Posts in faith
Meet my friend, Kristin!
Kristin Nave.PNG

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend, Kristin Nave!

We met in 2002 while living on Maui. We only lived in the same place for about eight or nine months, but we’ve stayed in touch off and on over the years, and I’m so glad! Kristin can pray with me about hard things and laugh with me about silly things.

She’s the real deal. Genuine and earnest, and she smiles with her eyes, which I find so endearing. She’s all about the fun too and quick to join me in a belly laugh. She lip-synced to the Christina Aguilera song ‘Come On Over Baby’ at her wedding reception! With dance moves and everything! I mean, come on, how fun is that?!

Even if a few years have gone by since we’ve spoken, I know I can text her and ask for prayer, and she’s on it. Once when I was going through a tough season, Kristin answered my request for prayer with an offer to let me live with her and her family. That’s the kind of person she is. The kind who prays and then gets to work being part of the answer to that prayer. God’s love and care for others shines brightly through her and her family.

We’ve been connecting more frequently lately because we both began to feel the pull to write around the same time. It’s been such a blessing to have Kristin as a partner in prose these past few months. She has a heart to love God and people, and she encourages others beautifully on her blog.

Kristin asked if I would share on her blog about a season of discouragement and how I came out of it. Of course, I said ‘Yes!’ You can read the story here, and while you’re on her site check out her other posts. Whether it’s thoughts on marriage, parenting or faith, you’ll always find something to make you think and spur you on to truth.

Riding waves and climbing trees
I took this picture near Santa Cruz in April.

I took this picture near Santa Cruz in April.

“We ought not leap in prayer and limp in praise.”

This quote from Charles Spurgeon paints a vivid picture for me. Can’t you feel the vast difference between the two descriptions of movement? Steps where your feet barely touch the ground, your arms swing high, neck craned upward to make sure you’re heard, versus dragging your feet slowly, moaning and groaning while staring at the ground.

The quote came to mind earlier this year as I traveled to both U.S. coasts and found myself noticing the lack of limping in nature.  

Do the waves reluctantly make their way ashore while wishing they would never crest? Definitely not. In February, I was mesmerized by how the waves off the Florida coast rolled in beautiful rhythm and seemed to take joy in crashing ashore. It’s almost as though they happily trip over one another in anticipation. Each one breaks and gives energy to the next. It’s a wonderfully collective chorus of praise.

Do the impressive Redwood trees cower and slump? After visiting Northern California in April, I can confirm they would dare not do such a thing. They stand tall and confident like they’re stretching for the sun. Their branches spread wide and overlap as they seem to pat each other on the back and plead with each other to reach higher.

It was like a gratitude adrenaline rush to see the water and trees and how they speak of, and to, the Creator. I found myself wanting to jump in the ocean despite the cold temperatures - toss me a wet suit already! I had the strong urge to climb a Redwood despite the fact that I couldn’t fit my arms around half of one - strap me in whatever they strap you in to climb those beautiful, bigger-than-life trees!

To leap or to limp

On days like the ones in my travels, I think I follow somewhat in nature’s footsteps as praise and gratitude readily roll out of my heart and off my tongue. Other days it crosses my lips a little more reluctantly, or gets stuck altogether in my throat and never registers a sound wave.

If I regularly seem to have enough energy to ‘leap’ and devote most of my focus and effort to asking for what I want and think I need, and then find myself depleted to a ‘limp’ when it comes to praising, I know I’m headed for trouble.

Why is that? I think it’s because saying thank you and marveling at who God is and what he’s done reminds me that I am, in fact, talking to a living being. He is a kind and caring God who hears, moves and responds, not a vending machine, concierge or genie. There is no relationship in those transactional type of interactions. I’m talking with the God of the universe who knows me and wants me to know Him.

Sometimes we need a running start

It’s been a bit of a challenge this past month not to drag my feet and glance down when it comes to praise. Some unexpected health challenges arrived on my doorstep, and I’d like to label them return to sender and be done with them. Even though I’ve seen God show up in these unsettling circumstances, being grateful and praising can just be harder when facing frustrations. It may require a running start, but it’s worth the effort.

