I held two long-standing dreams for my 40th birthday.
- Run a marathon
- Take a mission trip to Haiti with my husband
Run a Marathon
I was going to run Grandma’s Marathon in June 2016 or Twin Cities Marathon in October 2016. The dream to run a marathon for my 40th was serious and alive for a few good years until the rubber hit the road and I realized I’d need to actually sign up and start training. When I reminded my husband that this was a goal for my 40th and told him we were approaching the time I’d need to commit, he reminded me that my plate is full, that training for a marathon was super intense, and that I also have a book writing goal, so perhaps it would be better to spend time focusing my efforts on that dream instead.
He was right. His logic made sense. I made a cold and fast decision to drop my dream of running a marathon for my 40th birthday.
Take a Mission Trip to Haiti with My Husband
My husband and I were going to Haiti to visit our sponsored children through Compassion International. Better yet? We were going to Haiti to visit our three sponsored children there, then fly over to Dominican Republic to visit our sponsored child there. It was an idyllic 40th birthday plan in my book. My husband would meet all four of our sponsored children in one week, and we’d plan some sun time for the Dominican side so my husband could get the R&R he needed. I wanted us to take our first mission trip as a married couple. I wanted my husband to see me in my happy place. I wanted him to KNOW that very best part of me. I wanted him to understand why I can’t shake my trips to Haiti, Dominican and Kenya. My dream to make this trip for my 40th was serious and alive for TWO years until the rubber hit the road and I realized we’d need to actually book the trip and start planning all the details.
We had big conversations.
For a period of three or four weeks, it was official! We were planning a Haiti/Dominican trip for my 40th, sometime in the second half of 2016.
But things didn’t feel right. I knew my husband didn’t really want to go to Haiti, and was just agreeing to please me. I didn’t want this to be a check-it-off-the-list experience. I love Haiti. I love it so much I can barely contain my tears writing these sentences. But I also love Kenya. I love it so much that I’d go back today, in a heartbeat if I could. Having said that, I know my heart and I know my current reality. It isn’t realistic to keep both Haiti AND Kenya active and open in my heart during this season of life with three children, ages 13, 11 and 4, at home. I’d consider myself ridiculously blessed if I was able to take ONE mission trip a year until our two oldest graduate from high school. But that once-a-year-dream isn’t realistic. If I returned to Haiti, I’d open my heart up wide all over again, and would want to go back for a third visit. But then there’s Kenya. If I went to Haiti for my 40th in 2016, that would mean Kenya would have to hold off until 2017, more likely 2018. Could my heart bear the weight of that possibility?
I prayed. I thought about it. I knew what was safest for my heart and the best decision given my current reality, finances, life as a mom of three, and wife of a husband who’s crazy busy with work. One late night after the kids were in bed, I requested time with my husband and told him straight up, “We’re not going to Haiti for my 40th.”
I drew Haiti a beautiful little circle on our bed sheets with my finger, surrendered the final 40th birthday dream, and left it there with God. I never said I was surrendering Haiti for good. I’m surrendering it for now.
With tears and Haiti in a bed sheet circle, that left my heart open and committed to Kenya, and Kenya only. For now. For this season. If God sees fit to open the circle for Kenya AND Haiti someday, I won’t be surprised. In my heart of hearts, I see both. But for now, one. Kenya.
And with that, both of my 40th birthday dreams died.
Four to six weeks later, we found out that my dad was approved for a lung transplant. If everything goes as planned, he will be placed on the national lung transplant registry by mid-July, just days after my 40th birthday. My mom is first in care for my dad. But my mom is also first in care for my sister who has schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type; she has two children and lives two blocks from my parents. Since I’m oldest in my family of origin, that leaves me second in care for my dad while he’s going through the transplant, and first in back-up care for my sister and her two children while my dad and mom are going through the transplant.
My husband has an intense corporate job that often requires longer-than-normal work days, occasional work on nights and weekends, and regularly takes him away on business travel.
I’m home this summer with three children. It’s only my second summer home full-time since I became a mom nearly 14 years ago. Our youngest starts kindergarten in 14 months.
