Finally, the birthday gifts and party are now in the past, but what a weekend it was! I am so grateful to all who made this one special in so many ways. To have my home and yard filled with people I love and share the laughter and joy of family and long-time friendship was truly a blessing and an honor. Sara and I know some pretty incredible people and connecting with them again filled our lives with gratitude.
And there were so many others who wrote and shared their thoughts and greetings as well. I already told you about my birthday book my daughter created for me with letters people sent from all over the world to celebrate our relationship. It turned out to be quite a project as she worked on it for more than eight months. It was a secret she and many others had to keep for much of that time. Here’s what she wrote about it:
The secret… a book of letters to my dad… expressions of love, gratitude,
special memories, or as simple as a birthday wish written from people that
have known my dad at some point over his 60 years of life. It all started
with a simple email that spread from Ventura County through California,
across the US and all across the world…Australia, South Africa, Canada,
and all over Europe. I received well over 100 letters when all was said and
done. And put them all together in this book.
If you want to see some of what she wrote about it, you can check out her blog and pictures about the night she gave the book to me. And the book was a big draw on Saturday. Everyone wanted to see it and many spent time reading it. I won’t post it here; it’s over 40,000 words. So you’ll just have to come by and look at it if you want.
Part of the crowd that was able to join us this weekend for my birthday
Sara and I are now left in the afterglow of that rich weekend and the love of so many people. As we’re slowly reading through the book my daughter put together, I’ve been reminded of a couple of things that are pretty important:
First, what people most appreciate about your life is not what you’ve accomplished but how you’ve treated them. What came up over and over again in the letters was not the books I’d written or the achievements people attach to my life, but how they’ve watched Sara and I have live our our lives and the simplicity of conversation, whether in laughter and tears, that helped them through a tough spot, or encouraged them to lean more deeply into Jesus. I love that. I think that’s why Jesus didn’t write books or start ministries. He knew that how he lived with Father would best be conveyed by simply living openly in the world, and he knew that the power in a real conversation was all that was needed to allow the kingdom of God to spread in the world.
Second, I’m refreshed in the power of affirmation. Reading what others have appreciated about my life has impacted me far more deeply than I thought it would. It has helped me be reminded of those things that really matter in life, and not get lost in all the projects I sometimes think are so critical. Sharing with someone how you appreciate them and what they’ve meant to you is life-changing. It is often difficult in our culture either to give or receive complements. Both make us uncomfortable. We don’t often give them for fear will be responsible for stoking someone’s pride, and we often deflect them when given to us because we feel undeserving.
I’ve often gone away from funerals thinking how powerful it would have been for the deceased to have heard those things said about them while they were still alive. How much would it have set them at ease in knowing how God had made himself known through them, or how much they meant to others? Reading my daughter’s book was like attending my own funeral, without the death part, which really is the worse part. And I’ll admit to being incredibly surprised at what many people said and how they looked at my life. But it has been and continues to be so enriching and it has allowed me to relive memories of my times with them.
So I come away from this week wanting to be more intentional about speaking life and encouragement into people while it still matters. I want them to know how much they are loved and appreciated and what I see of God’s glory reflected in them. Imagine if our conversations were filled with that an dhow it would not only change the tone of many of our conversations, but perhaps the tone of the world around us as well.