The week of December 18-25 is an interesting one for me. As for most people, there is Christmas Eve and Christmas on the 24th and 25th. Growing up, my Grandma's birthday was on the 23rd. When my wife, Heather, entered my world, I had another date added to that week. Her birthday is on the 19th. And then our daughter was born on the 22nd. So now, that week has become a big collective celebration highlighted by three birthdays - one at the beginning, one in the middle, one at the end.
The first birthday is Heather's. This one is always hard. Part of the reason is that during Christmas, when you have to get stuff for everyone and their mom and their barber, it gets a little tight in the old moneybag. So, it becomes hard to really let her know how important she is to me through my usual love language - gift giving. [For more information on love languages, refer to Dr. Gary Chapman's stellar work Five Love Languages. This blog in no way is brought to you by Dr. Gary Chapman or his ministry.] I really am amazed at what a wonderful woman I have been blessed to have as my wife. After nearly seven and a half years of marriage, the newlywed haze is long gone. But I still sometimes sit there and look at her and can't believe she's my wife. She always had been the ideal one, but I was sure that I couldn't get her. Ha ha. Showed what you get for thinking! I am not sappy very often - dedicating songs on the radio and writing poetry while wearing a beret and crying, but the new Alicia Keys song No One always reminds me of Heather. I sing it real loud in the car and bought it for her. Such a sap. I guess I figured out how to give her something that communicated my love pretty well (and for just 99 cents.) Well that and the Exam Krackers books. [This blog is not sponsored by Exam Krackers.]
The second birthday is my daughter's. She turned four yesterday. As she gets older, it gets even more enjoyable to have her as my daughter. Sure, there is the natural problems with a child thinking they are in charge. But she is awesome. She is so beautiful and funny and smart. She sings so pretty all the time. And she runs up to me and hugs me out of nowhere, just to say, "Daddy, I looove you." As I said last year in her birthday post, I wanted a girl. I love my boys. They are incredible and crazy and strong and challenging. But there is something about a little girl. I have seen so many girls who were damaged by their dads and by guys. And I wanted to have a girl so that I could raise her right and help her to be a confident, beautiful, principled woman. When I look at her, I see those things already being instilled. It is interesting to see her - even at the age of four - starting to experience emotions and behaviors usually associated with older girls. She loves to shop and dress up. You can tell when she kind of "likes" a guy - even when they are 20. She loves babies. And she talks about how one day, she'll be grown up and be living on her own - the thought makes her cry (she's not the only one, I guarantee). I just want this whole thing to slow down. I don't want to give up her sitting in my lap and falling asleep at night watching the Food Network. This birthday, while it brings such joy, also carries with it a tiny bit of dread - of the day I'll have to call her to wish her Happy Birthday and send her birthday flowers instead of handing them to her. For now, I'm going to enjoy Four.
The last birthday is Jesus' birthday on Christmas. Yes, after many years of ministry I am perfectly aware of the reason this date was picked for the celebration, and that Jesus probably wasn't born then, and all the things to pick holes in Christmas as a religious celebration. But this is the date that is used, and I end up spending money on presents and dessert, so we'll go with this day. It is one of the three greatest days there is (the other two being Good Friday and Easter Sunday). It is the day that God decided to put into motion His plan to restore His relationship with mankind. He didn't do it with an army or a squadron of angels. It was with an innocent little baby. If anything, that showed that the purpose of this act was intimacy and not revolution. He came in the most inauspicious way possible to change everything from the inside out. And THAT is the reason I celebrate Christmas. You could take all the other stuff away (trees, presents, candy, baked goods, savory meats, cider, slobber, drool) and this day STILL would be more important than the rest. It was the day it all began. And the world will never be the same. I know I have readers of this blog who are Jewish, or who have no religious opinion. So I apologize if this offends you. I don't apologize for writing about it, though. It is at the core of who I am. My job is as a minister, trying to bring the restorative message of the Gospel to people. My family is founded on the Bible. My marriage was ordained by God, and is blessed and protected by Him. And my children are taught right and wrong based on His Word. So I cannot separate that from MY life, even if the rest of the world can replace the birthday boy's name with an X. This birthday is amazing because I received the gift, I am the beneficiary, I am the one who celebrates. All in all, that makes for a pretty rocking week if you ask me.