I just had a birthday, and it was my 36th.
I love the way a birthday makes me think about the years; what has been working, or not working, where I’ve come from, all the corners and edges and horizons of my life.
I’ve been writing it all down for a while, now, almost 11 years of writing in this space. It has changed for me, become something different as I’ve grown. Writing a book has gone from a dream to a reality, a few times over. I’m no longer the mother of three preschool aged children. I’m a little more stable, a little less desperate. But I still battle anxiety every day, and sometimes depression too. I have found many, many things to be joyful over. I still seek beauty. I’m a little less whiny. I’ve lived in many houses in a few parts of the world. I have used a squat toilet on a moving Indian train while 36 weeks pregnant.
God has led me down many paths, and stretching in front of me, as far as I can see and beyond, are more paths, roads, mountains, rivers. I love him so much, I have been carried and kissed by the Lord of the Universe. I am thankful for the fields and valleys he has guided me through. For the family that is larger than I imagined, the different countries of my mind, the different countries in real life. I go through hard and dark things, and they sometimes leave me gasping, but the softness is there, the love, the way God is so tender and good. I wish my anxiety away, and it does not leave me, and neither does my confusion about the way people work, or the sensitivity I curse sometimes.
And then the morning comes, with its light and birdsong, and Isaac comes to surprise me and there are all these children in my life, keeping me humble and sharpening my sense of humor. It is a beautiful chaos, with a thousand ways of being, living in a culture that isn’t mine (for SO many years now), always trying to understand, always with the chance of being a little more loving, receiving and giving a little more love.
We are often hard on ourselves. (I’m sure you are too.) And because of my mind and the way it works, I wrestle with the meaning of life, with suffering and messing up, with why on earth we exist, what it’s all for. (“Just sing the Mini Coop Coop song,” my Superstar Husband would tell me.)
If your mind doesn’t ever seem to want to let you rest, here is my advice for you. (From the wise old age of 36.) And I will try to take my own advice.
Imagine yourself on a hillside, surrounded by birdsong. The warm grass you sit on is the stable love and understanding and acceptance that God holds for you. The sky above you is filled with a thousand tiny birds, swooping and diving and singing for you. This is all the joy of the days ahead. You are surrounded by love, both inside and out.
Write stories. Draw pictures or make something the way you love to make it. Play with your kids. Sit on the floor with them. Being with God, receiving and giving love, this is the true meaning of life. Giving love in all of its forms; to the people you touch during the day, to your friends and family, to those in need. Inject small moments of love. Reading aloud for half an hour, picking flowers together, family drawing time. Look for the beauty, look for the tiniest shining things. Fill your mind and heart with thankfulness for these things, because this is presence of God with us, this is Jesus walking beside us, saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The dishes when they’re done, the teasing of a 13-year-old, the hugs of a 10-year-old.
It means everything. It will form another beautiful year. Thanks for reading, dear friends.