This morning, my girls drank some wild silly juice.  That’s the only explanation I can think of: they were running around, throwing their arms in the air and generally making quite a happy ruckus.  My girls are calm girls.   They rarely go bonkers so, when they do, I always feel this internal freedom that shouts “YES!”  I don’t have a memory of ever being called “wild.”  I doubt an adult ever connected that phrase with me at all, even in the privacy of her/his own thoughts, even briefly.  Crazy–sure.  Somewhat delusional–maybe.  But not wild.

Anyways, I digress (naturally).

While they were exercising some the childhood hyper-ness that made me giddy,  my youngest daughter bursts through the bedroom door, pumps a fist in the air and shouts at the top of her lungs,  “CELEBRATE!  CEL—EBRATE MEEEE!!!!”

Instantly, a nerve was struck.  At first, I was just so dang happy she’d said that.  And then, it made me think.  And kept making me think all day long.

One week ago, I turned 31 years old (so ancient).  It’s the truth and it’s what it is and my family all knows it’s true, so I don’t see the sense in fudging the numbers on the birth certificate (at least not yet).  “Getting older”  doesn’t bother me.  In fact, this week has not been any different than any of the previous weeks of this year.  I don’t feel like I’m falling apart at the seams.  I’m not hitting any midlife crisis.  Frankly,  I don’t really care.  And didn’t give much thought to the whole thing until my daughter said, “celebrate me.”

That’s what birthdays are all about these days, at least in my family.  Birthdays are like individual Christmases.  They are major deals.  We greet the birthdays of our family members with the same amount of anticipation as we do Christmas.  We might as well set off fireworks.  Why?  Well, naturally, it’s because we want the birthday person to know that they are important, and special, and loved.  In other words, the birthday person matters.  Now, I am currently in the middle of the Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God course at my course and, thus far, what has really struck me the most, and what I’ve been most reminded of, is that God is a personal God.  He knows me.  Here’s something Blackaby gave me to chew on:  If Moses were living today, he would be tempted to write a book called My Burning Bush Experience and, after he would write that book, thousands of pilgrims would go on a search to find a burning bush.  But if they did that, most of them would probably wind up missing their burning bush because God wants a unique and special relationship with each one of us.  I don’t get a burning bush;  I get a pen.   Someone else doesn’t get a burning bush either, but gets instead a dream.  I’m quickly digressing again;  my point is that He wants to know and understand me.

In order for the Creator of the UNIVERSE, people, to like me and count me as worthy…. well, I cannot be that bad a failure.  If I were, logic says He would have nothing to do with me and would not care about the number of hairs on my head.  That puts a big red stop sign in front of my usual litany of self-defeating thoughts and throws a huge question mark in front of my face instead.   You see,  despite my confidence mask, which I wear quite well,  the truth is,  I have never really thought that highly of myself. It’s why I surround myself with exceptional people—I do so hoping that some of their excellence will rub off on me; it’s also why I am drawn like a magnet to the underdog, to the hurting, to the ones who are neglected, abused and forgotten—because I know I am one of them.  I feel more like Rahab than Ruth, I understand Rahab or any other less-than-noble woman in the Bible or in history  a whole lot more than I do any of the outstanding heroines.

I am not noble.  I do things I know I shouldn’t do.

But if I truly believe the Bible as I say I do, then I must also see that I am not a mistake.  And if I am not a mistake, then my life means something.  And if my life means something, then it is just that there is a day to celebrate that life.  My instinct is to list all the things that make me a failure, yet even as I write that very thing, a thought flows across my brain that whispers,  “That’s the Evil one speaking.  Don’t do it.”   Most of the time, the people who most positively impact society and their families are the people who are able to recognize their gifts and grow into an adult with a healthy dose of confidence.  It is what I am trying so hard to instill in my daughters—an unshakeable sense of worth and beauty and confidence.  How can I hope to inspire them to such self-esteem if I don’t attempt to cultivate it in myself?

