It’s been just over 30 years ago, that my mom remarked, “I can’t believe I have a son turning 40.”
Well, now, the “tables are turned,” our daughter, Rachél, hit the “BIG 40″ yesterday. It is hard to believe.
These milestones of life and age shouldn’t surprise us. But somehow they sneak up on us. As time marches on.
As with our family, there was nothing traditional or ordinary about the day. No black decorations. No “over the hill” wrapping paper. No gallows humor. But lots of fun. Surprises. Twists and turns.
We were in the midst of helping our son, Kenny, and his family relocate to Crystal River, Florida. Unfortunately, his car broke down in Mississippi and he was stranded. So we were frantically trying to either get the car repaired, go get him or find them a way to Florida.
Rachél’s husband, Jared Thompson, had planned a surprise birthday on Sunday afternoon. We had hoped to make it but weren’t sure. However, Norma Jean and I were able to join their friends for the big surprise.
Although, we had to leave a little early to rescue Kenny and the kids, the afternoon was festive, fun and filled with lots of love and laughter. In addition to 40 gold coins, Norma Jean found while packing our stuff some of Rachél’s hair barrettes when she was baby and some other memorabilia from her teen years. She loved it. And it produced many wonderful memories.
But back to the 40! You hear that 40 is just a number. As I think about it, I agree with Boston Globe journalist Beverly Beckham that it is more than a number….and “an inaccurate one.” Beckham wrote, “Forty is inaccurate because it doesn’t stand alone. Forty is 39 and 28 and 24 and 16 and 10 and 4 and 6 months, every age a person was – not simply the sum of its parts but every one of its parts.”
Forty, in Rachél’s case, is being adopted at 4 months. Being the first granddaughter. The little sister. The exploring toddler. The sweet, compliant child. It’s being called “little precious” by a doting father.
Forty is piano lessons. Voice lessons. Recitals. And plays. It’s the irrepressible, unconventional teenager. The graduate. The Florida College student. The chorus. The USF student. The St. Petersburg college student. Changing majors. And landing in a career she loved as a Veterinarian Technician.
Forty is finding love. And losing it. And finding it again. It’s Laugher. Tears. Disappointing setbacks. Joyous triumphs. Moving. Changing. Growing. Adapting. Becoming. And dreaming.
Forty is a wonderful husband, Jared. A sweet 3 ½-year-old son, Roy. A cute little 1-year-old daughter, Fern. It’s full-time motherhood. Playdates. Swimming lessons. And all of the joys, love, and sometimes frustrations of family life.
When we look at people we see them externally. With human eyes. And observe the here and now. The moment. We look at a face and try to guess an age. To pigeonhole a role. Or to guess a background. Attitude. Or socio-economic place in life.
We are the sum total of our experiences. Relationships. Successes. And failures. Life is not a destination. It’s a journey. A process. A life-long learning experience. And the Bible teaches a brief one compared to time. And eternity.
Charles T. Jones once said, “You will be the same in five years except for two things: The people you meet and the books you read.” I have to think that Rachél and the rest of us are where we are now because of those factors. And where we will be in five years, Lord willing will also be influenced by people who love us. Help us. Share with us. Influence us. And while there are great books to learn from, none is better than the Bible.
And so, Little Precious, I wish you a “Happy Birthday.” And as you begin the next 4o years, I would simply share with you the wise counsel from the Word.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Prov 3:5-6)
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all. (Eccl. 12:13)
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov 4:23).
Well, thanks for reading today. And allowing me some personal reflections. But remember this. When your birthday comes don’t agonize about it. Or stress over it. Or worry about the number of candles on your cake. Accept it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. And apply the advice of the Psalmist “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman