Birthdays. To me they speak of new life, hope, and gifts. Let’s face it – who doesn’t like to get a good gift or two on their birthday, right? But to be honest, for me it’s sometimes brought with it the dreadful realization of aging, which spirals into a day of feeling sorry for myself. Oh, and let’s talk about feeling the need to get gifts or attention to offset what’s really going on in my heart. Well, this time I wanted it to be different. I knew I was going to have to intentionally make it different.
This year, I’ve been grasping in a new way the God-given gift of my life. And let me tell you, at times I question what kind of cruddy gift of a life this is. But that’s my innate selfishness speaking. Guys, it’s a ridiculous blessing of a life that I have. To say this in spite of every hurt, disappointment, discouragement and confusion I’ve had to face in 2017 alone is huge! Praise God for perspective. How then do I steward this life well? What makes me the happiest? I wanted to spend my birthday doing what gave me joy. So I did. I came up with fun, creative, and meaningful ways to serve and connect with others. Though certainly not without opening some cards and presents first!
On a wonderfully adventurous mission, I hopped into my car and drove to the nearest coffee shop to order coffee – for the first time in my life, I’m sure. You see, I’m allergic to the stuff. But I took the risk and drove across town to surprise my friend Kayla for Teachers Appreciation Week with a latte and sweet treat. I always wanted to meet this class that she pours her life into. Those little nuggets not only sang me “Happy Birthday” but they also told me that I looked 17…May the Lord make His face to shine upon them!
Then there’s my spunky Lizzy. She’s an amazing life warrior of a friend who I met for Chipotle, deep talks about life, and polaroid selfies. She believes in me so much that she bought me a plant…one that I’ll have to keep alive…all on my own. (It’s now 3 days later and I still haven’t watered that thing yet…shh).
Afterwards, I turned on my GPS and did a search for the next destination. With bags upon bags of clothing, shoes, and purses originally intended for consignment or a clothing swap, I headed to a place I’d never been to. Just a week prior I had heard of the YWCA Domestic Women’s Shelter in Downtown Lynchburg. My heart broke for these women and their kids. So I did what I could.
The best part was giving away this gift – an old Bible, complete with 5 years’ worth of my notes and markings. On it, I left a note for the woman who would be the recipient: YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE CHOSEN. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE. There are so many ways we can leave a legacy behind; and for me, this is one of them.
About a year ago, I’d prayed for a community that I could share life with – not just the surface highs, but the lows as well. Others who would walk with me through this torrential season of life. I ended the birthday with my church small group. Gathered around a table, we ate together, laughed together, cried together, and shared the weight of life’s burdens. This night was indeed a gift. It is a gift I can appreciate even more because I’ve experienced life without it.
So many family, friends, and old acquaintances took the time to wish me a “happy birthday.” What constitutes a happy birthday? Is it being showered with many tangible gifts and all the attention in the world? No, at least for me it’s not. I’ve found that it’s that which lasts us for a lifetime and beyond. It’s memories and moments that will linger even when the day draws to a close. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)