The Wonder Years, Midlife Women, Aging

The Wonder Years: 40 and Even Better

Some mornings, crawling out of bed feels more like crawling out of a car wreck. Arthritic feet and ankles protest against the floor, and I straighten a stiff back mumbling, “I’m too young to feel this terrible.”

Two summers ago, when the gang landed here on Memorial Day I broke my toe playing kick ball. (Let it be known that I DID make it to first base.) All summer, whenever I tried to put my foot into a dress shoe, I was reminded that maybe I should have been more careful. Could I be getting too old to play kickball with abandon?

Leslie Leyland Fields has hung a glorious and fitting banner over these years past the mid-point: The Wonder Years! These are the years in which we may hear (or tell ourselves!) that we are both “too young” and “too old.” However, with gathered wisdom,The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength  shares insight from warrior-women who have lived and loved past the mid-point, offering both a resource and a tribute to women over forty.

Firsts

Crossing the threshold into middle age often frees women to embark upon new, first-time adventures, to explore career options, to pursue possibilities, and to take a few risks. Of course this will look wildly different in every life. Luci Shaw writes beautifully about her heroic 120 mile rowing expedition at the age of 71, while Brené Brown settled into a tamer understanding of creativity and found herself painting gourds.

As Fields explains in her editorial notes:

“There’s no one single party line. You’ll find convincing support to slow down, to speed up, to launch out into new places, ministries, relationships, and ideas. Prepare to be inspired!”

Lasts

Naturally, in the process of moving forward in The Wonder Years, there are burdens and obligations, stages and seasons that are left behind. Shelly Wilder waves the pom poms for menopause, and Michelle Van Loon recalls the moment she cast off the weight of regret she had been carrying over a past decision. Irrational obsession with appearance and youthfulness, perfectionism, and over-commitment all find their way to the discard pile as one by one, wise women share in their essays how they discovered that “even the releases we think look like losses can actually be occasions for greater grace.”

Always

In this fifth decade of life, I know there are some things that will be with me forever:  family, ministry, writing, gardening, gathering people around a table on this country hill. These have all become convictions–activities and responsibilities that have been engraved on my DNA. Several essays in The Wonder Years urge readers to continue this very thing, to lean into whatever brings light and holy joy into the room.

Because loss and pain are also part of the terrain we’re traveling, we can take strength from the experiences of others:  Anne Voskamp shares a story about going forward in spite of a friend’s cruel diagnosis, and Elisabeth Elliot discovered that when pain was all she had, it became the offering she surrendered in thanksgiving to God.

Madeleine L’Engle and Jen Pollock Michel offer compelling thoughts about time and mortality, for part of moving into the second half of life is the challenge to flourish as we hold life’s goodness close, all the while preparing to release it with grace. And so, The Wonder Years are aptly named for, as we tackle aging head-on, we will certainly find plenty to “wonder” about, while also finding an abundance of wonder to embrace, to rejoice in, and to steer us clear of the misconceptions that lurk and beckon down darker paths:

Reject the notion that an empty nest equals loss of purpose!

Disavow the idea that gray hair and a mature face and form render a woman invisible!

Refuse to fall into an “I’m finished” mindset that gives you permission to start living as if it’s all about you!

God has so much more than this for you!
Begin asking Him today to show you what that might be!

Many thanks to Kregel Publications for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The Wonder Years, Midlife Women, Aging

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

84 thoughts on “The Wonder Years: 40 and Even Better”

  1. Yes, I’m right there with you, Michele, in the wonder years. I would never have considered them to be about wondering, but I do wonder a lot these days about how it will be when I meet Jesus in heaven. That’s the best wondering I can think of! Thanks for sharing about these lovely ladies and their thoughts on growing older.

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  2. I love being in the Wonder Years. God continues to convict me that the best is yet to come. I’m not one to claim I’m finished because I now hold the title of retired.

    I love calling these years “The Wonder Years” and even though I don’t need to row 100 miles or climb a mountain, I still feel the call God has on my life and that’s what spurs me forward.

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    1. Yes, this is one of the beautiful features of bringing together 40 very different women to share their thoughts: Everyone’s wonder years will be different. I’ve so appreciated, Mary, the way you’ve written about the gifts and the challenges that have come your way in this season!

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  3. This looks like a great source for gleaning some serious wisdom, Michele! Your post made me smile! Even if you did break your toe playing kickball, at least you were in the game, girl!

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    1. Ha! I sat out the game we played on Easter Sunday after dinner, using the opportunity to hold my sweet granddaughter as an excuse. (It was a great one!) But I don’t want fear of injury to turn me into a spectator in life!

