on turning 34.
the annual rumination on the occasion of my birthday.
Thirty-four. This is the age I turned as January came to a close.
All things considered, the day was quiet and ordinary. I attended my weekly Bible study, then came home and put my son down for his nap. I did my consulting work for two hours in the afternoon, and used birthday points to get my husband and I free dinner. We ate sandwiches at the table, while Bear threw his food on the floor. That is, until we gave him a cupcake covered in yellow frosting and he tasted sugar for the first time in his life. (It’s safe to say he was a fan.)
You see, my 33rd birthday looked quite different than 34.
After spending many more hours than any woman ever should in labor, at 6:51pm the day I turned 33, I officially became a mom when my son entered the world.
He was due six days earlier. I kept saying I just didn’t want to be in labor on my birthday. Clearly, I didn’t get my wish.
Because my son and I now share a birthday, reflections are infinitely more complicated than they used to be. Not only am I processing the last year of my life and reflecting on how it feels to be another year older, I’m processing the fact that my baby is now one, and how on earth did this year go by so fast?
The first several weeks of 33, and by extension my son’s life, weren’t the easiest. I’ll spare you the details, but my postpartum recovery wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.
Then, just as I was starting to feel a little more normal again, my son spiked a fever that turned into a swollen eye, which turned into an ER visit, which turned into a week in the hospital because in a ridiculous fluke of a situation that left even the doctors baffled as to how it happened, my 6.5-week-old somehow wound up with a blood-born staph infection. Not exactly the smoothest start to a year.
Fortunately, I seem to have given birth to one of the chillest babies ever and one of the smiliest, happiest kids around. Once he got over the staph infection, it’s been more or less smooth sailing. Sleep training was a breeze, teething barely phased him, and most days he eats anything we give him with a smile. He truly brings me more joy than I could have ever fathomed, and being his mother is one of the greatest blessings of my life.
It’s strange to me that I’m now in my mid-30s. I’m not sure if it’s my youthful face, my marriage to a younger man, or something else, but most days I don’t feel as old as the calendar tells me I am.
Before a meeting for a panel discussion at an upcoming women’s ministry conference, my husband asked if I knew why I had been chosen for the panel.
“I have no idea,” I said. In fact, when I found out who else I’ll be on the panel with, I felt extremely ill-equipped to provide share any words that would be of benefit to those listening.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” he said, “but you’re not…”
“I’m old,” I interrupted.
“You’re not old,” he said. “But you are older.”
I am now not just the mentee, but the mentor. I am not just the daughter, but the mother. I am not just the receiver of advice and life lessons, but the giver.
Perhaps it’s the fact that we still attend the same church I first attended at six-years-old or that I now minister alongside women I have long looked up to, who I first addressed as “Mrs.” because they were my mother’s friends and my friend’s mothers… but it’s hard for me sometimes to recognize that I’m not the child I used to be.
For better or worse, I am someone others look up to. I am someone others come to for advice and encouragement and wisdom. And not just my peers, but those who rightly recognize I am a bit further along the path of life than they are. This is a strange reality for me to wrap my brain around.
At the moment, I am my son’s favorite person. His face lights up whenever I enter a room, and nine times out of ten, he will choose me over any other person, even his dad. I’m aware this season will likely last for a few more years, until he realizes that daddy is way more fun than mommy in a lot of respects or he develops a borderline-obsessive attachment to one of his grandparents.
At just one-year-old, my son relies on me for many things. He looks up to me physically and finds comfort snuggled up in my arms. He has not yet begun to talk, and I don’t know how much he observes of my actions and interactions that he truly retains and understands.
But I know the day is coming when he will look to me and his father and others around him to tell him who he is, who he can be, and how to live.
The awareness that soon my son will always be watching is ever-present. I am cognitively aware that more is caught than taught, which is a challenge: what am I teaching my son by the way I live?
The last year, like the two before it, was as much a making as an unmaking.
I learned in more and more ways that life is not so much about what I do, but about who I am now and who I am becoming.
Perhaps serendipitously, my birthday coincided with many other big changes as well—my son’s aforementioned first birthday, the end of my season working outside the home, the slow process of weaning, to name a few—that have brought up a lot of feelings and prompted questions of identity.
Kindly, graciously, the Lord has reminded me in countless ways that my earthly identity may shift and change, but the foundation of my identity—who I am in Him—remains secure.
That more important than the specific habits I’m building, the things I’m good at, or how perfectly executed my home management systems are is the truth of who I’m becoming.
Am I growing in the things that truly matter? Am I becoming a woman who is more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled? Am I becoming a woman after God’s own heart, the woman I was created to be? Are my days, hours, and moments spent on things that will pass away, or the things that will matter in light of eternity?
When my son and any future children we may be blessed with reflect on their lives, I want them to remember me as a mom who loved the Lord first, who was ever growing in the fruits of the Spirit, and whose identity was grounded, first and foremost, in my position as a child of God.
Stepping into a new year of life, for both myself and my son, my prayer is that I would further shed the trappings of this world, that I would take delight in the blessings I’ve been given and the beautiful things that surround us, but that above all, my eyes would be fixed on eternity, my identity would be grounded in Christ, and my life would proclaim His love and faithfulness every single day.
Love birthday reflections 🤍 thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing! I’m here for all the birthday thoughts! I still have so many I haven’t gotten down for when I turned 40 last august.