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Last night, I never did get to writing about my birthday expectations or my top 10 list for turning 40.   It doesn’t matter, though, because today far exceeded anything I could have thought of yesterday.

I woke up for an early visit to the gym.  In the 5:30 darkness, I approached the van, only to be startled by a large entity in the driver’s seat.   My eyes adjusted,  and I was able to make out a gigantic birthday balloon.   Laughing, I climbed in and drove to the gym, my first Be the GIFT experiment.

Along with my gym shoes (actually, I only have one pair of tennis shoes, so they double as everyday and gym shoes, but don’t tell on me, or you’ll have to buy me a new pair), phone and ear buds, I also carried a little flower tube stuffed with vibrant pink, blue and yellow daisies with a Be the GIFT tag attached.  I hung it on the personal trainer’s door file holder, and climbed on the treadmill.

Scott arrived shortly thereafter;  I watched him in the window’s reflection as he headed to the door and stopped to examine the strange item before him.  He looked at it, then opened the door, then came back to look at it again and remove it from the file holder.  I later found that he had put the flowers on a public table, and taped the gift tag to his desk, facing anyone who might come in for consultation.   (I also have to note that I received my second birthday present of the day from my gym:  a free personal training session, which I will be “enjoying” at 6:00 am tomorrow.)

After returning home and doing the regular routine, I dropped the boys (and another flower bouquet for the secretary) off at school.  Then, I returned home to bake cookies and assemble more bunches of flowers.  I placed some cookies and flowers out for the mail lady.

My first visitor arrived as I was coming out of the shower.  My friend Sarah showed up with gift in hand,  and we sat and enjoyed a visit together while my children snuck away to the basement to play.   She bought me a lovely relaxation package of lavender-scented oil, Earl Grey chocolate, and a perfect bag of loose tea, all of which I can’t wait to savor.

Sarah rose to leave as Kristina and her children arrived. We also had a pleasant visit, and she presented me with a beautiful peace lily plant to add to my budding indoor plant collection, carefully contained in a hand-painted pot.  I sent both friends home with flowers (and some cookies for Sarah).

The mailbox was full of birthday cards for me, the most I’ve gotten since I turned one, probably.  I have a sneaking suspicion that a dear friend of mine recruited a bunch of sweet women from church to bless me with birthday cards this year, and they did.  I was nearly in tears looking through the stack.  Such lavish love and beautiful sentiments.

After lunch, the kids and I were on our way, delivering gifts of birthday joy to the bank lady (who always gives my five children the same flavor suckers so they don’t fight over them), our currently unemployed neighbor, the pediatrician and his wonderful assistant,  the librarians (who we would be lost without), and random parent friends at school.

We headed to the park to sprinkle quarters for future, unsuspecting children who would play there, ShopKo to fill the 25 cent candy machines with quarters, and Goodwill to hide

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1413517385801Be the GIFT tagged dollars among the merchandise.

This was the first year I think I have ever bought a cake for my birthday, but I found a pretty one with bright blue flowers on it that I liked.  Once home, visitor number three arrived, with a personal birthday cupcake and card for me (thanks, Kara!)

All through the day, I had debated about dinner.  We had friends coming to watch the kids so David and I could go out to dinner, but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go and thought maybe I would buy something special and prepare it for all of us.

In the end, though, I returned to my original idea of trying the Twisted Willow in Port Washington.   They feature fresh, local,  farm-raised food, which appealed to me.  I ordered their crab cake appetizer (because I love crab cakes but haven’t mastered making them) and a wild mushroom and kale stroganoff.  It was quite good, as was David’s steak dinner; of special note is their orange dill salad dressing- very light and vibrant flavor- yum!  The restaurant is beautiful, and the waitress was fun,  and I got a free ice cream sundae for dessert!

We came home right away so I could finish my celebration with my kids and CAKE!  The children all made delightful cards, except for Judah, who made a power point presentation:)  They sang, we all ate and visited with our dear friends Rick and Sandy, and now here I am.  It is quiet and LATE, and I guess I am trying to make up for missing 500 words yesterday.

The point of it all is how especially loved I felt today.  So many people went out of their way to make this a joyful day for me.  More importantly,  I made a point of being joyful today, relaxing about the schedule, not worrying about how dinner would ultimately turn out, and just embracing with gratitude all the gifts of kindness shown to me.  I got to do all my favorite things:  bless others and make them feel special, spend spontaneous time with friends, and celebrate with my family.  Thank you, Lord, for these 40 years.   They have been full of every emotion and myriad experiences, and they have brought me to this one, wonderful day that I will always cherish.

As I finish, I would like to give credit to Ann Voskamp for the Be the GIFT idea.  I read about her birthday experience last year and was inspired to do something similar.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/08 (“How to have the best birthday, the best today, the best anyday”)

Giving to others, being the gift, especially on my birthday, helped me to avoid my tendency to focus on myself,  what I want, and my expectations that are never fully met, which causes self-pity and disappointment.  Not so today.  Seeing the surprised and thankful looks on other’s faces just made my day even better.  So,  thanks to Ann for helping to make my birthday special, too:)

P.S.  This has all been written on my phone,  and I can’t get these pictures in the right spots, so they’ll just have to do where they are for tonight.

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