I didn’t really plan either. The birthday kind of sneaked up on me this year. The hair cut was simply because it was my husband’s day off and he kicked me out of the house without children as a birthday present and I didn’t know what to do with myself.
“I haven’t had a cut since I had the baby,” I admitted as the stylist drew her comb through the strands. “Oh,” she chatted amicably, “Your first?” “No.” I smiled slightly. “My fifth… My fifth boy.” The dozen eyes in the cozy salon glanced up. “No way!” the man who seemed to own the place enunciated his surprise. “You look about 12!”
“I’m nearly three times that.” I returned, feeling the math equation might be a bit much for such a place, but such a blunt outburst earned me the right. “Well, minus four…”
They all recovered and offered customary commendations before returning to breathy discussions of weather and winter boot fashions. I lapsed into quiet thoughtfulness as the odd sensation of sitting still enrobed me under the bulky black salon cape. I don’t eschew birthdays. Not yet, anyway. I think God encourages us to keep them.
“Set up signposts, make landmarks” the Lord commanded in Jeremiah 31:21. It is right to mark a place, a time, a thought. It is good to go back, to remember. To return. Birthdays are useful for that.
A year ago at this time, I was pregnant with my fifth child. I remember.
Three years ago, it was the first week I could bring my fourth new son home from the hospital after his first back and brain surgeries as a mewling infant. Memories engraved.
Five years ago, I only had two children and thought people were crazy to have more because I missed sleeping though the night. How times change.
Ten years ago, my young husband and I had just returned to college after spending our Christmas at a castle in the Alps. Didn’t know how great we had it.
Thirteen years ago, we were newly married and living in our first apartment in the Midwest. Everything we owned fit in our car. Those days of small things.
Fourteen years ago, I spent my eighteenth birthday alone flying over the Atlantic to go to college in a different country where I didn’t know the language or any other person. A defining moment.
Twenty years ago, I spent the day ice skating on the neighbor’s pond, breath hanging in frozen clouds around my head, dreaming of future and naive to my blissful childhood freedom.
Twenty seven years ago, I ran though my house dressed in a pink ballet tutu and sparkles and had a pink cake and remember blowing out the five candles and thinking, “this is the best day of my life!”
And it was.
They all were.
Each day piggy backed on top of the last. Lessons learned. Hard and good, growing times accumulated. Some days were forgotten, some discipline didn’t stick, some history repeated itself.
But some days are worth marking. It is good to remember.
Once upon a time, God routed the enemy before the Israelites in a glorious battle, back in the old days of documented history. Samuel their leader marked the victory with a stone. “Ebenezer”, he named it. “Stone of help”.
It was just a rock. Nothing unique. But whenever men passed by this one on the road, it would help. It helped them remember. And then they would think back to that time God had won that impossible fight. His arm had been strong on their behalf. For a moment, they would pause. They would stare off into the distance, hearing in memory the sounds of the fight on that hill. They again felt the terror, knowing their hopeless situation. And then they felt the swell of exhilaration at the miraculous salvation that had been their grace that day. They bowed, briefly. Thanks to their God. The God of their help. That little rock on the hill – it pointed them to the cornerstone of their salvation. The real Ebenezer.
And then they turned, walked on. They didn’t dwell there in the past, wishing for younger days, craving the adrenalin rush of battle. It wasn’t a place to stay. It was a landmark to point them in the right direction. This way. This way is right. Thank your God, and journey on, knowing He who fights for you goes with you. To the next landmark. The next Ebenezer.
My year has been marked. I went home with more product in my hair than I’d worn in the entire twelve months previous. The house wasn’t clean. There was still homeschooling to do. And laundry. The baby was hungry. My son still had tubes and nurses and scars to attend to. And they had made me a birthday cake. They helped me blow out the candles. Twice. And I smiled as the baby fidgeted on my lap and the brothers squabbled over frosting.
At least my Ebenezer this year was chocolate.
It is good to remember.
A marked tree – in the Alps of Austria