As I’ve grown older, my birthdays seem to stir introspection rather than generate excitement as they once did. I still enjoy my special day, though it’s not the thought of presents or growing older that makes me smile. Perhaps because the date is such a tangible marker of what was and what is yet to be, it’s impossible for me to not spend time reflecting, then redirecting my thoughts, attitudes and actions to bring them in line with who I want to be. I can’t imagine a birthday occurring when I don’t realize I can make improvements in the way I live and love.
What I recognized this year is that I am content. I noticed it the day I went shopping for a new swimming costume (bathing suit) to wear to the beach while we were on holiday. In years past, this has been a dreaded experience sometimes reduced to squeezing my eyes shut, grabbing a few suits off the rack and then dragging my feet to the changing rooms with the horrible lighting and worse mirrors. It’s never been fun, always an exercise in chastising myself for not being more disciplined in my diet, my aerobics, my hairstyle, my mani-pedis...…
This year it was different. Not because I’ve been any more disciplined in my lifestyle (though perhaps I have, a little), but because when I looked in the mirror instead of seeing the same old pale fat legs I saw legs strong enough to carry me from my house to my grandbabies’ home at a moment’s notice; strong enough to stand in the dusty winter wind as I served soup to people who would eat nothing else that day; strong enough to spend an afternoon walking around a hot, dry section of Swaziland, stopping to visit and pray with people whose legs can’t hold them up or get them from place to place.
Instead of seeing the same old flabby arms, I saw arms strong enough to lift grandbabies high into the air just to hear their giggles; strong enough to share hugs in times of joy and sorrow; strong enough to hold my camera steady so I can record the beauty of God’s creation around me; strong enough to lift bags of mealie meal (cornmeal) and rice and clothing to share with people who need them.
Instead of seeing the same old too-big tummy, I saw years of plentiful meals shared with beloved family and friends; I saw Steven cooking healthy food for me and our family; I saw the recipes for special treats shared by special people; I saw God’s incredible creativity in providing me with food that looks and smells as good as it tastes.
Instead of seeing ugly grey hair that’s too straight, I saw shining silver strands announcing to the world that I’ve had enough years of life to gain the wisdom necessary to look for the beauty in all circumstances, to gain the sure knowledge that today’s troubles will pass and joy will come in the morning, to REALLY believe that God works all things for good when you trust and obey Him.
And instead of beating myself up over ragged cuticles and peeling polish, I decided that it was fine for me to spend some time taking care of my nails, if only for the joy of hearing my granddaughter Lily say “Nana, you nails so pretty!”
So, without any regrets, I bought the suit designed to give the illusion of slimness, with the added benefit of a tummy tightener. I also bought a light cotton shift to cover it all, and some shiny shoes that match the whole ensemble. Hey, every woman knows new shoes improve any experience!
There’s a lot to be said for being content with who you are now, knowing that there’s still time for improvement in the future.