January 15, 2013

giving myself

Last week I had a birthday.

When I was a child, I thought birthdays were all about me:  sort of an opportunity to be Queen for the day.

To tell the truth, up until last week, I still kind of thought birthdays were all about the birthday girl.  My children cooperated with this theory as soon as they were old enough, expressing eagerness to give me presents and backrubs and coupons good for cheerful service.  They were, I thought, copying how I treated them on their birthdays.

But then I had the "perfect storm" of a birthday, and my eyes were painfully pried open.  Life (celebrated and represented by a birthday) is about giving.  It is more blessed, Jesus says, to give, than to receive.  And then he thought it'd be good to let me learn it by living it, day after day.

To begin with, I had pms (which, I know, some think is a myth; let's just say it felt pretty real this time).  So I was a little grumpy to begin with.  But I smiled graciously for my Farmer's (belated by an hour) morning birthday wishes.  I made our breakfast graciously.  I oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over the gifts the children had picked out for me.  I allowed the whiny toddler to help me open my presents.  I smiled, pleased, to receive the gift my Farmer gave [allowed me to order].

And then (it was a little mp3 player) I wanted to play with it.

But there were groceries to buy.

On my birthday.

Since I wasn't actually having any luck transferring my music to digital form, and since the clock was ticking, I went, not quite so graciously.  [do you see me overlooking the fact that I get to go alone, since my Farmer - graciously - took off work to be home for my birthday?]

Before I left, I (graciously) pointed out to my Farmer some potential timing issues relating to pie-making and pottery-studio-paneling and toddler-napping.  [do you see me overlooking the fact that, on his day off, my Farmer is not only watching the children while I run errands, but is also planning to make me a birthday pie - with the children - and put up paneling in my pottery room?!]

And then I bought groceries.  God, in his graciousness, had many little treats planned for me on my outing:  Cans of crab, which I love, and have never before seen at the discount grocery store.  Also five unexpired bars of 85% Lindt in pristine condition, Belgian chocolate cream cheese for a song, and my favorite kinds of sausages.  Wonderful new books for me at the library, checked out by my favorite librarian, who had just watched a documentary I had recommended, and loved it!  And at my regular grocery store, crab cakes were a dollar off.

I returned home to a wonderful smell - my Farmer had made stew!!  But ..... I was eager for those crab cakes ..... and it turned out he had made the stew from the dried peas I had told him I didn't like!!  I put the groceries away, suppressing irritation at all the helpers - big and small - getting in the way.  [and yes, overlooking the fact that they want to help me]

After lunch, I took up one of my new books and settled into the recliner.  It was not to be: Lil' Snip, whining so unbeguilingly, wanted me.   I graciously read Curious George to him, mostly from memory, mostly without looking longingly at my own book.

When he hopped down, temporarily appeased, I picked up my book again.  Nice appeared with a flutter of homemade coupons - for backrubs.  She had set up a little backrub-giving shop.  I laid my book back down, graciously, and turned myself over to Nice.

The rest of the day was the same:  willing myself to speak nicely over the utter cacophony of three or more of their voices at once, to not ruin my birthday for them; coaching them in kindness, kindly; and receiving, graciously, what they want to give.

: : :

Here's the moral I thought I was writing about:  grownups don't get to receive on their birthdays; they just get to give to their families the gift of their graciousness, so the children can learn to enjoy giving.......so that when they grow up, they too can give and not need to receive.

Here's what I think I'm actually being taught:  even though I am no longer (in some ways) a child, I still need to receive.  My birthday was not about how graciously I could give a good day to my children.  I missed the point.  It wasn't that they were giving me the "wrong" things and I needed to set a good example by receiving them anyway.  They were giving me the right things.  I could have been truly receiving them.  I could have been blessed by them.  My birthday was a day for them to be blessed by giving to me.  And for me to practice truly receiving, because I need the practice and because they learn from watching me.

Hmmm.  Didn't I just write about this?  About letting go of one thing in order to receive something better?

: : :

[I am still learning.  Very likely I am still missing a lot.  Maybe even the main point.  I am grateful for my blog, where I can learn out loud, as it were.  Maybe, someday, I will be able to look back and see the path that He has brought me so gently along, and how it has led me to Him...]

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