I have never seen anyone else take on the turn of a decade like my friend, Beth. Surrounded by friends and family, she danced and laughed and ate ice cream and danced some more. That was this weekend, then she jumped on a plane to spend her actual birthday, today, in New York City. Read more about that here.
About six months ago, I received a letter from her. She wrote 40 women, older than her, about her fortieth birthday coming up and asked their counsel on these middle years of life. I am sure she heard back from all of them (us) because that was a small thing to do for someone as lovely as Beth.
I thought for weeks and weeks about what to write…What did I learn after 40? What could I tell her that might make a difference in an already amazing life? What could I say that she didn’t already know. Well, I gave it a shot…and finally sent that letter to her just before her birthday weekend.
Following are ___ of the bits of advice I gave to beautiful Beth.
1) “Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. This is key to everything. It was essentially the message of Jesus to Martha (Luke 10:38-42) which seems harsh except that we recognize how much He loved Martha. In ministry, we default to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We serve and serve and serve (like Martha did). Then there comes a time, if we’re not careful that we serve on empty. We keep those commands in right order because that’s what He intended for our sakes, and His glory. My nature is to be Mary, but the needs all around drives me to be a Martha. Folks around us don’t need a Martha; they need GOD.
2) Be a woman of prayer. Prayer is not a project or part of a program. It is meant to be our covering for every moment and circumstance of life. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thess. 5:16-18. Whatever our situation, we need prayer and perspective that comes with prayer. Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” was a great help to me in those earlier years.
3) Don’t wait for “life” to happen. Some unmet longings are beyond our control – that “right guy”, the healing of a friend, reconciliation that didn’t happen yet, that opportunity that went to another. However, I think we struggle with hammering through this season, longing for the next. I find it a discipline requiring my attention daily to LIVE the life I want…and to which God has called me.
4) Have men in your life – fathers, brothers, whomever. There were both single and married women in the company of Christ & the apostles. It helps us with perspective. In the Christian community, we too often separate out by gender. I understand how that happens, but we should figure out how to be in company with each other in wholesome and holy ways. It makes a difference…for us…and for them.
5) Keep Writing. We can’t all be in your life every day, but when you write, we are there. Thank you for your transparency and generosity, your gentleness and humor, and your deep love. Keep writing.
Any who read this blog of mine know I offered more than 5 bits of advice, but this is all I will repeat today.
Happy Birthday, Beth. You are a prize!
By the way, if you have any counsel for all of us as we course through this life, feel free to share in the comments section below. You, too, Beth.
I will leave you with what Beth shared on this morning of her 40th.:
“When you enter in to the places you thought you would never recover from, you will find something solid. The lie is that there won’t be anything solid for you to stand on. Your fear will tell you to avoid, but when you “go there” you will find yourself more anchored and trusting. You will learn about God and his heart for you and here’s the kicker, your heart for Him. If you follow Jesus, he gave you a new heart. This is the unshakeable foundation of your life – that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, He is trustworthy and has bigger dreams than you could ever dream for yourself, even in the midst of longing, loss, gains, and waiting. Especially in the waiting.”