Thirty-Five

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It was 35 years ago today, at 12:39pm, when I was born into the world at Natrona County Memorial Hospital in Casper, Wyoming.

I’ve celebrated my birthday a variety of ways over the years. I smashed cake in my face when I turned one. I celebrated many a birthday with sleepovers. I had my first (and last) boy-girl party (Oooh!) at Roosevelt Park when I turned 13 with my friend, Kristen. All I remember about that party was one of the boys being carried around the park by his knickers while all of us girls were appalled and roamed around in a small herd (I guess we figured we were better off if we stuck together).

Fast forward about ten years to the first time I had to go to work on my birthday and it felt like just another day. Birthdays just aren’t the same when you’re an adult as they are when you’re a kid.

And then there were a few birthdays that just weren’t very happy. I would go into them with expectations of how the day would go and found myself disappointed at the end. There were birthdays where someone I cared about forgot, and instead of feeling loved and celebrated, I felt alone and sometimes forgotten. But the reality is, I have been the one who has also not lived up to someone’s birthday expectation. I’ve mailed the card or package too late. I have been the one who has forgotten.

So a few years ago, I got to thinking about birthdays in general. And here’s what I realized:

How well I celebrate my birthday is entirely up to me. And it’s not about presents or parties. It’s about celebrating life..a life we’ve all been given for some larger purpose. So, each year, I give myself two gifts:

I check an item off my bucket list. It just seems appropriate that the best way to celebrate another year of life is do something, big or small, that I want to do while I’m still around. One year, I ran along Lake Shore Drive. One year, I went to a shooting range and shot a gun for the first time (Turns out, I’ve got pretty good aim.). This year, I’m going to walk through lavender fields.

I pay it forward. Inspired by people who have been doing this for much longer than I have, each year, I do something for someone else in honor of my birthday. One year, I mailed a box of baby clothes to a friend. Another, I took the teenagers that I mentor out for breakfast. I do something unexpected to make someone’s day, which brings me such joy. This year, I bought a friend a meaningful bracelet in celebration of a life that she recently lost.

On my actual birthday, I thank Jesus for another day, another year and all of the people in my life that I love and that love me back.

And then, I eat cake. With extra frosting.

Cheers to birthdays and celebrating life well!

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