Punctuation & Continuation

Fall has arrived!

Along with peewee/high school/college/NFL football, Christmas countdowns and pumpkin spice everything.

And right on the heels of the autumnal equinox, we observe the “high holiday” of English teachers and content editors everywhere.

Today is National Punctuation Day.

Described as “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis,” this national punctuation celebration falls on the same day each year. (And it just so happens to coincide with the time period when teachers have been back in school long enough to feel utterly exasperated by the lack and/or grievous misuse of punctuation. So there’s that.)

Based on the text messages I receive daily from my teen and young adult children, I’m quite certain none of them observe this holiday. I, however, will celebrate National Punctuation Day with wild abandon and extra exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because punctuation is important; that’s why. (Naysayers, be forewarned that you will be serving a life sentence inside some maximum security parentheses.)

If – like me –  you occasionally find yourself scrolling your social media feed while waiting at the dentist’s office or the DMV, you’ve probably seen memes that convey the necessity of properly placed punctuation. Like this one, which reads:

“I like cooking my family and my dog.”  Use commas. Don’t be a psycho.

(Good advice, I think.)

During my four years in journalism school at Northwestern, I spent countless hours poring over Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, studying the minutiae of tricky punctuation usage so as not to flunk Professor Hainey’s editing course and thereby derail my entire education and career. One stray comma or misplaced colon (insert pun here), and you were toast. Professor Hainey was a big fan of the dreaded-and-dastardly pop quiz. So you had to be prepared to remedy poor grammar and unruly punctuation at any moment. (Proper application of that divisive “dash” still perplexes – and pains – me.)

But long after gaining relative mastery over my commas and quotation marks, I discovered that I still had a lot to learn about one particular punctuation mark: the semicolon.

It was a tattoo that originally caught my eye. A wrist tattoo. Of a punctuation mark. That’s it. No anchor/arrow/angel/Angelina Jolie-inspired dragon (which was apparently regrettable since she later removed it.)  No paw prints or pink ribbon or rosebud or barbed wire. Just one simple, solitary semicolon. When I saw it, I knew it must mean something significant. So I did what I always do when I need wisdom and insight. I googled it.

That’s when I stumbled upon Project Semicolon.

And learned the meaning of the profoundly simple semicolon tattoo.

Unlike other impulsive, random and/or mystifying body ink trends, this tattoo has real significance. (And no, it’s not just the mark of a really committed grammar nerd.)

This mark represents mental health struggles and the importance of support (medical care/counseling/social-emotional support/therapies/self-care) for suicide prevention.

Project Semicolon was born from a social media movement in 2013:

“A movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love, and inspire.”

But why a semicolon?

A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.

Project Semicolon was founded by a young woman named Amy Bleuel who lost her father to suicide. Her memorial tribute to her dad soon became a social media movement, and she was struck by the way a simple puntuation mark resonated with people across the country and around the world. The semicolon became a means to acknowledge the struggles of depression, addiction, self-harm and suicide, and more importantly, it brought a measure of healing and hope to suicide survivors. The semicolon became a powerful reminder:

Your story isn’t over yet…

It became a “note to self” to just keep on…

To just; not; end;

To not believe depression’s convincing and consuming lies. That you are not loved. That there is no hope.

Because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is always hope.

And you are forever loved.

That’s the truth.

(Capital T. Exclamation point.)

So as I mentioned earlier, I will celebrate today. This lovely autumn day also known as National Punctutation Day. I will celebrate it and savor every single minute of it. The rising and shining and showering, the eating and drinking and dog-walking, the thinking and talking (hopefully in that order), the smiles and sandwiches and sweater weather. The friends and family coming and going. The leaf-raking and laundry (and the incredibly helpful, handsome man who folds it. He’s all mine.) The laughter and love… the life-living. And I will do it all today in memory of Eric Brown, Madison Holleran, Austin Hills, Will Trautwein and so many precious others who would still be with us, if only their young lives had been punctuated with a semicolon rather than a period.

