Of all the holidays and celebrations in the world, I love birthdays the most! Although I share my birthday with many others, including Nelson Mandela – what an honor – it is the one day that I feel is MY day. Each year I spend an extra dose of time reflecting on where I am, where I’d like to be and exactly what I need to do to get me there. I think about the person I am, who I am becoming and if what I see mirrors who I’d like to be.  This year I am overjoyed! This is one of THE most significant birthdays for me for so many reasons. As I look at my life – who I am, where I am and where I am headed – this year reflects the culmination of so much hard work, so many dreams, so many lists, the other side of so many obstacles and I am simply thankful. With this in mind, I have dedicated my birthday blog post to all the reasons I am thankful. Enjoy!

On today I am especially thankful because:

  1. I have been blessed to see another year. These last two years have brought a considerable amount of attention to the ongoing social injustices happening in our world, and the African American community in particular. I recognize that each day that I am alive is a blessing – not because I have always made the right choices or been in the right places, but simply because of God’s grace.
  2. I have a loving and supportive life partner. Like me, my husband is not a fashion savvy front-runner; he can be a little quirky and often laughs at his own jokes ;-); he doesn’t keep up with the latest technological tools or pop news. BUT he gets me! He supports me and shows that support in a multitude of ways. He is patient and kind … loving in all the right ways. He encourages and inspires me. He makes every single day that much more enjoyable and each moment so much more special. I am thankful for our journey and thankful for his presence in my life.
  3. I have an extended network of folks who I call family. I love my family!!! We don’t see each other or talk nearly as often as we should but I know that they are an important part of my life. No matter the occasion – some happier than others – I am grateful for opportunities to gather, celebrate, reminisce and be reminded of the blessing of my mother’s love, my dad’s memories, my brother and our evolving relationship, my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews … my life is so much richer because of them!
  4. My friends are a central part of my life. I wrote about friendships in my last post, but I have to include them here as well. My friends range in ages, experiences, lifestyles, pursuits, beliefs, and the list goes on. Some of them reflect and represent more of me than others, but they are my friends nonetheless. Some have known me for a lifetime – literally – and others are more recent additions to my circle. Regardless of where they fall, I love and appreciate them dearly. I can’t imagine my life without friendships that remind me of what truly matters in life.
  5. I long overcame the fear of shifting gears. There have been times when I was moving in particular direction that I thought was best or in pursuit of an outcome that I thought I wanted, but I thank God that I have and continue to give myself permission to CHANGE MY MIND! At any given time for any reason, I remind myself that I can change my mind. While this may seem minute, it is actually an essential part of living my life authentically. I no longer feel bound by decisions or commitments that don’t serve my best interest. I don’t feel nearly as burdened about changing a course of action after realizing that perhaps I mis-stepped or even when I thought I wanted something only to receive it and realize it is not all that it was cracked up to be.
  6. I no longer feel the need to explain myself. A few years ago I learned a painful lesson in many people doing what serves them by putting themselves first in many, if not all, regards. They asked invasive questions with no sensitivity. They questioned or criticized my choices with no regard to the thought that went into my decisions. They laughed at what appeared to them to be rigidity or my exercising discipline and mocked my focus. It took me a while to see what was happening in many – not all – of their lives – their own unhappiness, insecurities, unfulfilled dreams … things that had NOTHING to do with me. The answer was simple – I stopped explaining myself! I now reserve the right to give as much or as little details about my decisions as I see fit for the situation. I no longer feel the need to justify why I am doing something at all or a particular way. I have given myself to be authentically me without any need for others to understand or affirm.
  7. I have a “reasonable portion” of my health. After being hospitalized multiple times in 2011 and 2012, I now know what a blessing it is to be healthy. I falter on my physical activity and eating habits but never stray too far as I now know how important it is to take care of me – to actively contribute to my health and well-being. While random health outcomes will surely come at no fault of my own, there are still many aspects of my health that I can control. I choose to take an active role in the maintenance of my health.
  8. I love me. This sounds so very simple, but there have been times in my life when I didn’t love me or didn’t love me enough. I made a lot of poor decisions during those seasons. However, learning to love me and love me fully has helped me make life-affirming decisions and to stand by those decisions because they are best for me! Loving me allows me to step away from situations and people who are detrimental to my well-being. Loving me reminds me that self-care is an absolute necessity and must occur on an ongoing basis. Loving me allows me to forgive myself and opens up opportunities to recreate my reality on a daily basis.
  9. My life does not reflect ALL the decisions I have made. I have done some foolish, careless things! I thank God that my life is not a reflection of all the times I have been irresponsible, careless, irrational and immature. I am thankful for God’s grace, love and covering.
  10. I have an intimate relationship with God and engage in spiritual care practices. The location of this item on the list is no indication of its importance in my life. I have spent a great deal of my life in church, but I am so very thankful that I know that the amount of time spent in church – or any physical place – is no indication of the intimacy of a relationship with a higher power. I am thankful for that I know and recognize God’s presence in my life. I am thankful that through all the wrestling, sorting, understanding, misunderstanding, interpreting, falling apart and putting back together again, my life encompasses religious beliefs and practices that reflect all of me and not what or who someone else thinks it or I should be. I am thankful that my understanding of God is ever-evolving and I am now mature enough to welcome that. I am thankful that my belief in God in no way impedes upon or stifles the beliefs of others as they are free to choose what religion, spirituality, God, and faith mean to them. I am thankful that I know that my spirituality is just that – mine; it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s nor does anyone have to understand it. I am thankful that God has chosen to offer favor to me in so many areas of my life and because of this I am forever committed to serving others as I know my gifts and blessings for the uplifting of others. I am thankful for my life.
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