I’ve written and thoroughly edited TWO children’s book manuscripts, and have a third roughly drafted. I need to write the series proposal and get it in the hands of a literary agent. After that, I’d like to tackle an adult nonfiction proposal.
I’m EIGHT pounds over my most comfortable weight, and haven’t been able to get the weight off since it first started piling on in January 2015 after my husband’s eye cancer diagnosis. I’m wearing capri leggings every day this summer because I only fit into one of my size 8 drawer full of shorts. And my well went dry last weekend because I haven’t had enough time to replenish my soul these past seven weeks.
The Lord is so wise and graceful with his gifts.
He knows what we need and when we need it.
40-some days ago when I realized my 40th birthday was approaching, my emotions got the best of me. No marathon. No trip to Haiti with my husband. No marking of this momentous occasion. 40 is big to me. If you know me well, you know I’ve been looking forward to 40 forever. I wanted to do something big for my 40th, something special, something to honor who I am and how I want to live the second half of life.
I wondered if there was a way to still pull something off that resonated with my soul. Perhaps a Facebook campaign – 44 days to my 40th birthday – in which I’d collect 440 pair of new underwear for boys and girls at the orphanage in Kenya? Perhaps a party in which we could raise funds for a set of swings and slides for the children at the orphanage?
Creating a new dream out of nowhere was crazy, impossible and possibly stupid. I had a little meltdown on my bed, then headed to the gym with my 4 year old. As I pulled into a parking spot, I looked down at my phone and noticed an email had arrived from wise counsel, someone who has taken at least EIGHT hours solid just listening to me. I hadn’t communicated with this person for a couple months, so she had no reason to communicate with me that morning besides this perfectly-timed gem.
You do not have to look for anything, just look.
You do not have to listen for specific sounds, just listen.
You do not have to accomplish anything, just be.
And in the looking, and the listening, and the being; find Me.
Ann Lewin in Celtic Daily Prayer, Book Two, p 1483
Tears. Just tears.
The timing of the email was impeccable. God was clearly speaking. I didn’t have to do anything momentous or incredibly special for my 40th birthday. I didn’t have to find a way to celebrate and express the unique heart He’s given me for life. I didn’t have to prove to anyone except myself and God that I’m heading into this second half of life with passion, fervor, grace and an open heart for whatever He has planned for me.
I don’t have to work for the world anymore.
His dreams are greater than mine.
His plans are greater than my plans.
He needed me to know this.
My job from here on out is to look, listen, be, and seek Him first.
I know I’ll run a marathon someday.
I know I’ll return to Haiti someday.
I know I’ll return to Kenya.
I pray I’ll go on a mission trip with my husband someday.
I know, without a doubt, that I’m going to keep working on those books.
I know I’m home for a reason, for this season, to help my family.
I know I need to take care of myself.
I know God’s timing is perfect.
I know His gifts are good.
I surrendered two 40th birthday dreams. But God’s filling in the gaps with gifts aplenty.
Time at home with my children this summer.
Time at home so our family has a sense of stability.
Knowing and understanding my husband so our marriage can survive and thrive.
Helping my parents with the CaringBridge and Facebook pages set up for my dad’s upcoming lung transplant.
Being available to help my parents when my dad gets called for the lung transplant.
Being available to help my sister and her two children.
Becoming a Facebook page administrator for the nonprofit, Love For Kenya, with whom I traveled last fall.
A photography partnership with a nonprofit that celebrates babies with Down syndrome.
A divine encounter with the president of MN Teen Challenge who confirmed that my idea would be an “incredible ministry.”
Joining a private writing community on Facebook.
“Yes” to an intense, three-day writing workshop in November 2016.
Two 5Ks instead of that marathon.
A compass from day camp with a message from my four year old. “If you don’t remember where you’re going, then you have that to remember. Okay?”
A perfect ending to the last night I could call myself “39” without lying, including a senior photo shoot, three end-of-season clearance outfits at my favorite store White House Black Market (so I don’t have to wear capri leggings every day this summer), and a beautifully-painted sunset to top it all off.
God’s gifts are good.
He knows what I need.
I’m 40 today.
Bring it, 40, whatever you look like.