By Kelly Johnson
This time of year, I’m always reminded how much I really, really dislike Easter grass.
If you are the Easter basket maker or cleaner-upper in your house, you are familiar with the mess. Whether you purchase the plastic grass or the paper grass, it grows and expands and sticks to everything. Long after the chocolate bunny has lost its ears and the jelly beans have disappeared, remnants of the grass remain. Purple, pink, blue, yellow, or green, Easter grass is invincible and comes to stay.
For this reason I am pleased to announce I no longer celebrate the resurrection of our Savior by tracking strands of Easter grass throughout my house for a week after Easter. Or by wrestling two little girls into springtime dresses on a morning inevitably too cold for springtime dresses. I cannot count the number of years my daughters had to wear their heavy winter coats over sleeveless pastel dresses on Easter morning.
Although I’m still adjusting to some of the more bittersweet changes my empty nest has brought, certain parts of the transition are easier than others. For instance, despite missing the day-to-day interactions with my girls, I am delighted I will never again wage battle with a child over potty training, learning to drive, or completing college applications.
In the same way, I am embracing middle age despite the bumps in the road. While I could do without the gray hair, hot flashes, and extra weight around my middle, the gifts of this season far outweigh the disadvantages.
Here are a few of the biggest gifts my fifties have brought me:
Deeper Trust in Myself
With each passing decade, I find I am more comfortable with who I am becoming. I’m learning to accept my many imperfections and celebrate my unique contributions to the world. I take myself less seriously and laugh more readily at the ways I am both always changing and always the same ol’ me. As I witness more sadness and loss, I more quickly find the beauty in ordinary moments. I trust my instincts and intuition as I get to know myself better and believe more deeply in my capacity to learn, grow, and adapt. I know I can do hard things. I embrace progress, not perfection. I am fiercer, braver, and more alive than I have ever been.
Deeper Trust in People
As the years go by, I am less concerned with what people think of me and more concerned with how they feel about themselves. I choose being kind over being right more often than I did when I was younger. As I dare to risk vulnerability and authenticity in my relationships, allowing others to see the real me, I find I receive the same gift in return. As I trust people more deeply, I find more people are worthy of my trust. As I marvel at the grace given me, I am more likely to extend grace to others. As I become more curious about the uniquely interesting people God places in my path, I find more kindred spirits in unexpected places. My relationships are richer in this season of my life because I am willing to lay down the masks I held tightly when I was younger.
Deeper Trust in God
I treasure most the deepening of my relationship with God. With each passing year, I pile up more evidence of God’s faithfulness. As I listen to the story my life is telling and witness the stories of the lives around me, I am more convinced than ever of God’s intimate care and transforming power. Amid despair or discouragement, I anticipate the ways God is already at work. For me and for the ones I love, I am more likely to believe in the miracle I can’t yet see, trusting it will be revealed just around the next bend in the road. Although I am far from where I hope to someday be in my relationship with God, I have been on this journey long enough to see how far I’ve come.
Little sisters in your twenties, thirties, and forties, the best is yet to come! Lean in and trust, look up and follow. We are all in this together. The hard work of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and spirit and loving others as yourself is worth the effort. God is faithful and he is doing a beautiful work in you!
Kelly Johnson is a counselor, writer, speaker, and advocate. She leads a weekly Bible study and serves as chair of the board of directors at a local shelter for the homeless. Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mom of two college-age daughters. Kelly writes about life, faith, and her newly empty nest at kellyiveyjohnson.com.
Photograph © Brooke Cagle, used with permission