Catch the Moments Between the Bookends


Tina Osterhouse -Moments in Between3

On August 18, I celebrated my fortieth birthday—the bookend of a long and winding decade. Months before my birthday, I’d planned on celebrating with a huge outdoor party in which I could chat and hang out with all my friends and family. As the days crept by, the ache for a big party ebbed and in its place came a simple desire to spend my fortieth birthday with Emm and Lucas, and with John, along with a few close friends and family members. We went to Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle and bought ham and cheese croissants from my favorite French bakery on the cobblestone street near the original Starbucks. We ambled through the market and took pictures, chatted with one another about how much Seattle has grown, and laughed. My friend, Katie, came along and we ran into one of her friends in a shop and talked to him, an Afghan man she’s known for several years. Eventually, we bought crepes and devoured those scrumptious things, and then hiked up to the Cheesecake Factory and met up with a few other family members and enjoyed dinner together.

I decided not to drink alcohol on my birthday. It seemed right to ring in this new decade stone sober. To avoid anything that might numb the joy of celebration and awe, the wonder of this great gift of life.

My mom and sister gifted me some new jewelry, as did John. My kids gave me the first two books in The Game of Thrones series. We ate too much food, particularly tiramisu cheesecake and we went to bed full of food and life, laughter and new memories.

* * *

The summer I turned thirty, my friend and I took my kids to the Oregon coast. I woke early one morning and ended up on a long walk down the beach, all by myself, which for a young mama felt like a freedom I hadn’t experienced in years. Thirty years old felt like dead weight across my shoulders, as if time itself was strewn across me. It was time to grow up, time to become a full woman, no longer a child. My feet pressed down on the moist sand, the sun rose around me, the wind whipped and whirled, and the water crashed, rolled, and lapped. Eventually, I sat down and tucked my knees underneath my chin. The salt air prickled my nose, the damp air cleaning out my sinuses. I wiggled my toes into the sand and sat in stillness for a long time.

I spent over an hour in the sand that morning, alone on the beach, reflecting on my twenties, on what I’d accomplished, and on my relationship with God. I talked with God about it. As I listened to the crashing of the sea, to the wind against my freckled, sensitive skin, to the rush of seagulls diving down for their morning meals, I realized what I wanted to ask God for my birthday.

My twenties were ten years of me trying to prove myself to God. They were ten years of me trying to be seen, to make myself significant, to be the Christian hero and have people notice me. In my twenties I wanted people to know I mattered, that I was important, that I was a woman of great faith.

As I crested into a new decade, I asked God for something new. “If my twenties were years when I wanted to be known by people, for my faith, for my exuberance, and for my love for God, I want my thirties to be a decade when you know me. I want this next season of my life to be about intimacy with God.”

If there is ever a silent sigh we receive from heaven, that was a moment when I felt like God sighed at the request, the good sort of sigh. Like I was finally learning the feel of true faith. That faith is about the unseen, not the seen.

So, I set out into my thirties to be intimate with God; to let my whole life with God be about the Psalmist’s plea, “Search me oh God and know my heart …” Now, here I am reflecting on my thirties. The decade of book rejections, unpublished novels, a book deal, a book tour, overseas living, divorce, remarriage, moving from house to house, selling my home and cars, giving my animals away … all the things that make up a life.

At the height of my thirties, my faith crashed like the waves I was staring at on that beach. I didn’t know if I’d ever believe again.

At the height of my thirties, I had to become a woman and bear up under the weight of adulthood. I had no choice but to set the child in me aside; no choice but to lay aside childish thinking and take responsibility for my own life as never before.

At the height of my thirties, I lifted my eyes to the hills and acknowledged from whence cometh my help.

At the height of my thirties, it wasn’t that God knew me any better than God already did, but I knew me. I discovered my own heart, my own dear life in the dust of shattered dreams, of ruins I never anticipated.

So, what do I want as I enter the decade of my forties?

Here is what I want … To catch the moments in between the important ones.

I want to notice and feel the holy in what seems unimportant and insignificant to so many, those moments I walked straight through during my twenties, rushing to greatness. The ones I tried to avoid in my thirties for fear of vulnerability and loss, for fear of rejection and exposure.

I am most certainly a woman now, not a child. I am no longer afraid to be me. I am no longer riddled with feelings of guilt for not being enough or for my imperfections. I am grown—strong and vulnerable, well-acquainted with my own achingly beautiful humanity, with my sorrows and pains, with the fears that creep into my soul in the middle of the night and steal sleep, with my heart. Yes, I am well acquainted with my own heart.

As I enter the decade of my forties, I want to live from the deep wellspring of life, love from a rich place of hope, rest in the goodness of God, and enjoy all that is mine in the land of the living.

Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.
Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse

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