People who read my first book know that On May 22, 1994…my birthday…a guy I didn’t know forced himself on me, and I got pregnant.
Although I love my son dearly and joyfully celebrated his birthday each year on February 4th, my birthday always brought back painful memories and the realization of the very moment that changed EVERYTHING about my life. So on May 22 every year, I allow myself time to cry because the emotions get overwhelming.
As I got older and had a little money to travel, I tried to go out of town or even the county for my birthday. I enjoyed that tremendously but still ended up…crying.
Last year, I spent my birthday at a school board retreat in the mountains of San Francisco. I was essentially with a bunch of strangers, but it was one of my best birthdays. And…no tears. This year, I was blessed with a free week vacation to Pigeon Forge when a Facebook friend had a timeshare that she couldn’t use. She randomly chose the date for the trip, and low and behold, when she sent me my confirmation it said MAY 22. I was so excited about my birthday retreat where I had planned to be alone to work, relax, and pray. I did all of that but neither as much as I wanted due to a few unexpected but welcome change of plans.
It’s been an amazing birthday with several small but powerful moments, and….no tears. 🙂 Only smiles.
The night before my birthday, my cousin took me out to hear live music. A few friends joined, and we had a nice time. Great to celebrate with people who care about me before my little solo journey.
I decided to stretch out the seven hour drive and make stops along the way to get birthday hugs for my birthday. First stop was Jackson for a hug from my grandmother. Then I stopped in Nashville to see my aunt and cousin. Then I stopped in Knoxville to see my sister.
When I finally made it to the resort, as soon as I checked in the young lady at the counter looking at my i.d. saw that it was my birthday and couldn’t believe how old I was and young I look. She asked if I had kids, and I told her about my son, my granddaughter, and a little of my story. She started crying and asked if we could talk outside. She shared her story with me and asked if we could talk some more while I’m here. She and another young mother working here both got copies of my book and said they couldn’t wait to read it.
When I made it into the mountains, it was amazing to see God’s handiwork. Just breathtaking. I brought shoes to go hiking, but my son was worried about me doing that alone (he already didn’t want me going on the trip alone) so I decided not to hike this time. My body is probably thanking my son too.
I was sitting by the pool finishing up my book on poverty when the lady in the pool chair next to me offered me a Memorial Day cookie from the lobby. I told her thanks but I had already had one (and a coke float). She then asked where I was in school assuming that I was reading for a college class. I told her that was reading for my own knowledge to help me be better at what I do. She then asked what type of work I do, and I explained that I try to help people overcome obstacles of all kinds and a lot of the obstacles are around poverty. And a lot starts in the mind. She was interested, and we talked more. We talked about our kids (she had three who she had adopted from Russia who are now grown and not doing what she’d wanted, but “so what”). Then she told me about a radio show she did consulting for and wanted to suggest the host interview me. Listen for me on “Abiding in Christ” with Jim Wood which airs Monday through Friday at 8:30 PM EST, on SiriusXM Family Talk, Channel 131, or on 106.7 FM (Knoxville, TN metro) Monday-Friday evenings at 9:30PM. Of course, I’ll post when it airs.
My friend, Dasha, who I met at a speaking conference a few years ago came up to visit me from Knoxville, and we explored Gatlinburg where I got another story. The story of the lady who hit rock bottom and discovered her business. With River Rocks.
Now 56, when she was a young mother of two, she struggled after divorcing her husband. She moved to Gatlinburg to sleep on the couch of a friend. After over a year of not finding a job, she moved back home only to move back to Gatlinburg again to get away. For this move, she didn’t load up a Uhaul as she had before. She instead sold everything except her paint and paint brushes. Back to sleeping on couches and no job…and nothing to her name, she took a walk on the river. She cried as she walked on the river trying to figure why her life had been so hard and what she was going to do. As she walked she kept tripping over the many rocks along the river. Then it hit her, she was to use the only possessions she had and her talent to paint the river rocks and sell as souvenirs. I didn’t know her story until after I bought the rock, but I gave her some marketing advice and hope to see more people with her beautiful rocks.
I had a few good days of just sitting on the patio working that made me think about a lot of things including downsizing and relocating. I really love my small “condo”. It’s actually perfect for my new life.
On my last night here, my youngest sister moved into her home for the next six weeks in Gatlinburg so I drove up to spend a little time with her. On my way home, I stopped at a store and when I walked out a lady named Karen approached me. She was a black lady around my mother’s age and actually reminded me of my aunt. She asked me for money to eat and said that she was starving. I gave her the few dollars I had and talked to her for about ten minutes. Oh, and I’ll explain just how money I had/have in a later post. She shared her story of how she ended up in Gatlinburg and that she had recently lost her job at Denny’s and also worked seasonally at Dollywood. We talked and hugged, and I watched her walk away. My heart was probably as heavy as the backpack on her back, but she smiled as we talked and I hope I said something to help her.
Then I headed back to my room, my little condo, my retreat spot for my last night in Gatlinburg. I was actually a little sad about leaving but excited about my interview the next morning and the journey and visits as I traveled back home. And most of all, I was thankful for the opportunity to get away, to retreat, and thankful for the fact that I didn’t feel the need or urge to cry on my birthday.
Yes, this birthday was mine, and the trip was for me. But one key theme I had this past week was that my life is not about me. It’s about the people in my life (known and new) that I can see, embrace, and impact. Happy birthday to me!
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