One of the things I’m praising God about is how he scheduled a doctor appointment for me, literally. When I called to make an appointment, at first they told me it would be a two month wait. I wasn’t concerned about the time frame and was going to take whatever was available. While talking to the receptionist, she interrupted me and said they just received a cancellation for the next day at 2 p.m. In the days and test results that followed, it was clear the sudden opening in the schedule was the Lord taking care of me. How is that for evidence that God can handle the details?

I would say I’m at a steadily increasing praise leap right now as I continue to focus on God’s love and faithfulness. And this effort has in no way diminished my leaping in asking for full resolution. In my mind, Spurgeon’s quote is not a reprimand for bringing persistent, spirited requests to God; it’s a call to apply just as much heart, soul and time to thanks and praise. It’s a check and balance on my motivations and view of our Heavenly Father when it comes to prayer and praise. The admonition doesn’t dwindle my asking, it stokes my praising.

So, I’m leaping pretty high in my requests right now, and by God’s grace, will leap just as high with thanks and praise. I aim to ride some legit barrel waves and swing my way through Redwood branches reaching higher and higher for the Son.

What about you?

Are you leaping or limping in praise right now? What do you think about Spurgeon’s quote?


Up next: Next week, I’m excited to share that something I wrote is being posted on a friend’s blog. I’m looking forward to introducing you to her and her site. She is a joy and has so many helpful things to say.

Catch up: If you’re new here, check out some of the previous blogs. We talk about verbal processing, finding comfort in God, and His incredible love, along with several lighter attempts at humor.

Bagging the DC bugs

I’m so glad it’s spring! In Texas, spring only lasts for a few minutes and always includes light-up-the-sky thunderstorms, like the one we had last night. This season also means beautiful weather, time outdoors, allergies and noteworthy encounters with bugs.

I remember one such encounter last spring after returning home from a trip to D.C. I was 100% convinced that creepy, crawly things had hitchhiked in my luggage and moved into my apartment. Actually, I was beyond convinced.

Photo by  Erol Ahmed  on  Unsplash

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

I would have bet my chocolate, chocolate chip mini-bundt cake on it. That’s no small wager for me. If I could eat one every day and not gain weight, I would have my paycheck automatically transferred to Nothing Bundt Cakes to support the habit.

Before I digress too far on these magical cakes, I must recount for you my battle with the D.C. bugs.

On a Monday morning, I had small bites on my legs and arms and constantly felt microscopic things crawling on me. I kept searching my skin for the minuscule critters but couldn’t see them. I was like a dog chasing its tail. Luckily, I didn’t over-react. Not one bit. I just hauled my suitcases and large area rug to the trash, Lysoled everything that wasn’t edible, washed the bedding and vacuumed the floors and furniture

On Tuesday, I found small, brown, barely visible bugs on my sheets. I attacked them with clear packing tape while yelling, “Gotcha!” and put the tape in a gallon size Ziploc bag. My exterminator would thank me. He was going to figure out what type of bugs were harassing me and kill them dead.

On Thursday, the exterminator arrived with poison in hand. By that time, two bags of suffocated bugs lay waiting for him. He did an initial inspection and sprayed a general pest repellent around the baseboards. He promised to look at the perps I bagged under a microscope at the office. I felt better.

Photo by  Benoit Gauzere  on  Unsplash

ID-ing the perps

The exterminator came back the following Monday with no poison in hand. I hesitated when I saw him. The name of this bug that had hitched a ride with me to Dallas from D.C…. this bug that had decided to feast on my flesh and invade my abode...the name, is what pest control professionals in today’s modern society officially call, lint. You read that correctly. I was being chased by and providing a healthy blood supply for the ominous, piranha-like lint.

I was confused and stunned. I emphatically held out my arms, pointed to my ankles and told the exterminator I was fairly certain I wasn’t biting myself. He agreed and nonchalantly noted that I didn’t seem that flexible. Thank you, observant exterminator. Note to self, check out a Pilates class soon.  

As he left I wondered why I wasn’t sighing with relief and downright happy. Isn’t this truly a hashtag blessed moment? I had just avoided spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars ridding my home of a colony of nasty pests.

