by Lois Flowers
“Don’t wish your life away.”
My mom used to tell me this quite frequently—when I was expressing my desire to be done with high school or college, or when I was looking forward to the end of summer so I could quit my job at the swimming pool and return to school.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect she was encouraging me to focus on the present. To be content where I was. Not to be so obsessed with planning ahead that I missed out on what was going on right in front of me.
As I look back over my life, I find it interesting that I remember so many of my dad’s wise words, but not as many of my mom’s. Maybe that’s because most of what I recall from my dad came during my adult years, while my mom’s input was earlier.
Also interesting is how what she said is coming back to me now—at a time when my own girls are the age I was when she used to say those things to me.
At 16 and 19, my daughters are looking forward to the future and planning out all the things. Dreams are plentiful; expectations are high.
Personality plays a role in this, of course. But mostly, it’s a season-of-life thing. This is the age—especially for the one who is almost 20—when the possibilities are endless and it all feels like it needs to be done at once.
If it weren’t this way, I might be concerned.
Still, I’ve never been down this road as a parent. It’s fun and rewarding to watch all the processing and anticipating. But it’s also tricky, in so many unpredictable ways.
I’m trying to learn, as I listen, to hold my tongue. I’m trying to remind myself that the truths I’m finally starting to understand at 50—about letting tomorrow worry about itself, about holding things loosely, about casting my cares on Jesus and trusting that He really will direct my steps—are not necessarily the lessons my daughters are learning now, at least not in the same ways.
I pray that they will, eventually.
But I also remember how it’s been for me. I didn’t just start learning these things when I turned 50. It’s been a process of continuing education for several decades, through trials and struggles ranging from infertility and early menopause to job losses during economic downturns and watching my parents decline and die within five weeks of each other.
Each of these scenarios has come with its own set of challenges. Each has exposed different weaknesses and opportunities for growth in me. Each has deepened my faith and increased my reliance on God.
I have no idea what my girls will go through in the coming decades that will grow them, draw them closer to Jesus, increase their trust in Him and lessen their dependence on their own ability to plan every detail.
God is in charge of all that, thankfully. As Psalm 138:8 promises, He will fulfill His purposes for them, just as He continues to do for you and me.
The only thing I can say with a fair amount of certainty is that some of the circumstances in their lives that produce this fruit will be unexpected and difficult.
And here’s something else to consider—something that hit me like a ton of bricks the other day when it first occurred to me.
It’s quite possible some of my daughters’ most important life lessons will come at my expense.
It happened that way with me. Alzheimer’s dementia. Congestive heart failure. Both parents sharing a room in the nursing home. Two funerals in two months.
If I’ve learned anything from all that, it’s that we need to throw away all our expectations of how our latter years are going to go and just live life as joyfully, healthfully and productively as we can now.
Not that we don’t plan and prepare, of course. But if any of that—or a whole different set of tribulations—happens to me, I hope my girls take advantage of the learning opportunity it provides. I hope they mine the experience for all it’s worth (and it will be worth a great deal, whatever it is, because God is the One who directs the courses of all our lives).
As I peer up and down the corridors of time, I remember something else: I wasn’t privy to all the challenging seasons in my own parents’ lives. I wasn’t paying much attention when I was growing up, and in my early adult years, I was busy building my own life.
But I do know that some of the most significant trials they went through happened long after they turned 50. I also know that, as a result of these trials, their faith was enlarged. Their prayer life—which was already robust—was strengthened even more. They grew in compassion, empathy and patience.
What this tells me is that my growing years—as well as yours, no matter your age—are likely not over either. I’m guessing they won’t be over until we draw our last breath. (I hope not, anyway.)
Here’s the thing, though. I’m not spending a lot of time fearing what’s next anymore. (I wasted enough time doing that in my younger years, only to have several of the most serious items on my list come true, in ways I never could have predicted.)
Instead, I’m praying that God would teach me and my loved ones to number our days, so that we may gain hearts of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
Maybe, after all this time, I’ve finally learned not to wish my life away. And I can’t help but think my mom would be happy about that.
This piece first ran here.
Lois Flowers is mom to two lovely daughters and wife to one good man. She’s an author, former journalist and lifelong Midwesterner who values authenticity, loves gardening and is trying to break her habit of always reading the end of the book first. You can connect with her on Twitter (@loisflowers16) or Instagram (loisflowers). She also blogs regularly at loisflowers.com.