Gabe and Mary

Two birthdays in a row and I don’t know how to celebrate. Who am I?

If you’ve been reading the blog for several years, you know we’ve just entered birthday season and you know I’m pretty good at birthdays.

But I’m a little at a loss this year.

Happily, Gabe made it to Germany. He’s now serving in Braunschweig, an ancient city west of Berlin. On his calls he tells me, “I think you raised me to love Germany. Everywhere I go I think, ‘Mom would love the Playmobil in the grocery store’ or ‘I wish mom could see this nice little bench by the lake.'” (I’ve clearly done a good job).

Germany is in strict lockdown right now, but Gabe is so delighted to just be there he doesn’t care. They can go on walks, they can go to grocery stores and bakeries, they can ride busses, they can talk to people on Zoom. And everywhere, everyone speaks German so he can practice, practice, practice.

Gabe shares a birthday with Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15). All mission birthdays are just strange– my boys tell me this– and I think the first one is hardest. We didn’t get to talk to Gabe on his birthday, but I asked him about it a few days later, “Did you at least go to a bakery?”

“Mom, we go to a bakery every day.”

“Well did you buy yourself something really delicious?”

“Mom, I buy myself something really delicious every day.”

So Gabe’s content and well-fed. I spent SO much time last year navigating so many obstacles with him and it feels good to be coasting for a bit.

And I hope, I pray, a few months from now, I’ll be saying the same about Mary.

I’ll admit, I woke up this morning confused on how to celebrate Mary’s 17th birthday in a pandemic.  

In a moment of pure serendipity, my phone sent me one of those mini-movies iPhones create from photos– one lovely photo of Mary after another from this year, so many happy, sunshine filled moments.

Then I got a text from Mary. She’s just one floor above me— probably snuggled in bed with her cat and eating a bowl of oatmeal. “do you know what I’m most proud of this year????” she typed. 

“I’m proud of learning how to swaddle a baby and to rock him to sleep; to feed him and diaper him and make him laugh. I love that his light eyes light up when I walk into a room.”

And that’s enough. Right? That’s enough. 

To everyone who has shown the smallest shred of kindness to my girl this year. Thank you, thank you. I’m extraordinarily grateful.

I’m most proud of her ability to take one more hit, navigate one more challenge, one more heartache and wake up the next morning with a smile, a plan and hope for the future. 

Happy, happy birthday sweet girl. Whatever this year brings, I know you will make it beautiful.

And happy birthday to my sweet baby boy. I’m so grateful to every person who teaches you a new word in German, to strangers who smile, to the kind lady who left dumplings on your doorstep. I promise, I promise to spread that kindness far and wide.

January 3, 2021
January 24, 2021


1 Comment

  1. Anne Marie

    January 26, 2021

    happy happy birthday to Gabe and Mary!! I love their smiles so very much. And I love that Gabe sees so many things in Germany that make him think of his mama. Those European bakeries…to die for. Mary looks like a total natural with baby Fritz. She is so so beautiful! She’s putting so much light out there. Here’s to lots of joys coming her way.

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