I think I was disappointed because I had been telling myself, and others, for seven days that I was a victim. I was ready for a battle and there didn’t seem to be one. At one point, I began to wonder if I was flexible enough to shove my ankle in my mouth. If I was, then at least I could call other exterminators until I found one that would lie to me. One that would tell me they found a rare breed of Amazonian bedbugs, charge me $1,000 and tent my apartment. Then I would feel better.  

Let it go, let it go (like Elsa, our Frozen friend, can you hear it?)

Our thoughts and perceptions have such a powerful influence over our ability to let the truth inform our reactions. And when we’re convinced with dig-our-heels-in certainty that we’re victims, we often won’t let go without ample commiseration and a fight.

Please don’t misunderstand, sometimes we are victims of great injustice and flat out unkindness, and battles need to be fought. But other times, it’s either all in our head or exaggerated in an unhelpful way. It might be just a self-pity flesh wound that we’ve diagnosed as lethal.

Maybe instead of acknowledging that we feel left out through no malicious intent of others, and taking steps not to be, or turning our thoughts to helping others, we lather ourselves in ketchup and marvel aloud at the blood spatter. We get out the white chalk, trace our bodies, call the medical examiner, and tell as many people as possible how we were taken out.

I’ve for sure done that before, and it does absolutely no good at all.

Life has enough no-kidding, hurt until we can’t breathe, victim moments that have been, and will be, part of our stories. It’s part of being human. I don’t want to add to them unnecessarily. Strength will be needed to fight the real battles and heal from wounds that have plunged past the epidermis to the bone.

Processing offenses with God and a trusted friend who can be objective is incredibly helpful. I find it important to pray about every single offense no matter how big or small, and trust that God will bring clarity and have compassion. He helps me walk out of offense, and he offers wisdom and healing for the smallest flesh wounds, the ones that cut deep, and self-inflicted ones too. Even the rare and venomous lint bugs.

What about you?

How have you let go of the victim mindset when you realized it was an overreaction? Equally as important, have you ever mistaken lint for bugs? It’s easy to do, right?! Right? I really hope I’m not the only one who has called an exterminator to get rid of tiny flecks of material. Please leave a comment below so we can form a club. We can call ourselves The Lugs.


Up next: I’ve been trying to provide hints at what I’ll post next. Sometimes it holds true, other times it doesn’t. The hint from the April 2 post is not at all what today’s post was about. As far as what truly is up next, I’m not sure. We’ll find out together in a couple of weeks. :-)

Catch up: The last post was titled “Is love on the list?” It was one of the best received posts yet. That made me happy! I was so grateful for the reminders from God that are captured in that post. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Is love on the list?
Photo by  KEEM IBARRA  on  Unsplash

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

I recently made an error in judgement and was feeling sick to my stomach over a decision. You know how it feels when you’ve eaten bad seafood? The queasiness and the churning? It was escalating toward that.

As I played back the events in my memory, it became clear my vision had been clouded. I didn’t intentionally make an unwise decision. It felt like it made sense at the time, but the passage of more time and hindsight were slowly bringing clarity.

I like to think of hindsight personified as a kind, forgiving uncle or grandfather. He waits silently and patiently until I can see him, and then he smiles and pulls out a chair for me to take a seat beside him. As we sit down, I start to see the truth even before he speaks. As my eyes brim with tears of regret, his eyes glisten too, out of compassion.

Around the time I was processing my exchange with hindsight, I found myself reading Psalm 31. The author is crying out for help in a desperate state. He feels like he fell into a trap and is greatly distressed. As I read his words, I was thinking, I know a little bit how you feel.

Granted, I’m not hiding in Middle Eastern caves and stepping in traps set by ancient warriors. My trap was unintentionally set by none other than yours truly, but, to some small degree, I felt like I could relate.

As I commiserated with the Psalmist and echoed his cries for assistance from God, I stopped suddenly when my eyes fell on verse 16. In the Message paraphrase version it says, “Warm me, your servant, with a smile; save me because you love me.”

Those four words - because you love me - made my chin start to quiver. The Psalmist’s life was in danger, and he was asking for God’s help not only because God was powerful and capable, but because he knew God loved him.

