The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old?
No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Last Wednesday was my birthday. I celebrated in what is now the traditional way – a phone constantly buzzing with text messages and a facebook wall full of well-wishes.
I find birthday celebrations are strange now. Well they have been for years – since I moved away from family. Birthdays were a HUGE deal when we lived at home – the day was yours and you even got to choose what was for dinner that evening! But even better, was our birthday parties. I’ve had some fantastic birthdays – my 16th, 18th and 21st birthdays were pretty epic. My 22nd birthday was my first birthday away from my family (even though my parents flew over to see me).
Birthdays now are just….different. Growing up in the country, EVERYONE came to your party, as everyone knew you, and well….there wasn’t much else to choose from. In the “big city” everyone is seemingly double booked all the time (my diary is a scary place) and nailing down RSVP’s can be a headache – to the point that last year I didn’t even celebrate my birthday. This year, HALF of my guests pulled out the day of my birthday party.
As someone who’s primary love language is quality time, this honestly hurt. I knew most of the reasons were legitimate. August is a tricky month – there are far too many birthdays, and nearly everyone is somewhere along the spectrum of “sick”. But (to steal a phrase from work) one I worked to “reframe” the situation, I was ready for a fun time out with my friends and my birthday party was a fantastic night. I really do have a fantastic group of friends.
One thing I find myself struggling with though – and this seems to surface more around my birthday – is this feeling of disappointment that creeps up on me. I realised this week that I’m still subconsciously holding myself to some kind of ideal “this is what ADULT looks like” – and I’m really nothing like what I thought I’d be by this age. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing and I need to constantly remind myself of this.
While my life is not at all what I envisioned as a 16 year-old, I’ve seen so many of my dreams come to fruition, I’ve done and seen things that I never thought would come to pass. And in all that, I’m still learning to trust God with the promises and dreams that He’s placed in my heart – and that’s where HOPE comes back into it. I’m still learning to live each day CHOOSING to keep my hope in God. Not in my job. Not in my friends. Not in my church. Not in my abilities. Choosing to be grateful, even when things get hard, even when things get dark.
Ps 25:4-54Show me the right path, O lord;point out the road for me to follow.5Lead me by your truth and teach me,for you are the God who saves me.All day long I put my hope in you.
As a kid, the only thing I knew about ALS (or as it’s called here, Motor Neurone Disease), was that my friend’s mum died of it. He never spoke about it. (I’m not even sure how old he was when she died).
When I got older, I found a book that belonged to my mum as a kid. It’s called “A Time to Love, A Time To Mourn”, by Paige Dixon. (It’s also known as “May I Cross Your Golden River?”).
This book is about a young man who is going about his life; he meets a girl, they fall in love and start planning their life together. And then he gets sick. Eventually he’s diagnosed with ALS, and the book tells the story of a life cut short by ALS.
I sobbed myself to sleep many times reading that book.
I haven’t read it for close on 20 years, but I can still vividly remember the story.
So why am I writing this?
The whole point of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is to raise money AND awareness of ALS. I don’t have any money to donate, I sure as hell am not dumping ice water over myself (hey, I’m just getting over the flu AND it’s winter here), so I thought I’d do my bit to raise awareness.
I find that I get a better understanding of something through fictional application. I managed a (Christian) bookstore for 5 years and during that time I devoured more books than usual (and I’m a book worm). I rapidly discovered that while reading a non-fiction book on say, forgiveness, was great and there would be things that I’d learn from that book, picking up a novel and reading a story where forgiveness was a central theme, where it was applied in “real (fake) life”, I’d UNDERSTAND what the non-fiction book was talking about.
So again….why am I writing this?
I want to recommend the book I mentioned above to anyone and everyone to read. It’s not an easy book to track down. It was written in 1975, is not available on Google Books, or Amazon Kindle. Amazon has a few second-hand copies around, but maybe your local library would be a better option.
PLEASE go out of your way to find this book and read it. Give it to your friends and get them to read it.
And if you can, donate. (as always, do your research before you donate!).
(originally posted over on my tumblr)