I LOVE celebrating birthdays, especially in our family. When it’s someone’s birthday, you get to pick what you want, within reason, for every meal. I think we all like supper the best because we get to choose more foods, we have more time to enjoy the meal, and it’s when we get to have cake and ice cream!!
Except in my case, instead of cake, my sweet husband cooks a platter of my mom’s chocolate icing. Yep, a good many years back, he got tired of watching me cut away the cake part and only eat the icing, so he decided to only make the icing and put candles in it. Yes, I was quite surprised, hugely blessed… and I look forward to this every year!
My favorite time on every one’s birthday is when we do “Birthday Blessings”. This is a tradition that Terrell and I started when our children were very young. Usually while we’re eating our dessert, we go around the supper table and each of us says to the one whose birthday it is, “You’re a blessing to me because…..”
Like other new things we introduced to our children, we had to explain what we meant. We told them to say what they liked or were grateful for about the birthday person. When the kids were really little, their comments were cute and dear: “You bless me ’cause you play with me… You’re a blessing ’cause you helped me learn to skate… I’m grateful that you talk to me at school…” Sometimes blessing is effortless because a relationship is in a good place. This provides opportunity to practice expressing intimate feeling and admiration.
However, with 5 people around our supper table, odds were that someone was sideways with the birthday person or visa versa. The birthday girl might have made her brother mad, or she might be mad at him. The birthday boy might not be getting along with a sibling, or be in trouble with me. Or, it’s my birthday and because of so many discipline issues lately, I can’t imagine how I’ve been a blessing to anyone!
On several occasions, I remember praying up a storm that God would lead the “blesser” to recall some good in her shared history of the past year with the birthday person. Faithfully, God would, and I would quietly sigh relief while enjoying the surprise and pleasure on the birthday child’s face.
As our children moved into middle and then high school, their words to each other during Birthday Blessings amazed me. On any given day, two of them might argue or get on the other’s nerves. But, on a birthday, they rose to the occasion because they respected our tradition, as they had each experienced the effects of being blessed by their family. At this set apart time (and I am sure, not a moment before!) they were able to reflect, appreciate the person, and express it. They would speak of their respect, admiration or gratitude often mentioning specific memories.
In any given moment God meets us where we are. He supplies the grace, even without our asking. He sees a heart willing to try to bless. He helps us to see what He sees in our heart – and to express it. He gives us strength to overcome the awkward moment of fumbling through expressing our feelings, to participate in building a better relationship. In these precious moments, I see the evidence. God is molding their hearts and their relationships with one another throughout the year.
Still, the biggest surprise for Terrell and me has always been their words of blessing to us. In our home, conflict was a part of living together. We had disagreements with our kids, they argued with each other,and sadly, we hurt each another from time to time. But reconciliation was required and restoration was pursued. As the disciplinary talks increased and consequences got tougher, as they struggled with our boundaries and anything that wasn’t their idea… our expectations were pretty low as for what might come out of their mouths.
Interestingly, honesty did. I can remember several times when a child’s “blessing” to me would begin with a phrase like, “I know we’ve been fighting alot lately…” or, a sheepish grin that said, “How do I say this considering what our relationship has been like lately…” And then, the surprise would pour out – tender humble love … blessing. More times than not, Terrell and I have wondered how a child felt about us, only to be overwhelmed this way.
I think every member of our family has been overwhelmed at some point by the blessing expressed towards them. God wants us to be overwhelmed this way by love, especially His love.
Birthday Blessings evolved into a time of reflecting on relationship. When the children were little, they couldn’t understand it this way. They measured their relationship by yesterday or last week. As they got older, they began to look back, a few weeks…a few months, because they were learning that their relationship changes as they change.
They learned how to celebrate the good, the blessing that this person is in their life.
The meal is satisfying for the moment.
The presents bring delight for a season.
But the blessings, they permeate our heart, contributing toward God’s lifetime message of love.