On Monday of this week we celebrated my wife’s birthday. Without sharing a specific number (a woman never tells her age), I will say that it was a ‘milestone’. She and I went ‘in town’ to a fancy restaurant for lunch, then returned home for presents and cake with the kids, and finally had supper together (all the while enduring the hottest June 12th on record). While some may say that our festivities were meager given the circumstances for celebration, it was exactly what the birthday girl wanted – a time to break from the routine of laundry, dishes and ‘taxi service’ and simply enjoy the blessings of life with those we love.
I don’t believe I am ‘telling tales out of school’ in saying that milestone birthday can be hard. In the days leading up to her birthday, as was the case 16 months ago with my milestone birthday, my wife voiced some uneasiness in acknowledging another candle was being added to the cake. It is at these times that we all tend to reflect on those missed opportunities, regret those unwise decisions and recalibrate to what now seems possible. We joke with one another about being “over the hill” (as long as it isn’t our birthday we’re talking about) and wonder if our best days are behind us.
Milestones, like big birthdays, also remind us of where we’ve been and how far we’ve travelled. I have known my wife since she was sixteen and celebrated it with her ever since she was eighteen. We’ve celebrated a few times during summer break from college, once while planning our wedding and as even newlyweds and new parents. We’ve celebrated at her parents’ home, at our six different homes and at dozens of diverse restaurants. We’ve celebrated some birthdays after long days at work, others on warm weekends and one at a High School awards ceremony. Each year has been different. All those celebrations have now become mental snapshots of a life well lived and a life well loved.
I know that I have given Jeanine a present or two each of the years we’ve been together, but, for the life of me, I cannot remember a single one with any specificity. I think this is because, in my opinion, the best gift given on her birthday is not the one she receives from us but the one she is to us. She is the anchor of our family, preventing us from drifting toward disaster. She is the glue in her relationships, keeping us together. She is the optimist in the most pessimistic of predicaments. All those who know Jeanine understand that the world is a better, kinder, sweeter place because she is in it.
May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18
As the cliché goes, age is just a number. While that may be true, birthdays are special; it celebrates the day God gave us one another. I praise God that I could spend so many days celebrating the important people in my life, especially Jeanine. Happy Birthday to you.
Everywhere I go, I find evidence that people are jerks (mind you, I’m not speaking about the spiritual content of their character but only the behavioral expressions of their character). We are all witnesses of the big stories – the accounts of shootings in the street, of abusive treatment of all of God’s creation and of acts of terrorism around the globe – and we all witness the little affronts – getting cut off at a stop light while the driver gestures and shouts obscenities to your minivan or getting elbowed out of your chance at the cashier by a fellow shopper. But not everyone is a jerk; a few people I know are genuinely good.
One such genuinely good person is my wife, Jeanine. As a way of explaining, let me share what her day will be like on Sunday. She will get up at 6:00 AM when her husband’s alarm goes off and then try, likely unsuccessfully, to try to catch a few more winks of sleep. At about 7:30, just as her husband leaves for work, her 8 year-old will get up and ask for breakfast, which she will provide dutifully. Then, for the next 110 minutes, she will awaken and reawaken her two middle children, making sure that they are fed and dressed for church. At 9:30 she will teach Sunday School, then attend worship whilst wrangling a rambunctious young boy who will reluctantly sit beside her. After church, she will assist in an Ice Cream Social. This will take her to 1 PM.
At 1 she will leave church, ride home with the family, insure that the majority of children (and her mother-in-law) have some idea about lunch. At that point my wife, myself and our daughter will rush over to Cambridge to attend Rebekah’s High School Prize Ceremony scheduled to begin at 2. Assuming it will be over by 4, and we can get through past the Sunday drivers, we will be home around 5 PM. Then, and only then, will we all gather together as a family to celebrate her birthday – oh, did I forget to mention that Sunday, June 12th is Jeanine’s birthday?
There will be no complaints about schedules or grumblings about plans; Jeanine is genuinely good because she genuinely loves those around her. She follows the ‘golden rule’ –
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31 (NIV)
She will treat her husband, her children and the myriad of others who cross her path as she would want to be treated: as harried, hurried and (occasionally) hurting human beings worthy of respect, recognition and (occasionally) rescue. She will not retaliate or seek revenge; she will care for those close to her, even on her birthday.
Happy birthday, Jeanine, a few days early. We are all looking forward to sharing some cake and ice cream on your special day. But know this: on Sunday there will be a time when you will open some presents, yet, for those of us who have the privilege to know you, we are the ones who have received the gift.