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I tried to keep it from happening, but somehow my 50th birthday came around anyway. Frankly, it wasn't something I was looking forward to. Thirty felt good. Forty didn't bother me, but... Fifty. Is. Old. I have to laugh though. In the last few weeks people have talked to me about how I don't look 50, or how 50 is "nifty," or how somehow I was still "just a kid." But we all know better, don't we?
I've lived through five pontificates and 10 presidencies -- but oddly, the reign of only one English monarch. At 50, I've reached the age where my life has begun to read like one of those exasperating story problems I hated so much in math. Number one: A baseball team had gone many years without winning the World Series. One of their fans had a birthday on the day they finally triumphed. Her age on that day was one-half the duration of their slump. If the team's last World Series victory was in 1918, and the fan was born in 1961, in what year was the "curse" reversed? Number two: Two years ago, Jaymie was one-half the age of her grandmother. This year she is twice the age of her second oldest daughter. How old are each of these three women? Answer: none of your business!
There are numerous ways to both celebrate and prepare for entering a new decade of life. Joining AARP is definitely not one of them for me. Still, I really didn't want to spend much time or money on an event I had mixed feelings about. I mean, when what you really want for your birthday is 10 years more and 40 pounds less, it's pretty clear that there isn't much of a chance anyone will be able to find a way to wrap it up and give it to you.
But in the midst of my general ambivalence about the whole turning-50 thing, I found myself unable to stop reviewing all that has happened over the past 50 years. By a lot of people's standards, I've accomplished a lot. And while for me, what I do will never be as much as I wish it was, there is no disputing that fact that I have been blessed. I've met some interesting people (married, given birth to, and adopted the best of them), traveled to some interesting places, studied some very interesting things, and done some really cool and interesting work. I've also weathered times of crisis, uncertainty, and even danger.
I suspect, however, that God knew I would need to glean something more than just good memories from all this. Perhaps that is why I felt the need to ask the best confessor I've ever had to hear a general confession. (Hey, at 50, you never know what might happen.) I think it is also why I was scheduled (coincidentally?) to give a personal witness talk to a confirmation class, and a series of talks for vocations awareness week. It's funny how God often finds a way to get me to say what he most wants me to hear.
When I walked into the surprise party my family orchestrated last Sunday afternoon, I was ready to start stacking up my next 50 years worth of sins, and freshly reminded of where I've been and why I'm here. I wasn't completely ready, though, to experience the depth and breadth of God's faithfulness to me, and more, his over-the-top extravagant love.
My life has been filled: "pressed-down, shaken together, and running over" as Luke puts it. I have done little to warrant the attention others have given me, and nothing to deserve the friends or family that surround me. As I move forward into the next phase of what life -- and God -- will bring my way, I pray for the grace to meet every blessing with gratitude and every challenge with a deeper gift of self. That would have the potential to make every age golden, with or without a "senior discount."
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.