Birthdays aren’t the same as they used to be.
There was a time in which they were pure magic. Where the entire day was about me, and even if that wasn’t actually true, it at least FELT that way. Where the anticipation caused me to lose sleep for days beforehand. Where the air was abuzz with wonder as to what the day might have in store. Where the minutes ticked by at an impossibly slow pace as I waited for the designated time in which I could make wishes and eat cake and tear wrapping paper off gifts that had been purchased in my honor.
But anymore, they are just part of a long, jumbled stretch of ordinary days. Mundane instead of magic.
They involve doing laundry and washing dirty dishes and making dinner and sweeping up crumbs and mediating fights over whose turn it is to push the button that automatically opens the door at the library.
Over the years, I’ve worked on lowering my expectations when it comes to birthdays. To accept that fact that no one really cares about your birthday once you reach adulthood.
I’m not quite there yet. I still get disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the anniversary of my birth. A little more fuss would be nice.
But working towards lower expectations has made it easier to see and appreciate so many of the things that I already have, things that I never really expected.
I have people I call friends, real, cry-your-heart-out-with friends, a gift I waited so much of my life for. A gift I never thought I’d have. It’s something I prayed for over and over when I was younger, and without really realizing it God slowly placed some of the very best people in my life for me to call my very own.
I have a husband who has stood by me when it would have been easier for him to leave. A husband who I never thought I’d have because I didn’t think I was all that lovable or worthy. A husband who is more practical than romantical, but still puts me first as well as he knows how to. He too was a gift I prayed for, but never thought would be realized.
I have a sense of belonging. There is a place for me, and I am sure of it. I still have plenty of awkward conversations and get enough strange looks to know that I don’t fit in EVERYWHERE. But it’s no longer true that I don’t fit in ANYWHERE. And again, this was something that I prayed for – that there would be somewhere on this big earth where I would fit in.
I have two kids who mostly listened when I told them what they could give me for my birthday was the gift of obedience. Two kids who I get to wrap my arms around each day, and who return the favor. Two kids who love me, despite my impatience and imperfections. Two kids that I asked God for, even when the idea of bringing them home seemed impossible.
I have survived the dark places for long enough to still have been given time to enjoy the light – the beauty of this earth and the people who inhabit it. I am alive. A gift that only God can give.
Yes, birthdays are mostly disappointing these days. There is no longer a pile of presents to unwrap. But when I take a minute to really think about it, I’m surprised by the gifts I have access to every day.
And how amazing it is to realize that all of them are woven together by a common thread of prayer. I asked God for them, and in time, he answered.
And even when a lackluster birthday leaves me longing for more, it’s that simple realization that reminds me I already have so much more than I need.