today bella learned a new word: wrinkle. like any young child learning language, bella loves to point at all of the body parts and name them with confidence - sometimes with gusto! we have pretty much covered all of the basics. she's got the eyes, nose, teeth, ears, head, hair thing down pat. in quiet moments when i am holding her she loves to move her fingers across my face and identify each feature. she is so proud of herself. today as she was running her fingers from my cheek to my mouth she came across a little indentation. i'd like to repeat the adjective, little. i felt her fingers stop. she looked up at me with wide eyes and asked, "that mama?" i sighed and answered weakly, "umm...yeah, that. well, that is called a wrinkle, bella." her smart fingers moved to the other side of my mouth. she sort of gasped. how delightful, mommy had two of them...one on each side! brilliant! the deal with bella, though, is that when she gets something...she really gets it. it sticks. and just like those wrinkles are stuck on either side of my mouth...this word is now deeply implanted in her vocabulary. she has continued to impress me, over and over again, today with her new word. i have heard it a half a dozen times or so already. wrinkle. wrinkle. wrinkle. wrinkle. except really it sounds more like, winkle. winkle. winkle. winkle.
well, okay. yes, mommy has a wrinkle...or two. believe it or not, i've also noticed. i am not completely despondent over this realization. in fact, i am attempting to look on the bright side. these two wrinkles are merely a couple of laugh lines. they are not battle wounds, they are not worry lines, they are not traces of anxiety or evidence of a hard, harsh life. but nonetheless, i am not entirely pleased when i apply my make up each morning. i am not always thrilled at the end of the day when i scrub my face clean and scrutinize it in my mirror. i am completely aware these lines grow deeper by the day and i also know they will soon be joined by other similar friends already beginning to set up camp.
i am not all that fond of wrinkles on my body or, for that matter, wrinkles anywhere. i don't much like them. i don't like them in my clothes, my pie crusts or in my plans. i definitely don't like them on my face. but wrinkles just happen to be something we get. they happen to come with the territory of living. there is no such thing as a wrinkle free life. trust me, i've tried...i've looked...i've imagined. i can get up on any given morning with the best intentions and the most fabulous plan for my day. but chances are, it will end up looking a little differently than my original blueprint and dreamt up ideal. why is this so hard for me to accept. at 42 years of age, i have lived long enough to see not only wrinkles near my mouth, but to see them daily in my doings. as much as i know this is how life works, i still seem to be thrown off. i still cock my head and wonder what in the world just happened. i wouldn't argue terribly with you if you accused me of having a few control issues. i am sure i have a bit of that in me. i don't have to control all things...but i definitely have my list of what i want to be in charge of. my mom, who never curses, does swear she knew this about me by 18 months of age when she was already having knock-down-drag-out battles with me over my clothes. 18 months. yes. believe it. i can remember one war over a pair of red corduroy pants at about age 10. it is amazing we both survived. i just wanted my way. that was it. that was all. was it so much to ask at age 10? we want that often, don't we. we just want our way - (insert emphatic stamp of foot)! my problem, or so i've been told, is that i usually think my way is the best way. and that is part of the reason why i have such a hard time with wrinkles. they are usually not part of my grand and (i'd like to think) most eloquent plan.
motherhood has taught me a lot about wrinkles. it has also, i might write, added a few. i didn't get that right from the start. it took me a while. when i was pregnant with our oldest, emily, i would sit in her nursery and rock in anticipation. anticipation of the Perfect Life we would have as parents. i dreamed and dreamed and dreamed. i dreamed about soft skin and warm baths and tiny fingers. i dreamed about tea parties and ballet slippers and bike rides. i imagined her happily cooing and merrily murmuring underneath the beatrix potter mobile hanging above her pillow. i pictured her sleeping soundly in the white, wooden crib awaiting her tiny self. and you know what happened: all of that. all of that has taken place at some point or another with emily or one of the other four children. there have been many wonderful mother~child moments. we have shared pages of life right out of a storybook. BUT we've also had our wrinkles. i had never thought to dream of those though. i didn't really imagine them or plan for them or even expect them. but they came, and boy, do they continue to come! we've spilled tea at the parties, lost many ballet slippers, and had a few bike rides end with skinned knees and bruised egos. emily didn't always sleep soundly. when i was trying to encourage her to sleep through the night, i can remember sitting in the hallway outside of her nursery while she cried and cried and cried. i sat in that hallway and cried and cried and cried too. somehow, i had never pictured a night spent like that. i remember putting emily under that sweet beatrix potter mobile only to have her whimper in fear of the spinning, pastel colored animals. sometimes things just don't go as planned. it was 15 years ago this month that i sat waiting in that rocker for the birth of our first child. she has been with us all these years and we've added a few others along the way. with each one i have learned, over and over again, to expect wrinkles. don't get me wrong. i still sit and dream for my children. i have grand dreams about their futures and big desires for their lives...but i am learning to embrace the wrinkles along the way. none of us escape. we are all prey to the pesky, unwanted, and often untimely occurrence of bumps in the road. truly, i am beginning to understand we are better for them. they teach us something we'd never get from wrinkle-free living. we learn how to persevere. we learn patience. we learn about the need to give and accept grace. wrinkles have taught me how to be resourceful and flexible and, sometimes, just how to be thankful.
sometimes it is easy to believe when you begin to follow Christ all of a sudden life becomes rosy and perfect and wrinkle-free. not so. when Christ promised New and Abundant Life He wasn't promising things to be easier...or smoother...or kinder. but He did promise them to be better. better in His terms, not ours. key point. those wrinkles which come along, well, He even uses those to shape us and grow us and refine us. honestly, think about it: what would we be like if everything just always went our way. what would be like if all we touched turned gold and all we sought we found? it sounds kind of lovely, i know. but let's face it, we'd be spoiled. we'd feel entitled. we'd probably be obnoxious. no, sometimes following Christ means hard stuff. it means alienation. it means rejection. it can even mean persecution. think back to the martyrs...talk about some major wrinkles. geezsh! and yet they were set before us to show God's amazing grace and constant faithfulness even in a Plan B world. many of them wouldn't have chosen the path they walked, except they were certain God was on it. He was ahead of them. behind them. alongside them. He even carried them. the path wasn't smooth or easy for them...it isn't always smooth and easy for us...but if the God of the universe walks with you, it is, indeed, the right path.
i don't know. i am pretty sure i would have been terrible at the martyr thing. my daughter runs her fingertips across a wrinkle on my face and i have to immediately dash to the closest mirror and check its size. has it grown deeper? more pronounced? more obvious? should i buy a cream? a gel? call a specialist? yikes - what's an aging woman to do! but when the panic has ceased and the calm returns (as much as it can), i am able to look back into that truth-telling mirror and know my life might not be wrinkle-free, but because of Him, i am free. my skin might not ever be perfect, but He loves me perfectly, wrinkles and all.