season. Except for family, we limited time with other people. Our circumstances felt too complicated to explain, but impossile to ignore. While I’m an open book, my husband is extremely private, and trying to pretend an elephant wasn’t in the room was exhausting.
My 50th birthday arrived with the likelihood we would be moving out of state. As well as I could, I battled the dread that companioned the idea of starting over again. At 40, we had also moved to a new state, but this time our oldest two would be in college and our youngest son wouldn’t have his siblings around to help navigate the challenges of moving. Back then, I had embraced the adventure and arrived in my new hometown with arms open wide. Now, I felt like I was failing my kid, and clouds of fear dampened my usually sunny disposition.
Scripture had taught me that fear wasn’t from God, and His promises became very personal:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare
and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me
and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me,
when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 19:11-13 (ESV)
Trusting in God’s goodness and finding His Word to be trustworthy filled me with a confident expectation for my future. Keeping my attention on Jesus instead of the uncertainties in our lives helped to keep fear at a distance.
Over the last ten years, God has provided in ways that completely surprised me. Laid up in our guest room with a swollen knee and feeling the weight of half a century, it never occurred to me that our lives were about to get better. What a gift to see that through every joy and celebration or heartbreak and sorrow, God really is working all things together for good.
With 2023 just a few days away, you might guess what I’ve already been contemplating –
This is the year I turn 60!
It’s sobering to know you’ve celebrated more yesterdays than tomorrows. The wonderful thing about getting older, though, is all you’ve learned along the way. Job 12:12 teaches that “Wisdom is with the aged, And with long life comes understanding.” You don’t get to 60 without gaining priceless experience.
Though I’m not nursing a torn meniscus and facing a life-altering move, I am every bit as needy as I was ten years ago — but that doesn’t bother me like it used to. I’ve learned that my neediness is what God uses to draw me closer.
As the new year approaches, and to fight any fears associated with my milestone birthday, I’m declaring three things I know to be true:
Every day is an opportunity. One day = 24 hours. That’s 1,440 minutes, 86,400 moments. Our world is dark and broken, people are fighting battles; but we can make a difference — we get to make a difference — by the choices we make and how we treat others. Maybe today you can share the Gospel or meet a simple need. Every day brings opportunity to offer love and kindness in word or deed. I don’t want to miss the chance to reflect God in ordinary, everyday circumstances.
Age doesn’t define you, it refines you. Our experiences – good, bad, joyful, or tragic – shape us into the person we’re called to be. There’s no waste in the economy of God, and there’s no fast track for what we learn over time and through experience. The heartaches and hardships of our lives are holy opportunities for God to reveal Himself in ways we’d never otherwise see. That’s beautiful and hopeful. I want to embrace my age as the gift it is, not begrudge or apologize for it.
The Gospel changes everything. What is the misbelief, disbelief, or unbelief that blinds me? I want to see all of life through the lens of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection because it impacts how I view the world around me and how I respond. Knowing my sins are forgiven and I am made righteous in Christ gives me hope for today. Getting to know Jesus through His words, actions, and testimonies of His friends makes me want to follow Him. And, that He defeated death and is saving a place for me in eternity gives me peace amidst life’s chaos.
Fear and uncertainty can demand our attention, but I’ve found it helps to speak truth into my own heart and mind. These “declarations” are a start as I face a big year. What are you declaring for 2023 that might offer encouragement to others?