Today is my birthday.
According to six-year-old wisdom, you should feel different on your birthday. On their birthday, both Sam and Elisabeth walked downstairs and separately demanded, “Today is my birthday! What’s wrong? Why don’t I feel different?!”
Later that day, we went to LifeTime and both kids marched up to the tape measure on the wall to see how much they had grown on their birthday. Sam was particularly disgusted by the results. “Today I am six. And I am not even any bigger!”
His voice was suspect, like he was onto us. What kind of a snipe hunt are birthdays? All fanfare for no actual occasion?
He’s right, of course, about birthdays. For age-obesessed Americans, turning another year older is a very big deal. For me this year it’s another year closer to 40, it’s checking the new 39-49 box on a survey. It’s, perhaps, the last birthday I won’t feel the urge to lie about my age.
But even though we obsess about aging, the actual day of turning older, the birthday, is always sort-of a let-down. Perhaps even more so this year since my birthday is stacking up to be no different than any other day. Already, the morning was a broken record of every other school morning for the past five years. (“Catie! Let’s gooooooooo!”; “Sam, find your shoesssssssssss!”; “Wow! Elisabeth are you really already dressed?”). Later today I’ll tackle my long to-do list and then drive with my in-laws and all the kids to Tomball for Catie’s volleyball game. Yes, that Tomball. The one an hour away. Without traffic.
This birthday will be a little lonelier since M is out of town. This morning was the first birthday in 17 years that he wasn’t the first person to wish me happy birthday.
If today is only a slightly faded version of every other day, why celebrate? Maybe I should call next Tuesday my birthday. We have fourth-row tickets to Mumford & Sons that day. M will be here, and my to-do list won’t be quite so daunting by then. I would totally do that, except my phone is buzzing constantly today with birthday greetings on Facebook.
No forgetting your birthday in 2013.
And that’s a blessing. I shouldn’t ignore the celebration of this year. Even though my day might be a little meh, my year has not been meh at all. This year I’ve grown bigger in so many ways, in the most important ways.
As my life story goes, this is the year I realized this is not my life story. For roughly 38 years, I’ve seen life as this exciting drama/comedy, with me as the star. What can this protagonist overcome? How can the heroine get better and better? What choices should she make to become even happier, even more successful, even more important? C’mon, world! Pull up a front row seat to watch the amazing evolution of this very special person. It will be an awesome show.
That’s all crap. You know what that self-view does? Fosters so much pride, creates so much pressure, and, ultimately disappoints me and everyone I love.
This year, in six billion ways, God taught me this is not my story. This is His story. He is painting a beautiful picture of this world and my life is one color, one brush stroke, one faint line, intermingling and tinting millions of other lives.
That realization unhitched so much pressure from my shoulders. I am not making or breaking anything, God is. Without the heavy load of my story on my back, I became free-er to try new ideas, like renovating a beach house, fiddling with new writing projects, testing new parenting ideas, and having fun with new ways to love the people I’ve loved for years.
So, I guess, by saying I grew this year, I actually mean God shrunk me. He shrunk my self-importance to make way for more of His love. He shrunk my fears, to make way for trust. He shrunk my pride, to make room for sacred humbleness.
Through all that, He shrunk my worry and the pressure I put on myself. He shrunk my scared life, and it’s become more sacred every day.
Thank You, Lord. This was a long time coming.
39 years, to be exact.
Let’s celebrate.

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