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  4. Michele – This sounds like a great book. I have to admit I cringed a bit when I saw the words, “middle age.” I keep r[pretending it just isn’t true. Have a great day.

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  5. Since I’m in the “wonder years,” I need to locate this book stat! Sounds very helpful. I came over when I found you on Barbara’s blog. I was impressed with your devotion to caring for your mom! That doesn’t sound easy.

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    1. I’m so happy you persevered in tracking me down! I loved Barbara’s post. (I’m assuming you are referring to her words at The Perennial Gen?)
      Those years of caring for Mum were a challenge, and I was certainly inspired when I read Barbara’s story.
      And I’m also glad you enjoyed this review. It’s definitely a collection of encouragement!

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  6. One day when I was in high school, our writing teacher asked us to write about the time in our lives we predicted would be the best. I wrote about my 40’s. The image I had for this decade in which I am living was a far cry from the reality. For one thing, I never would have imagined how physically painful it is to get beyond 40. Still, I would have to say I was right about the most important thing. I am married to an incredible husband and we have 3 daughters whom we love more than life. I did think we’d be empty nesting by now. Still, we should hit that stage before I turn 50. Bless you, Michele!

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    1. It’s so great that you remember that long-ago assignment. My life is not one bit like I would have predicted in high school, and that’s mainly because I didn’t have the good sense or the optimism to ask God for the wonderful blessings He’s heaped upon me in my forties. We still have a teen in our midst and a college guy that comes and goes, and we’re in our fifties! Maybe it’s keeping us young? (Or exhausted?) At any rate, we’re blessed, and I’m thankful you shared that great memory!

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  7. I had not thought of this season as one of wonder, but it certainly is apt. Besides the aching joints and increased wrinkles, I love this time of life. The one big thing weighing on me is an acute sense of time limits. I *hope* I live another 30+ years – in good condition, of course, and under my own power. But we’re not promised that – that hasn’t happened with my parents or my husband’s. But maybe that awareness of time and desire to make the most of it is part of what makes this season so meaningful. This book is going on my wish list.

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    1. Having seen our own parents and inlaws decline, I think we have that tiny whisper of urgency and caution going on in the back of our minds, and that’s not all bad. We’re not so likely to waste time if we realize the value of every minute of health, strength, and presence of mind.

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  8. I’m loving the Wonder Years. 60 is the new 40, you know!

    I’m also loving the empty nest years but that may only be because I’m blest to have my children live nearby.

    I’ve dreams of making this time of life have way more impact than the other stages of life. I plan to do this by sticking even closer to the Lover of My Soul.

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  9. Though it is sad to look back and see how quickly life has flown by (how did we get here SO fast?), it is very liberating to be able to let go of those perceptions of what we should look like and who we should be. I think that is one of the best parts of reaching this age. God bless you, Michele.

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  10. Wow, this book sounds so inspiring! I’m only 31, but I already notice I’m feeling the finiteness of life as I said goodbye to my last living grandparent a little over a week ago. I hope that, once I’m 40 and beyond, I can still learn new things and embark on exciting journeys. I am one to stay stuck in fear often and that’s not good.

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    1. So good that you realize your unhealthy tendencies at this early stage in life! There’s nothing like saying goodbye to a loved one to get us thinking about how we want to be when we are in their position in life. Blessings to you as you refuse to “stay stuck!”

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  11. It was somewhere around my 40th birthday when my father pointed out that now is the time to turn around and give back, to serve and delight in doing so. His advice has stuck with me especially now that he’s no longer with us.
    This book sounds like it’s full of sage advice that’s worth taking with us well into the wonder years. 🙂
    Blessings to you, Michele!
    Marva | SunSparkleShine

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    1. That same thing happened to me at around the age of 40, and what prompted it in my situation was the death of my dear friend and mentor. She invested in me with abandon, and I knew it was time for me to begin to show up for others in that way.

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  12. I love coming here, Michele. Can we please hang out?
    Your love for life is awesome + your wisdom is a gift.
    Broken toes are no fun but I heard once that anything worth doing involves some form of risk.
    I am not athletic but I can shoot hoops if I am not too far away from the basket, but the funny thing is, I only more recently began to hunger for sweaty activity whereas when I was a child through my twenties I shunned it and opted for music and books.

    All our life we are growing and trying new things. My mom just graduated from college and it inspires me to see people following where God leads, no matter age, apparent capacity, etc. Keep shining, because it’s beaUtiful!

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    1. Isn’t geography just a pain in the neck?
      It would be fun to someday meet in real life.
      I have also been much more “active” as an adult than as a child. Some of that is I’ve realized that whether I like it or not, physical activity is “good for me.”
      Thanks, Meg, for shining here with so much encouragement!