The Psalmist had the presence of heart and awareness of relationship to appeal to the love of God as he pled for rescue. I find that beautiful, bold, and to be truthful, not easy to do.

Let me count the reasons

How many times have I come up with long lists of reasons for God to intervene on my behalf? Plenty, to be sure. How many times has His love for me been on that list? I’m not sure I can answer that, which leads me to think very few, if at all.

My reasons tend to appeal to God’s power, grace, and mercy, and rightly so, but they stop short of addressing His heart, and mine.

Many of the cries for help in the Psalms are bold and raw, and they’re followed by such confident declarations that God will show up. Sometimes, I’m tempted to scoff a bit and think, “Well that was awfully resolute. Are you sure? Don’t you want to hedge your bets even a little?”

But on this occasion, I was seeing it differently. I was less a scoffer and more of an audacious pleader and a work-in-progress-proclaimer.

I heard myself say, “Save me because you love me.” I know God loves me, but to list that as a reason for Him to help me was a little uncomfortable.

The words came out of my mouth again, “Save me because you love me.” It still felt somewhat presumptuous.

This went on for a while with a tad more courage each time. It was like a steadily growing drum beat, and before I knew it, the brashness of the Psalms were starting to make more sense.

I wasn’t sure what my saving in this situation would look like or whether my prayer would be answered in the specific way I asked. But, what I was sure of is that through prayer and Scripture, God’s reassurance of His love for me had taken away my fear and built my trust.

And that, all by itself, was a rescue.

I want to remember this and be bolder in my cries for help next time. And next time, as I make my plea, love will be on my list. After all, wasn’t love the leading item on God’s list?

  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” ESV

  • John 3:16 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” The Message paraphrase

How easy or difficult is it to remember that God loves you? What helps you remember?

Psalm 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” ESV

Psalm 86:15 “But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit.” MSG


Up next: Coming up in the next post, we may dig a little deeper on the idea that whatever God’s answers to our prayers might be, we can trust Him.

Catch up: If you’re new to the blog, start here, and then check out the first few posts. You’ll get a glimpse of how I process life. Glad you’re here!

A thousand words paint quite a picture

For my first post after launching the website, I wanted to share a little insight into how I process life. Love to hear how you process too in the comments. For me, a thousand words really do paint quite a picture. I’ll explain.

One Saturday I was in Walgreens to pickup a few things, and I saw a young mother pushing a shopping cart down the makeup aisle scanning the shelves while talking to her toddler. The little girl was in the cart and she was repeating everything her mother said, elaborating with great enthusiasm and wild hand gestures. Her ponytail was swinging, her lips were moving and her eyes were dancing.

It was amusing and brought a smile to my face, until it wasn’t and it didn’t.

I started to hurry my pace to the next aisle to escape the constant chatter, and it hit me. I had just traveled back in time to 1980. That toddler was me and that mother was my mother. As soon as I got to my car I called my mom to apologize and say thank you. Mothers of verbal processors deserve medals for endurance in listening and Emmys for their smiling and nodding even if they don’t catch every word.

I’ve been a verbal processor for as long as I can recall. This doesn’t mean I talk incessantly, but it does mean if I need to wrap my mind or heart around something the only way that’s happening is out loud.

The puzzle pieces of my thoughts snap into place as the words come out of my mouth. Put me in a room, tell me to gather my thoughts, and then tell me I can’t speak. Chances are I’ll make remarkably little progress. I’ll have the same blank stare no matter how much time passes.

What it looks like, sometimes

One winter I interviewed for a job in another city and was considering what I would do if I received an offer. My sister, who is one of my closest friends, was sprawled out on her couch earning an endurance medal in listening as her eyes and ears followed me around the room.

I was pacing, wearing a hole in the carpet as I talked through no less than 13 possible best case/worst case outcomes. I repeated these phrases over and over, “Best case scenario, this could happen…worst case scenario, that might happen...”

As I inhaled to begin rattling off yet another option, I suddenly realized from the dazed look settling over my sister’s face that I was wearing her out and pushing the limits of sane reasoning. Also, the heater was on high in the apartment, and I was sweating profusely. It was obviously time for a ridiculous comment and a laugh.

