(Please hit the jump to recipe button above to head straight for the Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes!)
Monday is my 46th birthday.
Lest you think that I’m distraught about that number creeping ever closer to 50, you can think again. Although it defies the prevalent attitude of our times (a quick peek around me shows a world fiercely intent on resisting the inevitable aging process), I’m perfectly okay with leaving the twenty-somethings to their youth. Give me the experiences, the understanding, and maybe even a wee bit of the wisdom that comes with age, and I’m a super happy lady. It’s a different flavor of happiness, maybe–slower, with more of a quiet and steady kind of hum–but a happiness that somehow makes it okay that I’m now fast asleep by 9:00. Honestly, it’s a small price to pay for humility. And patience. Both of which were sorely lacking in my younger years.
But I share that birthday number with the slightest bit of hesitation. My guru cautions against divulging your age because it allows (and maybe even encourages) people to automatically slip you into a box. And it’s probably true; I do think very differently–in general terms–about a twenty-something, versus a forty-something, versus an eighty-something. (I should definitely stop doing that.) So after seeing that number 46, you might have just limited me. Defined what I’m capable of and also what I’m not.
Battles Fought & Won
But since I’ve never attached all that much significance to an age, I’m not about to start now. Honestly, I wear that 46 like a badge of courage; my wrinkles and gray hairs attest to battles fought and won. And even if you try your hardest to stuff me into a box, I can almost guarantee I won’t fit. And even if I do somehow fit today, I probably won’t tomorrow, or next week, and definitely not next year. I’ve made a habit out of defying boxes; they’re stuffy and dark. I need fresh air, blue skies, and ample space to stretch my legs.
But the approach of Birthday No. 46 has me thinking back and introspecting on how far I’ve come and the roads I’ve traveled. What I’ve managed to survive, and both the blessings and trials that have come my way. It’s amazing, really, to take a quiet look back over your life and realize just how much you’ve grown (hopefully) and overcome. How much you’ve learned and lost and loved. It allows me to honor both the victories and the disappointments and it gives me a whole new appreciation for this journey I’m on.
My twenties were a whirlwind of external growth. By the time I had reached the end of them I was married, had bought our first home, started my first (but obviously not my last) business. I’d made two beautiful babies, built our second (and current) home, and then added the last sweet baby to our brood. I took an enthusiastic leap into the adventure of homeschooling, and spent many happy days mucking out barn stalls on my small farm.
Life was good, near perfect even, and those were exciting, movement-filled, and extremely busy years. I figured that if my twenties were so awesome, my thirties might just be even more so. I looked forward to them with the naive and hopeful anticipation of only one who has no idea of what’s coming for them next.
I very quickly realized–before my 30th year was even over–that things weren’t going to be quite so easy anymore. In fact, life took that decade to beat the living s*** out of me. Seriously, I hardly recognized myself anymore and those years felt like one long and silent prayer of desperation. Panic disorder unexpectedly swept in, tore me apart, and whittled me down to nothing. This was only in preparation for what was coming next–the rebuilding–but I couldn’t know that at the time. At the time, all I knew was that I was in a living and breathing hell that seemed to offer no way out.
But I managed to survive my thirties, held together as they were by industrial-strength threads of faith. Faith with roots so tenacious and deep that they even took me by surprise. On several occasions the darkness briefly gained control, but only briefly. Faith, dangling from the hand of God, pulled me back up each and every time.
Now here I am, more than halfway through my forties. The trending theme has shifted focus from primarily outer growth to primarily inner. Inner spiritual growth–a sure and steady movement towards God. Those ten years spent in silent prayer were finally answered in my forties: I found my guru, found my path, found my purpose. It’s not to say these years haven’t had their fair share of challenges, because they have. But I imagine every decade will have its share of those.
And while I do admit that my spiritual path involves a certain “lack” of freedom owing to self-discipline (not at all a bad thing), I’ve found increasing freedom in so many other areas of my life. Other areas that haven’t seen freedom in a very long time. My twenties were a thrilling whirlwind and a marvelous adventure, but with each step I took, I forged myself a little anchor. I don’t mean that in a negative way; if given the chance I would take the exact same route, with the exact same confidence, all over again. Literally, I can’t think of anything significant that I would change about those years.
