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Someone once said that at age 50, you have the face you deserve. Now, who that someone was is up to debate: Some say Coco Chanel, others George Orwell. Some give the nod to Lincoln (and change the “expiration date” to 40 instead of 50). One website even credits Joan Collins with the witticism. Me, I tend to be Team Coco. It sounds like the sort of thing she would have said, perhaps between designing chic little black dresses and scolding people about their accessory choices.

I’ve had cause to consider this quotation as I stare down the barrel at the rapidly approaching bullet that is my 50th birthday. Do people really have the faces they deserve? One could argue that money, as usual, effects exceptions to the rule — if one has a clever plastic surgeon, that is. It would also be appropriate to note that life isn’t fair, and the results of this unfairness often show up on the kindest and best of visages. When my brother was just barely out of toddler-hood, he cracked his head open after tripping on a jump rope (to be fair, my sister and I were chasing him). He has the scar to this day. I have a similar scar on my lower lip, the product of a childhood incident with a sharpened pencil and prolonged spinning. (What was I thinking? Knowing me, I was thinking the pencil was a magic wand, and I was a twirling fairy, and, well, splat…an unhappy ending.)

Truly bad things happen to good people, with surprising regularity. Still, one could argue (and I intend to) that none of get what we really deserve. Because someone took the weight for us.

Whether or not you believe in the Adam and Eve story, you must admit that we humans have been both blessed and cursed by Free Will. Given the choice, we often do awful things. Whether those things fall into the category of unlawful fruit-eating or violence against one another, it does not matter. The black mark on our souls is there from the start. Most of us do little to mitigate it.

And that could have been all she wrote. (Not me, silly. I mean “that might have been the last word on the matter.”) Except for three exceptional blessings: Baptism (to wash away Original Sin), Reconciliation (the process of confessing and being forgiven one’s sins) and — most crucially — Christ’s death and resurrection, which guaranteed for all of us the possibility of the most stunningly unearned outcome of all: An eternity with God in heaven.

No matter how unfair life is, to our faces or our fortunes, we have a miraculous reprieve available to us. Jesus suffered and died for us so we, all of us sinners, throughout the ages, could have the very best of presents: More time, the best time, time free from all the petty concerns of this earth.

So maybe I do have the face I deserve. Or not. But I certainly have so much more — the hope of heaven. And that’s a pretty good comfort to cling to, no matter what life throws my way.

A dear family member came by to see me the other day and we had a nice visit. But I noticed that, three or four times during our time together, she was furiously texting.

Some would be offended by someone texting while in their presence, but I’m really not offended.  I just wonder.  Where are they?

I mean, in a sense, they’re not really… anywhere.  They’re not visiting with me.  They’re not in the presence of the friend they’re texting.  It’s almost as if – for that moment, at least – they don’t really exist.  They don’t have a “present” as such, just a kind of in-between.  Not really here, but not there either.

It’s kind of how I feel about turning forty-nine years old.  Yep, today is my birthday, so of course, I’ll be sitting in front of a chocolate cake and chilling all the day long. Diets will be on hiatus, of course.  All other obligations will be on auto-pilot.  It’s going to be a “me day,” for sure!

So I hear tell that “life begins at fifty.” Well… what do I till then? I’ve got a year before life begins?  How am I gonna spend my time, waiting for life to begin? It’s like I’m in limbo!  Life is on hold till next year!  Aah!

Okay, I’m back now.  That’s just a saying, you tell me.  Well thank you.  Life begins right where you are, doesn’t it?

So now that I’ve reached this almost-milestone, part of me wants to say, “yikes!” But the truth is, getting older is a blessing.  Sure, I’d like to have more energy, but I don’t really know that I had that much energy, even in my twenties.  It seemed there was so much to be done.  So much I wanted out of life.  I didn’t realize that I had choices, and that, if I’d looked around me, I really had the whole world in front of me.

It didn’t feel that way.  It felt like I had to go, do, move, get out there, get things done, get on the right track.  It may well have all been pressure I put on myself, but I never felt relaxed and positive.  I felt stressed and my soul felt squashed.

Now that I’m older, and have effectively taken myself out of the “rat race,” I feel so much more hopeful. I get to be myself, knowing God loves me as I am and I don’t have to be anyone but me. My faith is a huge part of that sense of optimism, and I’m grateful to God every day for keeping hold of my hand. It’s been quite a journey, and looking ahead, all I see are blue skies. I’d say I’m ready for the next chapter to begin.

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