Keep living your story,

Wendy

P.S. Sadly, Amy Bleuel lost her battle with depression and died by suicide in March 2017. If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis (or at risk for any type of self-harm), please call 911 emergency services, contact a mental health professional immediately, go to the nearest hospital emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center near you.

 

 

 

The Only Question That Matters

In 100 years, you and I will both be dead.

And the only thing that’ll matter is our answer to this question:

Who do you say that I am?

(Jesus asking.)

He really wants to know what you think of him. (Well, technically, he already knows. But maybe you aren’t really sure?) Now before you quit reading because I’m getting all Jesus-freaky again… let’s switch places.

What are your big questions? Do you ever wonder…

Who am I?

What is the meaning of life? 

How did I get here? (And the followup: How do I get outta this mess?)

Where can I find a little peace?

Good questions. Hard questions. (Trick questions?)

Any idea where to get an answer key? Amazon sells some, but I’m not sure they’re what you’re looking for. If however, you like to do algebra in your free time, you’re all set.

Many years ago, I had the enormous joy (and occasional splitting headache) of teaching Sunday School to a giggly gaggle of first- and second-graders. Early on, I noticed they were eager to answer questions. I’d ask for responses, and a bunch of waving, wiggly hands would fly into the air. At my invitation, they’d gleefully pronounce their answers.

Love!

Jesus!

The Bible!

God/The Guy Upstairs/Art! (Slight misinterpretation of Our Father – who’s Art – in heaven.)

Me, me, me!

No matter my question, most of the time I got one of the above answers. I heard other guesses too:

The Bible!

A prince(ss)!

Pastor Clem!

Pray, pray, pray!

Every once in a while, a “creative problem-solver” would offer an alternative answer:

Holy buckets!

Grape juice and crackers! 

This little light of mine!

The zombie apocalypse!

And you know what? Most of those kiddos’ answers were. Spot. On. (Minus the zombies.)

Who am I?

A prince(ss)!

What are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them? You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur. ~ Psalm 8:4-5 (CEB)

What is the meaning of life?

Love.

…And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]. ~ Ephesians 3:19 (AMP)

How did I get here?

Me, me, me!

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. ~ Isaiah 53:6a (MSG)

How do I get outta this mess?

Jesus.

The payment for sin is death. But God gives us the free gift of life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23 (NCV)

Where can I find a little peace?

Pray, pray, pray.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7 (TLB)

Turns out the Bible is the answer key for…. well… pretty much everything.

Don’t believe me? Open it up and read it for yourself. (#justdoit)

Now, back to the original question…

Who do you say that he is?

(One of these days, you’re gonna have to answer that one.)

If it’s multiple-choice, you’ve got plenty of answers to choose from:

A. Brilliant teacher.

B. Religious zealot.

C. Obscure Jewish carpenter who happened to gain a lasting and faithful following. (Pretty impressive sans social media and cable news.)

D. None of the above.

E. All of the above.

Some people simply say he was a preacher or prophet. Some say a pretender… or pariah.

I’ve noticed that most people (including myself) tend to define him based on what they’ve heard about him rather than what he’s revealed – in scripture, in nature, in love.

Jesus is who he says he is:

The Way.

The Truth.

The Life.

(And no one comes to the Father except through him.)

He told people straight up that he’s the Son of God and the Son of man. The Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God. The bread of life and the light of the world. The Savior, Healer and Messiah.

He’s all that. (For real.)

And if you don’t believe him, you must think he’s a brazen liar or a total loon.

As I’ve gotten to know him better, finding him in the pages of scripture and talking to him in prayer and inviting him into my everyday, I’ve discovered he’s also…

My rescuer.

My confidante.

My favorite artist.

My freedom fighter.

My solace.

My trail guide.

My fallout shelter.

My lighthouse.

My life coach.

My joy bomb.

My hidden treasure.

Jesus is the brilliant writer who’s woven together hiStory and mine.

He’s the One who sees my every failure, flaw and frailty… and adores me still.

He’s the One who gave me life… and laid his down. (Not only for me, but you too.) He endured betrayal, wrongful conviction, taunting, torture. He suffered the worst imaginable death penalty surrounded by mockers and murderers. He bore the weight of every last sin, unbound hatred, darkest despair…

Bloody hell.