I pivoted mid-rattle and with auctioneer-like speed said something along these lines:

“Best case scenario, the offer comes in next week, I take it and get off to a great start with the new team in a month. Worst case scenario, I wear too many layers on my first day and end up in the ladies’ room furiously tucking paper towels in my blouse and armpits to absorb the perspiration. Then, as I tour my new work site, I unknowingly leave a trail of damp, fragrant paper towel bits behind me as I go!”

We laughed until we almost cried and may have experienced other leakages, having just consumed Route 44 Diet Cokes from Sonic. Cackling, re-living the moment and trying to one-up each other with ridiculous worst case scenarios became the challenge for the remainder of that weekend.

As exhausting as it may sound to those who are internal processors, working my way through those scenarios aloud helped me identify what I wouldn’t do, and ultimately, what I would do. The help my sister provided was not in solving the problem or giving direction, but in listening and asking a few helpful questions.

It doesn’t have to take two (people) to do this tango

Verbal processing doesn’t necessarily require another person. Talking through things by myself on long road trips works like a charm too because I’m confined and there are limited distractions. In fact, long drives often lead to moments where something clicks between head and heart, between thoughts, faith and emotions.

Sistine Chapel, source Lonely Planet Rome

Sistine Chapel, source Lonely Planet Rome

I wish I could say these moments were as picturesque and majestic as Michelangelo’s God and Adam reaching toward each other on the painted clouds in the Sistine Chapel. A more accurate depiction is Michelangelo’s God reaches out toward me, and I’m grasping for a cloud with one hand, the other thrashing about, body dangling toward the earth craning my neck heavenward to see God. All the while, I’m thinking out loud in halting sentences and rambling metaphors.

It’s like a verbal, Cirque du Soleil while I’m driving down Texas highways or headed to the midwest on I-35 to see family. I actually quite enjoy it, regardless of what truck drivers or future sirloin steaks in my peripheral may think.

God is the most faithful of listeners. He out-medals all the moms, all the sisters, brothers, friends and spouses. He can handle all of it – the questions, the ‘what-ifs’, the scenarios, the exasperation, the rabbit trails, the dreaming, the things we feel like we can’t say to others.

No matter how we process what’s happening in our lives, God hears and He will provide guidance. It may not be at the time of our choosing, or exactly what we want to hear, but He will speak.

And in His voice we find what we need. Reminders of who He is and who we are in Him.

Any other verbal processors out there? What’s your go-to method for thinking out loud? If you’re an internal processor, love to hear from you too. What do external processors need to know about how you think?


Catch up: If you missed the first post where I talk about why I started this blog, catch up here.

Up next: Coming up in the next post, I unpack one of my verbal processing road trips. The word bees might be in the title. Sounds fun, right?

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Today's the day!

Today is the day I get to say “I started a blog!” I’m taking my writing and storytelling online and would love for you to come with me.

This is the homepage! I love the photograph. It’s by my friend, Alli Martin.  www.allinoelle.com.

This is the homepage! I love the photograph. It’s by my friend, Alli Martin. www.allinoelle.com.

While I’m excited, I’ll also divulge that after spending hours on the website, I hesitated on my first post. I kept waffling back and forth on whether to be serious or funny, which, full disclosure, might or might not work.

You can expect a little of both, because that’s me. I enjoy weighty topics of the heart, soul and mind, and I also love to laugh. Insightful, authentic, encouraging and amusing is how I plan to write.

To give you a glimpse into my writing process, below are a few earlier drafts of this post.

  1. The short version: I write. I created a website with a blog. Wanna read it?

  2. The texting version, described in words: pen emoji, internet emoji, smiley with reading glasses emoji, thumbs up emoji, heart emoji

  3. The clever-ish version: Words, they’ve always been with me. First, on the tip of my tongue, and then on the tip of my crayon. Eventually, they were on the tip of my pen, and on the tips of my fingers and thumbs when I learned to type and text. Wielding words has always been one of my favorite things to do. I started a blog to share all my words with you.

