How did I get this old? Seriously, it’s the birthday you keep forever. 29. My, it’s been a sweet one. So surprisingly sweet. And it wouldn’t mean much to say how great it’s really been, unless you know how much I love birthdays, and any celebration for that matter. I love looking forward to something special. I like hearing from the people who mean the most to me. Beginnings. Anticipation. Cake. Liberty to dance and sing and do whatever you love. Wrapping paper. Cards. Phone calls. The story of when you were born. Yes, please.
And it wouldn’t mean much unless I was honest enough to say that I was dreading this birthday. Like every time I thought about it for the past month, I would start crying. I wanted to look forward to my birthday, but I let my expectations about my life
guide control my feelings. No matter how I looked at it, there was disappointment headed my way (so I thought). Part of it was silly planning stress, but the other was facing a life I didn’t plan.
First, there’s the stress of party planning. Last year, I had a 10/10/10 birthday and threw a Perfect 10 party. Nice thought and fun time but really stressful for the whole day as I cleaned my house, decorated, and cooked. So I knew I didn’t want to throw a party, but did want to do something with my friends. Then there’s the fact that I have several groups of friends. I couldn’t figure out what to do for a decent size number of people. One night I had a dream that 2 groups of friends of (about 20 people total) were coming to my house and all I had were 2 pizzas. I welcome them in as a guy who was apparently a guest came downstairs and took a pizza, which was fine in my dream. I was left with 1 pizza and 20 people, so I knew I needed a new plan like a restaurant. I go inside my bathroom which in my dream was a public restroom to discuss with my friends who were in the stalls, then all of the sudden I’m shampooing my hair as I stand by the sink. Once I realize I have shampoo in my hair, I know I have to now take a shower. So then I was really stressed about where to go and that I was now behind, and all of the sudden I’m awake at 4 something in the morning.
I realized that stressing myself out in my dream and then waking myself up over it was out of hand. I thought, “I guess I should just pray about my birthday,” but definitely not something I typically spend time with God over. So there’s that. More troubling were my thoughts about turning 29.
You see, I had so much riding on 28. A lot. In my mind and thanks to some report I heard on the news once (or on TV at least), a woman’s prime age is 28. You are (supposedly) in good shape or at least your body isn’t falling apart, you have solid relationships, and enough money to feel like you can buy furniture or at least a nice pair of shoes. (I know that is so a generalization and not really something worth striving for, but hopefully you get my drift). In my mind, I was going to find The One at 28. I was going to be in great shape. I was going to love my job. My time was going to be spent making a difference and dreaming up fantastic ideas to make the world a better place. (In my college life plans, I would be on child 2 right now, but you make slightly revised plans as you go.) In short, 28 wasn’t going to be this.
Let me tell you, expectations can be wonderful, and they can be lethal. They can help you strive for a goal, but they can also skew your vision of what’s true. When your expectations are built on dreams of which you have little control in obtaining, you are left disappointed on what you thought should be but in the end was never meant to be.
I spent a few weeks grieving what I thought 28 should have been and wasn’t. There were things I wanted that didn’t happen. Though there were so many good things and people in my 28th year, the things my mind focused on were the lulls, the waiting, and the confusion. What didn’t happen. What didn’t work out.
I thought I might fall apart when I was no longer 28 and “beyond 28” started. Dramatic sounding, but it was true. I thought I might sink into a big hole and cry all day.
So I asked my parents to come because I knew I needed people who loved me here. My mom said she would come. I told my dear friend Wendy all the things I felt about my birthday, and she affirmed what I said. She and her husband Mark were sweet enough to take me to dinner.
After telling my house church about the stress-party-planning-dream a few weeks ago, my October birthday buddy Allison called the next day with the great idea of a birthday breakfast (and she told me to think about it and pray about it which put the icing on the cake. She just didn’t know I had been praying about my birthday). Prayer answered. I also had to decide that my birthday was what I made of it, not what other people did or didn’t do. So I laid down the ideas for planning a birthday function.
I also laid down the ideas of what I should be and what should happen at a certain age. In my head I knew that God brought events in my life to pass at the right time. I knew His plans were good. And that this timeline and scorecard of life was all in my head, and not any real measure of what was good and right and lovely. But my heart didn’t (yet) know. I kept asking that it be true there too.
Today my heart is full, overflowing, and grateful. These things I know: Jesus cares about the little things and His plans are beautiful. For this day, and this life, and this overwhelming Love: it’s enough. It’s more than enough.
29, we’re going to be friends.