But when I had kids, I really had kids. There was nothing even remotely part-time about it. Kids who shaped, measured, and yes, restricted my life for almost twenty-five years. Restricted in a way that I not only chose, but embraced…until now. Now, when all of a sudden I find myself shaping my days not around the demands of children, but around something else entirely. What that is, I’m not even certain yet. Are they my demands? God’s direction? Is it Guru’s hand I feel? Honestly, I’m six years in, but it’s still too soon to know. Maybe by the time I’m fifty I’ll have an answer to that question.
It Affects Everything
All I know right now is that my forties find me in the last year of our homeschooling journey, with very little effort required on my part. They find me watching these girls that I gave my everything to, slowly morphing into confident, intelligent, caring human beings. Overcoming their own struggles, establishing ever-widening independence, deciding on their direction, and following their hearts. Watching it is reassuring; there’s this knowing that I did my job well. But it brings another knowing too, an awareness that this phase is ending. I’m finding, unexpectedly, that my life is starting to become something of a…mystery.
And it affects everything.
So Much Noise
It’s not only growing children that are changing the scenery of my world, but a growing husband, too. Not only is my role as mother morphing, but so is my role as wife. The marriage of my forties has changed so much from the marriage of my twenties that they look like totally different animals. Marriage is hard and constantly evolving. No wonder the bonds of holy matrimony have the tendency to dissolve into nothingness as the kids grow up, leaving gaping and silent holes where there was once so much noise.
I actually have a whole post I want to write on marriage, but for now I’ll just say that it just seems like more of the growing mystery. Just when I think I have my marriage all figured out? Something changes. And it keeps finding us in new and unexpected places that I wouldn’t have predicted. I’m watching it with as much wonder as I am watching the girls spread their wings. The difference is that they intend to fly away, while the goal is that Scott and I soar together.
Fabric of my Life
Those mid-life crisis moments that so many endure? Well, I think I might understand them. I feel like a chick, breaking free from the egg, and I’m so ready to spread my wings. The difference between me and countless others is that I don’t fool myself into thinking the grass will be any greener “over there.” The yearning won’t be satisfied by material things: trips, new cars, new homes, new loves. Here is where I am; here is where God put me; and here is where I’ll solve the mystery.
But I have this inexplicable urge and interest to look beyond “the raising years” as they’re ebbing away, so curious of what comes next. I knew (and reveled in) who I was during those child-growing years. But where am I going now? How can I serve? What makes me shine and fills my heart? How do I want to spend this next part of my journey? Just because I know my ultimate purpose doesn’t mean there won’t be details to figure out along the way. My inner journey and my outer journey will both continue, weaving themselves together into this fabric of my life.
I probably won’t spend much time on my actual birthday looking back (that’s what this post was for), but as I dive into the chocolate cupcakes I might perhaps pause and wonder what lies ahead. Who knows what secrets the mystery holds? Some of those secrets will be fun and some of them will not. But since tenacity has been a pretty steady theme of my life thus far, I imagine it’ll see me through the inevitable peaks and valleys of life. And throbbing underneath, as always, flows the steady river of faith. Faith that assures me that as long as I keep reaching up, God will keep reaching down. For as many times as I need. For as many times as I ask. No matter how many decades are left.
Wishing you all a very beautiful week. Many blessings ~ Melinda
- 2 cups oat flour (see notes)
- ¾ cup cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup water (boiling)
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup chia egg (see instructions below)
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup coconut oil (melted)
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked, drained, rinsed)
- 4 large Medjool dates (pitted and soaked)
- 4 tablespoons cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 4 tablespoons plant-based milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon SweetLeaf stevia powder
Preheat the oven to 350°
1. Add the flour, cacao, baking soda, and cream of tartar to a mixing bowl; stir well to combine.
2. Add the maple syrup, chia egg, ¼ cup of water, melted oil, and applesauce to the dry ingredients; mix together thoroughly.
3. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add to the batter; mix well.
4. Immediately divide the batter into a lined muffin pan and bake for 20-25 minutes
1. Soak the cashews for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Drain and rinse thoroughly.
2. Soak the pitted dates in warm water for about 15 minutes to soften.
3. Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Pause to scrape down the sides once or twice to ensure that it's all thoroughly mixed.
4. Spread on the cooled cupcakes and serve!
Using a small coffee grinder, thoroughly grind 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. Add the ground seeds to 1 cup of water and whisk well. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes or until it's nicely thickened and gelled. ¼ cup of chia egg is equal to one egg.
Grinding 2 cups of rolled oats will create 2 cups of oat flour. A small coffee grinder does the trick beautifully!