42 looks and feels very old to me.  The silver in my hair is quickly overcoming the reddish brown that once crowned my head.  Chasing my current 3-year-old is not nearly as fun as chasing my oldest when he was 3.  And my extra 5-pounds-per-child weight gain, I fear, is here to stay.  (Sorry, Honey!)

In my younger years, I had always assumed I would grow old gracefully.  I was determined to become that financially comfortable older woman with beautiful gray-white hair, in great shape and playing tennis every weekend, jet setting around the world and living the good life that the late 1980’s touted as the perfect way to be.  I left the Church in search of that world and strove to acquire all I needed to live that ‘perfect life’ of comfort and security and retain as much physical beauty as possible.

If someone would have told this born and bred Chicago girl I would one day be a homeschooling, homesteading mother of 6  in the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma, I would have laughed.  And maybe even been a little insulted.  Homeschooling?  What is that?  Homesteading?  How does one grow gracefully among chickens and goats?  And 6 kids?!  I don’t even want to think of what I would have said about that one!

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths."  My journey thus far illustrates this Proverb quite well. I have learned that my life is not my own and that God has His own plans for me.  I have also learned that to be open to the path He planned for me, it takes a healthy soul - and a healthy soul requires grace.  And while grace is a gift I do not deserve, it has come to me in many different forms throughout my life:

Baptismal grace:  That grace I received, though at the time unaware, that gave me a clean start and made my reception of all future graces possible.

Prevenient grace:  I like to refer to this as the grace of last chances for me.  It is the grace I received, even though I was not in a state of grace, which began my journey back to the Catholic faith.

Illuminating grace:  The Sunday I heard a well known Gospel in a completely new light.  This light shook me out of myself, brought me toward healing and gave me the courage to finally return to the Church.

Sanctifying grace:  Returning in friendship and union with Our Lord through the sacrament of confession after more than 10 years.

Efficacious grace:  Those consolations which fired my soul for love of Him so strongly I could not have opposed Him if I tried.

Sacramental grace:  That which I had consciously refused at Confirmation was restored to me once I understood and accepted it.  It is the same grace my husband and I received once we had our marriage blessed in the Church.

Sufficient grace:  The grace I receive and willingly assent to as I continue to mature.

Actual grace:  The general state of participating in friendship with God, and the state in which I now strive to maintain within my soul.

Before, growing old gracefully meant looking good and enjoying the ways of the world well into old age.  Now I see it means so much more.  Growing old gracefully means to nurture a healthy soul, to grow it to maturity and conformity to God’s holy will in all things; not by my own doing, but by the very grace of God.  My soul has gone through a long growth process as I have aged, and I see how these grace-filled moments help me to grow into the woman I am to become for Him.  It is my most sincere hope that I continue to respond to His grace, no matter what form it may come to me, so that my soul matures into the perfect image He created it to be.

And if that isn’t growing old gracefully, I don’t know what is!

Copyright 2012 Cassandra Poppe