This Many

10 09 2016

img_6416Yesterday I used the “I’m this many” photo above to announce my fifty-ninth birthday on social media. The responses were fun, enthusiastic, and appreciated. But there’s no getting past a simple fact. That’s a whole lot of fingers.

Have you noticed that a year is only twelve months, and a month is only a handful of weeks, and a week lasts about five minutes? At least it feels that way. Like I’m not just over the hill, but this hill is getting steeper by the second, and the brakes on my little red wagon gave out long ago.

The older I get, the more I can identify with those scriptures that say we are like grass, springing up in the morning, and mown down in the evening. The green is fading, and I can hear the mower engine cranking up in the distance.

Life is short.

img_6470This aging thing is getting a little too real, but I have to say, yesterday was a good day right out of the gate. First I was greeted by these flowers and this commonest of birthday phrases, whimsically lettered by a hand that holds my heart in the most un-commonest of loves.

This is one of the best gifts, and one that only time can buy. It’s the knowing that comes with overcoming together again and again — choosing against all odds to believe that broken things can be restored, that pain is purposeful, and that love is a battlefield worth defending. It’s hundreds of forgiven hurts and thousands of shared joys and a belonging that no amount of wrinkles or gray hairs can threaten.

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It started with the flowers. Then he took me to lunch at a French bistro. Lobster bisque, and warm goat-cheese salad with walnut vinaigrette, followed by a delicious fluffy-mousse-with-fruity-drizzle complimentary dessert from our waiter, which we’d mostly devoured before we remembered to take a picture.

But the best part of the lunch was the conversation.

“So, I’m fifty-nine,” I said. “Got any advice to offer from the other side of sixty?”

I was sort of joking/not joking, but he paused and then answered seriously. “Actually, to be honest, turning sixty kinda messed with my head. There’s no stopping this train, and there’s no going back.”

And then, almost in unison, we expressed the same thought — the same sense of urgency to make the most of this gift of time, redeeming the moments, filling them with meaningful, eternal pursuits. Let’s be fully present, we said. Fully engaged, fully aware — embodying the hope we’ve been given, the goodness we’ve tasted and seen, the gospel we believe.

While we have breath, let us praise Him with our words and our lives.

Even the best French cuisine can’t compete with that.

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Then, after lunch, a visit from grandchildren, with hand-drawn birthday cards, and sweetly sung birthday songs, and — later by text because they forgot but meant to — recordings of angelic voices lisping birthday prayers for Emzee. Early faith, fresh in the bud, sure to be tested, God’s to keep and mine to pray for, to love, to listen, and to speak into, when we sit in our house and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up.

Grandchildren. Another gift that only time can give. A treasured jewel in the crown of “this many.”

In the evening we walked across the street to my father’s house — the place where we spend most of our evenings, sharing a meal, telling stories, watching tv. Tonight George has planned a special dinner, and I’m not allowed in the kitchen to help.

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It’s pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms and spinach, grilled butternut squash, and buttery dark-grain toast, followed by FaceTime fun with far-flung beloveds, opening cards and presents, blowing out candles under the loving gaze of the tenderest daddy on the planet, and then a thick slice of ridiculously rich chocolate cake served with vanilla gelato. And I honestly want to know. What could be better than this?

I may be edging my way past middle age, but I have no inclination to mourn my youth and no need to resist the relentless march of time.

I’m this many. This many years of experience. This many memories of grace. This many songs sung, friendships grown, adventures shared, roads journeyed, and fears conquered.

This many selfish ambitions let go, simple gifts received, and dreams refined.

This many assurances that all things work for good, all things serve His plan, and all things will be made new.

I’m small, fading like the grass, seen, known, and so very deeply loved. My little red wagon may be flying down the hill, but the wind is in my face, and I know the One who sets its course and knows the way I take.

Happy Birthday to me, fifty-nine fingers and counting. Thank you, friends, for all the ways you’ve made this journey amazing. You’re a beautiful part of “this many.”

 

 


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14 responses

10 09 2016
Jody Lee Collins

Oh Jeanne, it only gets better, I promise.

10 09 2016
jeannedamoff

I believe you!

10 09 2016
lschontos

I just love this!

11 09 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Linda!

10 09 2016
Victoria Block

I love how you captured the maturing process! Love that you shared this so beautifully. And love how beautiful you ARE. Thank you. And Happy Birthday from someone who enjoys reading what you write. When you have a moment, please enjoy Ps 139:10-18
love,
Victoria

11 09 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank so much, Victoria! And Psalm 139 is one of my favorite passages. Love to you. xo

10 09 2016
Larisa Cherepova

Jeanne, most of you posts make me cry.. 🙂 I am sitting in my office, reading your writing and wiping tears.. my colleagues might be wondering what made me so upset 🙂 The truth is that I, like you, want to treasure every day, every moment. As you know, I got married just 4 months ago, and I am 41. I am loving being married.. I had waited for the Lord to give me this gift of marriage for a long, long time (like, 20 years!). So I keep telling myself that despite the fact that I am also “on the other side of the hill”, the life that the Lord has given me is beautiful and filled with wonder and joy, every single day. Your words reminded me once again to treasure all the gifts He’s given me.
Sending hugs and blessings to you from Kazakhstan!

11 09 2016
jeannedamoff

Aw, thanks, Larisa! I love your heart, and I’m so happy for you that the Lord brought your husband to you after all these years of waiting. Yes, He has given you a beautiful life, and you are a beautiful soul. Much love to you, friend. xo

11 09 2016
Jim Leftwich

Dearest daughter, You are a precious gift and a blessing to all !! I thank the Lord for you, daily. I love you so much, Dad

11 09 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Dad. I can echo the exact same words back to you. It’s a precious gift to be your daughter. So much love. xo

12 09 2016
pastordt

Best.Birthday.Blog.Ever. Thanks, Jeanne.

13 09 2016
jeannedamoff

Thanks, friend! You know of which I speak. xo

14 09 2016
Cyndi Aarrestad

Beautifully said Jeanne! May your journey continue to find you on God’s perfect path, being used powerfully to bless others! Happy Birthday dear sister! Keep redeeming the time!

15 09 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Cyndi! So lovely to hear from you! xo

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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