Two months before my 30th birthday I woke up in a full blown panic attack. A producer from the Dr. Phil show (I cannot make this stuff up) had contacted me wanting to know my story with getting ready to turn 30 and the fear that surrounded it. I remember throwing around phrases like “life isn’t what I thought it would be” and “Great Aunt Wanda asks me why I’m not married every time I see her” and sweating. Wait, sweating doesn’t happen until 47. I errantly calmed myself down by saying, “It is ok. At least you aren’t 40 and God would never have you be 40 and single and not a mom.” Sigh of relief. The imagined sweats dissipated. Crisis averted.
I am typing this blog as my cab driver from Bangladesh weaves in and out of Manhattan traffic on a beautiful, cold and sunny MLK day, my 40th birthday, and I’m dressed like a string of colored Christmas lights.
I’m remembering the first summer I lived in NYC – ironically I was 30. My friend Chad and I ventured out into the city and we stopped in the middle of the sidewalk outside of Grand Central and opened up a map. In my mind we screamed tourist and were about two fanny packs shy of being mugged. I was scared to go out of my apartment by myself and the first time that I attempted I accidentally got on an express train and wound up in Harlem at night. Man, did I think that was a good story. White southern girl hits the big city and lands in Harlem at night. I went to staff meeting the next morning to express my grand bravery (and ignorance) to the beloved New York Cru staff to which one said mockingly and hilariously, “Ohhhhh!!! So scary! Harlem!” Harlem is amazing and the people are wonderful and rich in history and pride and beauty. I just had never had that perspective before because I had never been and obviously had no idea what I was talking about, just stereotypes and fear of the unknown.
I have had a lot of time to reflect over the past six months as I have wanted to embrace this new season of 39+366days. Hashtag denial. Many of you have written me letters about what you wish you had known at 40, over 50 of you took a day leading up to and on into next week to pray for me. Some have sent flowers and given gift cards. My family threw me the most beautiful and fun party which 70 people gave up a holiday weekend to drive in for or attend. I have been honored in every way and am deeply grateful and I know that I am deeply loved.
I believe 40, similar to visiting New York, will require some confidence and guts. I always feel small when I first enter The City – a little intimidated and surrounded by the unfamiliar. People either love New York or they hate it. You can look at it as overcrowded, rude, and dirty or you can embrace the culture, the different feel of each neighborhood and realize how much God loves people. This whole process of turning 40 thing will require me to keep looking at it honestly and through a different lens than my 29 year old self having a panic attack.
As I was walking this afternoon, I stopped as I was passing Juilliard. Obviously photography is not my calling. Juilliard was a dream of mine in high school. I wanted to be an actress and win my first Oscar by the time I was 25. Never mind the fact that I really can’t act, nor can I sing well and my attempt at ballet culminated into greatness the day I mastered the Running Man and Roger Rabbit.
God’s dreams are always better. You know what is fun? When my dreams and His are the same. Today I find myself NOT having panic attacks, but walking around the streets of New York singing and waving. Oh yes, people. You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl.
There are no false assurances today, only real ones. Real ones such as this:
When you enter in to the places you thought you would never recover from, you will find something solid. The lie is that there won’t be anything solid for you to stand on. Your fear will tell you to avoid, but when you “go there” you will find yourself more anchored and trusting. You will learn about God and his heart for you and here’s the kicker, your heart for Him. If you follow Jesus, he gave you a new heart. This is the unshakeable foundation of your life – that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, He is trustworthy and has bigger dreams than you could ever dream for yourself, even in the midst of longing, loss, gains, and waiting. Especially in the waiting.
Thank you for sharing in my life. I love you all so very much.
Now consider this 40 horse beaten and dead.