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Another “trip around the sun” is coming up: a landmark trip…yes, I have entered MEDICARELAND…and I am literally “feeling” my age.  Now that I’m officially on the “other side of the hill” birthday gifts are intangible moments, birthday decorations are the wrinkles and grey hair that bear witness to many of those past, intangible and full moments…and I am filled with gratitude.

I am happy to know that I am reaching the point where I have lived longer than I will live in the future years (unless I live to be 130-years-old).  Having never been fearful of death, I don’t, at this point, have any desire to live longer than I should…and in fact, am happier to be the age I am than at any other time in my life.

God HAS been, IS now, and WILL be a friend to me, He has gone the “extra mile” for me, and continues to shock me with His graciousness …as little as I have done for Him in return. To be a BELIEVER & FOLLOWER on the “other-side-of-the-hill” means, at times, to look back, to observe God and oneself from a distance, and continue to learn.

I climbed up the hill, aiming to reach the summit quickly…by travelling straight for it. In my rush to reach the pinnacle (to “grow up”) I missed some beautiful sights.  Sure, I had the strength then to grab an outcropping of rock when I needed to and pull myself up.  Yes, I could look back at the sunset of each day and see what I had accomplished.  Of course, it’s good to have goals, make a plan and work the plan, but along the way I MAY have passed up times I didn’t need to move so quickly.  In my effort to go, go, go…I might have missed the goal completely sometimes.  God’s request that I love Him is played out by loving those He has placed in my path – and, unfortunately, sometimes the path was more important than those who took up space on the path.

I find, now that I’m on the other side going down instead of up, I “zigzag” (partially to keep from falling down!)  Now the path is just as steep, but I am going down, not up.  I’ve learned, there is more to be seen and experienced by not racing down the hill.  And the truth is, I’ll reach the bottom when the time is right. Till then, I should enjoy the path and the people on it – not going straight down but covering the entire width of the hill and all it has to offer.

When I climbed UP, my goal was the summit. Searching for a “mountain-top” experience was often the goal of my younger self.  Now I realize that those experiences happen, are serendipitous and not always a result of planning. I’ve learned to accept them and enjoy them when they come.  Now I see the valley below and realize that every part of THE HILL has something to offer.  The path is God’s creation, He has gone ahead of me, and it is cleared and made especially for me. Who am I to deviate from His map?  Getting PAST the summit is the actual goal…partially because the air is so thin at the top, no one could stay there for long.

As my younger self ascended the hill, I had no choice but to empty my pack of things that were too heavy. Now that I am over the summit, I’m finding I do not even miss the things I threw out of my pack – and so, I only hold on to the things that might be helpful to someone else along the way.  I tend to be a hoarder, in part because the things I collect around me have meaning and are memory-holders.  But, in truth, my age has brought me to the stage telling me how little I need.  Also, my joy, my life, my journey, is more fulfilling (once again) when I pay attention to the people and places on the path – it’s good to have things with you that connect you with those people and places.  Connection with others is the important thing.

Now that I am closer to valley, I can see “a gate” at the bottom of the hill. I’ve always known “the gate” was there, but now (like everyone on this journey of life) I SEE it more clearly. Truthfully, I can see that the path contains a series of hills, of summits and valleys, but I didn’t enjoy the wisdom of that until I got “over-THE-hill”.  And as I had been climbing up, my thought was that my life would end once I got TO the summit…but now that I am OVER the summit, I’m glad to see that there is still more, and there will be more, forever more (“The road goes ever on…” J.R.R. Tolkien)especially once I walk THROUGH “the gate” to the garden…in the valley.

I am thankful to everyone whose paths have crossed mine, who are walking the path with me, who sometimes carry my pack for me, who guard me when I sleep, and mend me when I fall.  To the ones who travel with me, by blood or by choice, I am who I am because of you and your love.  And to The Great Shepherd who leads and asks me to follow: I am just beginning to make out the melody You’ve been singing, and look forward to a continuing journey filled with many more years on this path, and unfathomable moments beyond the gate.