Today is my 40th birthday.
And I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to feel about it. My son on the other hand knows exactly how he feels about it. Because for the last few weeks every time I ask him to repeat what he said or mention that some part of my body is hurting or make a comment about a particular pop song I detest he is very quick to reply, “Well, mom, you ARE turning 40!”, which to a 12 year old means I basically have one foot in the grave. It can’t be that the reason I had to ask him to repeat what he said is because he mumbles or that I banged my knee on the car door and that is why it hurts or that the pop song I detest really IS horrible. Nope, it must be that I’m old.
At my hair appointment this week my stylist told me that she was shocked that I was turning 40 and that she thought I looked like I was around 32. But I tip her really well so I’m not sure how much she can be trusted. 😉
One of my best friends also turns 40 next week which means that it is at the top of the list of topics we have been discussing lately. And in one of these conversations I happened to mention to her that when you get right down to it, we are technically going into our 41st year. That we’ve already actually lived our 40th year on planet Earth. She informed me that she didn’t exactly appreciate this reminder.
I, on the other hand, felt a strange sense of comfort in this realization. Somehow knowing that I’ve already lived my 40th year takes a little bit of the sting out of what can so often be a very depressing milestone in life.
Because, you see, my 40th year was amazing!
In the 40th year of my life I had incredible, BIG dreams come true. I signed a publishing contract for a multi-book deal and still cannot believe that God opened that door for us. You can read more about that here.
In the 40th year of my life I was featured in Better Homes & Gardens magazine. (Ok so technically it was the January issue but it hit newsstands in December so that still counts!)
In the 40th year of my life I had wonderful opportunities to speak and teach both locally and at out of state conferences.
In the 40th year of my life my faith was taken to new depths and I was challenged more than ever before.
In the 40th year of my life, I faced more parenting challenges than ever before as we entered into the middle school years. I spent a good deal of time wanting to just curl up in the fetal position but instead had to learn algebra all over again so I could help my son with his homework. There was more eye-rolling, arguing, door slamming, and “you guys are the worst parents for taking away my electronic privileges even though I got an F for not turning in the paper I claim to have lost but you magically found in the bottom of my backpack” moments than ever before. Good times.
In the 40th year of my life, I suffered from paralyzing and frightening writer’s block which made me question whether or not anyone should have ever offered me a book deal.
In the 40th year of my life I stared down deep insecurities and worked very hard to weed them from my heart.
In the 40th year of my life, I experienced the beauty of true friendship like never before. It was real and raw and vulnerable and honest and I thank God every day for the amazing women I can claim as friends.
In the 40th year of my life, I learned to let go of things that I won’t ever be able to change and relationships that might never be whole. I traded my need to be right for my need to be redeemed.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…ummmm…Vanessa….this doesn’t all sound so amazing. Some it sounds fantastic but some of it sounds really hard.
But, here is the truth that was really solidified for me in my 40th year. It really is all amazing. ALL of it. Because one day there’s a book deal and the very next day there’s a struggling pre-teen. One day there’s a feature in a national magazine and the next day there is a friend’s cancer diagnosis. And sometimes the high-highs and the low-lows all happen in the same day.
And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Because as I go into my 41st year of life, I’m more certain than ever that no matter what happens, my foundation isn’t in the things of this earth. It’s not in the magazine features or the book writing. It’s not even in the really painful situations.
1 John 2:17 says, “Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die.” (Phillips)
My foundation is built on the rock of my Savior’s love and my hope is in Him, and only in Him. And never have I been more certain of my longing to serve Him, to point to Him, to be emptied of myself in order to filled with Him.
You know, I’ve never been one who really enjoys my own birthday parties. I intensely dislike everyone singing to me and feel so awkward opening gifts in front of people. So I’ve had a tendency to really want to downplay these annual celebrations.
But on Saturday night, I allowed myself to be celebrated. I pushed through the awkwardness and uncomfortableness and sat at a table at my favorite restaurant surrounded by some of my most favorite people. We laughed until our cheeks hurt and at one point in the evening I just sat back and soaked it all in. I looked around the table at these amazing people who were laughing and chatting, sharing their lives and listening to each other and I was reminded of how truly, truly grateful I was that God brought them all into my life. These are people who are warm, friendly and hospitable. They are the first to extend to others and are inclusive. They love the Lord and serve Him faithfully. And I get the incredible privilege of claiming them as friends.
And it struck me that on the year that I’m turning this number which used to fill me with absolute dread and loathing, I was actually able to enjoy the celebration. To just be in the moment and relish it rather than trying to brush it aside or pretend like it wasn’t happening.
I think it’s because in my 40th year of life, I finally became comfortable in my own skin. I embraced the ways God has gifted me. I refused to let self-doubt and insecurity keep me from doing what I feel He is calling me to do.
And I have absolutely no doubt that my 41st year of life will be just as amazing. Because as certain as I am that there will be high highs and low lows, I’m even more certain that the One who has seen me through the last 40 years will be faithful in seeing me through all that is ahead.
So, here’s to you 40…let’s do this!!