"Aunt Joy, when are you going to have a baby?" My young nephew looked at me with questioning eyes and a mouth full of peanut butter and jelly.
"Well, I have to get married first," I told him.
Sighing, he said, "Well, when are you going to get married?"
"What if I never get married?" I asked.
"Well, that would be sad because you would never have a baby."
See - pressure is everywhere, even from a seven-year-old.
It's not his fault. Almost everyone that he knows is married and there has been a wave of pregnancies at our church, so he kind of has babies on the brain. His timing, however, could not be better. He asked me this question the same weekend I was celebrating turning 30.
I thought that ignoring my actual birthday would make it easier. If I could just keep pretending that I hadn't reached that milestone at all, I could ignore the fact that my life wasn't where I thought it would be by now. After all, I don't feel like I'm 30.
But instead, I found myself missing my favorite birthday tradition - the birthday blessings.
My family has a tradition that on someone's birthday, we give them what we call birthday blessings. Each person shares something special about the birthday boy/girl; what they like or appreciate about them or some way they have seen the person grow. One of my love languages is words of affirmation, which is why this is my favorite part of my birthday. I eagerly anticipate it every year.
I think we tend to see ourselves the same way I see my cakes. I spend a lot of close up, personal time with the cakes I make. I know where every flaw is. I see every imperfection. I am very aware of where they fall short. So when I look at the finished product, that is what I see. The flaws. The imperfections. How it is unworthy.
When other people look at my cakes, they don't see the process. They don't know what pieces caused the tears and the near meltdowns. What they see is a work of art made with a lot of love. (That they get to eat.) And they don't understand why I don't think it is very good. Because they have the ability to look past the flaws and see something beautiful.
So when I think about myself, I know all the crappy stuff. I know every mistake I make. I see all the failures and all the places where I fall short. Now I know that everyone feels this way sometimes. But the Devil is clever and he whispers in my ear, "See that flaw? See where you failed there? That's why you are still single."
Sometimes I believe him. Sometimes I don't.
I am a fairly confident person. I know who I am and I'm not afraid to be myself. But sometimes, we really need that affirmation from other people.
I finally got the chance to receive my birthday blessings from my family, and, this year, some of my friends as well. And hearing all of the things they had to say about me was, well, pretty awesome. I'm having trouble writing about it because I don't really know how to describe how I felt, other than saying I felt very loved and appreciated. Which somehow doesn't seem adequate.
Now, I may not be wealthy. I may not have the career I thought I would have by now. I may not have a husband or children. But I have an embarrassment of riches.
I have a family who is willing to sacrifice hours of time and effort and make a gourmet 30 course dinner for me. And I say gourmet, I mean gourmet.
I have friends who gave their time to spend the evening with me and who were willing to share what they appreciated about me.
I have a friend who is willing to Skype with me until 2 am and who sent me a birthday present in the mail, somehow timing it to arrive this weekend, at a moment when I really needed her encouragement.
I have another friend who knew that this birthday was hard for me, a friend who has been there and understands what it's like, who wrote me such an encouraging note, acknowledging the difficulty and giving hope for the future.
I have people in my life who remind me that I'm a daughter of God and that is my true identity.
And this is what life is about. The people. It doesn't matter what I do for a living or how many people I can claim on my taxes. So when you think about it, my life is pretty awesome, single or not. Thanks for being those people who show up and speak into my life! And thank you for seeing me as a person and not as a marital status.
I don't know why we don't tell people what we like about them. Is it too embarrassing? Too sentimental? Are we just too busy? Is it too hard to put things into words? Maybe we should be more intentional about letting people know why we think they are awesome. And not just on their birthdays.
Oh, and I also have friends who gave me the best 30th birthday card ever (thanks Doug and Natalie)!!