Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Good Shell Hunting and Turning Forty

How appropriate that my best friend Jen Hatmaker would include a chapter titled, On Turning Forty in her new book, For the Love.  Because guess what people?  I’m turning forty on August 5, 2015. 

And guess what else?  I’m not dreading my fortieth birthday.  How have I avoided the birthday blues, you may wonder?  Two reasons: 1) My BFF Jen Hatmaker dropped some awesome words on me in her new book. 2) I went hunting for shells.
I’ll start with the shells.

In January my parents took our family to Sanibel, FL for a week of rest and relaxation.  It was just about one of the best weeks of my whole entire life.  If you know anything about Sanibel, you know that it is the shell hunting capital of the world.  Visitors and locals rise before the sun wakes up with buckets and flashlights, following the tide and searching the shore for tiny treasures from the sea.   Hunting for shells is a competitive sport in Sanibel, and I totally jumped on the shell quest bandwagon during our vacation.
Shell hunters have specific criteria for what makes a “good” shell.  I noticed immediately the way serious hunters would lean down, select a shell, and then spend several seconds inspecting it before deciding whether or not to place it in their buckets, or throw in back onto the shore.  They were searching for the perfect shell.  A shiny casing.  No cracks or chips allowed.  The bigger, the better.

I started to imagine myself as a shell on the Sanibel beach.  What would I look like after washing up on shore?  After many days of searching, I found my shell-self.  Here I am.

My thirty nine (almost forty!) years have been a cake walk compared to most people.  I have two parents who have loved and cared for me since the moment I was born.  My husband is devoted and patient and loves me without condition.  I have friends that I do not deserve.  I have never gone to bed hungry.  I have a roof over my head and shoes on my feet.  And don’t even get me started on my three little girls. 

Despite my blessed life, I’m not a shiny, perfect shell.  I’m damaged.  I’ve been tossed around the ocean, lost underwater at times.  Jen reflects on life in her twenties, “I lost much time in jealousy, judgment, and imitation.  I just couldn’t find my own song.  I struggled to celebrate others’ achievements because they felt like indictments on my uncertainty.”
All those things she just said, well those are the same things that have damaged my shell self. 

And I have tiny holes from tiny hurts.  We all have them.  They are a part of living life with humans who make mistakes.  I know I’m responsible for some tiny holes in other shells. 
There is a crack from the loss of our first baby.  I can’t fix that crack, even with glue.  It’s not going anywhere.  I can only hope at some point it stabilizes and stops getting bigger.

There are other breaks and chips: the sadness of saying goodbye to special friends with each move, infertility, personal sins that I have not forgiven, disagreements with friends and loved ones, all the tough stuff.
What does this have to do with my best friend Jen Hatmaker and turning forty?

She says, “(When you are forty) You get a decent handle on who you are, what you are good at, what you love, what you value, and how you want to live.” 
I may not be there quite yet, but I learned a lot from those chips and breaks.  It’s time for me to spend more time doing what I love with the people that I love. 

Finally, JH sums up my hopes and dreams about entering my fourth decade, “I no longer tiptoe through my own life, doubting my gifts and my place, too scared to go for it, seize it, pray for it, dream it.  When you’re forty, you no longer wait for permission to live.”  That.  I want THAT.

I don’t mind being one of the imperfect shells that wash ashore.  Or a hermit crab, sometimes.



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