Unlike other Southern women who refuse to disclose their ages, I have always been a tell-all girl in this regard. I realize that at different points in my life I have surprised people by looking older than my years, and in a couple of cases...younger...but it is what it is. I say this not with smugness or pride...or even as the antithesis of my sweet 39 year old mother who is beautiful and vibrant in spite of the fact that I am now on the record for being older than she is. It is just one of those areas that I have never really felt led to fudge or hide.
Unlike my drivers' license weight. Or hair color. Let's not go there.
No, seriously. Let's not.
I am 50 years old. 5-0. Nifty fifty. Half a century. Over the hill...or past the change...or whatever. I'm on that side of life where the print gets smaller for most of my friends, and reading glasses are not optional. Where turning in at 9:00 on a Friday night isn't taboo. Where going to the grocery store looking like Sasquatch is perfectly acceptable. Where "personal summers" are the norm. Where I am over things like high heels, trying to impress people who are impossible, and being concerned with wearing anything fashionable...if it isn't comfortable. And truthfully? Nobody cares.
I'm someone's Mom, and old enough to be someone's grandma, although I'm not really up for that until I've been mother of the bride and/or groom. I have good friends and know who I am...although I'm still up for learning new things and appreciate the effort people put into things far more than I used to when I was young and sleep-deprived.
Yet for all of those benefits of impending maturity, I missed the very obvious fact that while I was out trying to survive the onslaught of raising children for nearly half of my life, working full-time, and trying to be a decent daughter, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, wife, sister, aunt, best friend, acquaintance, mother, employee, neighbor, co-worker, church member, great-aunt, cousin, alumnae, participant, counselor, friend, teacher, and whatever else...time passed.
Years where I stood under the tutelage of some pretty incredible women and waited for instruction of what to do in crisis situations. Crisis situations being defined as illnesses, bad news, funerals, problems, and anything else that didn't involve celebrations. Celebrations I could do.
Times that I wanted to do more but was afraid that they'd think I was out of my mind, didn't know them well enough, or was simply overdoing it. After all, enthusiasm in positive instances is often frowned upon in negative ones. The worry that something would be "tacky" or "inappropriate" or "too much." After all, I've been "too much" a number of times in my life.
Instances where I wanted to intervene or help or just say the right thing...but I was silent for fear of saying something boneheaded. Time that passed that was seconds and then minutes, hours, days, weeks...months...years...decades...
And now I'm 50. Old enough to know what to do instead of expecting someone to pop up and tell me what the next step should be in certain situations. Of course, I have no problem taking on big projects, and one of the gifts that the Lord has given me is the strong desire and ability to finish things. I'm probably not the first person that would be assigned a leadership position, but when I am in most groups, I find that I end up offering input because I am not afraid to make a decision. Usually, I find that people don't want to decide anything because they are also afraid of being perceived as being pushy, or over-the-top or a general pain in the posterior. Probably because when we were young...we were reminded of how little we knew and how we were messing it all up. At times...we were.
Recently, I discovered that I have been a bit of a lazy friend. I have not checked in with people...because I figured that someone else was doing it. You know...someone more responsible. Someone older. Wiser. More pulled together. I have known of situations involving hospitalizations and I have run the other direction. I have not checked in with people on the anniversaries of traumatic events...and I have done little more than tell them I'll pray for them.
And I do. But it is not at the level of someone who appreciates all of the wonderful things that she has been given in this life. It is lazy. L-A-Z-Y and I "ain't got no alibi." Wish I did.
I realized over the past few days that the "someone" that is supposed to be watching out for the mission field that I have been assigned...my friends...is ME. Not the person who can run circles around me. Not the one who everyone assumes will do it. Not the individual who always does it. But ME. That generation that I always looked up to to tell me what to do? Uh, that's ME, too.
Part of this was being raised by a strong grandmother who had very particular ideas about how to do what when. Another part is that I have friends who excel in this area...so all I had to do was wait for instruction. But the sad part is that often it was that I just didn't want to deal with the hassle of getting in the trenches with my friends. Lazy.
I realized that serving with a twenty-something in the kitchen yesterday. She was so worried about doing something wrong (impossible...but still...) and disappointing the older women. She didn't know that she couldn't. But she was looking to me...and to the other women to give her some direction. A wonderful, beautiful, capable soul who didn't need my approval or those of the other ladies serving in there. But she wanted it.
I love that. But it also woke me up to the fact that it is time for me to step up...and to be who He created me to be.
I have reached the age where I cannot hide the fact that by now I should have some wisdom to share. That I know what to do in situations and that I shouldn't care how that is perceived if my motives are pure. That I have the capacity to do certain things well and in those areas I should lead. I should also acquiesce to those who are better than I am in others. But I can learn to be better...I can be more intentional...and I can quit worrying about messing things up.
After all...I'm not 30. I'm 50. This isn't my first rodeo, so to speak.
I know that even at this age there will be disasters. I will make mistakes, not handle things well, or burn something from time to time. I will try a "fool-proof" recipe that is anything but. I will go overboard or will miss the opportunities that are presented me to be Jesus' hands and feet. I will still have times when I'm thoughtless...or heaven forbid...lazy.
I just don't want to miss it because I'm worried about how whatever I'm doing looks to other people.
Why? Well, frankly, because it's not about me. Never has been. I wish I'd glommed on to that years ago when I was worried what people thought on one hand...or figured that they wanted someone better than me to serve them on the other.
Over the past year, I have had friends lose family members, get serious diagnoses, lose their jobs, suffer a major disappointment, get a divorce, or just lose heart. I've watched from the sidelines in most cases...jumping in to do as little as I could because I was afraid. Being the "invited" instead of the "initiator." Because it was my fervent belief that someone more experienced would take care of things and would simply call me if I was needed.
If someone asked for my help...I'd give it. However, this is reactive...not proactive. In the process I missed out on the blessings of serving others and the joy of loving God's children as I was designed to do.
When you reach a "certain age" you have to decide how you want to be remembered. As the person with the prettiest house or the perfect children? As the lady with the yard that won awards or as a successful businessperson? As the person who did the bare minimum to maintain a friendship? As someone who was all fluff and no substance?
I want to be remembered as someone who loved. Everyone. Who tried to serve others well. Who followed "in his steps" rather than with regrets, bitterness, or remorse.
So, I'm learning to be more intentional about my life and with my time. Because God has a sense of humor...this totally means that from time to time it will not end well. But I'm trusting that more often than not...it will. I want every word to come out of my mouth to be truth. Not fluff. Not pumped sunshine. Not Southern small talk...although there's room for a touch of that here and there. Truth.
I also want to be a better friend to those that I have been blessed with than I have been in the past. To be more aware of what is going on around me and less concerned with how I feel about something and less afraid to just jump in there and help. To not be lazy.
That's the plan. I'll keep you posted. Because as we all know...when we plan...God laughs. But as long as He is smiling...that's good enough for me.