I turn forty in a few months. I type that shaking my head, with eyes wide. Wow. How did that happen? Every birthday after I turned twenty-five has come with a slice of cake and a side of anxiety. Nothing stops aging. No amount of Botox, eye cream, or dieting stops the inevitable process.
My arm skin is wiggly, my eyebrows wonky, and my face is starting to sag. My teeth are moving, and I reach for the railing when I go downstairs. Aging is weird, and no one really talks about it. People talk about how to stop aging or how to reverse the process. I live with a constant state of low-grade anxiety about growing older, buy the magical face cream at Target, and secretly dread July 14th. Happiness is something I’ve always been afraid of. True, deep-down, all-out excitement actually scares me. Letting my heart fully experience the moment is something I resist. I’m reluctant to enjoy the moment because I know I can’t keep it. It’s so fleeting. Life is moving like a bullet train. I can’t do anything to slow it down. I’m afraid of death. I’m afraid of pain. I’m afraid of dying alone, in panic, gasping for air. I’m afraid of leaving my loved ones behind and the unknowns of the afterlife. I’m scared of squandering my life. These are big, gaping black holes I don’t know how to deal with.
It’s an anxiety that makes me want to avoid anything aging-related. But I let the tension fill my lungs. I stay with my fears without tucking them under my to-do list or behind busyness. I whisper prayers to Jesus. Death is scary. Terrifying, really. I don’t know how I will die; I just know that I will. I have to live in the vulnerable trust that God will continue to carry me into eternity the way He has carried me since birth.
Fear might tag along with me all the way till the end, but I don’t want it to stop me from being alive. I want to savor life without the constant fear of it slipping away. The only way I can combat my anxiety is with gratitude. It’s the pathway from knowing God is with me to experiencing peace in my soul that He actually is with me. It’s the only way. So, I breathe in deep, breathe out slowly, heart open, and give thanks.
I give thanks for the sweet smell of my afternoon tea. I relish the spice-infused flavors, warmth, and jump-start it gives my body to keep going. I thank God for the twinkle lights like touchable stars above our backyard table. Elbows knocking, children chattering, the salty taste of corn fresh from the grill, and devoured watermelon leaving behind life-sized smiles all burst my heart open in praise. I savor. I give thanks. I applaud the Maker of the universe for making moments just like these.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I don’t want my fear to be a deterrent from all that this moment holds. So I’m going to bake cookies even when I have a tendency to burn them and buy pretty paper and write long letters to faraway friends. I will experience life through movement and soul-gasping beauty and sounds that make me actually feel something. I’m going to enjoy creation, believing that God is enthusiastically making the world go around and around for the mere delight of directing His own cinema for people to watch with awe, excitement, and wonder. I’m going to make eye contact with myself in the mirror and give thanks for another day at life. I’m growing older and into a more beautiful version of myself. I’m becoming who I’ve always been meant to be. I am so much more faithful, brave, and forgiving. I’m so much more kind, gracious, and whole.
I’ve always looked at growing older with doom, but in reality, it is my destiny. Growing old is the goal. The goal for me is to give this one life I’ve been given everything I’ve got. It is to leave a legacy of love. I’ll point to the later years of my life and fall forward. I will savor it and be savored in it. I’ll turn forty and be the one singing loudest, taking every moment in. I’m certain I’ll still be afraid, but no matter what, I’ll be saying “thank you” over and over. I’ll say it until I lose my voice. I’ll say it until my skin is translucent and my legs shake. I’ll say it with every passing year and up to my dying breath. Breathe in: Savor. Breathe out: Thank you.
Stay is a tender call to enter, to open, and to experience the echoing darkness buried beneath piles of mail and laundry and years of pain. This is a call to follow the fears and frustration to the unknown, frightening places inside. This is an invitation to let Jesus pull out a chair at the table of your soul and hear Him say, “Stay, you and your heart sit down.” Stay is about how Anjuli learned to become a little girl again, asking a big God if He could stay with someone small like her.
What a timely message to hear! We’re excited to celebrate the upcoming release of Stay on March 31. Preorder Stay on Amazon, and to add to the fun, we’re giving away FIVE copies of Stay today!
Tell us what the word stay means to you in the comments below for your chance to win!
**Giveaway closes on 3/30/2020. Winners will be notified via email.
Gratitude is the pathway from knowing God is with me to experiencing peace in my soul that He actually is with me. #staybook -Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet