The lake was beautiful today. We watched our boys run in the state cross country meet at Concordia University this afternoon, and afterwards, we headed to the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. It was our first time there, and we were all captivated by expanse of vivid turquoise to true blue water stretched out below us. We made our way down the stairs to the shore, where we took pictures and allowed the lake breeze to whip through the fibers of our clothes and hair. It was cold but refreshing. The trip back up the stairs proved a bit daunting (for me, at least), but it felt good to move, to push myself a little harder than I normally do, to be conscious of my breath. We took more pictures of the kids at the top, then headed back to the van.
I asked David to take a picture of me, thinking that I should commemorate this season of my upcoming 40th birthday. Sometimes, I am surprised to see how few pictures there are documenting my existence; I guess that’s what happens when you’re always the one taking the pictures. I thought how could I go wrong with the glorious sky and sea surrounding me? It’s funny, though, how pictures show you what you really look like. David took several, and when my eyes were open (I think it was the most pictures ever taken of me with my eyes closed), all I could see was how un-beautiful I think I actually look.
This aging process is hard to swallow. I want to be 40 and fabulous, but I feel like I am growing frumpier everyday. No, not frumpy exactly (can you tell I like alliteration?), but severe. There is a severity to my look that I don’t like to see. I used to have the carefree look of youth that filled out those sharp lines that are now so predominant in my cheeks and nose- even my forehead is so tall and forbidding, framed in gray.
I am aging. Forty is forty. I am the older image of my younger self. Such is life. And yet, God is kind to us in our self-loathing moments. Tonight, I dropped off my son for a roller skating birthday party, and an old friend was working there. We haven’t seen each other in a couple of years, and (as is his custom), he immediately commented on my appearance: “You look great!” he exclaimed. “Look at you, you look so good. There’s no way you could have had five babies,” he gushed. That’s him, always giving compliments and making people feel good about themselves, but it was such a gift today. Even if it is just his way, I took it to heart and accepted it with gratitude. I couldn’t see beauty in myself today, but God allowed someone else to see it and share it with me.
I know that we are more than our outward appearance, that it is what’s inside that matters most, but it is hard to surrender one’s youth and beauty. When we have it, we are so unappreciative of it, and once it begins to fade, we wish to somehow preserve it or prolong it just a little while longer, now that we know how fleeting it is. I am hoping, as I go through my 40’s, to embrace the beauty that age brings: the wisdom, confidence, and compassion that grays our hair and wrinkles our hands and creases our brow. I will accept that beauty with grace.