Good gifts. {a birthday reflection}

I am not so hot at recognizing good gifts when they come. Sometimes I find myself far too caught up in the muck and mire of daily living and fail to see the sacred side of things and the small joys within it all. Those small joys are there, ripe for the picking. But I am a nomadic dreamer at heart, so I wander with a hopeful heart and a basket I don’t always fill, missing the joys here and there, in and among the thistles. (I am pretty sure I just jacked that metaphor. Bear with me.)

This past year has been like that, missing things along the way. 31 was hard. It was supposed to my golden birthday and a golden year, but it feels like a bad dream in so many ways that got off to an awful start by not one, but two, failed and cancelled celebrations. And yet, there was so much joy. On the eve of 32, I am beginning to realize just how much joy the Lord packed into this year so keep me going, to keep me dreaming, and to keep me leaning into the everlasting arms. These good gifts have sustained me, and have surprised me on a near daily basis.

Leaving my home of six years was incredibly difficult. I went willingly because I knew I needed to go, but it broke my heart to say goodbye all the same. It was made worse because I left my home not for new adventures but to return to the town I swore I would never set foot in again, a town that serves only as a reminder of broken and awful things. I am certain the Lord laughed at my determination to stay away, and then gave me good gifts for the transition. My darling friends of many years, Rebecca, Toni, Cindy, and Traci, were here to greet me and remind my hurting heart of how lovely it is to be known in your thicks and thins and loved anyway. And how I love them, these women. I have many words for them. Good gifts, all.

Saying goodbye also meant saying hello. My mum and dad have established community here and I have been incredibly blessed to meet and learn about the people who love my people. Chuck and Linda, Frank and Betty, Kathy and Gary, Kathy and Dale, and Dan and Cheryl…good gifts. I so admire these faithful couples and their perseverance and their willingness to walk alongside my parents. Really really good gifts.

In a season of constant change, my constants this year have been my lovely girls at work. We have laughed so hard. And worked so hard. And been so frustrated. Sometimes at each other. Together. They have been my people, some of them always will be, and for that I am deeply grateful. Chris, Lizzie, Jean, Shauna-Lou, Brookie, Anna, Em, Kathy, Kelsey, and Misty. Good gifts. Heavens, such good gifts.

My heart is scattered all over the world, and a large chunk of it will remain forever in NWA. I see now that the various texts and Skype dates and letters and cards from my precious people have sustained me through the times I wanted to give up this year. And I wanted to give up a lot. These women set the world on fire every day where they are and they make no apologies for doing so: my wise and truth-speaking MegLeigh, my brilliant soul sister Alena, the incredible beating heart of my Janna, my sweet and wild Jan, my loyal and faithful and amazing Diane, my thoughtful Sarah, my fellow gypsy Brittnay, my tough and beautiful Kate, and my bestest beastie Tori. Good gifts.

On the cusp of Easter, I am reminded, too, to be thankful for the “goodest” gift: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The One Who loves and saves, Who loved and saved me, Who is just and honest and pure and holy, Who encourages my questions, Who is unafraid of my doubt or my occasionally wild tongue, Who made me, Who wakes me up every morning with joy and the readiness for adventure in all its forms, Who works things together for my good (even when I don’t see it and I don’t like it), Who is patient, Who remains present, Who died and rose again. For Him, I am the most grateful. For without Him, none of this would be possible. For without Him, I, the Dana who dreams and travels and loves wild and seeks joy and doubts and isn’t always nice and can be really bad at life sometimes and wants everything written down on paper, would not be possible.

Good gifts. From the good Giver. Amen.