I turn 60 today, a milestone in many ways. Decade birthdays are always a time to reflect — at 30 I thought I was old (not), at 40 I thought I would quit worrying about what others thought (didn’t happen), at 50 I was finally starting to feel empowered. Conversely, 60 doesn’t feel old. Maybe it’s because 60 is the beginning of being elderly. I’m young for an old person, kind of like freshman year.
This birthday is a special turning point for me because I’m now eligible to retire. So at the end of May, I’m will be hanging up my school media specialist ‘Super-cape’ and moving onto my next chapter.
I’m not a person who loves change, so knowing that I’m leaving this part of my life and the fun and amazing people I’ve known for the last nine years, carries a gamut of emotions. I love my library with its blue and green walls that I painted myself, the books that I painstakingly ordered, the stuffed couches and chairs that the kids fight over. On those days that students are lying across the couch reading, or quietly browsing books I feel at peace. Those are the times I love.
But I’ve been praying about this for a long time and it’s time for a change. I’m ready to have time to write, visit friends and family and explore other avenues. I’ve been asking God to show me what He wants me to do but He hasn’t gotten back to me with any specific plans yet.
The other night I was having a small panic attack over the retirement- how will I fill my days? Will I have enough money? Will I get lonesome spending my time writing? Will Keith and I kill each other? I started searching the internet for some kind of job I could do when I felt God gently nudging me. “Just relax and let me work it out,” He said. “It’s okay to take some time off to just be.”
I crave time to be. My mind stays full of what I need to do at school, what I need to defrost for dinner, when I’m going to work in a run or time to write, and how to cram in all the pieces of being a good friend, wife, and mother. It’s exhausting and overwhelming. And I’m not even as busy as most people I know.
God has given me a metaphor for this season of my life. For the past two years, the bridge over the interstate that I take every day has been under construction. I wrote about it in a previous blog. While the DOT workers have been out laboring in all kinds of weather on the new part, those of us driving across have to go through an awkward series of stop signs and confusing arrows. The area is littered with orange cones and piles of concrete and fencing. It’s been inconvenient and aggravating.
But progress is slowly being made and signs are now up with squiggly lines showing how to go around the soon to come roundabouts and where to turn to get on I 75. A big encouraging sign is up that says “New traffic pattern ahead.”
I can see the new road next to me as I maneuver the old one. It’s right there, but I can’t ride on it yet. I’m not sure what it will be like. I imagine it will take a little while to get used to its new curves and turns. It might even be scary and confusing at the beginning. But once I’m used to it, I think I will love it.
Do you see the correlation?
I’m getting ready for this new road in my life, but meanwhile, I’m savoring the lessons I’ve gleaned on the old one. I’ve learned to slow down and take my time, to give others the benefit of the doubt, to trust that the road ahead will get me across to the other side. I will take those lessons with me when the new way opens up.
When my anxiety starts to kick in, God reminds me that whatever path I’m on, He will be with me. In Psalm 139:5 I read:
“You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” (NIV)
This translation from ‘The Message’ opens it up more:
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
I love this image—God protecting me from dangers sneaking up behind me and at the same time, clearing the way ahead. He’s “got my back”.
Just as the bridge builders have been preparing the new route, God is right now preparing what comes next for me. Even if there are bumps in the road, I know that He will be there with me. I’m plunging ahead with anticipation!