But perhaps the worst anguish was caused by the One he trusted most. Forsaken by his own Father, Jesus died utterly, excruciatingly alone.

Because love will sacrifice everything for its beloved.

And that’s who you are.

You know why there’s an epidemic of identity crises in our culture? Because we haven’t discovered our own backstory.

Who am I?

Here’s a clue: “I Am” shows me who I am.

And he explains everything else too.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else. ~ C.S. Lewis

Without God, things are pretty tough to explain.

Why is the earth’s orbit precisely timed and mapped to sustain life? Who thought up the Leafy Seadragon and Magnificent Frigatebird? How does the human eye work? What prevents all the clouds in the atmosphere from breaking open at once and flooding the entire planet? If there was a big bang, who triggered it?

How could mere mortals account for all the inexplicable coincidences and rapturous wonders of life? How could human beings possibly pull off all the death-defying rescues, stunning mercies, miraculous recoveries? How is it we get glimpses of amazing grace and transcendent glory and true love? Do we really think we can take credit for all that?

If we’re going to take credit for anything, we should probably start with our mistakes. And we’d do well to remember that there are villains in this story too. (Which is why God really shouldn’t get blamed for all that’s hateful/horrifying/heinous/hellish.)

Not interested in a theological debate here… I know I’m not smart enough to outwit the shrewd intellect of someone determined to disbelieve. In fact, I’m often surprised when people expect me to be able to articulate the marvelous mysteries of the Christian faith or the unfathomable wisdom of my God. If I – with my feeble mind and limited vocabulary – were able to oblige, my God would not be worthy of my awe, wonder and worship, would He?

I can’t explain him. I can’t even wrap my mind around a fragment of who he is. I just know… he is.

Savior. Son of God. Creator. King.

The one who loves me most and best.

It’s the one-question final exam of life. And your answer will resound for all eternity.

Who do you say that he is?

As for me, I have no doubt.

He is…

RISEN.

Wendy

P.S. Please don’t judge Jesus based on the people who claim to follow him… including me.  We fall (woefully) short. If you want to get to know the real Jesus, you can read a firsthand account of his life written by one of his closest friends here.

Yes I Am

White and privileged, that is.

And frankly I’m dismayed that some attempt to deny it. They fuss and carry on, claiming “white privilege” doesn’t exist.

“White privilege” is a lot like it sounds:

Being white and being privileged. I am what I am. And denying it is absurd. (And bordering on delusional.)

White.

Lily white. That’s me.

To quote Lady Gaga, “Baby, I was born this way.”

Fair-skinned with a smattering of freckles and a tendency to burn in direct sunlight.

Privileged.

Yep, that too. I grew up and got my degree in the comfort and security of upper-middle-class suburbia. Intact family. Good education. Quality healthcare. Resources galore.

The fact is, so many of us in this nation are privileged. In some cases (to some degree) because of whiteness; in other cases, perhaps not.

Let me be clear.

Being white and privileged doesn’t mean your life is perfect. It doesn’t mean you never had to strive/strain/struggle. It doesn’t mean you didn’t have to make tough decisions or be resilient/relentless to attain certain things. It doesn’t mean you haven’t had to work hard/smart/long to pay your bills or sacrifice mightily to get where you wanted to go. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve never been a victim of misjudgment, mistreatment, crime or calamity. It simply means ethnicity hasn’t been one of your hurdles.

“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard; it means that your skin color isn’t one of the things making it harder.” (Not sure who said this, but… #realitycheck.)

My whiteness automatically places me in the majority in the U.S. And in many cases, it identifies me with the “people in charge” around here. Can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure my whiteness makes me less likely to be viewed with discomfort, fear, or suspicion, at least by the rest of the majority. (I daresay there’s less presumption when you walk around being white… than any other color. Safety in numbers.)

And while pride and prejudice aren’t strictly white “diseases,” they still run rampant in some circles.

Ugh.

No one is better than anyone else, period. (Let alone because of color.)

