Full of Gratitude: My Birthday Heart
It’s been one of those weeks that is so full you hardly know what to say about it and yet something must be said before the march of days swallows it all. It’s been a week of thoughtfulness in many directions, of joy and mercy and abundance of the best kind. Forgive me if the sifting results in a lengthy post!
I received an unexpected visit from a dear friend on Monday night. She came bearing a yummy treat and a beautifully wrapped gift which she insisted I open in spite of my birthday being the following day. I was completely stunned to open the gift and find inside it the book you see pictured above filled with letters to me from friends and family near and far. She, with lots of help from my husband, had secretly worked for weeks with the goal of collecting forty letters from forty friends to mark my 40th birthday. They got more than seventy.
I sat up late into the night reading letter after letter, more humbled with each one by the generosity of my friends and family. The kindness of their words lifted my heart in a way nothing else could. It is true that our Heavenly Father knows our needs far better than we do, and when he meets an unknown need so completely through the work of someone we know the gift is overwhelmingly sweet. Such was the impact of these letters. Some of them came from people I lost touch with years ago, and many came from friends I dearly love but whose friendships I’ve neglected in the past few years while trying to find my stride as a mother of eight children. Some came from people whose friendships are newer and carried a warmth I had not thought yet formed. Some made me laugh out loud and many sent silent tears down my cheeks. There was a note from one brother that touched me deeply and countless compliments from people I admire so greatly that I felt I should be the one writing such things about them. Throughout all of them came the whisper “you are loved, you are accepted, you are good.” Perhaps the whisper was the best part of all, the golden thread that wove through every word and wrapped it all up with a big bow and left me with the distinct feeling that I’d been given back my friends. Not that they weren’t there before, but that I’d assumed I was disqualified for a dozen reasons. It felt like Heavenly Father put it in my lap and said, “I know it’s been long and hard, but here you go. It’s time to run with this again.” Which is exactly what I hope to do.
I was surprised by themes that emerged in the letters, by how many times certain qualities were mentioned. Surprised that I was worth the pause in their too-busy lives to contribute to the project. Surprised. Grateful. Healed.
When at last I put the book down, having read every word, I was also filled. Filled with determination to arise and be the person they seem to think I am capable of being. Filled with longing to aim higher and farther. Filled with wonder at the mercy and generosity of these people I know, who had obviously sifted through much and chose to focus on the best in me. I want to be like them. I thought again of my friend Kathy who passed away this summer, of her happiness on her special day last year. I remembered the smile on her face and realized I was tasting what she felt that windy afternoon. I am filled with a desire to be more, to do more, to give more, to find whatever energy and strength of will it takes to follow every impulse to do good, to lift, to contribute, to build. I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to be a part of strengthening someone as I was strengthened this week.
All the other trappings and trimmings were icing on the cake: a special birthday breakfast, phone calls, pretty packages, cake, dinner with my husband, balloons, an evening rainstorm. Then Thursday night I was off for a couple of days for a girls weekend with most of the women in my family and it was awesome in every way. I’ve learned so much this week, about myself and others, about goodness and kindness, life and dreams. And we are happy when we are learning, so I feel rich in joy.
So my heart sings out “thank you” in a thousand directions while tonight I sit in a pile with my children who I’ve missed as much as I enjoyed the break. I look around me at the smiles on faces so very dear and marvel once more that although I am certainly one of the least of God’s daughters, still He chooses to work in my life. THAT is the gift of a lifetime.