Growing Newer

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

I turn 40 next month, the official gateway to a place called "over the hill."

My husband smirks when he reminds me. He’s got one hand on the steering wheel, and his other hand squeezes my knee. I give him a gentle punch to the arm.

“Hush, old man,” I retort. “You beat me to it anyhow.”

He steers the car down our country lane. Gravel crunches under the tires. We drive past a long row of hay bales, stacked end to end, then past a mailbox affixed with three letters—LEE. This is how we’ve marked our tiny piece of the planet.

I didn't figure on being a farmer's wife at age 40. I imagined our name on a mailbox outside of a Manhattan brownstone—or at least somewhere with stoplights and a Target nearby.

But here? Where a row of bales serves as a natural fence, a farmer’s way of keeping snow off the driveway in winter?

Yes. This. This is home. Home is where my man’s chore-clothes churn in the wash bin, filling the laundry room with the scent of livestock. Home is where a Polly Pocket village spreads across the living-room floor. Home is where the neighbor’s pot-bellied pig ventures daily to our yard, and where yipping coyotes outside my bedroom window make me laugh at 2 a.m.

Our 10-year-old girl quoted it to me this week: “Mommy, did you know that money can buy you a house, but it can’t buy you a home?”

True, enough. And money can make you a living, but it can’t make you a life.

I lean back into the head-rest. I smile the way a person smiles when she looks back to realize that sometimes, the greatest gift came when your biggest dreams didn’t come true. I’d like to think that if we’d ended up in the city, I’d have done the same—that I would have leaned back, smiling contentment.

“Who could have guessed it?” I ask, sweeping my arm toward fields tended by Lee men for 125 years.

My man—-with work-worn hands, a shelf stacked with seed-corn caps and a law degree tucked in the filing cabinet—-shakes his head and laughs.

“We had very little to do with this, you know,” he says, adjusting his cap. “Everything is God-willing.”

His words fill me with both comfort and uneasiness. Comfort, because his words suggest that everything passes through God’s hands first. Uneasiness, because it means I don’t have as much control as I thought.

But I know he's right. I know I'm not being strung through life by a Puppeteer. Yet, history suggests I'm not in control. Sure, we’ve got plans for the next year, and the next decade. But much of life is unknown, falling into the category he calls "God-willing."

We drive past our country church, silhouetted against the setting sun. Out the corner of my eye, I see the cemetery—our cemetery.

We talk about it as we drive: what would happen if one of us dies early? He reminds me of the folder marked "important documents," where I'd find details about life insurance and our pig inventory. I remind him that he'd need to learn how to make oatmeal and ponytails.

Maybe we're being overly dramatic. But it does seem natural to take stock of life when you reach the halfway point, statistically speaking. I know some people approach 40 with ambivalence. Perhaps life didn’t turn out like they thought it would. But then again, whose life does?

Some say 40 is the new 30. Me? I’m fine with 40. I'm growing older, but in some ways, I'm growing newer. I wake each morning with these six words on my lips: "What are we doing today, Lord?"

I don't know how many days I've got left. But I do know that I have this one.

I reach down to put my hand on the hand of a farmer. And I pray that I will do the same thing tomorrow, God-willing.

Image by Maira Gallardo. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Jennifer Dukes Lee.