Yesterday morning I woke up to birds singing outside my window.
Not something I normally hear in March, but I just assumed that God sent them airmail for my birthday.
How did I get here?
Wasn’t I just 24 like…yesterday?
So many memories.
Some…not so good.
Let’s just call them lessons.
I thought about 1997 me.
I knew how I was going to spend my life….playing worship music, married to a pastor, raising a bunch of kids, maybe even raise them for a few years in a cool, poor little shack in a country like Columbia or Mexico or Guatemala.
That’s not what happened.
Not even a little.
Now, even twenty years later, I can still see that naïve, big-haired girl standing barefoot on an open stage, yapping about things she really knew nothing of.
She sure preached it.
Sang about it.
Gave hundreds of nice little tidy mini-sermons to youth groups and coffeehouses and gatherings all over the Midwest…but that young pup knew nothing.
24 year-old Angie.
Coffee drinking, Jeep driving, self-righteous Angie.
Singing in any coffeehouse that would have her.
The girl who thought she knew everything.
And wanted to change everyone.
I imagine 44 year-old me walking up to 24 year-old me on that stage, ripping the guitar out of my hands, and cracking me upside the head with it.
And this is what I’d say to her:
“Hey, preachy. You’re about to get knocked off that pious perch of yours. You’re going to spend a summer in India that will deeply change you. That lovely rose-colored christian bubble you’ve enshrouded yourself in? You’ll leave the church in less than 3 years. All of those gays you are trying to “save?” Your sister is about to come out of the closet. All of those fornicating teens you’re praying with and silently judging? You’ll be knocked up and unwed inside of 5 years. You’ll stop performing out of shame. You’ll marry someone you don’t love, gain a ton of weight, and get divorced just a few years later. You’ll lose all your money, have a child who gets diagnosed with autism at age 2, and spend the next decade rebuilding your life, your health, your career, your self.”
Reality was about to drop mic in a very big way.
24 year-old Angie would never have believed it.
But it would all come to pass.
Every last bit of it.
The journey through it was very difficult at the time, but I am actually grateful for it now.
It has humbled me.
I’ve learned to be more kind.
I’ve learned to listen more and talk less.
I’ve learned what I’m capable of.
I eventually made my peace with the church, when I realized that on a deeper level I was upset with my own hypocrisy.
I’m grateful of how I’ve learned to overcome. Grateful to have been knocked on my arse and learning to get back up. Grateful for the things I’ve accomplished. Grateful for my best teachers, my beautiful kids. Grateful for my career. Grateful for my family. Grateful for the way I have learned to love with complete abandon. Grateful for my sweet sister.
Gratitude leads to humility.
And humility is what this gal needs.
More and more every day.
I hear Zion squeal.
I look at the clock.
The autism loves to interrupt Zion’s sleep patterns. Sometimes I hear him squealing and talking to himself at 3 a.m., so I decide to be grateful that this time it is technically late.
I figure I also better get up and make sure he isn’t purchasing $20 movies via OnDemand again. ($353 Comcast bill this month. Good times.)
As I pass Zoe’s room, I peek in.
Like a light.
I walk into the living room, and Zion is sitting on the floor drawing a picture of SpongeBob SquarePants.
I just watch him for a few minutes until he looks up at me.
He gets up, walks over to me and says, “Happy birthday, Mama.”
I thought my heart was going to self-shred into a thousand pieces.
This is the child I was told would never speak.
This is the child I was told would never process thoughts or express appropriate emotions.
This is also the child who has fought to prove the naysayers wrong.
I throw my arms around him and say, “Thank you buddy.”
He even lets me hug him for a minute.
And he HATES that, trust me.
These are the moments when I choose to be grateful.
Sure, I could dwell on and be angry about things I cannot change.
But I choose to let that stuff go. And just be grateful.
Today I am grateful for much.
But also grateful for the little things.
Good coffee, lessons learned, teens who sleep in…
and little boys who were never supposed to speak wishing me a happy birthday.
My cup runneth over.