First published 2/20/11 (36th Birthday)
In West Africa, after the baby is eight days old the mother takes the baby for it’s first walk in the big, wide world, and friends and family are invited to meet the new baby. That’s how I look at my birthdays, an introduction to walk into this great big world, inviting others to meet me on this walk.
Birthdays, like me have evolved. My early recollections are of sitting at the table with my mom, packing ziplock bags full of sweet and salty snacks, excited to share it with grade school friends. Then there were the “quiet birthday years” as I call it, where parties and cakes weren’t in the budget, but a card and some cash could always be found under my pillow. College years meant introduction to “Girls Night Out” and just celebrating life as only a eighteen year old would want to do–no parents around, just having a good time. Marriage years mean really nice gifts, romantic dinners and chocolate covered strawberries shared with colleagues because it was just too much to eat alone. I am the Queen in this home and treated as such on birthdays AND everyday!
Now here I sit contemplating life at thirty-six. I’ve gotten past the insecurities of aging and when that gray brow hair found its way on my face, I gasped and turned to my hubby who had seen it the night before, but mercifully didn’t say anything. Leave it to him to let me discover it on my own. And that’s what God has allowed me to do Himself. Discover life on my own. No friends to push me into doing anything I didn’t want to do, no family members imposing their value systems on me, just Him being that constant “lamp unto my feet.”
I recently posted a picture I came across, of a long winding country road and it was a revelation to me that this is how life is, a road with dips and curves, rough terrain, smooth trails–all pointed towards a beautiful sunset. A dear friend of mine was kind enough to remind me that it isn’t a journey I have to take alone. That family, friends, colleagues, associates, and “gasp” dear I say even enemies are on this journey with me.
Enemies, in my dictionary, are those who I either misunderstand or those who misunderstand me. They are people who bring out the worst in me and who God is continually reminding me to deal with as part of my responsiblities as a child of of the King. I honestly regret their presence in my life, but since this isn’t utopia, they serve a purpose that is not malicious, but rather necessary. They are on this journey with me, forcing me to look in the mirror each day and check myself. Prodding me to humility, assertiveness, prayer . . . They are that rough terrain, forcing my legs to work that much harder and forcing my arms to reach upwards to hold on to God when I’d rather wrap my hands around their neck (just joking, I think) 😉
Colleagues and associates are those people that propel me to grow in a world that is more than “church life”. They are my reminders that there’s a whole world needing to be saved and like Paul, I have to be “all things to all men.” They come and go like seasons. And like seasons, some must go their own way and return again when the time calls for it. They are fluid in my life, taking on various roles when I need them the most: nurturing mother hens, blabber mouth older sisters, diva-like younger sistrens, rough-housing big brothers, mentors to glean from, mentees to impart to.
Friends & family are interchangeable phrases in my world. I grew up in a household where no blood relatives lived nearby and friends of my parents and their children became family. I’ve grown up with that ideal and look at friends as part of my family. I am who I am because of my upbringing. My mother raised a child who can walk with kings and paupers and never lose myself in either. Those Sunday afternoon etiquette dinners, a glass of red wine included, (yes I been dranking since I was 7!); taught me to place my best foot forward–always! My father’s lessons were of being a young lady above reproach, doing for myself and not relying on anyone else to do it for me or get it for me. Thank you Papa for teaching this Daddy’s girl to excel in all that I put my mind to. My brother reminded me of all those inner faults that I have as a human being–that mean streak of unforgiveness and the tendency to hold on to things that shouldn’t matter anymore. Thank God for college and life after home, because although I’m still the bossy one–I’m not the mean big sister anymore! My half-sister is new in my life, and truthfully we are still learning each other in this new relationship as me being the big-little sister in her life. Yep, I told you I was bossy.
Marriage means an inheritance of family members as well. I gained three brothers, three neices, one nephew and one sister-in-law, and a friend for life. There’s a heap of cousins aunts/uncles, on the hubby’s side. Each reminding me of how different people can be and how I fit it into the grand scheme of things. Each relationship teaches me of where I should place myself–that I can’t be the “know it all” with this person, or that I should “step it up” with this group or that I should “speak up” before I get trampled with this other group. I love his family. They make me mad, make me laugh, make me sad and make me love them no matter what. For this island girl who was raised with only one sibling and no cousins or uncles/aunts around, I am blessed to be surrounded by such colorful individuals.
Friends, ahhh friends! From the time I could engage in conversation, God has blessed me with friends that now span several continents, languages, cultures and backgrounds. I remember being with my college roomies for a slumber party (yes grown women have those every now and then) and saying that I had gained all the friends I would ever want to have. I’ve had to since eat those cavalier words of my 24 year old self (lol!). I have gained a treasure trove of friends from high school on… Are we all in the same state anymore? No. Are we always yacking away on the phone or texting 24-7? Not really. But oh, when we get together–it’s like putting on that old sweater and realizing it still fits. But my friends aren’t old “sweaters”. They are men and women who take fabulousity to the next level professionally, spiritually, and personally.
One of the best things about aging with friends is seeing how God does His thing in each of their lives. I would have never imagined in a million years how our lives would turn out and where this journey is taking me with them along the way. Granted, some do get on my nerves occasionally, our differences are what attracted us to each other and what can send us over the edge as well. Others confuse me with their decisions/choices, and yet even others I don’t speak to or see as much–but I know when I will need them the most, they will be there. My friends all have one thing in common. They pull me out of that quiet place I tend to prefer, and make me do wild and crazy things! I dare to dream bigger, I dare to act “out of character”, and I dare to just be me. They accept the “bourghie” Del, but are always there to take me down a peg of two. They accept the “perfectionist” Del, but remind me it’s okay to make mistakes and to laugh at myself. They accept the “know-it all” Del, but remind me ALL THE TIME, that I really don’t know it all; as a matter of fact I know nothing! (lol!) Finally, they accept the “closed” Del, always taking the time to peel back those layers, one at a time.
This brings a close to my birthday reflections. I’m thirty-six today! This shy and and unassuming “child of God” relishes her time in the sun.
In the words of Picasso, “It’s taking me a long time to grow young.”