The too much in me…honors the too much in you!
That was the response I received today when I thanked a treasured friend for her over the top kindness to me during my birthday festival. I love birthdays—yours and mine. I think they are a great opportunity to celebrate the great gift of life.
Mitigating factors are at play, I admit. For instance, I was raised by a birthday loving mother who has a long-stated wish to be “on the water” for her birthday each year. Some years, that means we have been at the beach on August 10th. Other years, it has meant a pontoon boat ride, or even just lunch outside overlooking Morse reservoir. We make it work—because her life is one worth celebrating in a big way!! She always made the rest of us feel extra special on our day too. As kids, I recall her making us our favorite dinner, for example. I remember she always went out of the way to make me my favorite angel food cake. If you’ve ever made one, you know it’s something you only do when you love someone. It’s a hassle!
Yesterday, I received a lovely birthday message from my friend Jenny. She might be the most genuine and affirming person I’ve ever met. She’s a beautiful soul and pure sunshine. That’s why it surprised me when we had this text exchange after the birthday love.
Me: Life is short. And sometimes so hard. We must celebrate whenever possible!
J: Remind me that when I turn 50 next month!! Hard to celebrate that.
So, I did some digging and I learned from a mutual friend the date of her birth. However, I was warned that she absolutely does not want it to be celebrated. Hmm.
Listen. I’d never want to upset anyone, and we all have our quirks and “isms”. Here’s the thing. I’m speaking to all you people who are anti-birthday and using Jenny in an anecdotal way here. I respect your right to feel how you feel, folks. You’re just so wrong and I’m right….ha?!
The “too much” in me that I am always warned about is kind of twitching interiorly. This gal? She’s the face of Christ to literally EVERYONE in her path. She’s human sunshine. Honestly. In my head and heart, celebrating her life is quite literally honoring the Lord and an opportunity to be grateful for the gifts He has bestowed on us all through her presence. It’s the same reason I say things to my husband like “we can celebrate you in a low-key way if you prefer, but if you think I’m skipping your birthday, you must be high!”
I’ll never convince some of you about my birthday fetish. I get that. Nevertheless, to me it is just the best kind of pro-life activity. Plus, every single one of us needs a day to be reminded that our lives matter, that we’re worth it, and that we are infinitely loved by the God of the universe. He does that largely, by the way, using us humans to be His face and His hands. In fact, (and I say this constantly) He loves us more that we love our kids, our parents, our dearest friends…because He’s better at loving. He’s God and we are not.
Yesterday, I started my birthday early at 6:30am mass. Afterward, I snuck in a quick confession. Sin-free is a great way to start the day, am I right? Then, I went to get my nails done as a special birthday treat to myself. When I arrived, the owner of the salon presented me with sunflowers. You see, the friend I mentioned in the opening paragraph here? She had gone over and delivered them and paid for my manicure so that I’d be surprised. Later, I had lunch with Mom and Dad. Best of all, Nick drove over from Cincy and Drew and Erika drove home from Purdue to have dinner with me. You guys. Tom even went to the MALL DURING TAX SEASON to get me a couple thoughtful gifts. Tax season Tom doesn’t shop, you all. This was an act of love. He says he knew from the visa bill that Athleta was the move. That made me laugh. How blessed am I? How much does God love me?
Every birthday isn’t as life-affirming as this one, I’ll admit. The thing is that 2022 is a tough moment in history and I’ve had some discouraging moments. Haven’t we all? There has been some struggle and loss in my life recently, just like a lot of you. Going to the gas station is even depressing, and I wish I had never heard the word “hospice.”
Yet here was this beautiful, joyful day where I turned 51. God made me for this moment in time and He also needs when I need fresh air. He chose you for this moment in history too. I know we’re up to it, even when we don’t feel like it. I know this because I trust the Lord. I’d like to trust Him as well as Mary. I’m not there yet. Today is the day we are reminded of her FIAT. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
It’s an important day, the Annunciation. I’ll be honest. I feel like in Mary’s spot, I’d have had another reply. Something like this, “Umm. Pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Are we confident this is the best solution, Mr. Angel, or are we still exploring alternative ideas?”
See the thing is, God knows what He’s doing. That “YES” to God was the world’s greatest ever unplanned pregnancy.
I propose this solution for the anxieties of living life right now. Let’s do our best to be fully present in each day, attentive to the desires our Creator has for our time. Sometimes, that means He wants us to eat tacos with our family and blow out the candles on a birthday cake your kid picked up at Kroger, grateful as heck for your own life! More often, it means visiting someone you love who’s nearing the end of life after a brutal battle with cancer, or taking a meal to a sick friend, or stepping into the gap for someone in need. However, make no mistake. ALL of these are holy acts.
God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for Us.
Author’s note: To all of you who reached out to wish me well on my birthday, I’m incredibly grateful. For those who apologized for sending belated messages, there’s no such thing. It’s a festival. I pray I never lose my joy and enthusiasm for life and for celebrating it big. For those who want no celebration at all? I can’t make promises, but I’ll make an effort to tone it down. That said, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are too much. You are just exactly the right amount, I promise. God knows what He’s doing, and He made you.