Fullness of Forty

Last night was my long-awaited 40th birthday party. I rarely have expectations for an event centered on myself, but for the big 4-0, I was expectant. I deeply wanted what my husband had for his 40th: dozens of friends traveling from near and far bearing gifts and toasts and reasons why he is the best. I will never forget the sweet satisfaction of his countenance as he looked around the room at his People, heart and eyes brimming.

So I carefully crafted a list of friends to invite. Oh how rich I am, what a treasure each name represents in my life! Just to call one of them friend is joy! But on a big graduation/wedding weekend the rsvp regrets poured in. I was deeply grateful for each yes. And for each no, I understood, yet I wept. The disappointment was disheartening and all the other dis’s. What do I do with these unfamiliar expectations? How do I humbly and honestly hold gratitude in one hand and grief in the other? Where are my People? Do I even have People? Do they care about me as much as I care about them? Don’t they know I need them, that this is a big deal to me? Has all my giving and loving gone unnoticed? Am I not worthy of being celebrated? I had to let go of my fears and my dream and those lying voices and choose to believe the truth. Most of all, I had to trust that God knew the longings of my heart.

But on this May evening, the weather was perfect and my neighbor Mindy outdid herself with new twinkly lights strung over the patio and thoughtful details. Jay grilled mexican street corn and smoked pork and created sauces without recipes. “Oh. My. Gosh.” Bethany raved after her first bite. Then after the second, “Do you ever cook?”  (Hint: my cute preschool Mother’s Day list from Molly reads ‘My mom makes great … pizza.’  Frozen pizza, to be clear.)

And as the air cooled and darkened, a magic grew around the fire pit fed by laughter and contentment. All was well, all was as it should be. My People spoke words of gratitude and encouragement and story and beauty to me, words that wove perfectly into the poem over my life, words that wove us together, words I needed to hear. {My goodness, let us be quick to speak such depth to everyone we know well. They are powerful words – don’t keep them in!}

What struck me profoundly last night is that all the things they said they loved about me are none of the things I try so hard to do or be. They are the things that overflow naturally, that I see clearly with the eyes of the Spirit – of course that is how life should be, that is how to love and be loved one day at a time. We each have innate expressions of the heart of God and our own-sized spheres of influence. Trying to produce outside that is exhausting, but living freely and fully within it gives life to everyone.

And so from these dear few friends I got what I was high-hoping to get after all: peace. Peace that just being me is enough, peace that there is more than enough for all of us. Contentment in following the ebb and flow and overflow of the Kingdom of God within me, in all its beauty and mystery and pain and surprises and ordinary days.

Happy birthday to me.

 

And she will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, yielding fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever she does, she prospers.  

Psalm 1:3

 

I extend peace to her like a river,

And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream.

Isaiah 66:12

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