Birthday joy

Birthdays always make me reflective.  Yesterday was my birthday and I thought a lot about a post I wrote two years ago, describing how my family gave me the stomach flu for my birthday and the odd sort of joy I found in the day:

I was sitting cozily on the couch, finishing up The Return of the King, when my family burst in the door.  Ava headed straight for the bathroom. . . I'll shorten the story and just say that the puking continued through the night and into the better part of the morning (and later it was my turn). . .
And thus I spent my birthday emptying bowls, wiping faces, changing linens, and shampooing carpet.  I thought about last year's birthday, which I can't even remember in the fog of a small baby and the brittleness of lingering post-partum depression.  I thought about the incredible changes in my life over the past year, and how most of them aren't even noticeable from the outside.  I thought about this past New Years Eve, and how desperately I wanted real, deep, heart change for myself, and about the months that followed when I fumbled for a foothold upward. 
And I thought about how it probably was unfair to spend my birthday taking care of others, but all I felt, I realized, was joy.  I held my daughter's hair, helped her clean up, and touched her pale, beautiful face, and I was so. thankful. to be right where I was.  I thought about the years ahead when I won't be able to offer much comfort against a world of sorrow, and I was so grateful for that moment when I could be there for my daughter in a tangible way. 
I am so very human, and I did grumble today . . .Underneath, though, I didn't really lose that peace, and I realized - this year of hard practice of the habit of gratitude has changed me more deeply than I dared hope.  Gratitude changes everything.  I carried the carpet cleaner in from the garage, and caught my husband's eye as he weakly smiled 'thank you.'  Warmth.  I smiled at this house full of love that is mine.
I still keep a gratitude journal, and my list reached one thousand yesterday.  For someone who reads into everything (wry grin), it seemed a lovely arrow pointing back toward the changes in my heart and at the same time forward to all that God is still doing in my life.  I felt yesterday much as I felt in that two year old post.  There wasn't any vomit, but I did feel over-burdened, exhausted . . . and stuffed completely full of joy.  We are settling into a new routine with Allie and the intensity of the first few weeks has passed, but every day I still run out of time, energy, and patience.  Yet I watch my expanded family go about life together and my heart is overflowing with joy; with the kind of happiness that I've come to understand comes only through trial, choice, and trust.

Thank you to all of you who have helped out with random things connected to Allie's arrival, from clothes, to help with errands, to school books, and especially prayer.  It has meant so much to our family and has been a further joy to see Allie's face as she witnesses Jesus people taking care of each other.  And many, many thanks to all for making birthday number thirty-four thoroughly delightful.

For more about Allie, see these two posts:
A Birth Story of Sorts (Part 1)
A Birth Story of Sorts (Part 2)


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