  4. The Mister Rogers version: It’s a beautiful day for a blog reader, a beautiful day for a reader. Won’t you be mine? Could you be mine?

photo for first blog.jpg

Alrighty, well, you get the picture. I’m excited to tell you I’ve started a blog!

My site will have a little bit of fun and light heartedness and a good amount of encouragement in faith and knowing God. Jesus has been my source of courage, kind correction and peace more times than I can count, and those will be common themes in my writing.

  • You can read a little more about me and why I created the site on the about page.

  • Several posts are live now. They may look familiar to some because they’ve been shared before on social media. I refer to them as ‘before blog’ posts.

  • New posts will begin in a couple of days. Sign up below to receive them via email.

If you know me, or even if you don’t, what would you be interested in me writing about? Leave a comment and let me know. See you soon, friends!

Heidi

Bulletproof sweaters
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I’ve been praying and reviewing journals from 2018, and also thinking about 2019. The words fear, faith and brave seem to show up a lot. Which naturally leads me to the topics of God’s faithfulness and little black dresses. Yep, that’s where it led me.

Some women have that perfect, little black dress that makes them feel invincible. It works for a day at the office, a day of shopping, a night out. With just a few small accessory changes, it makes them feel like they can conquer the world.

My mom had three skirts that served as her little black dresses for about a decade. I still remember them vividly. Full of color, they tied at the waist and had rows of patterns like an 18-tiered cake. She would wear them with suit jackets, islet summer tops and T-shirts. They were inseparable, my mom and those magical, twirling skirts.

I tend to feel most at home in black sweaters. I feel invincible in my current, threaded armor of choice. It’s ribbed, has three-quarter-length sleeves with three silver buttons just past the elbows and is slightly gathered at the waist. I bought three of these sweaters, all identical.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I put on this sweater and, whoosh! I feel 20 pounds lighter, a few books smarter, much wittier and my teeth are suddenly straighter. I am confident, fearless and ready to talk to the world.

Picture Linda Carter in Wonder Woman from the 70s as she takes off her giant glasses and spins in circles until she transforms into the bikini-clad super hero with perfectly toned muscles, shiny hair, a magical lasso and bulletproof bracelets. My sweaters make me think I’m bulletproof.

When I don’t wear my black sweater, I feel like I’m being forced to star in the reality show, “Naked and Afraid.” (that’s a real show, by the way) Only it’s a special, extended episode, and it’s called “Very, Very, Very Naked and Terrified to My Bones, Turn the Channel NOW!”

As I think about being brave in careers and relationships, in faith and doing good for others, and in using our abilities and chasing our dreams, I find myself thinking, yes, let's do that! But, at the end of the day we all still need something in which we can hide, because we are not bulletproof.

What I'm learning is that bravery does not equal breaking the habit of hiding. It means breaking the habit of hiding in anything other than God, even in the good things. It means learning to hide with everything we’ve got in God, and God alone. And from that secure and loving relationship with Him, and thankful state of mind and heart, living BRAVE. As we interact with the people, go to the places and do the things.

When we are hidden in God, we can be brave. Because even though we still care what others think of us, we are DEFINED by what God thinks of us. Because even though it still hurts to fail, or to be rejected or overlooked, we are not without hope as He provides the sweetest comfort. When we are hidden in God, that's when the brave in us starts to show up.

So, to sum up, here’s to hiding, and to living brave in 2019! And, maybe to branching out with a gray or faded black sweater.

Isaiah 41:13

brave book picture.jpg

This book by Annie F. Downs is incredibly helpful. I recommend it! It’s full of insightful thought starters and daily doses of wisdom about being brave and trusting God. #100daystobrave

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A walk down birthday memory lane
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Birthdays. The day we celebrate our messy, claustrophobic journey toward post-uterine light and oxygen and make an entrance into the world. The day we are smacked on the backside and utter our first cry bringing overwhelming joy, and perhaps fear, to our parents.

Birthdays are on my mind because I recently had one. Birthdays can be fun. Cake, presents, games, friends, family, homemade animal costumes, surprises that underwhelm and awkward suggestions.

