Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Not Really a Birthday Until Someone Starts to Cry

They say to pay attention to what makes you cry. Because what makes you cry is probably something you’re most passionate about.


I’ve got to tell you something embarrassing.

I almost cried in front of my class yesterday.

And it surprised the heck out of me. Seriously.

Most mornings (not every day, because I’m not super-consistent about anything in my life, but most) I start class with a short devotional thought. Sometimes I’ll read a psalm or some Frederick Buechner, but toward the end of the semester, when we've gotten to know each other better, I like to read portions of a little book by Anna Quindlen called “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” In the book, Quindlen encourages her readers to look around at the gift that life really is, and that's what I want my students to remember when they leave my classroom. I read a small section of the book and follow it up with some Scripture that seems to correspond to what she’s saying.

I like it. It works for me. (Hopefully it works for my students.)

Anyway, yesterday I was reading a section and totally had to stop for a second to let my throat catch up with my brain. It could be that I hadn’t slept the night before (I woke up at 3:30, my brain on fire) or it could be that I’m turning 50 this week. I don’t know. I was feeling a little emotional going into class in the first place, but then when I read this, I almost lost it.

In front of 18 college students.

What a dork.

Anyway, here’s what Anna Quindlen said in the portion of her little book that I read yesterday:
          “I learned to live many years ago. Something really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had had a choice, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, sometimes seems to be the hardest lesson of all.
            I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.”

I had to stop reading for a minute as my throat started to close. Yes, I could relate to having something really bad happen to me. The lessons I’ve learned from that are too many to count.

But it was “this is not a dress rehearsal, and . . . today is the only guarantee you get” that really got to me.

Pay attention to what makes you cry.

Why would this truth, on this day, make me choke up?

I think it's because I’ve spent too many days rehearsing for this big birthday, playing it over and over in my mind, griping and complaining about getting older, when what I should have been doing is celebrating the fact that I’m here, I’m healthy, I’m whole.

I’m here. I’m healthy. I’m whole.

God is good.

Most mornings when my alarm goes off, I stumble across the room toward the shower. This morning, however, I woke up a couple of minutes before my alarm with a song ringing in my head. It’s not even a song I’ve ever paid much attention to, but there it was.

“I want to live
like there’s no tomorrow.
Love like I’m on borrowed time.
It’s good to be alive.”

Coincidence? Probably not.

Just God’s way of showing me that He’s here and that He knows what this week, this searching, this celebrating, means to me.

Oh, yes, God is good.

If you want to hear the whole song (the video is kinda goofy, but the song is good), click here.

Now tell me, what makes you choke up?


  1. When we homeschooled, I always had to fight that throat-closing feeling when I read aloud to my kids. I think I cry whenever someone helps someone else who is in need. Pretty general...lots of choking up here! Also anything with dads and daughters. Just love that relationship. I am reminded by your posts this week that we're birthday buddies, but this is my "phew" birthday: 39. One more year of avoidance. So next year, when you're gracefully rockin' 51, you can help me... :-) You gained such a great perspective yesterday, and I hope it turns your week into a great celebration!

  2. Aw, my sweet crying friend. That got to me too.

    I think it means you need to finish that book of yours so you can share your wisdom with more people.

  3. Yes, Kristin, I used to get choked up when I read to my kids, too. Especially, "Love You Forever." Gah!! P.S. You're so YOUNG!!! :)

    Linda, Linda, Linda. You do know how to challenge me, don't you?

  4. What a GREAT post, Shelly. I love Anna Quindlen, and that piece you read was so timely. How wonderful that you had the chance to see that and appreciate the gift of now!


  5. Ha, Shelly - I knew you would say that! It's all relative. I feel both young and old-er at the same time.

  6. Susan, so nice to know there's another Anna Quindlen fan out there!

  7. I was totally serious about the book. I think you have a lot to teach people about living life.

  8. I have been receiving your blog via email for some time, but this is my first time to comment. I loved your post today, and that quote is just perfect. Each day IS a gift and we should view it in such a way! I will be sharing your quote with others. Thank you! And by the way, I have LOVED my 50's. I bet you will too!

  9. Shelly, I love dorky. I love goofy. I love tears of realization and hope. I hope you have (have had?) a splendid 50th birthday. I am right on your heels... Enjoy. Enjoy every moment. You have brought me joy today :)

  10. You are actually lucky if only your brain is on fire in the middle of the night.