It’s the start of new month. Growing up, February marked the beginning of spring in Phoenix. The “snow birds” arrived from the frozen north, wearing their shorts and sleeveless shirts as they flocked to the golf courses and swimming pools at the nearby resorts. My mom began planting pansies in the garden and the cushions returned to the patio furniture, from their brief period of storage during December and January.
There are no pansies anywhere in sight here in Michigan, in fact this morning I spent over two hours snow plowing the driveway in hopes of actually seeing the cement again before it was covered once again with more snow. It is cold and winter has a tight grip that I know will last for at least six more weeks and probably eight.
As January ended and February arrived I found myself thinking about my birthday. I am turning 49 and my thoughts centered on the awareness that a decade is coming to end for me this year. My forties will soon be gone and the sense that I am living into “the rest of my life” will have officially started in my mind.
As my friends were watching their kids enter high school and head for college so was I, along with starting all over again as my little girls arrived one just a few months before my 40th birthday and the other before my 42nd.
My forties are when I first heard the phrase, “be kind to yourself.” I had no idea what that meant. I liked the way it sounded but it had no substance for me. I wanted to know what it meant and what it would look like for kindness to be part of my life.
It wasn’t easy to find answers to my questions about kindness. I asked my friend who first used the phrase with me and she encouraged me to write my thoughts about it, whatever surfaced inside me as I considered it more.
I did that. As I wrote I learned what my own heart held as true about kindness, where I had felt it surface in me, often as a result of it being offered by someone loving me well.
Kindness is honoring.
Kindness allows for feelings.
Kindness names the truth.
Kindness is connecting, with myself and with another. It honors my feelings and the feelings of others. When it is welcomed and embraced it bring rest and peace. Kindness is restorative.
As I lived into the reality of my life as the mother of 5, with an age spread of 17 years, pastor’s wife and continued my own ministry the need for kindness became greater than ever before. My pattern of powering through and having an endless capacity was wearing thin; I could no longer be that super woman and remain true to the woman who was emerging in my heart.
Kindness meant creating more space in my life. It meant paying attention to my heart and what it was saying to me, listening to my body and its need for rest and care. It meant saying no more often, creating new boundaries and honoring them. It meant disappointing people and being disappointed.
As I look back over the past ten years and all that has changed I am stunned and surprised by what has unfolded inside of me.
During my 40’s:
I had a brush with death the day my fourth child was born, hers and mine.
I did some serious work on discovering who I am deep down in my heart of hearts.
I fell more in love my husband.
I tasted incredibly sweet moments in ministry and saw the beauty of the gospel change the lives of many twenty-something’s in Texas.
I was the matron of honor for the first time in my life, something I’d always hoped to be, for a dear friend.
I enjoyed the deepening of many friendships, and I mourned the loss of others.
I left the house I’d lived in longer than any other in my life and moved for the 21st time in my life.
I held many secrets for others and told many of my own.
I started a blog and the blog turned into a ministry and the ministry birthed Red Tent Living.
During my 40’s the kindness I received and the kindness grown within me changed me more than any other period of time in my life.
Today is my 49th birthday and I will celebrate, this life I’ve been given and the beauty that has been birthed and nurtured in me by all those who have shown me great kindness and loved me well.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). Married for 26 years, she is mother to five kids. After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.