A few weeks ago my oldest daughter, Aletheia, turned four years old.
For several months now, Aletheia has been into Charlie Brown and Snoopy so as the first weekend of March arrived, preparations for a “Peanuts” birthday party were ready and waiting to go.
To my dismay, everything came to a screeching halt when my husband, Chris, was called out of town on business. “Don’t worry,” he told me. “I’ll be home in plenty of time to celebrate next weekend. I’m sure everyone will understand.”
Fast-forward one week. Chris did return from his business trip, but I am sorry to say, he didn’t come home alone. As a special treat, he brought the flu back with him.
Once again our birthday plans were put on hold. One by one, each member of my family came down with the flu, and by the time each of us recovered another weekend had come and gone.
Three weeks into March, and almost a month since my daughter’s actual birthday, I was beginning to get impatient. The friends and family we invited all understood, but I’m sure they, too, were beginning to wonder if our birthday celebration was ever going to happen.
I would like to say that my biggest concern, in the midst of all of this, was for my daughter but that would be a lie. In truth, my biggest concern was that I was being inconvenienced, that life, in general, was not cooperating with what I had planned, with what I thought was best.
There is a reason why Christ tells us in scripture that whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:4). Here we were waiting to celebrate my child’s birthday, and it turns out that my child was the one who was handling the situation best of all. I think it simply never occurred to her, that we, as her parents, would not come through. Her faith and trust in her mommy and daddy was secure. She knew that she was loved and valued and, in time, would receive the blessing for which she waited.
It seems this was just the lesson that I, too, needed to learn. When life hands us a situation that seems a total inconvenience, wouldn’t we be far better off to know with all our hearts that our Heavenly Father will come through for us, to know that our faith and trust in Him is secure? To know that we are loved and valued by Him and that the blessings we hope for will come.
In the end, my daughter’s birthday turned out to be more fabulous than I could have ever planned or hoped for.
We ended up celebrating her birthday on the afternoon of Easter Sunday. At first I thought this plan would be adding way too much to an already hectic schedule, but it turned out to be just the thing.
Rather unexpectedly, two of my husband’s brothers and their families ended up in town to visit for the holiday. This meant we had family from both Georgia and Illinois added to our guest list. My daughter got to spend her birthday with Aunts, Uncles, and cousins whom she loves dearly but rarely gets to see.
This summer, our Illinois family will be moving overseas to serve as Missionaries to Mozambique. Only God knows when we’ll be able to celebrate another birthday together. Knowing this made our time together even more precious and even more rare.
As we sat around the table, savoring every bite of our delicious cake and watching Aletheia open her presents, I couldn’t help but take in the joy I saw on each and every face. To see our family, joyful at the sight of Aletheia in all her birthday glory, to see Aletheia, joyful at the glorious sight of her family, was one of the happiest moments I’ve known as a parent.
I sat, and watched, and knew that this blessing was from God. It was exactly what he had in store all along.
In his book, Desire, John Eldredge writes, “We must have life. We cannot arrange for it.” By this he means that only God can supply us with the kind of life we long for. A life that meets our heart’s desire. A life that fulfills us. A life of love, adventure, and glory.
So many times, in our attempts to fulfill our own desires, in our attempts to experience the fullest life, we try to be the ones to orchestrate the plans we think are best, and when those plans go awry, we feel disappointed, frustrated, inconvenienced.
I’m learning that what I often see as an inconvenience is really nothing more than God’s way of telling me to slow, to stop, to get out of His way. To stop my crazed and frantic attempt to arrange for the life I think I need, the life I think I want, and trust that He will come through.
In the disappointment, in the frustration, he whispers it soft: Stand still, wait, watch. In what seems an inconvenience He gently reminds me to throw back head, open arms wide, and laugh, like the child, as I receive the lavish blessing only He can create.