Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why I Will Never, Ever, Ever Forget My 40th Birthday

There are many reasons actually. 

Hundreds of birthday greetings on Facebook and through texts.

Thoughtful cards in the mail.

Finding signs placed in my yard by a caring friend and also finding a big package on my doorstep sent to me by another generous friend.

A homemade, beyond delicious, key lime cake, baked and carried over to my house by my mom and dad.

And most certainly, spending a wonderful week leading up to my 40th in Destin, Florida with the people I love the most in this world.

A week doing all the beachy things families sometimes do.  We swam in the water.  We played in the sand.  We ate seafood.  We put on headlamps, grabbed our flashlights and found 100 sand crabs in the dark.  We went to the Gulfarium, a marine park, and watched a dolphin and sea lion show.  We went to the movies and saw Dolphin Tale 2.  We got pedicures.  (Well...the girls and I did.)  We lounged.  We relaxed.  We soaked in all the goodness of God's handiwork.  And had an absolute blast the whole time. mean...beauties on the beach. :)

They loved sharing a room together.

After finishing this mermaid, Derek asked,
"Can we count this as art class for the day?"

Derek and Grace went kayaking out in the ocean.
I stayed on shore and prayed no sharks would eat them.
What better place to catch the opening night of
"Dolphin Tale 2" than at the beach?
Going out to celebrate ME! 

Night before birthday dinner.
But by far, the most favorite thing we did at the beach was getting up early and going for morning beach walks.  Taking a stroll, collecting seashells, looking for dolphins.  Cold sand under our feet, sun barely lifting upon the horizon, no need for sunscreen, no crowd.  Nothing compared to it.

The night before waking up to the reality of turning 40 years old, I told Derek I wanted to go for an early morning run on the beach.  Though I've taken too many walks on the beach to count, I've never actually gone running by the water's edge.

For the record, I actually like running, which is why I didn't think this would be a big ordeal at all.  But what happened last Saturday morning is the main reason, among all the previously listed reasons, I'll never forget my 40th birthday.  Because four days later, I still bear the visual reminders on my feet.

When I run here at home, I have on shoes.  Running shoes.  Nice running shoes with lots of cushion and padding. 

But for some reason, feeling feisty, footloose and fancy-free on my birthday, I opted not to wear those cushy running shoes. I chose to run barefoot instead.

When I kicked off my flops and stepped onto the sand, I felt energized and ready.  I told myself since it was my 40th birthday, I would run for 40 minutes, 20 minutes to the right, turn around, and then run 20 minutes back to the condo.  Easy peasy.

From the moment I picked up the pace, I felt glorious.  My heart felt strong, my lungs felt strong, my legs felt strong.  I felt good.  I felt alive.  Praying as I ran, I gave thanks to God for a multitude of things: His creation, my 40 years of life on this planet, my precious family, my health, for the things I've experienced, for things to come, etc.

But as I approached the 20-minute mark on my watch, I noticed my feet didn't quite feel right.  I looked down, didn't see anything unusual, no blood or visible wounds, so I kept going.  When I hit 20 minutes and turned around to go back, my feet really didn't feel right.  But because I was still a fair distance from the condo, I kept running.

Soon my run turned to a jog, then to a walk, as I realized what was happening.  I was getting blisters. Not blisters from the sun, but from the sand. The last day of vacation, my 40th birthday, I was getting blisters on the bottom of my feet.  Great.

I had to force myself to keep going because the pain had really intensified by now.  I didn't have my phone, so I couldn't call Derek to ask him to come give me a piggy back all the way back to the condo, which would probably have given him blisters, or even for him to get the car, drive down the strip and pick me up.

So I started talking to the Lord again.  But this time, the prayers had changed.  They were more like, "You know that Footprints in the Sand poem, Lord?  You know the one where You carried the person when she was in anguish or suffering?  Well...Lord, any possible way you could physically carry me all the way back to the condo, like right now?  Because I don't think I can take one. more. step."

I was so far away that I couldn't even make out which condo was ours from the shoreline.  My pace got slower and slower as the pain increased.  I tried walking in the water to soothe my sensitive soles.  I tried walking up on the softer sand, but that just slowed me down even more.  The only thing I could do was keep going.  One painful, laborious step at a time. 

Which I did, even when I thought to myself, "This really feels like I'm walking on shards of broken glass.  Yes, that's exactly it.  I'm walking on glass.  Wait.  What is sand actually made of?  Broken bits of rock and shells?  Oh my goodness!  It's like I AM walking on shards of broken glass!"

Finally, one hour and five minutes from the time I started my run, I arrived back at our condo.  I've never been so happy to see a building before in my life.  So happy I nearly dropped down and kissed the ground in front of me, but then I stopped.  Well...because this was the very same ground which had given me blisters, so...just no.

Gingerly, I made my way up the stairs, rinsed my feet, put on my flip-flops and walked up to the condo, "Ow-ing" every step of the way.

All I wanted to do was go inside, put my feet up and go back to bed.  But as soon as I got to the door, I remembered it was my birthday (the balloons and the 40th birthday sign my sweet husband had taped outside the door was a big reminder).  I also remembered that we had to pack up to go home.  Ugh.

Of course, they all wanted to know why I looked like I was in pain, so I explained my run...jog...walk...nearly crawling, adventure to them.  To which my husband looked at me and asked, "So...why didn't you wear your running shoes?"

I forgave him quickly, seeing as how he and the girls had so sweetly decorated the condo for me. Hobbling away, I went to get dressed.

Just after my run.
After breakfast at the Donut Hole and a 6+ hour drive, in which I nursed my tender toes, we made it back home.  Waiting on my front porch was a package I ordered before we left for vacation.  For my birthday I had ordered myself my very first pair of TOMS shoes.  (Yes, tardy to the party, I know.) 
Blisters or no blisters, I just had to try them on to see if they fit.  And the crazy thing is that they felt great.  Amazingly, the soles of my feet didn't hurt quite like they had the rest of the day.
It was then that I sifted through the other paperwork in the box and found the picture of impoverished children also wearing TOMS shoes on their feet.  You see, TOMS' mission statement is "One for One".  With every pair of shoes you purchase, they give a new pair of shoes to a child who needs shoes.  According to their website, TOMS has given more than 10 million pairs of shoes to children in need.  That's pretty amazing.
Standing in my kitchen with new shoes on my feet, tears welled up in my eyes.  Because the gift I'd just opened meant something very different to me than it would have had I not just experienced what I'd experienced earlier that morning.  In a very, very small way, I could understand.  I had felt pain.  And I now, I had felt comfort.  And I found myself praying the same relief for the child who receives a pair of shoes because of this pair of shoes.

I am beyond grateful to have had such a wonderful birthday.  I felt loved in a multitude of ways.  And now that I'm considered "over the hill", I may begin to forget a few things here and there, but I can assure you, I will never (like ever, ever) be able to forget my (very unforgettable) fabulous 40th birthday.

(And I will also never forget to wear shoes the next time I run on the beach...)

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