On the evening of my thirteenth birthday, after a good meal and presents, my mom asked me if there was anything else I wanted to do. Feeling a rush to mark the day that felt like my true entrance into teenagerhood, I nodded. Ten minutes later, my siblings and I were tumbling out of the family van and sprinting across the chalky, dry rocks leading into Putah Creek. With all our clothes on, we jumped into that frigid water, deep from spring rain. We laughed and shrieked and were begging for towels within minutes. I will always remember that birthday. The shock of cold, and the strange joy of growing up.
We keep growing up. Children think that adults reach some plateau, but we know better. We are still learning. I baked a whole chicken for the first time yesterday. I’m not sure why it always seemed so intimidating. I baked it for too long in my zeal to avoid salmonella, but I achieved crispy, brown skin nonetheless. And I felt proud.
We grow in quiet ways, like learning how to talk to that person who bothers us. Realizing that, sometimes, there is nothing harder than this - than asking questions and sticking around to listen to the answers. Over time, we find that we each have a different “least of these,” a group of people who have become easy for us to dismiss. To overlook. To ignore. Over time, the Holy Spirit helps us past our rough edges.
My prayers were probably more eloquent at thirteen. These days, I tell God what I’m feeling, and this often includes the broken bits that the years don’t sweep away. But it also includes a list of things I am thankful for. I can’t count them. The older I get, the longer the list becomes. Strawberries. The view from my deck. Yellow paint. Fuchsia paint. The pillow my husband gave me because I said I liked his better than mine. The man from church who sings bass in the choir. The strength God has given my hands today. Hamburgers.
Today is my thirty-third birthday, and I asked for water shoes. Because, lately, I have been wanting to feel that shock of cold again. To walk across slippery rocks that look like treasures through the glass of water. I want to let some old creek shiver my bones, and to look up into a canopy of trees, knit together with green thread, shading me from the full extent of the sun.
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