I spend a lot of time in my wildflower garden and in the ditch where there are wildflowers others might call weeds. I’m not weeding or working the ground. I’m pondering. God’s creation. Jesus. The Spirit’s power. The Word of God. Love. Life. Fear. Beauty. Knowledge. Wisdom. Prayer. Dreams past and present. Sorrow. Happiness. And age.
The day before my tenth birthday, I cried. Because from that point on I would always have two numbers in my age. My mom held me, and my dad tried to cheer me up by saying, “Unless someday you have three numbers in your age.” I cried harder, and Dad through his hands up in the air.
I liked my single digit years, and they’d gone so fast. That night I cried myself to sleep in the dark.
What I didn’t know is that I was a beautiful bud.
In my twenties, I worried myself sick. I believed I was not good enough and was absolutely not beautiful enough. So, I dieted until I got fat. (I’m NOT kidding!) If it was in style I did it to my hair, wore what others (who were not my husband) thought was appropriate and should have bought stock in Enjoli because if I was going to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let him for he was a man, I was going to need more than one spritz!
What I didn’t know was that I was a already radiant blossom.
And suddenly, I was fifty and in a crisis because I’d failed far more than I’d succeeded, and I worried that life was winding down, and time was running out.
Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought. ~Emily Dickinson
In a few months, I’ll be fifty-seven, which my great-niece Grace tells me isn’t old. But my knees and spine are singing a much-different tune. (Plus, I’m older than all of her grandmas!) My skin is softer, and parts of me are headed in the wrong direction. And because I’m only 3 1/2 years away from sixty, I no longer worry that time is running out, I know it is. And the knowing is better than the worrying.
I’ve been doing an in-depth inventory of my life – my dreams, failures, successes, faith, and stuff. Big stuff. And I’m being brutally honest. Because it’s time. Some days it feels like I’m peeling callouses off of my heart. I’m admitting to my brokenness, that I’m worn out by lies I’ve allowed to be the truth, am bruised by the losses, and I’m strangely exhilarated by the possibilities God and I have ahead of us in the time that is the rest of my life.
There is more gray than gold in the hair on my head and what was gold is more of a tarnished color. For years, I threatened to dye it. Which leads to me to a story. One day I was walking at the Mall, and a young woman came up to me. She was full of tats, piercings, and her hair was jet-black and she wore the same color on her eyes, lips, and fingernails. The only color other than black in her clothes was a streak of blood-red here and there.
And you know what? She was beautiful. And she made a huge impact on my middle-aged life.
“Your hair is beautiful. How do you get it that color?”
Let me be completely honest with you – my hair is a painful part of my story. It is not only graying and thin - it is gone in places. Yes, I have bald spots, and they are especially visible in the food courts lights and open-to-the-sky ceiling.
Astonished, I blushed (it could have been a hot-flash, but let’s go with blushed), thanked her and said something like, “God gave it to me – all you have to do to have this color is get old like me.”
I know – classy right?
She looked closer and said, “It’s really beautiful. I wish you could see the way it shimmers all gold and silver in this light.”
Okay, so you might be thinking she was on something hallucinogenic because of her appearance (someone I told this story to actually said that!), but please put away any prejudice you might have. I looked into her eyes. She wasn’t high – she had a kind and beautiful heart.
She left before I could say another word and the noise around us filled in the space between us.
I pushed my bangs back and felt the front bald spot and thought to myself; she probably caught the glare from my scalp is all. But for some reason, my self-loathing couldn’t undo the good she’d done or steal the gift she’d given me.
Because in the just-past-blooming-phase of my life I didn’t know, I shimmered. And it wasn’t until recently I realized she was right – I do.
Not long ago, Conner (who is seven) and I were taking a Gator ride, and I stopped to look at a thistle blossom in the ditch. Because that’s what I do, and he’s used to it. When he saw a stand of worn out wild yellow goat’s beard releasing its seeds, he said, “That’s a mess!”
He moved on to grasshopper watching, and I stood mesmerized by the glorious tangle in front of me, knowing God had something beautiful for me there. It reminded me of a bunch of great ideas or spiritual gifts or stories ready to take off.
It reminded me of me. And the coming years. And that I’m not done. Not even close.
Because, before the flower that is my life is spent, I have books to read, my faith to share, love to give, love to accept, coffee to drink, prayers to say, answers to receive, songs to sing, dances to dance, and so much more. I want to love God deeper, kiss Jon more, honor my parents, remember with my family, laugh harder, cry easier, learn to speak Spanish, take better pictures, practice yoga, and walk many miles.
And I have stories to tell and books to write, poems to write and photographs to take. Lots of them.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.~Maya Angelou
I used to think the best of times of our lives were in the bud and blossom stages of the season. I now know that the whole season of one’s life is beautiful and even in the middle of the shimmering glorious tangle, I am beautiful. My life is beautiful.
Someone once said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I admit to my beauty and the beauty in my life, not because of how I look or who I am. But because of the One (Jesus) who beholds (sees, searches, and knows) my heart. And the more I believe in His love for me, and immerse myself in it, the more I believe I am beautiful. (It’s taken a lot of callus peeling to get to this point!)
And as long as God gives me breath, although there are days I am undone, I am not done. And although I’m stunned by the aging process, I’m not too old.
In the last days of her life, Jon’s mom lived in a nursing home. It was depressing for her and us. For a day or so she felt like giving up. But one day she made a decision: she wasn’t done living until God said, and she was going to spend the rest of her days living there for Him. She did everything they asked her to do to get well. The lady tried hard.
The day she passed from here to there, her doctor, nurses, PCAs, the workers in the kitchen, the activity director, and house cleaning staff wept with us. They whispered their good-byes, and I love yous through tears. They wished, like us that they could have more time with her. They cared for her almost emptied out body with incredible tenderness. They held us closely. And shared memories of her stories, jokes, acts of kindness, and of her deep and abiding faith. And as the last seeds of her glorious tangled mess left, I saw the ones she’d planted in our hearts and the hearts of others take root. She was only there a few months, but she was beautiful, radiant, and shimmering to the end as she did the work God gave her to do. And she spent every seed He gave her.
Many believe – and I believe – that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God, and I put all my hope in Him. ~Michelangelo
The life of this beautiful wild goat’s beard (considered a weed by some) is almost past. It leaves behind a legacy far greater than the seed it came from as it releases its tiny offspring into the breeze to be carried away to other places to bud, blossom, shimmer, and share their full season of beauty where God plants them.
A weed is but an unloved flower. ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox
You are beautiful, radiant, and shimmering too. Really. You are.
Until Next Time,