So then…. that lead me to wonder what things would I celebrate about the person Tiffini, if I had to do so, and I came up with the following:

I truly care and I truly try.  I have been told, more than once,  that it’s odd that I like people as much as I do.  I don’t hate men.  In fact, I kind of like the lot of them.  I don’t think they are all out to get me.  While I do have some misguided and scarred definitions of what most of them probably want from me, there are also men out there that are truly precious gems.  Bob Stackhouse, a teacher of mine, is a prime example. My pastor, Dan Scott, is another beautiful example.   And there are three or four other men out there I’ve known that are good men.  People think that’s weird, given my history.  Also, my heart literally breaks in about five dozen pieces for people who are hurting.  I cannot look at a child who I suspect needs help without stopping.   It is impossible for me to sit by and say nothing.  If  I see a kid that looks lost, I’m going  to make sure that kid has a familiar adult with her before I leave her.  If I see one I think is hurting, I’m going to err on the side of caution and make my concerns heard.   I live on the philosophy that everybody I meet, child and adult, is in need of a hug.  I don’t know why, but they are, and so I hug them and hope that the hug will lift a spirit.  I deeply, deeply care. At my core, I am a relational person—I want to know about the people in my life, I want to help them, and I want to see them.  I am happiest when I am surrounded by children or in the midst of a conversation—even if that conversation is painful. I hope it is one of the things that makes me a decent mother—my children know I love them, and they know that I am interested in everything that touches their lives. I don’t just want to be an observer, I want to be an active participant in their lives, I want to see what they see, understand what they know and view the world from their eyes.  It means I don’t patronize their questions and if I don’t know an answer, I say so, then we look it up together.  My daughters have healed deep, deep wounds;  it is my obligation and my privilege and my sincerest delight to be a part of their childhood memories.  There is nothing that gives me greater pleasure than the sound of their laughter or the sight of their shining faces.  I am never too tired to read a book or talk with them.  Wasting a second is not in my realm of options.  And, because of that, I pray that someone’s life has been touched, that my daughters reach adulthood and look back without ever questioning their mother loves them and believes in them.  Also, trying means that when I believe something needs to be done or said—I do it.  I live with the motto that I don’t want to live with regret.  If I have an idea, I don’t just entertain it, I act upon it, no matter how outrageous or different it seems.   I don’t give up,  and I don’t accept failure:  when I don’t succeed,  I try again because I care about When I see someone who genuinely cares about the people around her,  who loves humankind and the relationships she has—-I find myself drawn to her and admiring her for it;  thus, I suppose it is a characteristic of mine that I should celebrate and be proud of.

Other than trying and caring, other than loving, the children and the people I am surrounded by…. the only other things that come to mind are writing and teaching.  But writing is a talent and we all have one.  There are thousands of writers, most better than me.   And teaching is kind of the same as trying…. it is a passion I have.  I love when my daughters’ eyes sparkle with the dawn of comprehension.  I love using creative methods to drive home a point.  Most of all,  teaching reverts back to the love of children that so defines who I am.   There isn’t much else I can think of that is worth celebrating about me, or my life.

And yet…

If all I ever amount to is a woman with grown children who say confidently, “My mother played with me, and loved me,”  if only one hurting heart has been uplifted or motivated to action by something I wrote or said…  well…. then that’s enough.  I don’t need fame, or fortune.  I don’t even need a full wellspring of confidence.  All I really need is to cling to the idea that I’m important in the life of a child, not only my own but another, somewhere, and if that’s true, if my children love me and a hurting heart has smiled because of me, then maybe it’s not selfish or unjust to have a day devoted to celebrating the legacy I am writing.  Because, truth is, we are all writing a legacy.  And when it comes right down to it—I am content with the one  I am leaving.  That is cause for celebration.

Uncomfortable with praise of any sort, especially the self-directed kind,  though I am—I smile.  And close out highly looking forward to the hug of gratitude and thanks I can’t wait to give my daughter for the reminder she so exuberantly offered.  It is beautiful, the things we learn from our children.