My Birthday Twin

In all my forty-two years I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone born the same exact day as me.  Sure I’ve known people with the same birthday, but same day, same year?  Not till today.

And of course there’s a story to how I met my birthday twin.  After all, that’s my life — hopelessly storied.  This one started on Friday, January 24th.  I popped into a furniture store and began walking around.  My intention was just to look — in fact, I had almost decided on something from a different store.  But then this charming Persian man started talking to me, “Oh, you like that?  Where do you live?  I can deliver it to you this afternoon.”  His handsome suave self just made it too easy.  It was delivered before my husband got home for work.  The problem was I didn’t really like it, and he hated it.  It was for our little library and I had purchased a recliner and a loveseat.  But the sight of my husband in the recliner made me laugh till my face hurt — somehow my youthful man looked 85 in that chair.  It was horrifying.  I had to laugh.  And laugh.  And laugh.  Otherwise I would’ve cried, cried, cried.  I called my Persian friend.  You know what he said?  That sweet man said, “Oh, no problem.”  This week they came and got it.  I took him my favorite baklava to thank him, but clearly that is not enough.  Should I buy one of those giant one-way signs and dance acrobatically with it near his store to drum up business?  I want to buy something else from him, but nothing has caught my eye thus far.

Then my husband and I discussed the bill we received for the constant passive motion machine that he used after knee surgery.  It was rather larger than expected.  So we were both in that sort-of-wounded-trying-to-be-grace-filled-to-each-other state of mind.

Then, despite begging from little Will (who was just coming home from basketball practice), Sam and I headed off to Family Fine Arts night at school.  This is pretty much a talent show, and I thought it would be a nice little date with Sam, since the other boys were too worn out to go.  They wanted to veg out and watch basketball, but I thought Sam and I should go for a little while.   And I was glad we did.  The talents were many, but it is also the tenth anniversary of the school and the slide show was so sweet and the festive sparkling cider was yummy.  About halfway through the show, Sam and I cut out.  I texted the rest of our family as we walked to the car, “On our way.”

But we were NOT on our way.  When I opened my door I was greeted by a puddle of glass on the passenger seat.  And yes, my purse was gone.  I called the police, tried to reassure Sam, and then called Will.

“Was it in plain sight?” he asked.

“Listen %#&*@$%#% !!!” I thought.  But what I said was, “Can we just wait on the recriminations?!?!”

He agreed and offered to come rescue us, but what would be the point of that?   Sam and I sat in the car shivering and canceling credit cards till the event ended, two more victims were found, and the police arrived.

So in sum, Friday, January 24th was not the best day ever.

And I don’t know about you, but once I’m thoroughly convinced of my loserhood, I don’t necessarily break out of that in a moment’s notice.  Sure, God loves me no matter what.  And I am so grateful for that.  But I hate confronting the fact that I do one moronic thing after another after another after another.

And then yesterday I had to go and turn forty-two.

That’s old.  I am not happy about getting old.

But today when I woke up, the sun was already shining brightly and I began to fully emerge from my fog of self-pity and loathing.

I met my husband for lunch, then I went shopping for a new purse.  The woman behind the counter said, “How are you doing today?”

“I’m alright,” I said, being honest.  “How are you today?”

“Well, I’m pretty good,” she said, “Yesterday was my birthday.”

I pulled out the old expired license I’ve been carting around this week, and showed her my birthdate.  She was stunned.

“Girl, we were born the same day and the same year!” she said.

My birthday twin, Martha, was born in Ethiopia.  We chatted about our birthdays and how we celebrated, how she had big plans for this weekend.  As I walked away I thought about how I wouldn’t have met her without my need for a new purse.  I thought about how incredibly blessed I am.

John 1:16 says “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  That is my story, day after day, year after year.  Grace upon grace.

When I was alone in the car I sang, “God is so good.  God is so good.  God is so good, He’s so good to me!”

It is always true.  May I always sing it.

Happy New Year: Code Word Omar

On December 30th the Wall Street Journal ran this story about a young man from Syria named Omar.  My husband often picks out articles for Will (12) and Nate (10) to read, and oftentimes his choices have either a business or sports theme, but this one had neither.  Instead, the story is about the hardships Omar has faced living in tumultuous Syria and the transformation the unrest has wreaked on his own life.  His family used to have a modest business and live a comfortable life.  But with the uprising everything changed.  Omar (17) finally left Syria, on his own, for Lebanon.  After obtaining a job where he works 14-hour days six days a week, and a half day on Sunday, he has brought his family to live with him.  His parents along with Omar and his six siblings live in a one-room apartment.

After the boys read the article, we tried to help them process Omar’s story.  We asked them about the difference between first-world and third-world problems, and explained how the living conditions in Syria deteriorated.  We talked about how war ravages a society.  We asked them if something like that could happen here in the U.S.  It was an incredibly fruitful half-hour.  Then my husband said that he wants 2014 to be a year in which we Jacksons all have a spirit of gratitude, and that we need to find ways to serve the needy as a family.   Serving as a family — devoting time and energy — is not something we’ve been good about.  We did our end-of-year giving that same day, but there’s something too detached and too easy about writing a check.

We decided that when we are not exhibiting a spirit of gratitude we will hold each other accountable, we can even just use the code word: Omar.

Then yesterday we were back at the Honda dealership (where we had previously brought our rake).  We had to resign some papers because the VIN number was actually incorrect.  As we sat there with our charming finance guy, Ardi, we learned his story was strikingly similar to Omar’s.  He came here from war-torn Kosovo in the late 90’s.  He was by himself.  He did not know more than “Hi” and “Bye” in English.  Guess how old he was?  That’s right – seventeen.  His father was killed in the war, and Ardi said that we would not have believed all that he had witnessed.  He said he just wakes up grateful every day to have a job, to be here in America.  And our boys got to meet him!

So that’s how we are kicking off the New Year.  We have the story of Omar and the in-the-flesh example of Ardi.

May this year be a year where we “Give thanks in all circumstances,” be a family of grateful spirits, and find a meaningful place to serve.