Turning 40.. (Gasp!)

As I am sitting in my living room this sunny, yet brisk December day, snuggled up in a fluffy blanket my sweet friend bought me, by a cozy (completely fake) fire, sipping on the most amazing cup of afternoon coffee, I catch myself reflecting on life this past year. I am going to warn the reader right here, what I am about to say, may offend some people.  I can almost hear the religious nay-sayers from my old community of church people from my past life saying something to the extent of, “see, this is what happens when you walk away from the truth”.  But I have always made my life an open book, and I have come to the realization over the last six years, that my decisions are my own, and those who want to judge are going to judge me anyhow no matter what I do.  All I can say to that is this, you probably shouldn’t cast stones from a glass house.  Especially, from a glass house sitting on top of a mountain. 

As most of you already know, I spent twenty five years of my life in the United Pentecostal Church organization. That was nearly all of my early childhood, my teenage years, my twenties and part of my thirties. While in the UPC, I clung to the belief that if I followed all the rules and traditions I was a good person. If I walked the line and didn’t get into trouble for wearing something that offended someone, or not giving enough in my tithes and offerings, or missed a church service I would earn my way into God’s favor.  I carried that burden with me for twenty-five years; the burden of perfection. 

I hate to use the term, “missed out” but I did.  I missed out on a lot of innocent, normal, youthful indescretions. And maybe it was for the better.  For the most part, I think it was. I’m sure I was saved from a lot of heartache. However, I never felt the freedom to be myself. I lived caged in the prison of legalism throughout my most formative years and by the time I finally realized I had the freedom to leave that prison whenever I wanted, I was already thirty-three years old. I had no idea what my real personality was like.  I had molded myself and persuaded myself to believe the way I dressed and the way I behaved was genuinely me. When in all actuality, it was a facade. My true personality had been hiding behind the mask of legalism my entire life.  I had no idea who I was. Talk about scary.

Last December, I turned thirty-nine. It hit me like a ton of bricks I was almost forty and had never just let myself be myself.  After being out of the bondage of man-made traditions for five years, I was finally at a point I was confident enough to explore things that I wanted to do. I made a vow to myself to take 2022 for me, and do ALL the things and have ALL the fun!  Even if it felt out of my comfort zone, I was going to do it! I was going to allow myself the freedom to be “wild” for the next year.

And I did!

I hate to disappoint those who foretold of my impending divorce from my husband once I “discovered makeup”. (Actually was a rumor apparently.) I haven’t shaken up my life like that, and I don’t intend to, my husband has been the most supportive man alive. But I did explore new cities, took lots of girl’s trips, danced, drank, got another tattoo, wore “offensive” clothes, gambled, took the time to shop local stores, and even got a new job!  And it was everything I imagined it could be!

I saw Elton John in concert.  I went on a weekend girl’s trip to see Josh Gates and almost got mugged in downtown Milwaulkee.  I took a weekend trip with friends to a small town winery and did nothing but drink wine, take pictures and relax by a firepit all weekend.  I traveled to Hermann, MO and stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast where the elderly owners made us all say our prayers before breakfast.  I took a trip to Orlando during a hurricane with my son, husband and cousin.  I went on a cruise with dear friends I met online and ate authentic Argentinian food prepared by another sweet couple I met online. I have made a point to shop locally and support small businesses, something I never realized the importance of before COVID.  I gathered up my courage and found a new job, one where I feel appreciated as an employee and have minimal stress, which I love.  I started a podcast and YouTube channel with Jereme and our friend Gary. And to top it all off, my husband and friends threw the most amazing, thoughtful surprise weekend for me in Nashville for my big birthday, where so much debauchery happened in good fun I will never, ever forget it!

I say all of this to say, will I make a habit of this lifestyle? Nope, I’m too tired to keep up with traveling every weekend.  However, I feel like my time of “Rumschpringa” as the Amish call it has taught me some things.  You can meet great people in a bar. I can be independent and travel and still be a good wife and mom.  Gin gives me the worst hangovers.  I can still follow Jesus no matter where I go, and Jesus still loves me no matter what I do.  And I have value as a person no matter what my past or my age. 

What does the next year have in store?  I have no clue. I’m sure it will envolve less traveling. I do know, however, my daughter is turning twenty-one next year, so I know I will encourage her to stay safe, be responsible, but also enjoy herself.  I want her to do all “the things” before she starts her life as an official “adult”. 

Maybe you are of the persuasion a Christian shouldn’t do such things, and perhaps you’re right. Maybe I am driving the bus to hell, as I’ve been told.  But, from what I can see, Jesus hung out with “sinners” and ordinary people more than he did the religious folk of his day, and I love that attribute of him.

If you find yourself where I was, feeling like you need to let loose or you’re going to explode, please know, there will be no judgements coming from me, I get it, I see you. But now that I’m going to be officially middle age, I think I will be reaching more for my fuzzy slippers on the weekends than my dancing shoes. And I feel okay with it.

Although, it is still on my bucket list to learn how to line dance……..

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