“We tend to forget that our real gift is not so much what we can do, but who we are.” Henri Nouwen
I am good at planning birthday parties.
I love celebrating birthdays.
When I found out my high school best friend Annette wasn’t doing much on her birthday a couple weeks ago, I insisted on driving over on the weekend and doing whatever she wanted: breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Better yet, why don’t I plan a girls outing with you? I suggested. I got excited brainstorming and actually started having a virtual party in my head just imagining all the different things we could do.
And when it came time for my son TJ’s eighth birthday last month, I got really adventurous — and decided last minute to deviate from the plan of baking cupcakes to bring to school. I experimented and made rice krispy treat balls (instead of my usual squares) and shook some cookie sprinkles to make them look happy and festive.
Trouble is, when the kids started eating them, they were too hard to bite. I think I made them too big. Some of them kind of disintegrated. I don’t think I put enough marshmallows.
And you know those sprinkles? They looked pretty. But they didn’t actually stick. The micro-candy-balls just fell through when a little girl took her first bite. I quickly turned to the teacher, Um… why don’t we have the kids enjoy them outside?
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as tiny sprinkles rained down like ping-pong balls, trailing the kids as they spilled out into the hallway.
Like I said, I’m really good at planning birthday celebrations — for others.
But I don’t organize birthday celebrations with friends — for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy celebrating my birthday. But, in more quiet-by-myself ways.
I reminisce the close of one year. I love getting sentimental, looking over the past year of memories. I reflect on where God may be leading me into the new year and ask Him to place one word on my heart and search the Scriptures for a special verse.
I love enjoying my favorite places — hiking, the beach if it’s a warm winter, or a day in the city.
In other words, I’ve enjoyed birthdays in more introspective ways. I’m an introvert. I savor feeding my soul, especially on my birthday.
Since being married, I’ve had a companion on my outings — my sweet hubby Eric — who takes me out and listens to me gab for the longest time at a cafe.
And when I became a mom, birthdays became a fun time to enjoy being out with the kids.
But, since surviving PTSD this past year and half, something curious started stirring in me last month.
I wanted to have friends to celebrate my birthday with me.
I didn’t want to pass my birthday hidden.
My Birthday Wish
My birthday wish this year is very different from what it’s been in the past.
A new part of me is emerging: the little girl in me who longs to receive.
My birthday wish is for friends to blow out candles with.
I never would have guessed among the devastation of brokenness, I’d find something so unexpected on the journey.
A discovery so soul-changing, I know it must be from God —
I wasn’t made purely to give.
My heart was made to receive.
I realized why I have a passion for organizing get-togethers with friends. Why I love making a big deal out of birthdays for friends. Why I have a wild abandon to experiment and bake something sweet for them.
It gives me joy seeing others happy and valued.
These are all longings of my own heart.
Will I open my heart to give myself the same chance to receive?
An Anxious Thought
How would I ask? Would anyone come?
What day would I choose?
December is such a busy month with few precious weekends before Christmas. I didn’t want to take time away from my friends. They probably have stuff scheduled already.
I wouldn’t want them to feel obligated to come.
Then, an even more anxious thought dawned on me — What if my friends did come, but only out of obligation?
You see how I torture myself?
You see how foreign it is to my heart to open up and take the risk to receive?
The Second Half
I came up with a gazillion reasons there was no need to make a big deal out of my birthday.
Weeks went by until a week was left before my birthday.
I didn’t want to live the second half of my life unchanged.
This year and a half has been a long journey through brokenness that has led me to healing.
Now that my heart is coming alive, I am giving myself permission to receive this year.
I emailed some friends last week. I tell them it’ll be my birthday soon. I tell them I wanted to celebrate by combining three things that has brought God’s comfort and beauty to my soul on my journey:
– my soulful girlfriends
Then, I asked them to help me start my new forty-third year together enjoying these three things. Did anyone want to join me for a birthday hike and brunch?
They said yes.
The Real Gift
The joy and comfort of real friendship.
It’s one of life’s greatest gifts.
It isn’t what they can do for me.
The real gift is who they are.
Loving hands who have held my heart along this journey with.
The real gifts they gave was simply being present with me.
That is the kind of friend you have been for me here online — through the gift of words.
This is the reason I am writing this post.
To share my birthday week with you.
Because I count you as one of my real birthday gifts this year.
I am learning to give myself permission to receive. As is.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
What are you learning to give yourself permission to do or become?
What is your birthday wish this year?
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