On my 37th birthday, what I wanted most of all was time to write. I put the baby down for his first nap, pacified my older boy with his tablet and retrieved my pale green journal. Before sitting down, I lit a candle, which is my writing ritual. I like imagining the flame as my artistic spirit or even the Holy Spirit, calling me to create.
Curled up in an armchair, I held my pen above an empty page. What could I say about the past year of my life? It’s been a whirlwind, a time of change and, in many ways, a joy. I glanced at the Christmas tree glowing in our front window. Lately getting ready for Christmas had consumed my time, and I was grateful for the chance to let my mind wander.
The page stared back at me. I have written professionally for over a decade and yet every opening humbles me. I rifled through the files of my mind for the perfect words and I quickly realized the naptime clock was ticking — better to pick words that were good enough. So, I wrote:
It was a year of growth and a year of grace.
The year I birthed my second baby and the year I signed my first book deal. The year I learned that dreams-come-true sparkle from afar, but close up demand grit and labor. The year I stretched my body and mind while nourishing a baby and my stories. The year I realized the most rewarding part of having dreams-come-true is how you tend them.
It was the year I left my magazine job. The year I struggled to adjust to staying home with my children. The year a fog of depression descended and didn’t budge until I began taking my mental health more seriously. The year I received a proper diagnosis for the doubts that haunted me daily.
The year I cried my eyes out and picked myself off the floor and summoned strength to care for my family. The year I trusted my gut and leaned into faith and slept very little but embraced the beauty of the darkness.
It was the year I danced in the kitchen and paced the halls with a restless baby and lived for the laughter of my children.
It was a year of admiring sunsets, the blue of the smoky mountains, the blaze of fall leaves in our woods and the glittering snow that graced Chicago just in time for Christmas.
The year I prayed over my kids and penned more prayers than I ever imagined. The year we found a closer church so we could start going to in-person worship again. The year we baptized our new baby.
It was the year everything seemed heavier with two children. The year I boldly sought help with childrearing and cultivated a stronger village. A year of holding the weight of motherhood and finding others to help me carry it.
The year I watched my oldest grapple with friendship hurdles and expand his social circle. The year he swam, played on a team, and began kindergarten. The year he built with Legos, rode without training wheels, became a big brother. The year I saw my baby’s first smile, roll, crawl and babble, and each left me breathless with wonder. The year I witnessed ordinary miracles.
It was a year of taking turns with my husband, learning to be a team, falling deeply in love again. A year of unloading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, paying the bills, returning library books. A year of shared glances, warm embraces and deeper knowing.
The year I learned the power of silence. The year I paid closer attention to what’s unsaid and tried to say less myself. The year I listened deeply for the voice of my Creator.
It was my phoenix year. The year I burned down my old way of being, the false tales I told myself about myself and reemerged equipped with the knowledge I need to shine brighter.
I nested. I mothered. I cuddled. I messed up. I apologized. I read. I wrote. I gave it my all. I let it all go. I failed. I soared.
My son’s cries came from the bedroom. I set aside my pen and stopped writing. The rest of the day unfolded, same as usual: I scrambled eggs, changed dirty diapers, and loaded the dishwasher. We walked the dog and marveled at the snowflakes and I tripped on a stack of Magna-Tiles.
Later that night, we gathered around our kitchen table for white chicken chili. It was the first family meal we’d shared in seemingly ages given my husband’s aggressive end-of-the-year work schedule. After I put the baby to bed, my older son, my husband and I enjoyed slices of pumpkin pie, my traditional birthday dessert.
I lit my birthday candle and smiled back at my boys while they wished me a happy birthday. Gazing at the flame, I held a simple wish in my heart: More. God, give me more time with them. More beauty. More life. I’ve reached my 37th chapter and I am not yet finished writing a beautiful story.
I’m just getting started.
Such beautiful words. I will be thinking on this “phoenix year” term for awhile. Thank you for your honesty about your mental health struggles and finding beauty in the darkness.
(Also, I trip on Magnatiles at least ten times a day. Why, Lord?)
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Thanks for reading and sharing this, Megan! It means a lot 💗
Any given day it could be Legos, blocks, etc! Ah yes, life with children underfoot