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  13. Sometimes I forget just how old I really am, but I’m definitely in the ‘wonder years’. Thanks for the recommendation, Michele, and for the reminder ‘to lean into whatever brings light and holy joy into the room’. Sounds like a great book.

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  14. Michele, this looks like a GREAT read! I love that idea of leaning into whatever brings joy and light into the room! So good! It sounds to me like you and I are in very good company! And I do love your encouragement here. 🙂

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    1. Yes, Leslie gathered some of my favorite writers into the pages of this book, and I’m so happy to share it with readers. Clearly, the aging process only enhanced the writing, thinking, and truth-living of these 40 women.

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  15. OK, first, you are NEVER too old to play kickball! I love how you broke this down into Firsts, Lasts and Always. Great organizational scheme. As a woman who is well into her “Wonder Years”, I can tell you that I have never enjoyed life as much as I do right now. 40+ (and 40 +++) women are fun, powerful and thoughtful. Many of my favorite people (and writers) are women of a certain age!

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    1. The First, Lasts, and Always outline is borrowed from the organization of the book, which I also thought was stellar.
      Yes, the contributors to this book are among my favorites, so I REALLY enjoyed hearing their voices in this context.
      And it’s clear to me from reading your blog that what you say is true: You really are enjoying life and living it to its fullest in these Wonder Years!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Delightful! I could not agree more as a women in her seventh decade! I changed careers at 50 and when I retired at 70, I started my website and began writing again. I could never have guessed what all the Lord would have in store for me and I still can’t imagine what I might yet discover before I arrive at home with Him.

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    1. You are a great illustration of all that the Wonder Years can embody, and an inspiration to me. Retirement seems light years away to me right now, but the way years telescope down into seconds, I know full well that decisions I make today about my health and use of time will resonate in those future years.

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      1. Thanks! I really cannot believe how fast time has gone. There is still so much I want to do and try…so much to experience. You’re right about the decisions you make now and you are light years ahead of so many who never think about that. Our time commitment wot children and grandchildren influences the rhythm of our lives a great deal.

        Our son lives in TN and his two children (now 24 and nearly 20) are still there so we try to see them every few months.

        Our daughter and her four children (now 21, 17, 15, and 13) live in MD and the same goes for them.

        Sometimes the visits are crunched closer together and our car is on the road a great deal if we have graduations, birthdays, etc. to be the focus of the visit, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. Still wish they were a bit closer than 520 and 350 miles, but grateful it is close enough to drive…we could never afford all the air travel.

        Always blessed to hear from you💕

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  17. Great thoughts! Being an Army family, this phenomenon begins a little earlier. Because of the younger demographic of the military, by the time we’re in our early to mid thirties, we’ve become the “older women.” I remember finding it an odd feeling. I love how you shared about the support to do whatever…slow down, speed up, etc…

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    1. Yes, I so appreciated that the voice of this book was not formulaic: “here, do these three things and you’ll have an amazing mid-life season.”
      The truth is that these years are challenging for a variety of reasons, and they are also wonder-ful, but they are certainly not enhanced by the cookie cutter mentality!

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  18. This sounds like a fantastic book for those of us over 40 (or 50!). Or well, for anybody, regardless of their age. 🙂 This is the first time I’ve heard of it, so thanks for sharing it here, Michele.

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    1. I was so VERY excited when I learned that it was forthcoming . . . I MEAN, Luci Shaw, Madeleine L’Engle, and Elisabeth Elliot all under one cover and then add in a whole fleet of younger and very talented and insightful writers, and it’s nearly irresistible.

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  19. I need this encouragement to combat the message my teen so often seems to send. You know, the one that says, “you don’t have a brain cell in your head”. Ha! Thanks for the review. laurensparks.net

    Liked by 1 person

  20. My father has always said that 40 is still young and 60 is the new middle age. He recently celebrated his 94th birthday but due to a minor stroke they took his drivers license. After adjusting, he is now out walking the neighborhood so he doesn’t spend the day sitting. This book sounds interesting.

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  21. This sounds like a wonderful book, Michele! I truly find that life gets richer as I grow older (I’m 52). I have also found that some of the ‘rules’ that surrounded aging when my parents grew older are made to be broken! I have long hair, lift weights, and try to live as far outside my comfort zone as possible. In addition, although we miss our son, my husband and I love this season of time together. I’m so glad you shared this book, as I know it will inspire so many of us to make our 40’s and beyond a rich season of development and joy. Thank you so much for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party!

    Like

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