March 17th is my 28th birthday. To say I am restless would be an understatement. 3 years ago, I was pregnant, a newlywed, and beyond excited to turn 25. I spent that birthday with Nate and we had the best time. I remember laughing so much and I was just so excited and in love with my life. When I blew out the candles on that birthday, I wished that my next year would be the best year, but all the while knowing I didn’t even have to wish it – that it was going to be the best year because our daughter was just weeks away from being born. And yet, 2 weeks later I woke up to my husband dead. That was absolutely not in the plans and has haunted me ever since – that my birthday launched the upcoming days and decisions that lead to his murder.
I had always loved my birthday (it is St. Patrick’s Day after all!), but since then I have absolutely dreaded it. I refused to blow out candles because I hated that my last wish didn’t come true. I couldn’t bear to stay at home so the past 2 years I convinced my family to escape with me and go to Florida. This wasn’t the worst plan, I mean it did provide us with some beach and sunshine, but the past 2 years, even with the beach, I spent most of the day choking back tears. I hated that at 25 I felt more secure and alive than I did at 26 and 27. I hated that I didn’t have my person to share my joy and excitement over my birthday with. I hated that he didn’t get to turn 26 or 27. I was so caught up in all the things I was missing out in, all of the things I was sad over, that I lost the opportunity to find my joy.
This past year, I have made it a point each day to find my joy. Even on the hard days, I do my best to find something that brings that spark to my life. Cecilia most often gives me plenty to be joyful about, but single parenting a toddler can certainly be challenging. Allowing myself to feel the tough times then find the joy in it, has made such a difference. It has taken me almost 3 years to be able to reach this place in my life, but I’m so thankful that I’ve journeyed here. Every tear, every heart ache, every sob has made these joys all the more powerful.
On April 2nd, 2012, exactly 2 years before I would be forced to start my new life without him, he wrote the following to me:
You know how much I love you, and you trust me when I say that I will never stop loving you, because you know that I understand – as do you – that love is not the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I think about you. By God’s grace, I will always have that as well, but as you know, love is in fact choosing the good of the other for the sake of the other. And in my case, I may not always be able to give you everything I wish to give you, but because I love you, you can know that your dreams, hopes, and desires I will take as my own, and I will do everything in my power to make your dreams come true. One thing I’ve learned throughout my journey with you is that dreams do in fact come true. God is so good that out of pure benevolence he has given each of us to the other. And yet, this life is but a foretaste of what will come in the next. The history of salvation is not only the greatest love story ever told, but the greatest one conceivable! I amaze myself at how much I love you, but then I contrast that with what God has done for use out of love, and I am sometimes moved to tears. It’s like God is using my love for you to demonstrate to me his love for all mankind. He is taking something good in itself and thereby revealing an even greater good, namely, himself and his love for us. I love you.
Even today, he teaches me how to love, and more importantly how to see God’s love. I truly believe he’s doing his best to keep that promise and I am certain that he loves Cecilia and I even more now than he ever had the capacity to on earth.
It all comes back to love; because when we choose to love – we find joy, we find hope, we find faith. So I will choose to find joy. I will choose to have hope. I will choose to believe in faith. I will always choose love.
So on my birthday this year, I am going to spend the day laughing and smiling and enjoying every second. I’ll blow out candles and eat cake. I’ll not only find my joy, but I’ll be sure to make some too.