Celebrate!

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and I must be having a blast! How is it nearly July already?!

I love July. Independence Day is fun with fireworks and BBQs (when you’re in a place that celebrates that particular day), but the main reason I love July is my birthday. I may be turning 36 in a couple of weeks, but I’m still like a kid when it comes to how excited I get about celebrating every year. It’s a little hard not to be with family to celebrate most years, but I’m grateful for the friends God always brings to celebrate with me wherever I am in the world!

I know some people who hate to celebrate or even acknowledge their birthdays. Others just don’t pay much attention. Maybe I’m weird, or perhaps I just like an excuse to splurge a bit and go out with friends, but I like to think that there is more to it than that. No offense to those who ignore or even dislike their special day, but I believe life is something to celebrate. Sure, we don’t have to wait for one specific day each year, but why not take the chance to mark the occasion and thank God for another year of life? It is a chance to reflect on what has happened in the last year (or over the course of your life), to dream with God about what the next year might bring, and to thank Him for the great things that have come so far and for bringing you through the hard times.

Some of the people I know who do acknowledge and even celebrate their birthdays are hesitant to share their age. I’ve never quite understood why that might be. I know that aging may not be the most enjoyable thing there is, but it certainly beats the alternative! While my life looks nothing like what I thought it would by the time I reached the second half of my 30’s, I have lived a pretty incredible life so far, and I believe that the best is yet to come.

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to celebrate my birthday this year. I know it will include friends, food, and fun. I also know that I intend to make the most of it and celebrate another amazing year of life. It has been a hard and confusing year at times, but I wouldn’t trade it in for an easier one because I am grateful for the growth it brought. There have been a lot of tears, laughs, late night talks, prayers, encouragements, disappointments, surprises, and adventures, and I am so thankful to God, my family, and my friends for being with me through all of it!  

You may not have a birthday coming up in the next couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time today to thank God for the years you’ve lived so far and dream about the future too!

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Time to Party?

So, tomorrow is kind of a big deal in my world. When it comes to birthdays, I’m still a kid at heart. I still wait with anticipation as my chance to celebrate a new year in my life comes along. If I’m being perfectly honest, I still love  the cards and gifts, the kind words and feeling special.

Some people seem to have outgrown this childlike fascination with their birthday, or they never really celebrated the day to begin with. Others dread the anniversary of their birth because it means they’re getting older, and aging is seen as the worst thing in the world. Um… I’m guessing they haven’t thought through the alternative to having birthdays and getting older.

The countdown to this birthday has been different. I’m torn between wanting to hope that it will be amazing and being afraid that it will be depressing. I’m living in a new country, and I’ve traveled enough during my time here that I don’t have a lot of close friends yet. Many of the friends I have made are currently out of town. I don’t have a permanent address and most people don’t have the temporary one, and with postage being expensive for overseas stuff, I don’t expect many cards or packages. I may end up taking myself to dinner and to a  show of the Irish National Clown Orchestra.

Another layer in my reasons to be wary of hope is that this day marks the passing of another year in which I didn’t accomplish so many things I had hoped to do. Like many others on the planet, my life hasn’t quite worked out the way I expected. Tomorrow, I enter my mid-30s, and I thought I’d be a wife and mom by now. I thought maybe I would know what I’m meant to be doing in ministry and even actually be doing that by this point. I thought life would be different.

Don’t get me wrong on this. I LOVE my life for the most part. If any of those other things had happened before now, chances are I wouldn’t live in Ireland, and I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Most days, I feel fulfilled and truly happy with where God has brought me in life. It’s just that I know there’s more.

Despite my attempts to be content in every circumstance, and give my desires back to God, and all of those other things that well-meaning people “encourage” me with, I know there is more. Just when I reach the place where I feel the contentment we’re taught is the goal, HE begins to whisper to me that there is more, the best is yet to come.

So, despite any indications to the contrary, there is the potential for this birthday and the coming year to be the best so far! I am on the brink of new and BIG things. Most days, I feel it – the expectancy that something is just around the corner.

On the days when I don’t feel it, He reminds me, challenging me to hope beyond the seen, beyond the risk that disappointment is what awaits around that next corner.

I don’t know what’s waiting. I can’t see around the corner yet, but I know someone whose view is far superior to mine. He has whispered to me of the things that are waiting and I am learning to trust His voice.

I am also learning to hope without demands or score-keeping – because, let’s face it, I lose that count every single time. I discovered earlier this week that I was subconsciously beginning to tell God all that I’ve done, the sacrifices I think I’ve made in my (nearly) 34 years of life. I can almost hear Him chuckle. He must think how cute and silly I am to play that game again when all He has to do is remind me of one moment in time that changed everything.

In the moment when Jesus defeated death, paid my debt to sin, and made abundant life possible, He  won forever and always – not only against Satan, Hell and death, but against my selfish attempts to blackmail Him with my supposed “sacrifices” on His behalf. 🙂

Does God love me and want to give me more than I can even imagine? Yes, without a doubt! Do I believe there are huge things ahead of me, and that this year may hold surprises that I haven’t even dreamed of? Most of the time. 🙂 Does God “owe me” for sacrificing or stepping out of the boat to follow Him on this adventure? Nope, not a darn thing!

I am excited about tomorrow. I think it’s going to be a fun day and the beginning of an exciting year. Will it bring along great friendships, ministry direction/opportunities, a place to call home, and maybe even a bit of romance? Who knows! Whatever it brings, though, it’s going to be full of life, laughter, love, tears, pain, uncertainties, and so much more! It won’t be perfect, but it will be abundant and full of Him!