Birthdays + Culture + Rejoicing in Each Day

I sat on the couch in the living room curled up next to my husband of 19.5 years, looked around the room at our 4 boys who border the line of being called men gathered ’round and stated, “If this is 40, I’m a fan.”

Sure, I was only some 16 hours into this next decade of life so I don’t have a whole lot of comparisons I can make just yet but the Lord has been changing my heart over the past several years surrounding birthdays. (and a few other celebratory days too)

This year particularly it was impressed upon my heart that in this call to live counter-culturally, could there be a way for our birthdays to feel just a bit different too.

In the past, I’ll admit, I’ve boldly proclaimed to my family a month out from the big day that they have 30 days to find me a great present! They’ve heard my voice in weekly intervals breaking down the T-minus however many days until I need to be celebrated. It became a joke of sorts in our home. I patted myself on the back for teaching my many boys how to celebrate a woman well. But this year it just didn’t sit right.

In a culture that is already so ‘me’ focused I struggled to make a big hoopla about, well – me! And I assure you it’s not only the culture. My own murky sinful heart spends enough of her days self-focused – fighting against the sins of pride and self-righteousness. I daily battle the wants and longings that are only temporary satisfactions of my very human flesh. I press back against frustration that comes from self-entitlement and the feelings that I deserve more than what I’ve been given.

These all come on any given day. Often. Sin, wash, repeat.

My heart felt so unsettled as my favourite people asked what I was doing to celebrate the big day. My ever-loving husband (who knows immensely better than to plan any sort of surprised) consulted with me multiple times to see what I might enjoy. What might make me feel celebrated. Who I might like gathered around. What event or gift would make me feel entirely special.

I couldn’t help but find it completely opposite to the ways I’ve been journeying these past few years. As the Lord has been gracious to show me my struggles, my idols, the very icky places of my heart – a day that brought all of them out – that said I deserve this, this is what I want, celebrate me – just didn’t seem fitting to the life stage I’m in.

There’s a way we think we need to do things based on culture, tradition, or instagram. But why? Everyone seemed defeated by the fact that I was letting my birthday slide without much made about it. They questioned whether it was the age I was turning that made it hard. But the truth is, the age didn’t change a thing for me. I prayed hard and asked the Lord what celebrating should look like. What it could look like to allow those who love me to show it, but not conjure up sin in my heart that I deserve things a certain way.

A verse was impressed upon my heart repeatedly in the weeks before my birthday. “Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Each day is one He has made. Each is to be rejoiced in. Not this one simple day that holds the number on which I was born. But, every day. And on the flip side, this wasn’t a day to NOT celebrate because I didn’t want it to be about me, but it was to be rejoiced in, to be glad in for the same reason we ought to do it every day. Because HE made it. It’s His day. Let’s celebrate!

I walked through my birthday the most content I think I’ve ever been on a celebratory day. I normally conjure up expectations and then get upset when they don’t work out. But this day, instead of seeking the glory for myself, I simply turned it back to my maker. Lord, you made this day – thank you. So every text message that came my way, simply reminded me to thank Him. The chocolate and the flowers that were gifted reminded me to be thankful for the people He’s surrounded me with and to be glad. The dinner I didn’t have to cook made my heart rejoice.

But most of all, sitting on the sofa in the living room surrounded by my people and getting worked up at the ref’s in the Golden State Warriors game, looking around and seeing so tangibly how good and gracious the Lord has been to me, to us, to our family – secured in my heart what I knew I wanted this birthday to be about. It’s not the age that matters so much, or at least it doesn’t feel like it does, it’s not even the fact that it was my birthday. But rather when we simply rejoice in another day, right where we are, with whomever He has surrounded us with, our hearts will be glad.

I’ll say it again now that I’m 3 days in. If this is 40 – I’m a fan.

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