It’s still a surprise that it’s 2024, that it’s April, that my youngest is graduating in May, and I’ll turn 50 in July. That COVID began four years ago (that will always be a significant marker of time) and that we will be facing an election of T and B yet again in the fall. Surprising is such a great word to describe what is happening right now and yet it’s all been slowly approaching. Not sure how that dynamic works out that way; slowly, then all of a sudden. Hemingway wrote, “Gradually, then suddenly,” an excerpt from “The Sun Also Rises,” where a character responds to how he went bankrupt. What a true statement for so many of life’s major changes.

How did you learn to read? Gradually, then suddenly. How did you get so big? Gradually, then suddenly. How did you become a mother? Gradually, then suddenly.

It’s not only the realization of how other people see us—especially if they only see us periodically—but it’s the awareness of ourselves; to recognize that we have changed, or the world around us has changed. To step back from our lives for five minutes and take inventory of ourselves. This probably doesn’t happen very often, and maybe that’s why it’s so surprising to see that face in the mirror. The one with the wrinkles, gray hair and weathered face of the girl I used to be. She’s in there somewhere, but I can hardly see her. Even when I look at my husband, I wonder how I haven’t noticed ’til now that he has this new line around his eyes or that gray beard. How long have I been married to THIS guy? I’m sure he thinks the same thing about me (LOL).

“Over and over, we have a million chances to make a fresh start for ourselves.”

I remember turning 39 and dreading my next birthday. My mother and I were discussing this little midlife crisis and she mentioned that as a 60-ish-year-old woman, she thought her 40s were a great time in her life. Perspective is everything, isn’t it? She’s very subtle like that—letting you know that there is room to grow and giving you space to figure it out on your own. Gradually, then suddenly, we grow up. One step at a time, and realistically it’s probably more like one step repeated over and over again until it sinks in. That, too, is surprising—about how long it takes to learn a lesson or pick up a habit that seems relatively simple. And when it does, spring has sprung and a new life has begun. Over and over, we have a million chances to make a fresh start for ourselves. And if you have a person, a group, a church, a space, a routine already in place to stay forward-focused, you’ll have a million more chances to renew and surprise yourself.

What’s to bloom in your garden this spring? What are you working on? What are you dreaming up? What have you set in motion? It starts with something inside. And some courage going forward without knowing the end result. So, here’s a little courage to all the moms and dads whose little one is graduating this May. Gradually, then suddenly, your family is transforming to a time you couldn’t have imagined 18 years ago. Here’s a little courage to every mountain-girl-at-heart who is turning half a century this year, sporting her 1974 t-shirt and rocking it! Here’s some courage to every adult child who is caring for parents as they age and need emotional and physical support.

Our one constant is change in this life, yet the sun rises every morning and spring will bloom once again. It’s the comfort our Mother Earth provides us if we are brave enough to face it all.