Happy Birthday to Me!

Wow. Turning 71 years old … actually that means I will be in year 72! I still like gifts. And coconut cake is the best! Either Lyn’s homemade recipe or Sam’s Club. Sam’s is huge and yummy. Seems parts of me will never grow up. Though most parts have grown out!

The story goes that when I was born the cord was around my neck. I was known as a ‘blue baby’. When I pinked up my Dad wanted to call me Cherry. My mother let him choose the middle name Cheryl.

I have been clinging to this verse for several years.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come. Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?

Psalm 71:17-19 NRSV

Today I was directed to this one!

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Isaiah 46:3-4 NRSV

Repeatedly EVEN TO …. old age and gray hairs! Seems like a happy birthday wish to me!

In 2009 I wrote this story about a turtle at the pond. The photos were taken in July, but I think the story is perennial. This is how some of my prayers and insights evolve.

I came upon a turtle at the pond today. I missed her completely the first time I walked past. She was totally camouflaged by duck weed. The lily leaves were withering and the ones left standing placed shadows around her similar to the shape of her shell. I took one photo and drew closer to the water’s edge for another, hoping she would not slip into the water and vanish completely from my sight.

I posed no threat as she remained in her position on the log. I began to realize that she must be a very old turtle by her size. As I changed my position along the shore, I could see her more clearly.

I noticed the lily leaves, first as obstacles to my photographic efforts, and then as tattered, themselves old from a hot summer of sun and storms and wind. I was reminded of the poem I wrote at the Cincinnati Nature Center 19 years ago about the lily pads, and the subsequent admonition from the Lord to me, “Perhaps I could ask you just to be a lily leaf. Fill up with mercurial spheres and overflow. Stand and tip. Ponder this My lily shield.”

(To read entire poem see https://wordpress.com/post/treasures-in-plain-sight.org/6669 )

Here I am at the same location these many years later, seeking solace and direction at my current age in my current state.

The next photo attempt brought the lovely lily bloom into my photographic range. I had seen a dropped petal in the weeds along the shoreline. It was fresh and somewhat velvety as I placed it between folds of paper in my journal. When I tried to frame the next photo, the blossom made for good composition. Tired leaves, old turtle, flower blooming, though fading.  Suddenly I was looking at a mini portrait of my life in the very frog pond that inspired me so many years ago. I have been wrestling with the topic of aging with the pain and distress that seem to be increasing in my body as I age. 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 came to mind: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  

I had recently mentioned to my husband that I do not like to grow white roses as the petals begin to darken with the slightest bruising. Here I see a creamy lily flower bearing the beating of sun wind and storms and barely showing the effects in her waxy petals. The aging turtle remained on the log, still enjoying her sunbath, unperturbed by one woman on the shore taking digital photos. The lily leaves though tattered, yet most still erect on their flexible stalks, able to gather a summer shower and tip when the pad is full.

At first glance my negative mind set cries, “Just look at her! Surrounded by decay and destruction! Duckweed hanging on her lovely shell. Leaves decaying and spoiled all around her! All alone on that log!”  Then as I ponder, I realize her wisdom caused her to cover her shell with duckweed to blend in, her courage in taking a sunbath even if the other turtles choose not to, and regardless of her surroundings she is looking up, and even now, the changes in my attitude begin. Upon closer inspection I can see the lovely colors in her neck, the awesome nails and webbing in her feet. The coloring continues around the under-edge of her shell into her legs.

Most importantly, I realize she is looking up, as I am called to do, fixing my eyes upon things eternal.  Letting go of the obvious pain and aging issues, I am able to relax on my favorite bench and simply soak in the pond activity: belching frogs, passing humans, bird song and noonday joy.

“Stand and tip. Ponder this My lily shield.”

May I too have wisdom and courage and the ability to always look up!

One thought on “Happy Birthday to Me!

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