The Best Birthday Gift

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The dock is narrow, jutting out into the murky water. Two weathered kayaks sit in the middle of it- crunchy autumn leaves cover the seats, oars nowhere to be found. It doesn't seem as if the boats have served their purpose for some time, but they're picturesque just sitting there. We laugh and shriek, scrambling over them, inching our way along the edge toward the end. She wants a photo and its her birthday, who are we to object? The phone is perched on a chair opposite from where we stand, capturing our moment of chaos afloat the muddy pond. An ancient oak stands behind us, vines traverse the hills, their leaves floating in the afternoon breeze. We lock arms and smile, half out of deep affection for one another and half out of self preservation.

The camera clicks, a moment frozen forever. We leap back to the safety of land, grabbing one another's hands sighing in quiet relief. Our cute grown up clothes are dry, we still know how to move in heels, or at least wedges. We pack away our picnic and drain the last few drops of wine from our glasses, smiles wide, hearts full. The sun begins to sink in the sky and real life beckons us home.

Back to the men who have our hearts, back to the children who light up our lives. Back to the homes where we've learned to dwell. To the hot showers that wash away the weight of the world and the beds where we find rest. Perhaps in a photo it looks so easy- we live in a beautiful town, our children are healthy and thriving. We have husbands who send us off on afternoons like this to celebrate one another.

But the truth is that there are much deeper stories that have woven us together, a single thread wrapped in and out, back and forth. Over the past year we've experienced loss and disappointment. Fear and uncertainty. Pain and brokenness. Forgiveness and grace. Expectation and hope.

And we've done it together. Through tears and questions. With chocolate and wine. Around a table and standing at a gravesite. With cold, wet sand between our toes and sitting under a bright sun warming our shoulders. Over text chains and lattes. At preschool pick up and park sandboxes. Asking silly questions and probing deep into our souls. Wondering and encouraging, silently supporting when words aren't sufficient.

This moment may be frozen in time forever, but when I stop to take it in on the screen of my phone, I see so much more than the photo reveals. I remember the stories we told today, the ways we vowed to live more fully in the year ahead. I recall how God has been faithful since last June and how we've come to know Him more, each in our own ways. I think of how my friends got their names and how their children are growing into theirs. I know a little more of what makes each of us alive, and I feel a little more known than I did this morning.

We leave that pond and that dock for the gangplank of reality. The one we will fall off of into the slimy waters of motherhood. When we lose our tempers and burn our dinners. Our boats will sink, but we'll swim to shore, clinging to the life rings we toss to each other every now and again. We'll text from doctor's offices, admitting we can't actually do everything we're supposed to do and need someone to pick our kids up. We'll share grocery lists and costco runs. We'll swap kids and bury our heads when they're screaming about their butts in the front yard. Tomorrow morning we will don the top knot, down our caffeine, and jump back into the trenches. But we will do it with a little more energy and conviction because of today. Because today we all enjoyed the best birthday gift there is- friendship.

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