Birthday Gift

Birthday Gift

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Have you ever felt isolated in your pain? For years my birthday was often a day filled with sadness. I really wasn’t sure why this was. Focused on what I wished my day was like, those I loved seemed to fall short of providing me this ideal celebration. 

I remember one specific birthday when our oldest son was in Afghanistan and depression consumed me. Not wanting to infect my entire family I remember taking off on a bike ride and ending up at Our Lake. I sat alone and ached within. Where was all this pain coming from? I remember this birthday because when I returned to our home my youngest son then a teen, aware of my pain handed me a CD he had made. On it was the song American Soldier and many of my favorite songs. I still cherish that gift. I knew I was loved, and Karson had done a beautiful job conveying that love to me.

Jim Wilder authored a small book, Share Immanuel.  Immanuel is based on the understanding that God is with us and always has been with us. He explains that since we often lack the awareness of God’s presence most of our memories remain incomplete. This causes our interpretation of life to be distorted which robs our joy and peace leaving us in our perceived pain. 

God continuously reaches out to us through words, pictures, thoughts, desires, body sensations, and emotional shifts. This understanding allows us to interact with Immanuel while still feeling our pain.  If we sit in our Thorn-filled Pain Memories Seat, we will find it very difficult to sense God’s presence. The Appreciation Memories Seat will allow us to remember times of joy. We may not be able to directly connect with God but rather than sitting in our pain we are able to see signs that God cares about us and the world He created. 

I have learned to sit in what Jim Wilder calls the Interactive Memories Seat. As we look towards God, we ask Him what we need to know about the pain we are feeling. We ask Him if it is connected to a memory He wants to heal? With our focus now on God, we sense His response to us and understand God is happy to be with us.

September 2, I celebrated another birthday here in Florida. This birthday would be different from previous ones. My mom who remembered my special day and would call me and sing me Happy Birthday was gone. This would be my fourth birthday I’d celebrate since her departure from this earth. Oh, how I miss her corny birthday greeting often left on my voice mail because I was too busy to pick up my phone. 

 We were consumed with hurricane prepping. Lanny and I had just returned to Florida Saturday night and hurricane Dorian was expected to arrive the next day, so Monday was a day filled with last minute supply runs.

The last three birthdays here in Florida, away from family, my girlfriend and her husband had celebrated with us. Since we were now preparing to sell our home here, they had not planned their vacation week to spend with us. I missed them.

As Monday approach so did that familiar feeling of sadness. My husband who had spent the last day helping neighbors put up storm shutters and prepare for the storm let me know Sunday night that he had not gotten me anything for my birthday. I think other birthdays I would have just pushed this comment off and said it was fine. Tonight, it did not feel fine. I knew the pain I was feeling was attached to something much bigger than my husband’s inability to buy me a card. Instead of isolating in my pain I continued to interact with God. I was aware of His presence as our neighbors dropped off an ice cream cake and flowers and one of my girlfriends came by with a card and gifts. There were so many other demonstrations of love shown to me that day. God was present and we interacted together as Lanny and I went and visited friends and then sat down by the raging ocean.

The next day as I prayed, I asked Jesus, why am I vulnerable emotionally on my birthday? I remember what God had impressed on me the night before. He said, our deepest pain creates our greatest growth.

Lord how do you want me to grow I asked. I saw a visual of Jesus and I sitting together, and we were laughing and blowing out birthday candles. As we blew out candles together Jesus impressed on me that all the years no one acknowledged my special day He was there celebrating with me. This visual was my gift. We are so loved.

What events provoke emotion in your life? Are you able to stay connected with God in your pain? Do you sense His presence?

8 thoughts on “Birthday Gift

  1. I am not sure why you still feel the pain of many birthdays ago? I too am a Sept. baby. Eleven to be exact. Years ago as elementary child school just started so never had a party. I felt that is the ways things are. And I accept that. This year I had to rush to NJ dad in the hospital again. Spent my 9/11 birthday in the hospital listening to doctors and nurses. Go home and listen to 9/11 memorials . Guess that is the way things are . I am also guessing God made me pretty strong to experience all this and accept life the way it is. I am feeling God has always been by my side and guided me. I feel your emotions are heavily guided by your past. Please step into the future knowing God is always by your side. P S got nothing for birthday! But that’s okay. Having more days with my dad is the best birthday present.

    1. Thank you Barbara so much for sharing your heart. So thankful you were able to be there with and for your dad. What a tremendous blessing.
      You truly are a strong person and your dad is blessed to have you as his daughter.I love how your are able to see that time spent with someone you love is the best gift of all. You are so right.

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart my dear friend Joanna!!! I too understand that feeling of isolation during painful situations. It’s amazing how it doesn’t even have to be “big things” that are the most painful but sometimes it’s the “smaller” things that seem to hurt us more and make us feel isolated and lonely as a result of them. Thankfully, the more I spend time in God’s Word and the less I focus on myself, the more contentment and true joy the Lord is teaching me to have. So thankful for God’s grace, and for Him continually pursing me and His gentle, frequent reminders that I never have to feel isolated in my sadness but He knows and cares about ever detail of my life.

    1. Amen, my dear friend. You get it. I love how Dr. Jim Wilder points out “since we often lack the awareness of God’s presence most of our memories remain incomplete. This causes our interpretation of life to be distorted which robs our joy and peace leaving us in our perceived pain”.
      Taking time to listen to God and invite him into our whole life and activities brings connection with our loving father.

  3. Joanna,
    What an amazing Immanuel experience. Thanks for sharing your story. That experiencial truth will definitely remove any darkness the enemy planted during birthdays of the past.

    1. Thank you, Rudy. I’m so looking forward to future birthdays when Jesus and I blow out candles together.
      Thank you for all you have done for Lanny and I to enable us to draw neigh to Immanuel and experience His presence even in our painful memories.He created us to experience joy in our relationships and I’m so thankful He has provided people like you to help us along this journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *