Deb’s Birthday Adventure

Holidays don’t usually live up to their reputations.  Ask the dateless teenager on Valentine’s Day, or the young wife who finally realizes that hubby has forgotten that “day of days”- their anniversary.  And fathers?  Well, I refer you to the famous Bill Cosby routine, where the kid picks up a stick, puts a notch in it with his pocket knife, and presents it to his dad for Father’s Day.  And so, it wasn’t a big surprise when my birthday fell a mite short of fantastic.

In the first place, the atmosphere in the house was charged with discontent.  The young marrieds had to cancel a trip because of expensive auto repairs.  And Piper wasn’t feeling well either- too much involvement in VBS for a preggo.  Nobody was cheery.

Then,  Joy and the boys came from Indianapolis to take me out for a special birthday meal.  It was a courageous and loving plan- but one that required cooperation from tired, cranky, hungry toddlers.  I suspected that all hope for a peaceful meal was annihilated when a waitress left a dessert tray in Dillon’s vicinity.   My suspicions were confirmed.  No one could convince Dillon that those tasty treats weren’t for him; his heart was broken- and he showed it.  Neither he nor his brother would eat.  To fill the void though, Christian found an alternate activity:  he practiced gymnastics moves on the seat back.  In desperation, we ordered dessert, but the waitress made a mistake, and only brought one for the boys to share.  Now it was Christian’s turn to be devastated.  SHARE a dessert with a 2 year old?  He would not!  He would, however, condescend to eat mine.  I looked at Joy, who was desperately shoving expensive balsamic glazed chicken and creme brulee down her throat like a woman who had been raised on paramecia, and signaled that it was time to go.  As we left, she expressed what we’d both been thinking:  “Is this not the worst birthday dinner ever?” And then we laughed.

We laughed all the way to Target, where we stopped to pick up a cheap chick flick.  And in a lunatic moment, to salvage the birthday adventure, I told the boys that I would buy them each a small toy.   Forty minutes later, two disheveled, exhausted women and two ecstatic children, drove home.  We couldn’t wait to put the boys in bed, and enjoy the movie.  That was not to be either, as Christian, the cherubic,  decided to have a tantrum.  Joy dealt  discipline, while Dillon sat on the stairs with me, nodding knowingly and sagely uttering one word over and over.  That word was “spank”.

Finally, the little boys were in bed!  The big ones, meanwhile, had been shopping!  Gabe brought me a bouquet of peonies.  Tim brought gifts of a different sort:  a soup mug and a meat thermometer, and what has since become my favorite gift- a card that said “Happy 60th birthday!”.  I examined my mug, meat thermometer, and  card.  “Thanks”, I said enthusiastically, “only, I’m not sixty, I’m fifty-nine.”

“Yeah, well”, he replied, “I rounded up”.

And that is where the whole thing became hysterically funny, and in my mind, the events of the day assembled themselves under the heading: Life with the Shehanes”.  Life with the Shehanes will never be picturesque,  but it will never be dull either. Plans will go awry;  suppers will be sabotaged; tantrums will occur.  But what was I expecting when I had five kids?  Life in a library?

The best birthday gift I got on June 14th, the one all  wrapped up in chaos, was laughter.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Gratitude

Sometimes I feel dry as dust, as empty as an abandoned house.  Inspiration is far from me- even though I pray  for ideas- they just don’t come.  Hollow, useless, and lonely,  I want some kind of epiphany that will transform and refresh me.  But….”I got plenty o nuttin'”.  Only in my case, unlike the fictitious Porgy’s, it “ain’t plenty for me”.

Life is a collage of experiences that we race through to reach “better” and “more significant ones”.  I often miss the meaning in the moment. I cook food for the babies, painstakingly cut it in small pieces  and watch as they eat it.  I forget to take joy in their eating because I am too busy longing for the freedom that comes from babies in bed and a clean kitchen.  And as natural as this is, and as often as I have been guilty of it, I am the loser when, burdened by the moment, I forget to be grateful.

A heart that is full of ingratitude has no room in it for trust, and it is trust that leads to joy and peace.  It is therefore imperative to my spiritual survival to be grateful. And this is rarely easy:  I have to recall God’s blessings- and I have memory problems. We all do.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Biblical description of us was “and they were a remarkably retentive and grateful people”?   Too bad, but we don’t work that way.

The fact is- that I  have to make an effort to REMEMBER: when things aren’t going smoothly, when things go terribly wrong, when things go amazingly well.  But even faulty remembrance and partial gratitude is enough to restore my perspective and protect my communion with the Creator, who cares for me even when I am ungrateful.

What does it matter if I don’t feel particularly visionary, useful or happy at any particular moment?  “It is God who works in me to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

He will accomplish what concerns me.