I celebrated a birthday this week. I don’t feel any older. They say your personality is formed in early childhood. I don’t feel any different than when I was young. I’m a little more confident, a little more humble, a little more mature. Hopefully I’m a little more patient with people, but I’m basically still me.
I’m still an introvert who acts like an extrovert because… that’s what you’re supposed to be, isn’t it? I still love music and books.
I’m still fascinated by other cultures and committed to showing the love of Christ to those who are different from me. I still hate shopping and would rather not spend money than have to worry about balancing the checkbook. I haven’t changed…much. But sunrise follows sunset and before you know it your kids are grown, and you’re married to a grandfather.
Okay. I admit, there have been changes along the way. My husband, Steve, (who really IS an extravert) has pushed me to make new friends and go a zillion places I probably would never have gone without him. My college roommate, Beth, taught me to love needlework and cooking homey foods. My children taught me to be less selfish, more sensitive to other’s needs. As adults they have shown me that someone can see my faults and not stop loving me. I have switched from organizing library books to writing them, from reading them to my own children to reading them to African orphans. And that latent love of skating that visualized lines of plumed and sequined skaters from Holiday on Ice when I heard classical music as a child has translated into the joy of disciplining my body to actual do it.
Several birthdays ago I remember thinking the number of candles on my cake was getting a bit much. It was one of those big birthdays that end in zero. It would be nice to be ten years younger, I thought. Then I asked myself which ten years I would like to give up?
My first thought was to start by scrapping the six years in Mozambique. They were definitely the most difficult of my life—shooting at night, mines on the beach, rationed food, poverty on every side and a church full of people who simply didn’t think the way I thought. But… We met the Guimaraes family in Mozambique and the Malombes. Both families had children the same age as ours. They shared our spiritual commitments and our vision. We’ve been close friends for twenty-five years now.
I learned a lot about trusting God in Mozambique, about people who did and endured, about pushing myself beyond what I thought I could do. In many ways it made me who I am as I come to this most recent birthday. If life had brought me nothing but comfort and good times, I would be weak and shallow, unable to identify with hurting people around me. Besides, my first published book was based on experiences there. Without it I might never have been an author.
Sure, there’s a day here and there I wouldn’t mind skipping, but years? No. I’ll be content to accept the years I have and face next year’s big 6-0. More than content—I thank God for them, and look forward to what he has for me in the years to come.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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