Of Turning Fifty, & Funerals, & Flowers

Today is my birthday (April 22), and I’m 50 years old.

How weird to be 50 years old, half of a hundred.

I had wondered how I would feel hitting fifty, wondered if I would feel old, wistful, regretful; wondering if I would feel sad or worried about time passing so quickly and some of my goals unmet so far.

But what I actually feel this morning is different from that. I feel thankful, grateful, blessed.

Peeking my head out of our room this morning, I stage-whispered to Mark in the living room, “Is Daniel up yet or out there?”

Hearing that the coast was clear and my son wasn’t awake yet, I crept quickly out to the living room, clad only in a grey t-shirt and underwear, to grab my suitcase from the couch where I had put it after our weekend away.

“My black yoga pants are in here,” I whispered to Mark.

Marco stood up from the desk chair where he had been and quickly came over to me, his tone playful and his eyes warm and appreciative. Hugging me and chasing me into our room, he murmured kind things at my neck. I leaned back against him, relaxing into his hug, thankful for him, thankful he found me beautiful and desirable.

We stayed close for a few moments, having missed each other after a long weekend away at a youth retreat. Our group of thirty-seven students and leaders had joined scores of other churches and youth groups for a gathering in Duluth of three thousand people at a weekend-long youth conference. The times with our teens and leaders had been meaningful and Mark and I were still processing all the events and conversations from the weekend. We hugged for a moment more and then stepped into work and school mode.

In the kitchen, he stirred his home-made chai tea over the stove top and waited for me to find them.

“You got me flowers!” I exclaimed, seeing a pot of yellow Gerbera daisies on the dining room table. “Thank you!”

“There are also sambusas cooking,” he said. “I knew we liked them.”

He warmed up plastic sauce containers of mint chutney in a bowl of warm water in the sink.

“Mmm, those were great last week. Sounds good. Thank you! I liked the mint chutney best.”

We sat and talked at the kitchen table, sharing memories and conversations from the weekend, discussing student scenarios and situations that we were alert to and praying about– caring deeply for each one of our students.

Several hours later now, I sip Kodiak coffee at a small coffee shop while my lanky ninth grader is in a gym class nearby. I grab a smooth-rolling G2 black pen, flip open my journal, and tackle it. How does it feel to be fifty? 

And yes, I still have book goals and speaking projects I’m working on. And yes, it might seem incongruous that I have been intentionally choosing songs for my funeral someday, even adding one to my list from the retreat worship this weekend, but, in truth, they are songs of gratitude and worship, which is my echoed heart for today too, celebrating fifty years of life.

Staring in the mirror at the coffee shop restroom this morning, I pause to look closely. Laughter lines crease up beside my brown eyes, extending out towards my hairline. Long brown hair hangs to the middle of my back and silver strands light natural highlights to frame my face on both sides by my ears and cheeks. Tiny silver hairs pop up in the cowlicks at the sides of my front fringe of hair, and I grin and slick them down with some water from the tap. They are just as stubborn now in translucent strands as they were in middle school brown caramel color.

That could describe me too, I realize grinning, not just my hair. Am I still as stubborn as I was in middle school and high school? 

I stop to think, scanning my life and heart.

God has definitely mellowed and shaped me. I’m mostly just stubborn and persistent in good ways, I hope, persevering to do the hard things and to strive to love and serve people and God, and to move towards making a difference in the world around me.

And yet…. I am still stubborn in bad ways too, some moments. Still selfishly wanting things done my way, to my preferences, for my comfort some times, and yet… I see progress.

I love God’s promise that he, the Artist God, who “began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.” And it leads me to gratitude again.

I am thankful for fifty years of life, for breath and energy to move, to speak.

I am thankful for my husband who chases me and whispers romantic things in my ears, and for this relationship that we’ve worked hard at, stubbornly persevering on the hard days and seasons, and rejoicing in on the good days.

I am thankful for my kids, my family and friends, my life and jobs and ministries… I am thankful for you, reading here with me, on this journey of life in Jesus together.

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Jennifer speaks often at MOPS/MomsNext groups, at conferences, churches, retreats, camps, home school co-ops and more. She loves getting to know people and making new friends.

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  1. Peggy on April 25, 2024 at 2:00 am

    thank you Jennifer….

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