I had a birthday this week.
My own birthday is not a big deal for me. I am loved on every day by the people in my life, so I don’t need a particular day where I overeat cake and treats (I can do that any day by myself), and I don’t want loved ones spending money on me. I think I’m a bit of a birthday Scrooge, which takes the fun out of it for my family. I just love being with my loved ones and chatting about life.
As I look back at the year, it’s been a bit of a tough one. Mom was very ill last fall, and I said goodbye to her in my heart. By some miracle, she recovered to become ill again in January, and again in March. In April, Dad contracted the flu and pneumonia while in rehab, and he had to be re-hospitalized. For six months, I was on alert for the phone call telling us one of them had departed this life.
During that same time frame, my father-in-law died, and many preparations were made to have him buried at Arlington Cemetery, which finally occurred in July. It was a beautiful memorial service and one that added a peaceful closure for my mother-in-law. She came to visit us in May, and we had a great time, even though she’s now dealing with some health issues of her own.
And then, just recently, our dear daughter-in-law had a miscarriage. It’s impossible to understand why life doesn’t develop as it should. Only God knows that. So we deal by making dinners and giving hugs and praying for peace.
Over this year, I’ve discovered (or maybe rediscovered) a few things.
1. I used to think the years I was home with young ones were the hardest, even though I wanted to be home with my children. As I look back, those years, though exhausting, were gold.
I was in control of our days and our activities. My days are not steady, or predictable anymore, and I miss the days of routine. I am blessed to share in our 18-month grandson’s life, which is pretty much eat, play, poop, eat, nap, eat, and go to bed. Life is so simple when you’re not yet two.
2. I’ve become aware of the counter-question to “why does bad stuff/sad stuff keep happening?”
First of all, this question is built on the faulty premise that the standard for life is that we will experience only good stuff – stuff we want, stuff we love. Where does that come from, this assumption that life will be only good things, that we’re entitled to only good things? I don’t know, but someone should research that.
Because, the flip question should also be asked: why do good things happen? Why am I blessed with a generous husband, a darling grandson, a house that has weathered numerous hurricanes with no flooding inside (praying for Texans), and dark chocolate chips I can pull out of my freezer at any time?
Why did my RA symptoms abate two years ago? Why do we have so many wonderful doctors? Why do all of our children have jobs when so many are out of work? Why do I get to celebrate my birthday with my favorite cake in the world? (For the easy recipe, click HERE.)
If we’re going to question the events in our lives, we need to address all of them, not just the bad ones, the ones that cause suffering. Why does anything happen, good or bad?
Life is crap-shoot, that’s what I think. It’s a broad spectrum of lovely and painful, sometimes due to our own choices, sometimes not. Lovely things happen to all people and terrible things happen to all people. That’s the human experience.
3. I know God is present and good though all the events of our lives.
We have a screwy perspective that says, God gives me random, unexplained delightful things in life, but when life is lousy and I’m hurting, He abandons me. How could He not spare me from this terrible, unfair thing? (there’s that premise again: I’m entitled to only good things.) Why do we question the bad stuff, but don’t wonder why we’re blessed with good circumstances when they happen? (Because we think we’re entitled to those.)
Our problem is we don’t have an understanding of who God is. And we’re delusional about who we are.
It’s our perspective that’s skewed. We think we’re bigger than we are (because we’re a prideful lot), and we think God is smaller than He is (because only a small entity would be kind at times, and removed during struggles.) We’re such a goofy mix of independence and whine. We’re like toddlers, only taller.
What has given me peace this past year is knowing God is the same always, loving and merciful and present, no matter what is going on.
He is with me, and in control, when I’m chasing after our giggling grandson, and He is with me and in control when Mom is dying. He was with me through RA pain, and He’s with me when I’m delighting in a succulent salmon meal our daughter has prepared. I don’t have to question His love (or wisdom) when two dear friends move away anymore than I do when I’m blessed with chocolate-covered strawberries from a third friend. (Blessed again! I have three friends! Some people have none.)
God’s words are always, “I’m delighted to see you are happy with the blessings of this life”, OR “I’m right here with you as you suffer through this current heartache. Trust me to bring you healing.”
Constant, steadfast, tender love, no matter what. He doesn’t waver, or turn.
I know that we are the fickle ones. We thank Him when we’re happy, and then curse Him when we’re unhappy. I think that’s why He calls us His children.
We just need to grow up. We need to place our trust in God, and not circumstances (which change), or people (who change too.) It’s change that’s upsetting. That’s where we become fearful – when we expect one thing, and something else (usually terrible) happens. That’s how LIFE works.
But that’s not how God works.
So, this birthday year, I think I’ve gained a little wisdom. I hope I remember it as I move along life’s journey.
Because, I’m sure there are more challenges (good and bad) coming.