I turn twenty eight this week.
Last Sunday at church all the songs I led for worship echoed the seasons, the way our lives shift and change and become something different every now and then. We all remembered there in that space that if life is one thing, it is not boring.
And every year we are reminded of those seasons on the one day that celebrates that moment we were born, that space where we entered into the world of oxygen and music and sight and miracles.
Last week, we got a batch of files back from a photo shoot with our friend Connor, and I as pulled up the pictures of myself, I became so nervous and embarrassed, sitting there at the computer with all my guys– my husband and our two sons next to me.
And I realized that there is this disconnect between who we think we are and who everyone else sees us as–
it’s so multi-leveled, of course; and with the continual advent of social media, it becomes more difficult, because we give the world the view we think the world wants of who we are and we hope to be.
So it’s good timing, then, that I turn twenty eight soon and that fall is coming to show me something new of myself.
I told my family that I wanted practical gifts that reflect my Native American heritage. I want to visit some tribal sites and hike places in Georgia where my ancestors once walked.
I look at these pictures of myself and my family and realize how old I look, how different I look from the 27 year old that I was or the 19 year old who got married eight years ago and was changed forever.
As an early gift I received moccasins from my mom, and so I place them at the floor by my bed and slip them on in the mornings, remembering that ritual is something sacred to me now, in a way that is different than before– a lesson learned.
As we grow older, we collect lessons– we learn and we mistake and we learn again, and if we’re lucky we recognize that there is grace in all of it.
When I was very young, I learned lessons of giving and sharing and being part of a family.
In adolescence I learned grief, the hard pain of losing someone close and steady, the lesson of finding God where I did not know God could draw near.
And then I got married, and I learned that God is different and bigger and more kind than I’d ever thought, that those kindnesses could help me love a spouse and one day bring children into the world.
When I had children, the lessons became more tangible and they humbled me deeper, to the most closed-off parts of myself. They taught me all over again that I am like the child as I lean into my own children, that curiosity is our best guide.
Last year I became an in-the-process-of-being-published writer with Paraclete Press, and I learned that life is never what I expect and God is Mystery, always full, always life, always more.
And the lesson for this year, for the first day of my 28th round of 365 days?
This lesson is to ask who I am again.
And perhaps that’s the ultimate lesson, after all, but for this particular year I’m asking who I am as a Native American woman, as a Christian, as a person being molded into a craft, as a wife, as a human who holds a sacred soul that needs to be listened to.
I’m learning to take my health seriously, to rest and breathe deep and enjoy quiet in a new way.
And I’m holding onto that hope that lessons find me year after year, decade after decade, mysterious secrets revealed little by little, puzzle pieces fitted together each day that I take the time to ask the questions and ache for a fuller living.
A happy birthday, indeed.