The blessing of twenty-five birthdays.

As another year of this crazy, awesome, unpredictable, scary, exhilarating thing I call my life comes to a close, I’m left feeling speechless and amazed as I watch the glowing flames melt the shining wax on twenty-five birthday candles. Here, I feel the need to pause and take in this beautiful moment in time surrounded by people I love who love me unconditionally. What a lucky girl I am. I’ve been able to enjoy twenty-five years on God’s extraordinary earth. In twenty-five years, I’ve been able to experience a surplus of love, laughter, friendship, joy, excitement, triumph, success and fulfillment. I’ve been able to explore and immerse myself in the culture and beauty of thirteen different countries. I’ve successfully transitioned from high school to college to full-time working adult. I’ve had the honor of working a good, steady job for an entire year. I’ve been able to discover and hone abilities and passions I never knew I had. I’ve gained too many priceless friendships to count. I’ve fallen in love and married the love of my life. I’ve loved with my whole heart and I’ve been loved with the whole hearts of others. And here I am, immersed in the smiles and the laughter and the hugs and best wishes of a beautiful family of which I’ll never be able to fully express the impact they’ve made on my life. I am surrounded by the wisdom of grandparents and the loving example of two parents who’ve loved each other as God had always intended for thirty years, by a sister who doubles as my best friend and her beautiful family and her husband who’s as close as a brother, by countless cousins and aunts and uncles, by awesome in-laws who love me as their own, by two sweet, perfect, healthy nieces of whom I am convinced are the prettiest little girls in all the world, and by the incredible man that I am indescribably proud to call my husband, and I can think of one thing: I am blessed. God has blessed me.

 At the start of every new year of my life, someone has placed a cake with candles in front of me and has asked me to make a wish. I am asked to make a wish today. It’s so hard for me to do now, because all I can think of is the swelling joy and pride I feel in this moment. And I am overwhelmed by a sudden realization: I love my life. Life is good.

Sure, not everything has been easy. I’ve experienced sadness, and loss, anger, betrayal, heartache and tragedy. I know what it’s like to feel so lost and confused and alone that I can’t imagine a time where things will get better. I’ve experienced the pain of disappointment in myself and in others. I’ve felt the suffocating effects of grief and anxiety. I’ve been so overcome by fear and panic that I cannot move. My heart has been so broken that it’s seemed beyond repair. But there have been common factors in all these circumstances: I’ve survived and I’ve become better for it. God has brought me through as a stronger person. Because of these things, I’ve gained understanding and appreciation for the things that I’ve been given. I am marvelously aware of how blessed I am. For that, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life.

 And what can I wish for? As I hear the sweet voices of those I love singing me ‘Happy Birthday’ and as my smile is so big that my cheeks are actually hurting, and as I look to my left and see my two sweet nieces that represent beauty and good and innocence and recognize that there is still good in this world, and as I look to my right and I see my husband and parents and am reminded that true love in it’s purest form still exists. As I marvel at the fact that there are four generations of a loving family being represented around me, and as I try to truly comprehend the fact that these people love me unconditionally, and that I have somehow made as much of an impact on their lives as they’ve done so on mine. As I am reminded that love and friendship and marriage and family are some of the purest blessings of this life. I cannot wish for more at this moment. And so, instead, I say a prayer.

I pray that love will continue to prevail on this earth. I pray that children will remain innocent. I pray that that there will be more successful marriages than failed ones. I pray that there will always be more good people than bad. I pray that I’ll never be too busy to recognize and appreciate life’s simply beautiful moments like these. I pray that families will stand together in love. I pray that everyone will have the opportunity to experience love and friendship and family as I have. I pray that God’s truth and grace be evident to all. And I thank God for being an ever-present help and reminder that we are not alone. I thank God for moments of quiet reflection like these.

So for my twenty-fifth birthday, as I celebrate the beginning of another year on God’s extraordinary earth, I wish to fill others with that same overwhelming realization. Life is good. God is still here. Blessings still exist. Good is still evident. There is truth, there is light, there is peace, there is joy. Pain and heartache and sadness and grief can be overcome. Love is real. God’s goodness and truth can be yours as much as it is mine. Keep loving each other. Keep being the friends and family that you yourself deserve. Keep smiling, keep laughing, keep living. Strive to be the person that you’ve been created to be. Let positivity flourish and negativity vanish from your life. And thank you for being part of my blessings in life. I am truly, indescribably and undeniably blessed.

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