Happy birthday photoIt was exactly a year ago that I woke up on my 40th birthday in a really bad mood.

I hated turning 40. Hated it. Even saying the words, “I’m 40” seemed to stick in my throat. Still does…

In the weeks leading up to my birthday last year, I sensed the likelihood of a meltdown, so I wisely planned a distraction: a partial kitchen remodel. Since I’m not super-handy, I had figured driving back and forth to Home Depot that week would keep me too busy to think about the Big 4-0.

On the morning of my July 24th birthday, I had planned to start painting the cabinet doors. As I mixed paint at 8:15am that morning, I groused to God about reaching this dreaded female milestone. Yet, I also felt guilty for being ungrateful. Afterall, I was alive, right? As I prepped the cabinets, I began to obsess (maybe even panic…) about what might be next in my life. And, what if there wasn’t a “next”? That thought terrified me. I begged God to help me shake off the “40-funk” that was settling into my heart.

At 8:30am, the phone rang. Then, everything changed:

“Barb, you need to meet Life Flight at St. V’s. Your sister-in-law and niece are headed there. They’ve been in an accident. Someone has died, but we don’t know who or in which car.”

Luckily, the hospital’s location is three minutes from my house and I was there within 10 minutes of the phone call. After waiting, I found out that my sister-in-law was alive and my niece was unconscious and in critical condition. Then, sadly, I learned that one of the passengers in the other vehicle had died. All I could do was cry and pray.

It was only 10am…and I was no longer concerned about turning 40.

As we paced through the hours of the day, our brains were in a haze from the overload of information and emotions. Yet, there are certain parts of life that just went on. For instance, it was my birthday, so I still had to get my car registration and tags renewed. At the BMV,  I met saw a woman in line that I had seen at the hospital earlier in the day. Later, I found out her name was Ms. Lucy Oliver. As the battle for life and death circled around us, I had a chance to talk with one of St. V’s beloved employees. Weeks later, I would use her faith-filled testimony in one of my weekend messages.

In the days that followed the accident, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law held their daughter’s hand as her body struggled to survive surgery after surgery. Our immediate and distant family members would travel back and forth to the hospital to see and support in many different ways. Time moved fast and slow – simultaneously.

God spared my beautiful niece, Camie’s life. Over the past year, she’s worked so hard to regain the ability to walk and be mobile. She rocked out her academics and will graduate from high school next spring – an entire year early!  Camie even got her driver’s license this year! Amazing! 365 days ago, I never could have imagined what today would look like.

As I think about the last 365 days of my life, there are so many different storylines to recall. Days of triumph, joy and peace mixed in with days of darkness, pain and confusion. Of course, I wish that there were more of the good days than bad ones, but as I get older, I’ve learned that the keeping score isn’t the point.

Sooooo, now I am 41. Yep, 41. This year, I choose to be grateful for the chance to live out every unknown (sometimes difficult or scary moments). When I remember that God has plans, not problems, I cope with life so much better.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (New Living Translation) 

As a reforming control-freak, one of my biggest issues is not worrying about the future.  Yet, God’s plans are for me. Whatever problems I am currently navigating are a part of His plan and thankfully, I can’t screw up His plan. Whew.

So, if you’re wondering what I am doing for my birthday this year, I’m repeating the verses in Jeremiah 29:11-13 to myself. Over and over again…


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