I am not sure if I’m unique in this or deliriously oblivious to my own aging, but I love birthdays—including my own. Not because of the gifts—actually I sort of dread that part. I just think they are important mile markers (at least), opportunities for gratitude at best. Each year, I do try to sit for a while with what has happened and what is coming.
I am sitting today and thinking through this past year, on the cusp of the next.
In pictures I can see a lot packed into 32. We put some miles on, and have been in touch with more friends and family this year than we have been in a long time. I almost have a year of this stay-at-home-mom business under my belt, I’m writing more than I expected and I am consistently surprised by grace. Much of what makes this list, we planned, and the rest as everyone knows, is how life happens.
Maybe the thing that stands out most in terms of gratitude and defining pieces of the past year is that I have been loved, hard. This nurturing hasn’t come out of any wild writing success, parenting achievement, academic accomplishment or spiritual awakening. Ironically (or obviously enough), this wild, accompanying love has come to me in the moments when my business has drawn absolutely no interest, when I’ve questioned my abilities as a mother, and when I’ve shaken my fists at God.
Being loved hard isn’t bad, though it can be an adjustment to stand there with empty hands, filled. Think of your favorite jeans, the carpet in the room you love best—The Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit
Being loved hard is quite possibly how we are saved from ourselves and the lurking notion that we can do it on our own.
Thirty-three isn’t any special landmark year—I’m not just entering my thirties, ‘over the hill’ or qualified for anything new. (*Actually, I had to laugh as I listened to the young women in my women’s group joking about what you have to look forward to after they turn 26 and can rent a car—ha!). A quick search online reveals all kinds of significance to the number in various fields and systems of belief. Most significant perhaps, is that Jesus was thirty-three at the age of his active ministry, death and resurrection.
I know some who have physically gone into the desert at this age, in an effort to allow God to speak to them that they might know what it is they are being called to. Though I admire this, I am not planning any solo adventures at this point. I am encouraged to think about needing a foundation of years on which to build before my real gifts, friends, faults and mission might be revealed most clearly.
If that is what I have to look forward to in the year ahead, then it seems thirty-three might be even better than thirty-two.