I recently had a conversation with an awesome group of friends when it came out that three of us have had birthdays this month. One friend expressed all the craziness she experienced around her birthday, leaving the rest of us amazed and relieved that someone had so adequately and so cutely verbalized what we have all been experiencing, but never acknowledged out loud. At one time or another we all had wished we were like those girls who got excited and announced from the mountain tops that it is their birthday month and celebrate loud and big all month, but we aren't. I can't remember her eloquent words exactly so I will simply try to express what has gone ion in my own heart and mind over the years when my birthday rolls around.
I have one birthday picture I love that my mom set me before she passed away. I have held on to it because it was before all of the crazy thoughts and feelings centered around birthdays started. It was my fourth birthday, and I am standing in front of my birthday cake in a beautiful pastel plaid dress that my mom had made. I am posed in front of the cake, holding the skirt of the dress out, with joy beaming though my smile and the excitement written on my face. Within a few years my reactions to birthdays grew more reserved as I began to experience ambivalence bubbling up inside of me whenever my birthday rolled around.
For me, that meant I wanted people to know my birthday was coming and at the same time I didn't want them to know. I wanted people to wish me a happy birthday and at the same time I was afraid they might acknowledge it. I wanted a birthday cake and at the same time I didn't want to have to have the cake placed in front of me, causing the attention to be squarely on me as I blew out the candles. I wanted people to sing Happy Birthday and at the same time I was petrified and knew my face would be beet red when they did, especially if we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant and the wait staff brought over the huge sombrero to don as the whole restaurant joined in lively song. And as I began to age, I also wrestled with not wanting others to know my age and at the same time wanting to grow old gracefully and learn to celebrate ever trip around our sun God gives me.
And then there came this whole social media thing. When I joined social media, I filled in the information, which included my birthday, not knowing everyone would wish me happy birthday. I was so overwhelmed as I read so many sweet messages. I soon deleted my birthdate from my page for a year and found myself thinking about those messages left the previous year. So, after some contemplation I added my birthdate back to my profile and thought it is time to try to lean into birthdays and figure out where all the crazy angst comes from.
As my friends and I were talking, I realized this was the first year that I can honestly say that much of the ambivalence around my birthday was gone. There are serval reasons for this. First by leaning into the birthdays through social media I have had the opportunity to read lots of birthday messages. That so many would take the time to acknowledge my birthdays floors me. And there are those that take the time every year to write beautiful affirmations, stating the things that they see and appreciate in me. Some have shared the way that I have impacted their lives, often in ways I didn't even realize as I know I have lived such an imperfect life. At times there has also been Bible verses left, speaking God's truth over my life. For example, Psalm 39-13-16 reminded me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that it was God who carefully perfectly knit me together in my mother's womb and that He knew my days before they even began. And there is Isaia 43:7 and Revelation 4:11 that remind me I was created for His glory. These verses all tell me I wasn't an accident, I was planned for and that there wasn't ever a time that I wasn't wanted by Him. And then Ephesians 2:10 reminds me I am God's workmanship.
This year as I read my birthday posts, I was so amazed at the people that God has put into my life over the years and the many different locations and life stages we have lived. As I read each message, God blessed me with sweet memories and kindnesses given by each person. One friend who was in band with me in junior high left a message and two other girls that were also her friends left messages directly under hers. It was perfect because the memory that pops into mind as I read their posts is of the three of them standing with me getting ready to perform in a concert. They were a year older than I was and as a junior higher I looked up to them. They were always so sweet to me and modeled such beauty and grace. I don't think they knew how much of an encouragement they were to me as an awkward junior higher. There were other messages from women who were in my life from grade school, high school, and when I was a young mom, all of whom modeled so many things for me. There were also beautifully written messages by people who have seen me at my worst and privy to my raw emotions that somehow still saw beauty and value in me as I live life. This 70-year-old is an extremely blessed birthday girl whose heart is so filled.
The other thing that has helped me get more comfortable with birthdays is that I have been blessed with grandchildren who celebrate birthdays big. I have gotten texts filled with balloons and confetti, funny birthday memes, bitmoji's of birthday hugs and even birthday songs left as messages on my phone. I have even been invited on birthday lunch dates at Chick Filet! Who could resist? A few years ago, my daughter who is an educator and was in the middle of starting her new year messaged me from work and said we needed to come up with a plan as her sons were blowing up her phone reminding her it was my birthday and they needed to celebrate me. Who am I to argue with grandchildren over who deserves to be celebrated?
I do wish I had learned these lessons earlier in life as I know I would have celebrated my husband, my children, my parents, my grandparents, and my friend's birthdays more consistently and in much bigger ways, recognizing they, too, deserve to be celebrated and rejoiced over even in the midst of some discomfort they might feel over birthdays. I am so thankful that those pesky birthdays have become reminders of the beautiful people God has placed in my life at just the right time to give me companionship, encouragement, comfort, love, and more joy than I could have ever asked for or dreamed of having. I encourage you to remember that it isn't selfish to celebrate your birthdays, God planned you, knitted you together, and has ordained your days just as He has mine! Don't believe the lies centered that feed the birthday angst. You worthy of celebration.