Today is my 43rd birthday.
Today is also the 5 year anniversary of Stefan’s stroke.
I figured those two things are good reasons for me dust off the ol’ keyboard and give myself a birthday gift–the gift of writing something.
I love to write. I always have. I love it as much as I love good food and meaningful conversation. I love it a little more than boy bands and Swedish Fish, but not as much as Jesus. I feel alive when I write.
(Except for the punctuation part of it. I apologize in advance for it. I love commas, ellipses, dashes, and semi colons. I know my posts are over accessorized with them. I’m like the grandma who wears her gloves, hat, pearls, lipstick, clip on earrings, pantyhose, and wrist corsage to McDonald’s. I get it and I own it).
So why haven’t I been writing?
That’s a great question. I’m not sure if I have one specific answer to it.
An obvious answer is life is full right now. Our kids are 22, 17, 15, almost 12. We’re navigating college graduation, a wedding (!!), driving, relationships, friendships, social media, little league–all while trying to cultivate character, integrity, and a deep affection for Jesus. You know, nbd (That’s how the youngsters and I say “no big deal.” It ups my coolness, but the fact that I had to point out that it makes me cooler, actually makes me un-cooler. It’s like one step forward, 5 steps backwards with theses teens).
In all sincerity, I have no greater honor or privilege than being mom to these kids. I am trying to soak it all in and soak it all up because my heart is having a hard time catching up to how fast they are growing up on me.
Maybe the more accurate answer for my silence is that some seasons of life, while in the midst of them, are too sacred to share. I think I needed to put down my pen so that I could submit and allow God to write my story–as He sees fit.
Here’s what I mean:
On my 10th birthday in 1984, I received the mother of all presents—a Cabbage Patch Doll. His birth certificate read Rodney Frankie and I was immediately in love with a bald-headed, blue-eyed, overall-wearing fake baby. He was perfect, right down to the Xavier Roberts signature on his butt. It was exactly what I wanted for my birthday. EXACTLY.
Even if his name was Rodney Frankie.
Fast forward to my 38th birthday in 2012. I can’t remember what was on my birthday “list” that year, but the only thing I wanted was to take a nap. True story. I certainly did NOT want my husband to have a massive stroke right in front of me. It was the exact opposite of what I wanted for my birthday. EXACT OPPOSITE.
Yet, I count both–the doll and the stroke–as treasured gifts.
I found out years later that my mom went to great lengths to buy my Cabbage Patch Doll. She drove a couple hours ONE WAY in the snow, uphill both ways, to find that doll. I’m not certain about the uphill part considering we lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota (the GREAT PLAINS) at the time. “Hill” may be loosely defined, but there definitely was snow. Legend has it she threw a couple of elbows to secure my gift. No one came forward with a law suit so we cannot confirm or deny the story. And, she’ll never tell.
The point is this: she fought for me. She was working for my benefit, behind the scenes without my knowledge of any of it.
I’ve learned much these past 5 years— too much to begin to quantify or explicate. Mostly, I learned that what feels so incredibly cruel and unwanted at the time, can be a gift God uses as one of the greatest tools of transformation in our lives. Sometimes when it feels like He’s fighting WITH us, He’s actually fighting FOR us: working for our benefit, behind the scenes without our knowledge of any of it.
I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. I’m not the same person I was a year ago. My faith is stronger, my hope intact, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. That’s not due to a newly found inner strength or newly acquired intelligence; it is simply a testament to a God who fights for me. He was and is working for my benefit, behind the scenes without my knowledge of any of it.
Don’t get me wrong, plenty of days I felt (and feel) like 2007 Britney, or 2006 Mel Gibson, or 1996-98 Dennis Rodman.
You get the idea.
All of that to say, the stroke was the beginning of a long season of evaluation, contemplation, and reassessment. I found that in being quiet, it was easier for me to recognize the gifts God was giving me. It was easier to notice the changes (for the better) He was making in our lives. My inactivity was necessary to see His activity.
That’s probably the most authentic answer I can give you.
Here’s my gift to you on my birthiversary: sometimes the most unusual and unwanted circumstances prove to be cherished gifts that make you stronger and gentler, wiser and more compassionate, closer to God, less like you and more like Jesus. He is working for your good even as I type these words. He is fighting for you. He is for you. However, as with all parents, He won’t force you to accept the gifts.
Best news? It doesn’t even have to be your birthday for Him to deliver.
(I spoke about all of this at a women’s event last September. Here’s a link if you’re interested in hearing more about God’s faithfulness on my journey.)
Let me wrap up by saying this, I haven’t forgotten y’all. So many of you have encouraged me to write and inquired about my writing and genuinely asked why I’m not. I am overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude thinking of all of you reaching out to me, nudging me, praying for me, encouraging me. I wish I could articulate how your care for me has been balm to my soul. Thank you.
I’m hoping to write more this year; however, I’ve also been hoping to lose 10 pounds the past year or so and that’s not gone well, so we’ll see.
Until we meet again here, I’m praying for you. I’m praying that you trust and know that He is writing your story. And, it’s better than anything you can ask for or imagine.
It’s way better than Rodney Frankie and that’s saying a lot.
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.