I woke up early on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 to a hellacious storm. It was thundering and lightening as the rain came down in torrents. I got up to have some quiet writing time because the day ahead was full of activities for me and the girls with very little rest in between. It also happened to be my 37th birthday.
I was a bit miffed about such a demanding schedule and the gross weather for this particular day. Though, my contrary feelings were not going to change any of what was required of me and the wretched sogginess with which I was called to participate.
So, I made a conscious choice to be open-handed and receptive to what the day would bring. My birthday gift to myself was to go through the day with a posture of gratitude. For the rain, for my girls, for their music, for our Women’s bible study and the wonderful ladies who attend, and simply for another year.
Thankfulness is never an easy decision for a realist whose glass seems half empty. I just naturally look at something and see the negative seeping through or the potential disaster that is lurking in the shadows. And I happen to be a professional disaster speculator.
My daughter only has to say “Mom! Look at me!” and before I have craned my neck to see her perched high in a tree elated, I envision her slipping, falling to hit every branch, and breaking an arm or a neck. In my mind’s eye, I’m carrying her into the ER before I can muster a two thumbs up, hysterical and partially convincing, “That’s great honey!”
It is a squinting, eye straining effort for me to see the beauty in God’s hand and what He has poured into my cup, but it is an attempt worth making for myself and for others. This season of Lent, I am also trying desperately to keep my eyes on my own cup and not be distracted by what other’s are sipping.
When I arrived at Bible study that Wednesday morning, I was drenched but happy. It was my birthday after all and I’d rather be with these lovely, funny ladies than most any other place.
I got a hug from one of my best friends who also happens to be my partner in crime. As the other ladies trickled in, I received a sweet card from my friend Lindsay. Not to be confused with the text from my friend, Lindsey that read, “How about a Starbucks for the Birthday girl?” YAY!!!
The wonderful thing was that I thought about stopping there to purchase a little treat for myself but was too late in getting out the door. No matter because receiving this from another’s hand made it taste so much better.
Jen began by opening us up with a time of worship. She said that she had chosen a new song that was not in her 7 chord repertoire and that we all needed to help her by over singing along.
The mystery tune began….”Happy Birthday to you.” Another present, a very funny but endearing serenade. These simple gifts of friendship, I did not expect nor demand. I just soaked it all in.
That day, scheduled months ago, my friend Erin was to lead our time together. She chose to guide us through a 45 minute, quiet devotional time in what she referred to as “a good soaking.”
We turned the lights down and all got comfortable as she began with scripture followed by a reading out of the Valley of the Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Then she played a CD of soothing worship songs and contemporary hymns prepared specifically for our time together.
All that was required of us was to rest. No phones. No emails. No laundry. No needy little ones. No demands.
We were to just receive as she showered us with the quiet love of God.
Immediately, I felt my body relaxing. I am always a bit surprised when I do things like this by just how braced for life I am. In motion going from thing to thing, there is very little room or time to notice that my body is crying out for me to slow down and breathe deeply.
Which explained why for the rest of the day, my chest was sore and achy; it had the blessing of resting its muscles for almost an hour with no idea of just how weary they had become.
I spent some time jotting down thoughts and writing phrases I heard from the old hymns that moved me. I thanked God for making me a lover of music, and how it brings me closer to Him.
At one point I wrote, “Why would I ever choose anything over this…over being in your presence unafraid and at rest?”
That was when I realized I had left the simple gifts and crossed over into the miraculous.
We quietly ended our time. I thanked Erin for stepping out of the box and giving us the gift of quiet stillness, two very foreign concepts in Charlotte. She handed me her home-made “soaking” CD and said, “Happy Birthday, Carrie. I hope it is a great day.”
It already had been.
I opened my discontented, selfish heart to the unknown blessings that a day can give. And it soaked it all in.