Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lavish Birthday Love

Today is my birthday. 34 years old, I am. That sounds rather middle aged to me, which I will probably be thinking and feeling for another good fifteen years or so until I hit 50, at which point it seems you turn "old." Birthdays in this house are rather understated, but special. We don't do a lot of flashy parties or huge surprises, but the groove we seem to have settled into is to pour on a whole lot of "you're special" and even more "we love you." I woke up today to both of those things.

Yesterday was the last day of school for 2 weeks and the start of our Chun Jie vacation (which is the Chinese New Year, or more literally, the Spring Festival holiday and the number one holiday of the year for this nation). The day felt appropriately filled with little ways to share in the celebrating that is starting to happen all over the city and country.

  • Josh and the kids performed Chinese songs at school for the Chun Jie concert. They rocked it, and I was so proud of them. Listening to them practice the tongue twisting Chinese lyrics over the past several weeks has kept me awake too many nights with the tune playing like a broken record in my head. 
  • We put up Chinese decorations, just a few of our regulars, the paper cuttings in the windows and the banners over the door. 
  • The kids went out in the afternoon and ended up playing some version of a basketball game with some neighborhood Chinese boys. They came in celebrating that they were able to understand and communicate with their new friends. My boy was particularly pleased, saying that one of the boys was someone who earlier this fall had been part of a small run-in that had occurred between all the boys playing outside. It was one of those miscommunication battles that can happen when you don't understand them and they don't understand you, someone reads a gesture wrong that you made or the way you waved your stick, and suddenly a war is on. But today, they played together and he felt like a bridge had formed and the 9 year old bad blood had been wiped away.
  • We went out for dinner with friends at a local Chinese restaurant, something we don't brave too often no matter what country we live in, mostly because of the age and amount of children underfoot. But the food was good and the place festively hong ran, loud and noisy, just the way the Chinese like it. Afterwards we set off a few fireworks in the concrete park next to our apartment, dodging the dancing grandmas and men practicing their top-spinning with giant whips.
As we often do during times like this, on certain days that mark our time here, we reflected a little on our years here, our strangely blessed lives that can at one and the same time feel hard and less than what you would "dream of" for your life, but at the same time abundantly good and beyond what you deserve. The facts don't always add up if you tally the positives and negatives in neat little columns. It's like the weight of an intangible goodness that we sense like a giant blanket over all the pieces of our life here.

Then today was my birthday. Another day that inevitably brings on a little reflection. I sat alone with a cup of coffee and my Book of books, and read about what a gift my life is. What a gift my life in Christ is. I read Ephesians 2 and it read like a Giant Heavenly Birthday card, pouring out all the measure of God's great love for us, the extensive lavishness of his gifts, and the kindness that he showed and shows towards me each and every day, lifting me up out of who I was and who I am and setting me on the Rock. So that I can't help but think on the fact that I don't have enough goodness in me, and that is usually quite depressing, but He makes me good because He gives his goodness to me. And I can't make my life worth living, which can be less than inspiring, but He makes my life worthwhile because He says that the life I live by faith in the Son of God is a life of eternal value, with its weight and worth reaching down even to the dirt of this earth. It was by far the sweetest thing I read all day, and I felt all loved and special all over again.

Those sweet notes and cards and extra hugs and "I love you, you're the greatest mom" from my kids were pretty wonderful too. And the depth of devotion and love and committed thoughtfulness that exudes from My Man is something I feel moved by so many moments and so many days it is hardly fair to think that a birthday should need any extra effort. But he makes it. And I blunder through my appreciation,  all the time I like the girl who sits under the Ephesians 2 chapter, being lavished with love and barely knowing how to understand the greatness of it.

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