Turning 40 has put me in a retrospective mood. At first, I thought I’d hate it, I grinched and whined to my husband and I felt…old. But then, a few weeks ago as my birthday approached, Mr. Incredible and I sat down and talked over the past year and suddenly, turning forty didn’t seem hard, it seemed fitting that I was starting a new decade with so many new things, good things, renewed things in my life.

My 39th year was a watershed year in many ways. The year before was full of death, loss and confidence shaken – confidence in my marriage, my parenting, our work in Afghanistan and if anything we’d try to do was worth all this awfulness.

We took a year off, went home to Colorado and spent time with people who loved us and counseled us well. We got a diagnosis for Mr. Incredible and shadows that had been chasing us our whole marriage got a name, got some medicine and a plan for coping and slowly those shadows are fading away.

I feel more ready to do hard things than I did a year ago. I’m doing intensive language learning for the first time in eleven years (having babies, toddlers and then babies again is not the preferred method for learning a foreign language, in case you were wondering) and I’m finding that digging deep and making this old brain do serious academic work is in fact something I can do.

After so much emotional turmoil, I found myself on shaky ground, with my faith and with myself. Not lots of existential questionings with capital letters and bold font (Does God Exist), but more of a fog of grief and worry and an unmooring of my place in His work and Kingdom. I’m very much an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs. I see the world through my experiences and senses. I like order and tradition and for my people to be happy.

I get Mrs. Weasley or Samwise Gamgee on the “Which Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings character are you?” quiz and then I have to take it five more times till I get Hermonie or Arwen – the heroines of their stories, not the helpers. My experiences and senses had so thoroughly sucked and I was struggling with much dissatisfaction with my personality and the way I respond to the world.

This past summer I read two books that cut through some of that fog and have helped me immensely in finding my place again and even better than that – being comfortable with who I am at my core. “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey and the very funny “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker gave me clarity and even permission to be cool with my personality, my political views, my world view and our family’s global lifestyle and my main role as wife and homemaker. No, it’s not for everyone, but it’s for us, and we love it. It’s okay to be Mrs. Weasley or Sam. Their part in the stories are crucial, and Frodo and Harry wouldn’t have made it far without them and for sure they would have been a lot more hungry and cold.

So, it’s a new decade and a new year. We are in a new town in Afghanistan, which I’ll call Silk Road City and we are ready to do a new thing. I may have turned forty first because of that December birthday, but now I get to watch as my college roommates, high school friends, the people I spent my twenties with in Egypt and my thirties with in toddler playgroups walk into their fortieth year and I will walk with them, with hope.