For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)

Sadly though, there’s a lingering air of superiority in a few of the wealthy, mostly-white neighborhoods I’ve visited. I know I’m not the only one that can smell that stale stink… Can we open the proverbial windows and let in some fresh air, for heaven’s sake?

Because a superiority complex is ugly… and ungodly.

As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

See?

And on the heels of superiority come its partners in crime and co-conspirators:

Suppression. Oppression. Hate.

(And when hate happens, things get ugly… quickly.)

As far as I can tell we’re all descended from the same original bloodline. So in essence, that means there’s only one race:

The human one.

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(And btw, can we please try to keep the “kind” in humankind?)

How about we start here? Take a few steps outside our comfort zone. Befriend someone outside our demographic. Listen, if my only friends were white, middle-aged, married, Midwestern, mom-types (the list could go on, narrowing my circle based on identity politics and personal preferences)… my life would be so sad and small. And frankly, the more I spend time with people who – at first glance – seem vastly different from me, the more I realize how much we have in common. (When I make a frittata, it doesn’t matter whether I use brown eggs or white ones. Breakfast is fantastic either way. Because what’s inside the shell is… the same.)

So, what if we just quit labelling our neighbors and start loving them?

For real.

Instead of pot-stirrers, let’s be peacemakers.

Listening to each others’ stories and learning from them. Welcoming our neighbors – black and white and every color in between – into our lives, homes, hearts.

Instead of “us” and “them” – let’s be… we.

Collectively, we’ve got to resist the temptation (however weak or strong) to  judge/label/belittle/demean someone simply because their complexion (or community) is a shade different than our own.

I think Benjamin Watson said it best: “Racism is not a skin problem. It’s a sin problem.”

Discrimination = sin. Disdain = sin. Divisiveness = sin.

Yes, we’re all sinners. You, me, every human being that’s ever been born. But you know what I want to be when I grow up?

Revolutionary.

A revolutionary for love.

*Full disclosure: In a previous draft, I used the word “colorblind.” My intent was to convey impartiality, fairness, justice… but instead, I unknowingly “erased” the uniqueness and value of all of our God-given beauty and diversity. My sincerest apologies to those whom I offended. (And many thanks to a dear friend who turned me on to the phrase “revolutionary for love.” I dig it. And I’m aiming for just that.)

I think that was Dr. King’s dream for all of us. To be love revolutionaries. To look at character instead of color. To see aspirations not appearances. To treat people with kindness and respect, regardless of skin tone or eye color or body type. Regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic or immigration status, sexual orientation, genetic differentiation, diagnosis or disability.

Fair and impartial treatment. Common decency.

That’s what I understand social justice to mean.

Dr. King was a preacher and an activist. The Bible was his instruction manual. (Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.) He believed it and taught it and lived it. He wasn’t flawless, but he was forgiven. He wasn’t perfect… but he was prophetic. He wasn’t fearless… but he was free.

Free at last. 

The night before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave a speech at a church in Memphis, and he talked about things that would/could/should change the world right before his – and our – eyes. He taught scripture. He preached fairness and forgiveness. He promoted radical humility:

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness, he said.

He spent a good deal of time that evening re-telling Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan – who risked life and limb to aid a stranger in need, when others (“religious men”) would not. He talked about sacrificial kindness and compassion and what might hinder it.

Busyness, bigotry, “blindness” to the victim’s plight.

Or perhaps…

Fear.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about… 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight.

And that’s the question before us still.

Are we willing to show sacrificial kindness and compassion to others – black, brown, fair or freckled? Or are we going to let our own fears or busyness or bigotry or “blindness” to others’ needs get in the way of love and mercy?

We were put here to help. Not simply help ourselves to whatever we can grab. But how willing are we to use whatever resources (and yes, privileges) we possess for the good of others? Even if it’s inconvenient. Or costly. Or difficult. Or downright dangerous.

Dr. King didn’t hesitate. He just did what God told him to do:

Justice.

Mercy.

Humility.

( ^ See Micah 6:8.)

Because he knew the eventual (eternal) outcome:

Glory.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the LORD!