You are no doubt wondering about those last three. Let’s start with the homemade animal costume. Memorable birthdays for my family include me dressing up under duress as a skunk for my younger sister’s birthday party when I was about seven or eight. The year before my debut as the love interest of Pepe le Pew, my parents paid to have a children’s entertainer show up as Smurfette in blue body paint and the white hat, dress and heels. It was an absolute thrill for my sister and her friends and set high expectations for future parties.

The next year the budget must have been tighter or we fell prey to procrastination because Smurfette was no longer an option. Instead, my poor, little sister’s guest of honor was her poor big sister in a black leotard and tights with cotton balls taped to her tuchus. I’m told my attitude by the end of the party lived up to odor associated with the furry, smelly rodent whose likeness I bore, and that my sister was mostly unimpressed. Bless both of our hearts.

Now, on to your other obvious question, the underwhelming surprise. For one of my dad’s thirty-something birthdays, my mom got him a new bamboo rocking chair that swiveled. The cushions were that rusty shade of burnt orange that was all the rage in the 80’s. She sweetly wanted it to be a surprise and tried to make him think the gift was something entirely unrelated. Good idea, but it all went sadly wrong.

Mom kept hinting that we got him a four wheeler. The thing is, dad is an outdoorsman, a hunter who wears camo for fun, hangs antlers anywhere she lets him and had dreamed of owning a four wheeler for years. When he opened that giant, cardboard box, I’d never seen a person’s face go from smiling to not, so quickly. The mark was well-missed on under-promise and over-deliver. Dad’s such a fantastic, easy-going, contented sport. He was quick to rally, and he happily rocked in that orange thing until it creaked its last breath years later.

Finally, on to the third thing you must be curious about, the awkward suggestion. A week or so before my dad’s birthday a few years ago, I told him and my mom they should get a large sleeping bag, grease it with cooking oil and zip it up. Then, naturally, my dad should make a running start, dive on his belly and go barreling through it, bursting through the zippered end to re-enact his birth. My head flew back as I belly-laughed. I found this idea highly worthy of calorie-burning merriment. My parents, on the other hand wore shocked expressions that said the imagery was just too much. Needless to say, they went another direction for the celebration.

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Flashback

This was on a 5x7 banner for my 40th birthday!

Like I mentioned at the start, birthdays are on my mind because I recently had one, a big one. The one that rhymes with shorty. I said goodbye to 30, flirty and thriving and bid those humbling, confidence-building, self-finding years adieu. I said come hither and “Helllllooooo, beautiful!” to the next decade, looking forward to finding everything there is to be found in my forties.

As I reflected on the first four decades of life, I thought of happy memories. Many of them involve family and friends I’ve been blessed to make across states and an ocean. Many include humor, and others center on meaningful work that has made a positive impact in some small way. Sad memories also crossed my mind. Unmet expectations, loneliness, physical and emotional pain, loved ones who are no longer here.

Throughout the rolling waves of these memories, one sense floated to the top – a sense of gratitude for God’s faithfulness. He’s been there for every moment good and bad.

One heartbreaking experience in my thirties proved to me yet again that He was near. When a friend died suddenly and tears were my constant companion, He was with me. When I asked why and wondered if I could have done something, He was with me. When I sat numb in church and cried my way through worship every Sunday for the next year, He was with me. When I think about her on the anniversary of her passing each November, He is with me, and He softly reminds me He is with her too.

The older we get, the more life we live, the more we see that life is the gift. God is the gift. It is with sincere thanks that I look back on my life so far, and it is with anticipation that I cast my gaze forward even with the unavoidable loses.  

I’m glad I was born. I’m glad my mom ate her Wheaties and said “Heeee, heeeeee, hoooo!” over and over again one August morning in 1978. I’m glad my dad stood next to her in his polyester, mid-thigh athletic shorts with a stop watch around his neck timing her contractions. I’m glad for another birthday in the blessed books even if there was no skunk costume. I will continue to look fondly on the memory of the underwhelming surprise, and, don’t worry, I’ll continue to provide awkward suggestions to the chagrin of some and the comedic pleasure of others.

What about you? Why are you grateful for your most recent or upcoming birthday? How have you experienced God’s nearness in the ups and downs of life?

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