As I approached my 50th birthday this week, I decided to break with my tradition. As you may remember from a previous post, I have a friend who celebrates her birthday for three days. I adopted for myself her tradition of naming the days surrounding birthdays, and so we usually celebrate Randi Eve, Randi, and Post-Randi. This year, however, my heart wasn’t quite “in it.” I told my family that I just wanted to spend the week until Christ’s birthday in quiet contemplation of what He did for us. So no parties, birthday cake, or gifts. Just a week of gratitude. How could I focus on Him, if I was focused on me?
I got my week of gratitude all right. But not in the way I had expected.
As with Christ's sacrifice, our bill was paid.
The week started off in a humbling manner. We learned on Sunday, that a friend of ours had anonymously paid $100 toward one of our bills. The family decided to use some of their Christmas bonus money to spend on other people. The parents, along with the children, chose our family to bless. We don’t know which of our friends did this, and we may never know. Sometimes it’s better NOT to know who was so generous. When we know who the giver is, we tend to have feelings of great love for that person. Instead, we now feel a great love for all of our friends, after all, how can we justify being negative toward anyone, when they might be the person who blessed us? What a gift we were given, and not just financially.
Love from around the world
A few days before my birthday, I received a lovely birthday card from Foreign Quang reader, and now my dear friend, Janice. As I read the sentiments in her card, I became introspective and thankful for what this blog has brought to me. I now have friends in Scotland, England, India, Canada, and across the United States. Janice took the time to send a card across the Atlantic.
A loving daughter
Two days before my birthday, on Randi Eve Eve, my stepdaughter Gnome asked us to have dinner at the restaurant where she is a cook. We thought a night out sounded lovely, so off we went. I had their signature apricot glazed chicken. When the check came, the server said that only I was to open the bill, so I did. Inside there was no bill, only a message that said, “Happy Birthday, Randi!” Gnome had paid for our meal. A single mother and student used her hard earned money to buy me a dinner out with my husband and child. Humbled again. Later that night, she brought me a quart of the apricot glaze, so that I could make my own glazed chicken.
Birthday Breakfast Bash
The day of my birthday began early for me, with daughter Em shaking me awake at 5:50 a.m.
Em: Mom. Wake up. Get dressed and brush your teeth.
Em: We’re going out to breakfast.
Me: I need to take a shower first.
That got me out of bed in a hurry!
My good friend Ekanela had arranged for a birthday breakfast party at our local Denny’s (which is not very local since it is 45 minutes away, but it was the closest place that is open at that hour.) When I opened my front door, there were five or six carloads of friends, family and students all waiting in the dark for me to emerge.
The breakfast was delicious, especially when surrounded by all kinds of loved ones. My students were especially sweet. Not many 12-14 year olds would set their alarms for 5:00 a.m. just to go have breakfast with a teacher.
They made me a beautiful handmade card. The adults bought me a gorgeous fuzzy lavender sweater. I was so grateful for the love of friends and spent the ride home thinking about how lucky I was to have such good-hearted people in my life.
[Photo purposely de-colorized and blurred to protect those who
didn't bother with make-up at 5:00 a.m.]
Some Seriously Sweet Sixth Graders
After breakfast I went home to clean the kitchen and myself a bit. I was expecting eight sixth graders over for a movie date watching Night at the Museum 2 at 10:00 a.m. (Every three weeks Ekanela and Michelle plan a sixth grade activity and many times I get to be involved.) When the sixth graders arrived, I learned that Ekanela had told them all it was a party for me! One child brought cream cheese brownies, another brought peanut brittle, another got me a lovely bath set and another gave me a teddy bear. Especially touching was a little girl’s promise to dedicate her song “Breath of Heaven” to me on Sunday during a church performance. Ekanela’s family splurged on a new winter jacket for me—tan with cream lining. I love it. We watched the movie, eating the brownies and peanut brittle, and enjoying each other’s company.
Another loving daughter and fantastic Facebook friends
After they left, I stared out my front window, contemplating how blessed I am to have a good friend in Ekanela, and to be able to count eleven and twelve year olds as my friends too. My reverie was broken when I saw someone walking up our front sidewalk with flowers.
My daughter Kay had sent me a beautiful arrangement. I took several photos and promised her I would upload them to Facebook so she could see what the flowers looked like. While I was on Facebook, I was astounded once again. I had over 40 birthday messages from friends and family, all wishing me a Happy Birthday.
While I was responding to those loving messages, I heard a knock at the door. Six of my students, most of them from the same family, um—we’ll call them the Mallets, stood there holding a plateful of the most amazing seven-layer bars ever created. The Mallets are famous in our neighborhood for creating the most divine, delectable, decadent desserts. To get a gift of sinful sweetness from the Mallets is always an honor. I was honored enough to eat six of them almost immediately. (Six bars, not six kids!)
Phone a family member
Two telephone calls from family members followed the visit. My family is spread out over the country so a call is always welcome. I was grateful to hear their loving voices. Although, like every family, we have had our troubles, like every family we ascend above those trials with a bond ever stronger.
My sister, throughout that afternoon kept texting me, “Did you get your mail yet?” I sent Weston out several times to check for mail. Finally after his fourth check, he returned with a card in hand from my sister in Wyoming. Enclosed was a check for $25. My sister has had some serious health issues over the past few years, and medical and therapy bills are still an issue. She has been unable to work, yet somehow managed to send me money for my birthday. When I gently scolded her for it, she only replied that a 50th birthday is more special than the rest.
It quiets down
Computer Geek took us out to eat for my birthday at a local restaurant. I had a quiet meal with my husband and son, topped off by a yummy creamy chocolate brownie shake. After dinner, I had to attend a dance rehearsal. A Christmas dance performance was going to take place on Sunday and I was recruited to help the dancers get into the appropriate costumes on time before the next numbers. I sat, listened to the spiritual music, and watched the dancers, again feeling overwhelmed by gratitude for my loving friends and family. I had only wanted to focus on Christ this day. How had the focus ended up being on me? I allowed myself this musical hour to reflect upon Him.
Repentance-the Greatest Gift
After the dance rehearsal, I got ready for bed and checked my Facebook account a final time. Waiting for me was perhaps one of my best birthday gifts of all.
One of my Facebook friends caused some damage to a member of my family earlier this year. We were very hurt. People suggested that I remove the offender from my Facebook friends list. I did not delete him, hoping that someday he would seek to make amends. Like in the prodigal son story, there is always rejoicing when someone changes his ways, for the better.
In my Facebook inbox, was a birthday message and an apology from the man who had caused such hurt to our family. I was in tears by the end of his message, the message of a repentant soul. What would have happened if I had deleted him from my friends list? Would he have ever found a way to contact me? Probably not, because he did not know my phone number or address. He would have missed the sweet sensation of forgiveness, and I would have missed the opportunity to offer that forgiveness.
I went to bed on my birthday night, full of love and thankfulness for the beautiful world that surrounds me.
Tomorrow…Birthday Blessings, Part 2.