The man who spoke those words the night before he was murdered knew that his dream and his mission could cost him his life. But he was undeterred and unafraid. This was a man willing to practice what he preached. And what Jesus lived (and died) to demonstrate…

Dangerous unselfishness.

Hello, my name is Wendy. I’m white and privileged and determined to live dangerously. (Honoring Dr. King… by following his King.)

Chasing the dream,

Wendy

P.S. Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 90th birthday, and I have no doubt the celebration is heavenly. (Jesus prepared the place.) The Promised Land has plenty of room… and everyone’s welcome. Join us?

 

That’s a Wrap

Only 362 days ’til Christmas!

That’s right, friends. Christmas Past has passed. And Christmas Future is way out there. But the Christmas Present remains.

Steady. Strong. Faithful. Gentle. True. Always true.

Immanuel… God with us.

His presence is the present. And it never gets lost or broken or outdated or recalled. It doesn’t dissipate, won’t depreciate, and can’t be destroyed.

Of all the promises God has made to us, the guarantee of His ever-presence is the one I cling to most. Whether I can sense Him or not, He’s near. Never distant or disinterested. He has proven Himself to be intensely personal, endlessly forgiving and full of surprises. (The good kind: joy, adventure, humor… and one day, HEAVEN.)

You surround me – front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it. 

Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean – even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~ Psalm 139:5-10 (CEB)

The gift of Christmas means we never, ever have to be alone.

Behold… and be held.

…But the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem!” ~ Luke 2:10-11 (TLB)

That wonder-filled, worldwide birthday extravaganza we just celebrated? It’s for Him. The Savior/Messiah/Lord. The babe in the manger.

We wrap our gifts because God wrapped His.

And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” ~ Luke 2:12-14 (NLT)

The gift – God’s one and only Son – swaddled and given to us.

His birth signaled the beginning of the end for all that’s wrong in our world: war and poverty, pride and prejudice, sin and sickness, hate and hopelessness. And death itself.

The gift of Jesus is the gift of a lifetime… and forever after.

It’s a gift that calls for an all-out, everybody’s-in(vited), wildly-celebrated, centuries-long, universally-propitious holiday!

Extra merry, if you please.

And presents too… under the tree, inside a stocking, tossed on the porch or stuffed in a mailbox. (I hope St. Nick gave naps and PTO to all those weary postal workers. Bless them.)

One of my son’s favorite presents this year was a heated blanket (a Chanukah gift from his Auntie Jo). As it turns out, that present is a brilliant metaphor for God’s gift of Jesus, who surrounds and protects us… and gives our lives weight and warmth.

Jesus is – in every sense of the word – our covering.

He who lives in the safe place of the Most High will be in the shadow of the All-powerful.  I will say to the Lord, “You are my safe and strong place, my God, in Whom I trust…” He will cover you with His wings. And under His wings you will be safe. He is faithful like a safe-covering and a strong wall. ~ Psalm 91:1-2, 4 (NLV)

Maybe that’s why we call Him Comforter.

That newborn baby – born to an unwed mother in a smelly stable – proved to be the mightiest and most storied King, Creator, Counselor (and yes, Comforter) of all.

A child has been born to us; God has given a son to us. He will be responsible for leading the people. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6 (NCV)

He covers us and consoles us. His presence wraps around and warms us from within. Gentle, soothing, serene.

What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (TLB)

The help and comfort He offers are lifesaving… and everlasting. Jesus didn’t come to pat us on the back, give us a pep talk and watch us march to our deaths. He came to rescue and resuscitate us… and redeem all we were bound to lose. He lived and died, all for us.

As C.S. Lewis observed:

“Jesus came not to make bad people good but to make dead people live.”

The gift of Jesus is life.

Invite Jesus to wrap you up in His mercy. A blanket of forgiveness and freedom. Freedom from fear, shame, loneliness, pain… and whatever else litters your past (mine too).

The gift of Jesus is love.

Invite Him to drape you in His tender loving care. The kind of love that means you never need to feel alone, afraid, ashamed or abandoned.

The gift of Jesus is joy.

