It is a picture of me, taken at a family reunion in, oh, I'm guessing 1976 or 1977. I had never seen this picture before. I would have been 12 or 13 years old. And as I looked at that picture my first thought was "WOW, I can't believe how young and thin I look!" And then I started to think about the girl in the picture. Me, but a very young, innocent me. A girl who really had a pretty easy life. Two parents, two sisters. Nothing much to worry about except getting good grades. That girl in the picture doesn't know much about the real world. That girl in the picture doesn't know anything about swollen feet and ankles. She doesn't have stretch marks, or c-section scars (yep, two of them, one emergency vertical one, and one planned, horizontal one). She has never lost someone truly close to her. Never cried herself to sleep. Never sat up all night with a sick child. Never been on a diet. Never worried herself sick over things she could do nothing about. Never worried about money, or bills, or a job. And the day I saw this picture I thought, man, that girl had it made.
But today, on my 45th birthday (yes, today I am 45,) I look at that girl in a different light. While that girl doesn't have wrinkles, she sure has a lot to learn about the real world. Because while she didn't have much to worry about, she has a lot of life left to experience. She's never stood at an altar and promised the rest of her life to someone who promised the same thing right back to her, knowing he meant every word. That girl doesn't understand marrying into another family, and feeling just as much a part of that family as she does her own (I have an awesome mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and I love them very much). She's never held her baby in her arms and felt her heart swell with so much love and pride she thought it would break. That girl has never felt the true sense of accomplishment, of working hard for something and then being proud of what she worked for. That girl in the picture doesn't really know what TRULY UNCONDITIONALLY loving someone is. She's never heard a sweet voice say "I love you mama." She's never had the privilege of watching the last few hours of someone's life slip away as they moved from this world on to heaven. She's never experienced real friendship, friends who are THERE for you and I mean THERE, no matter what. She can't understand how you can love your nieces and nephews as much as your own children. And she can't imagine her parents as real people, not just "mom" and "dad." I realize that I don't even know that girl and today, on my 45th birthday, I wouldn't trade places with her for the world. You know why? 'Cause I'M the one who has it made. Every experience has made me the person I am today, and I am so thankful to God for each day He has given me. My prayer is that He gives me many, many more days to share with my family and friends, and that each and every day brings glory and honor to Him. To all my friends and family who have wished me Happy Birthday, "I LOVE YOU!" I am truly truly blessed. Anyway, young and thin is HIGHLY overrated!