Two months ago this week, I turned 26. I happily bid year 25 a farewell and a "don't let the door hit you on the way out." It was a wonderful birthday. One of my favorites of all time. We gathered people in our backyard and ate a huge Italian feast under these gorgeous outdoor lights. My best friend came all the way here from three hours away to celebrate and another of my dearest friends even FaceTimed in from Malaysia. I baked a loaf of bread that looked straight off the Bread and Company shelf and we all ate barrels of pasta and dipped our bread in gallons of olive oil with the perfect spice blend my husband whipped up for the occasion. I'll always cherish the food, but more than that the laughter, and more than that the people. Because, you see, the people were the reason there was even a party to begin with.
This year, this party, it had a specific purpose. It was to gather together the people who carried me through my 25th year and got me to this birthday. So that's what I did. I got as many of them there as I could. And I wanted to make a toast. To let them know what they meant to me and how thankful I was. It was gonna be awesome. I wrote the toast a few weeks before and read it aloud to my husband and we both cried our ugly, thankful tears.
Then the big night came, and quite honestly, I got scared. I felt my own insecurities come over me like a big giant wave. Suddenly, I wasn't sure how my big brother/friend's boyfriend/co-worker's wife would respond to my vulnerabilities thrown out there for all to see. So I took the half-brave way out and made a short and sweet little statement before the prayer about how thankful I was for these people and their gift of life and friendship to me. To some people, it may have looked like I chose bravery by even saying what a said and being half-vulnerable in front of everyone. But I know me and I know my heart and I know that choosing half-bravery that day was choosing to not fully be myself and even choosing a side of cowardice to go along with my pasta.
So that's what led me to today. To sharing the real toast. Josh told me I had to. He said Melodye had to read it and so did Karen and Bob and all those other people who stood in the gaps for me and for us. And he was so right. So today, over two full months later, I'm sharing the toast I wanted to give on my birthday. It may be a little belated and a little backward. But I've always been a little unruly and am just learning how to lean into it. (More on that to come.) Anyway, here's a birthday toast, my birthday toast.. and it's to you.
I want to make a toast. And luckily, it’s my birthday so none of you can argue with me. It might seem backward and to some of you, I know you’re thinking it’s lame, but I’m doing it anyway.
On my birthday, I want to make a toast to you. Each of you. It’s no secret to most of you that this year has kinda felt like hell. And tonight, as I literally stand on the cusp of a brand new year, I know that I’m only here because of you. It’s been humbling and honoring to be carried through life this year by each of you.
So I want to say thank you. To the ones of you who quite frankly packed our boxes and moved our home for us, this toast is to you. To those of you who let us sleep in your beds or cry on your couches because we could find no rest at home, this is for you. For the people who brought flowers to brighten to darkest days and sent letters to let us know you care, this is for you. For the people who wouldn’t let me lie about how I was doing and encouraged me that it was okay to feel whatever I felt, this is for you. For those of you who loaned me your children when I was down or asked me the hard questions, its for you too. For those of you who helped me get on a plane to go across the world when I was scared to death and didn’t even say a word when you saw my tears, this is for you. And for those of you laughed hysterically with me over Cheez-Its in an actual typhoon, this is for you. For those of you who have showed up when I just needed someone, anyone, and for those of you who have given me space, this is for you. For those of you who have prayed your brains out for me and let me be okay in my faith struggle, this is for you. For those of you who have honestly held my husband up when he thought he might collapse, this is for you. For the people who sent messages that have made me laugh out loud and the ones I have reread with tears over and over, this is for you. For those of you who have held me night after night as I cried myself to sleep, this is for you. The words and the love and the presence and the hot bread on my porch from each of you, whether you knew it or not, got me through this year. Thank you.
I honestly feel like I owe you guys my life. But that’s the thing about each of you. You’d never ask or even want that and don’t feel like you’re out a dime. So thank you. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you. Through the pain and the heartache, I’ve become more myself this year with you than I could have ever imagined, and that is a gift I’ll always cherish. So tonight, we celebrate. We celebrate my last year ending and my new year on the horizon. And we celebrate you, you rockin’ awesome family of mine. And if it’s okay, I’d like to make this toast to all these things and to you... and to your new beginnings as well, no matter where you are.
It was a very happy 26th to me, indeed.