Invite Him to tuck you into the sweet serenity and bountiful blessings of His presence. When Jesus is near, there’s no lack of rest or refreshment. No shortage of grace or peace.

The Christmas Presence is yours for the asking.

Unwrap… and enjoy.

Wendy

P.S. Wishing you a comfy, cozy, warm and wonder-filled New Year!

The Dash

Birthday girl. Vintage 1965 here.

As of today, I’ve taken 53 trips around the sun, and I’m pretty pumped for this next one. ‘Cause it’s a bonus trip!

(More on that here.)

Not sure why some people choose to keep their birthdays hush-hush. Not me. I’m all like…

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m kind of a party girl. Not the lampshade-as-fascinator type; more the confetti-and-cupcakes variety. If there’s something to celebrate – birthday, half birthday, dog birthday, holy day, holiday or Hallmark holiday – count me in. There’s so much hard and bitter in life, I’m darn sure gonna relish/revel/rejoice over anything happy, sacred or sweet.

Yep, I’m pretty much all in for anything that involves balloons, bouquets or buttercream. I will savor every single birthday treat/text/call/card I get today. And I will be using French words like “fete” and “soiree” to describe my little dinner party this evening… rather than “crockpot tacos.” (Because birthday girls get to be all sorts of fancy for a day.)

Though I fretted a bit about turning 30 (full-fledged adult, married with two kids, unrelenting responsibilities and piles of laundry, a perpetual state of sleep deprivation and the unfortunate appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while still sporting the occasional pimple), 40 was a breeze. And 50 felt all kinds of fine.

I have very little angst about getting old. Heck, I’m already there. And the view’s pretty good. See?

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Note to all you young ‘uns: Over the hill has some pretty spectacular views. (This one’s in Ojai.)

Yes, I’m a bit saggy/raggedy/wrinkly and all that. But I’ve tried a bunch of anti-aging creams, cleansers and concentrates, and here’s what I’ve concluded:

  1. They are pricey.
  2. They do not prevent aging.

Bummer.

Despite that disappointing discovery, I’m not planning to have anything lasered, peeled or injected either. That all sounds rather unpleasant. (And if a birthday is anything at all, it ought to be pleasant.) Why would I choose pain and suffering when there’s already plenty thrown my direction by… well… life?

Plus, I try to avoid things that are poisonous. Even those little packets that come inside shoe boxes and bags of beef jerky freak me out. I don’t want to keep them… but I don’t want to throw them in the garbage either, for fear of a deadly dumpster-diving incident involving a lost dog, city mouse, night owl or alley cat. (Or a bar-hopper with a bad case of the munchies.)

I’m the girl that buys Clorox Surface Sanitizing Spray in bulk. Because it kills 99.9% of bacteria, that’s why.

Including – wait for it – botulism.

So I’m not gonna let someone inject it into my face. (Duh.)

Physicality is overrated anyway.

And aging is inevitable. However, aging “gracefully” isn’t a concept I fully understand. Don’t get me wrong; I have no interest in fighting it. It’s unavoidable. But I do want a say in how I “reel in the years.” Personally, I like Hunter Thompson’s approach:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

It’s now how we look that matters. It’s how we live.

It’s all about the dash.

1965 — 20??

(Only God knows my expiration date. And His timing – even when He seems terribly late or startlingly abrupt – is always impeccable.)

The dash is the thing.

I want my dash to be brimming with beauty, mercy, goodness and grace. I want to devote my entire dash to loving God and the people He’s given me… with gusto.

I’d like my dash to look a whole lot like this:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it…

The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him…

Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. 

~ Romans 12, The Message

That’s my itinerary for this next trip around the sun – offering and embracing, helping and holding, giving and forgiving, smiling and celebrating. (Every chance I get.)

Because from any view, that looks simply… dashing. Don’t you think?

Cheers!

The Birthday Girl

P.S. I suppose some people would say I’m just one year closer to dying. But I know – perhaps more than I’ve ever known anything – that I’m one year closer to really living.

Because heaven’s ahead!

“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” ~ C.S. Lewis