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When You Grow Armpit Hair…

Each change is in its own way another reminder that though I like my life in order, organized, and running on time, I am not in control and I must open my hands freely to the Lord.

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Each day of my twelve-year old life, I searched for one emergence of maturity because my dad had made me a promise. “When you grow armpit hair, then you can shave and get earrings,” he said. That was the deal. So when the first barely-there follicle made its pathetic appearance, I was eager show my parents. Dad handed me a razor, mom took me to get my ears pierced, and off I went into the changes of adolescence — happily, though, because at least I was now shaving.

My eagerness for change has waxed severely over the years. I’m facing some transitions that aren’t as exciting as finding that single hair in my armpit. Let’s face it, change often stinks.

One big change in our house is that our oldest is crossing the same threshold of armpit-hair growth. Though our discussions center on the tween topics these days, my heart still holds within it the early days of midnight feedings, wobbly walking, crinkled smiles, first haircuts, jello-making, and zoo trips. I’m wondering how she grew up so fast, how I got to be so old, and how on earth my husband and I will have the wisdom, tough love, and grace it takes to guide her through all that lies ahead. Every mama feels these changes deep in the soul.

Another change that might not seem like much to some, but is a big one for me is that the physician who has treated my diabetes for fifteen years is retiring. Before I found him, I spent five years rotating through doctors who either didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t seem to have a heart for my well-being. I learned how to manage my disease well under his care and am truly grateful. Some people come into your life with a subtle faithfulness that changes its course in profound ways.

The same could be said of the five friends I sat in Starbucks with a short while ago. We are an unlikely group of friends. In any other Bible study, cell, or life group, we probably wouldn’t be, but nine years ago we bonded over the loss of our children. Together, we’ve tackled the difficult task of living between the now and the not yet. One of our own is moving away and our little group will not be the same. Another tough change.

So, I sit in the shifting shadows that is life right now and will be again.

Each change is in its own way another reminder that though I like my life in order, organized, and running on time, I am not in control and I must open my hands freely to the Lord. All the things I long to contain in a neat, tidy box are eventually upended by time, free will, and even sin, but all are measured and seen by the eyes of the Lord.

G.K. Chesterton wisely said, “The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us.”

So, I’m asking a view-shifting question: What enduring things has God deposited inside of me through these wonderful people even as the landscape of my life changes?

First, pure joy that drips from my soul from birthing, nurturing, and growing with the hazel-eyed beauty who first called me “mama.” Second, I’ve learned perseverance in pursuing knowledge that brings life to the body from my doctor. Third, my spirit has been ignited by the women in my grief group with a love that has been aged by walking together through the messy, raw places of life.

These are the enduring good and perfect gifts from a God who does not change like the shifting shadows. I’m so grateful for that — even when those that come are not as exciting as the first sign of armpit hair.

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Julie Neils is passionate about living a real life in a fabricated world. Digging beneath the surface in her relationship with God and with others is the thing that gets her up out of bed. That and fussy little ones. And a big ol’ cup of coffee. As a media relations and branding consultant, she has spent more than fifteen years advising ministry leaders, policy makers and authors on relevant, out-of-the-box communications strategies. She and her husband, Brian, live in the Rocky Mountains where she homeschools their five kiddos.

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When You Grow Armpit Hair…

by Julie Neils time to read: 3 min