Today is a "milestone" birthday for me...35.
My parents' 35th birthday is one I remember well. They decided to have a big party at our machine shed. We roasted a pig, there were kegs, I think they rented port-a-pottys (memory's getting fuzzy at this age), family and friends drove hours, and later after we kids were tucked in bed - the adults took a hayride that has lived in infamy and will go down in Orient legend.
...and I was in 6th grade. When my parents were my age, they had an almost 12-year old, and an 8 year old.
Yesterday, I asked my students this question during roll call: "What do you hope to have achieved by the time you are 35?" To a 20, 21, or even 22-year-old this seems light years away. The answers predominantly were be married or have a family. Some were 'have a job where I am far enough away from family, but can still visit them;' 'be successful enough that I can own my apartment in NYC;' 'own a house;' 'have started building my own house.'
If I thought of my own list at that age, it would have been hauntingly similar: be married and be a mom.
...and yet, here I sit at 35 and I have 'accomplished' only one of those 2 things.
...and yet, here I sit at 35, and I have accomplished far more things than that 20-year-old could have even imagined.
...and yet, here I sit and my arms feel empty, as though something is missing.
So, as I drove into work this morning listening to my "Meditation podcast" on the Laudate app, meditating on this morning's Scripture, the recurring theme I heard was "open my eyes."
And, I asked God to open my eyes to the blessings.
This is what I saw: the sun rising upon the Tucson mountains as I drove east; the clouds swirling around the peaks of the Catalinas as I drove north; the mountains cradling this city, which has become my home and place of a blessing to me.
I saw my phone with "happy birthday" messages from my mom, my mother-in-love, a friend from the past 25 years, and a friend I met through Dan five years ago.
As I walked, into my office, I saw this:
I thought, "I am so blessed to work with people who care about me." Then, I saw my 'Jessica' sign, and I thought, "I am so blessed to have worked with students who cared about me and recognized the value of my life in theirs - that they made me this amazing sign and threw me a going away party, 4 years ago."
...and my heart felt full.
Then, I saw Facebook messages from friends from all aspects of my life: from Orient, high school, 4-H, ISU, TRIO & MAEOPP colleagues, Cornerstone, Dan's friends that have become mine, my former students, my current students/alumni, Dan's students, Dan's family, my family, my soon-to-be family.
...and 20-year-old Jessica could never have imagined how blessed she could be at age 35.
She never could have conceptualized that sometimes you don't get your expectations - you get far, far more.
35-year-old Jessica has gained wisdom. 35-year-old Jessica has gained perspective. 35-year-old Jessica is grateful for each of those people who has taken a few moments to remember and celebrate her birthday. As I "like" each post, I whisper a thank you to each person and a special blessing for you in this year.
The blessings in life are those unexpected graces; the things you couldn't have planned on.
If you think my arms are empty, you should see my heart. It's overflowing with blessing and grace.