I wake up to the sound of an alarm, not a crying baby, on January 24th, 2029. Today I am forty. I roll over and snuggle in close to my sweetie. I’m dressed in layers with socks/sweaters/sweatpants, but he sleeps easily in boxers. He pulls me in close and whispers, happy birthday baby, and we snooze for 15 more minutes.
Joshua is 14, a freshman in high school. Addalynn is 13 and in the 7th grade. Charlie is 11 in the 5th grade. Alexandria is 9 and in the 4th grade.
Bunk beds are the name of the game in the Miehe house. Josh & Charlie. Addie & Lexi. They’ve shared a room with someone their whole lives. The beds are old and rackety. They are marked up with sharpies and quotes and love notes and drawings and song lyrics and Christmas lights. I go knock on my boys room and remind them to shower. I sneak into the girls rooms and brush the hair off of Lexi’s face. Wake up sweeties. How’s the hernia today, Adds?
I go to the next room to check on Liam. He is already up, studying his book of maps. I set his timer for one more minute and after it goes off I take out his morning picture schedule. After years of practice, he is gaining more independence in this area and I am thankful.
My aunt Rita comes up from the basement apartment. She is 74 and starting to slow down. She moved in a few months ago because she wasn’t able to keep up with the cleaning and the yard at her old house. Her gray hair sits piled on the top of her head and she brings her Bible study upstairs. I have forgiven her for her Trump supporting days and we must agree to disagree on all things politics. Other than that, we are best friends.
It’s a busy morning getting our babies ready, together, and sitting at the kitchen table. There is chaos and bickering as we get breakfast poured (from cereal boxes, obviously) and orange juice dispensed. Kids are throwing papers in backpacks and I am reminding each one to grab their homework.Thankfully my sweetie has mastered the Thomas art of coffee making and our cold brew sits ready in the fridge.
Finally, we sit down to my birthday breakfast. Meal time is our favorite part of the day. We decided not to spend a lot of money on furniture when we first bought our house. Our beds are hand-me downs from our parents. The couches were free on craigslist. Mirrors that hang on our high walls were from the thrift store. Decorations are slim and spaces sit empty. We are okay with that.
But our kitchen table and chairs. That was an investment. We spent years paying it off. Our rectangular table is twelve feet long and stretches across either end of the kitchen. Each person has their own special place. Addie sits on a bright red wooded chair covered in a floral pattern. Charlie painted his chair black and glued Star Wars characters up and down the legs. Josh sits on music notes and lyrics from his favorite songs. Liam chose a giant yellow exercise ball. Rita has a seat she brought from her old home. Lexi has a green chair with an over sized cushion covered in frogs and sunshine. Nick and I share a turquoise, velvet, loveseat at the center of the table.
There are giggles coming from the kitchen and soon I hear the song begin. Josh brings in a huge tower of donuts covered in flickering birthday candles. Not quite 40, but it seems close. My people sing loudly with their braces and acne and missing teeth and gray hair and man buns.
I look around the table and my heart swells. This is forty.
Forty feels like freedom. I have Love Warriored all of the truth out of me and I sit with Jesus in the light. Shame is not the boss of me. Redeeming Blood is.
Forty is romance. It’s making out in the garage and on the porch and on the kitchen table. It’s date night, soooo many date nights. It’s the same page. It’s peace and gentleness and kindness. It’s an overflowing outpouring love. Forty is the best sex of my life.
Forty is strong. It looks like showing up to my yoga mat. Every damn day. It’s dance classes with my sweetie and couples yoga and burlesque and belly dancing. I’m not really interested in working out unless it’s sexy. Let’s be realistic.
Forty is a career. It is work I love with people I love. It’s strong and solid behavior analysis. It late night coffee while pouring over art projects and blog posts and poetry. It’s building something and changing lives, even if the only life I am changing is my own.
Forty is learning. It’s reading all the books. It’s listening to all the podcasts. It’s being a good question asker to all the people. It’s inviting everyone in and letting them teach us. Forty is thirsty for knowledge.
Forty is music. It’s piano lessons and marching band practice and choir concerts and summers scheduled around drum corps and dubstep. Forty is sleeping through the symphony while my family sits on the edge of their seats with tears in their eyes.
Forty is ministry. It’s the sound of 7 college students laughing in my living room. It’s jokes and secrets and plans about the future. Its hands on heads praying for peace and direction as each of them bounce through their early twenties. It’s sharing my hard and vulnerable stories and speaking truth. It’s Josh walking up and down the stairs twelve times to “get a drink of water” and smile awkwardly at the older women.
Forty is theology. A growing and changing and moving faith. It’s a church that preaches truth. She sings, everyone belongs, everything is redeemed, It’s all being made new, so are you. Come eat bread and drink wine and let’s bring the Kingdom to earth.
Forty is home. It tastes like Nick cooked meals. It smells like coffee. So much coffee. It sounds like dance parties in the kitchen whenever possible. It is a phone free and tablet free and conversation filled community. It is music on the speakers and friends in the kitchen and neighbors on the deck and babies spilling out the seams and bottles of wine. So much wine.
Forty is motherhood. It’s picking a kid up from school and then going to breakfast and a movie. It’s ten year old world adventures. It’s teaching babies how to be kind and brave and reminding them that nothing else matters. It’s being a host home. Foster parents. Adoptive parents. Inviting everyone in. All the people. All the time. It’s whispering We have more chairs at our table. We have more space to put bunk beds. Everyone belongs. Come over.
Forty is coming. It’s twelve years away. It’s thousands of tiny moments and choices and decisions and dreams that are strung together to make my forty year old self.
Ready or not.
Forty is not very far away.
Time to start acting like it.