I used to have a tradition of running a minute for each year I’ve been alive on my birthday. The last time I did this was when I was 44. I ran for 44 minutes without stopping, sucking wind the last four minutes and nearly dying.
It occurred to me the absurdity of my birthday tradition. I can’t imagine myself at 80 years old running eighty minutes without stopping.
Today I turn Fifty-one. I’ve lived fifty-one years and it’s taken this long for me to appreciate a word that has defined my year: Gratitude.
It seems a simple word, really. It’s something we’re all encouraged to have, especially around this time of year. But it has a different definition than thankfulness, indebtedness or appreciation.
Gratitude, by comparison, is accompanied by a feeling of awe. It’s the glow of a person that has been given a clean slate, a second chance. It lives in the heart of a person who’s just beaten cancer or survived a gruesome car accident.
It’s a word that comes with an attitude of grace and a change of life.
At the beginning of this year, I realized I was slowly killing myself. It would have taken awhile, but my journey into the 50’s was a depreciating, exhausting duty dependent on exterior forces to bring me peace. Each person battles deep within themselves to find significance and value, and I was losing that battle. I believed wrong things about myself and made a lot of excuses for the way I was. In short, I was becoming bitter and it showed on the outside and came out of my mouth when I talked.
No matter how together people look on the outside, they can be in pain. Inside they are warring to find a balance and a place where they can receive peace and change that lasts. This year, I surrendered, fell through the narrow passage of the funnel and landed on my back. What poured down on me was grace.
I took a deep breath and began taking responsibility for my side of things. My new way of life isn’t about eating or drinking, it’s mainly about how I’m processing things. My new life and my new way of processing both joy and pain are so foreign to me that I have to keep practicing.
So at fifty-one, I am being born all over again. At the same time, I am dying.
Today Mario took a picture of me getting ready for a run. I am ready to go, my dogs nearby me. I was tempted to photo-shop out all of the wrinkles and bulges, but I didn't.
Instead, I looked closely at it and I was grateful. The woman in the picture is precious and she’s full of flaws. She’ll try her best to do a bunch of things that are in the end, too hard for her. Instead of medicating her pain, she’ll feel it.
I love her and she finally knows I do.
Happy Birthday to me.
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)