Three things I am thankful for today

Many years ago when I was going through yet another rough patch and was surrounded by negativity, I made a conscious decision to remind myself every day about the things that I had that I was thankful about. This has helped me tremendously over the years to focus on the blessings that I have and to keep me from becoming bitter or even disillusioned. In hindsight, all the trails and difficulties have helped me appreciate people and things that I would not have appreciated otherwise or worse still, would have taken for granted.
As I enter into a new year today, I am grateful for the gift of yet another year; for the many blessings God has showered me with;  for the wonderful and loving friends that enrich my life and of course for my adorable crazy puppy Jaden. Since I can’t write about all these blessings in more detail in one post, my blog today is about three things that I am especially thankful for today.

Every year on this day I am reminded of the story of my birth that I have heard time and again. My mother had an accident and fell when she was carrying me which meant that I wasn’t in the best of birthing positions when I entered the world. Due to a lack of oxygen,  I came into this world very blue and black in the face with swollen lips and crinkly hair. My mother told me often later that she was quite shocked with the ugly baby girl that she held in her hands (a total contrast to my older brother who was a beautiful, pink, healthy baby with adorable dimples). She remembers feeling sorry for me because it meant that I would have a difficult life since I was not beautiful and fair (in the country of my birth, the color of ones skin is important especially for girls!). My mother has always called a spade a spade, never minced her words and did not believe in letting me live with any illusions about my looks :).

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I was about 3 years old here – with my paternal grandfather who was an amazing man

I was a pretty lost and complicated little girl who grew into an obese, acne ridden and difficult teenager. I was constantly reminded that I was not sporty, talented, intelligent,  beautiful or even remotely attractive in any way and was always compared to others who were all obviously better than me. As a young girl, there were many nights that I begged God to do a miracle and make me fair, beautiful, intelligent and slim. Am I glad God did not answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to!! As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I realised early in my life that I needed to focus on my education and on becoming independent, so that I didn’t “need a man to take care of me” (as most girls then were groomed to believe). I am thankful today that I was not blessed with an external beauty which might have made me vain and superficial.  It might have made me insensitive to those that do not conform to worldly standards of beauty and might have blinded me to what matters the most – an inner beauty of character that is timeless and worth so much more. I am thankful that God taught me not to judge people by appearances but to look deeper and see the beauty within. On a lighter note, the fact that I never had a great body or skin has helped me to accept the ravages of time and age. It has spared me the emotional struggles that I see many women going through, women who counted on their external beauty to get them what they want and now suddenly don’t have it anymore. And so I thank God especially on my birthday that I was not “the beautiful girl child” who might have had a much easier and popular life; I thank Him for using me to reach out, fight for and protect women who have gone through much pain because they were bullied or belittled; I thank Him for giving me eyes to see beauty where others may not see it; to encourage and appreciate where He wants me to;  for the unique plan He has for my life and for the fact that He is constantly working on me to make me the woman He wants me to be.

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Me in my late teens, the photographer did his best to make my skin look smooth and glowing…
As a child, birthdays were not always celebrated in a big way. They were just occasions where we got new clothes, a cake but other than that we weren’t necessarily fussed over or spoilt on that day. In my later teens, I decided that I wanted that day to be special, to do something out of the ordinary on that day. My brother Elmer left home to work in another city when I was nearing my twenties. However he always made it a point to be home on my birthday, maybe because he sensed that it was a special day for me. I remember one year when I thought he wasn’t coming. I woke up on my birthday to see him there – he had taken the night bus to be there early in the morning. And he had got me a lovely top and my very first jeans skirt – my first really “hip” clothes (Elmer worked then in one of the major cosmopolitan cities which was known for high fashion!). You can imagine my pride and excitement that day.

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the birthday with my first jeans skirt and hip top!
My relationship with Elmer has always been a very special and precious one. Our paths went different ways when we grew up and today we lead very different lives on two different continents. And yet the bond between us has grown deeper and stronger over the years, in spite of the great physical distance between us. As I once wrote about him on Facebook, it is easy to love and stand by someone who is very similar to oneself but to encourage, help and support someone whose ideas and dreams are so different from one’s own, is a very rare quality. Elmer has done that and much, much more!! He was the first man (and there haven’t been many since) who loved me not for how I look (with or without more weight or acne); not for my professional successes, my achievements, my “connections” or for who I have become; BUT for the mad, crazy, giggly, silly, exhausting, headstrong, “non-conventional” and “non-traditional” person that I am.
24 years have passed since the last time I spent my birthday with him (with the exception of one birthday that I spent with him a few years ago).  I left for Europe in 1992 and not a single birthday has gone by without my waking up in the morning, missing his presence and remembering how he made it a point to be there on this day even after he had left home. And every birthday morning I am thankful for Elmer – an amazing brother, my most loyal supporter, my advisor, my shelter-in-the-storm, someone who has and always will be there for me.

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One of the very few pictures of Elmer and me as kids
I am blessed today with a number of very good friends; friends who enrich my life and are a great source of strength, support and inspiration – some of these friends are also part of my family 🙂 After coming to Europe, my birthdays were celebrated in many ways – there were years where I had a houseful of 30 and more people for whom I had cooked and baked all day;  then there were years where nothing “special” happened: years where I was traveling and working on that day… As the years passed and I grew older, I realised that each year was special and it was a very precious gift to have been given yet another year to live. So I decided that I wanted to celebrate the day with people that truly cared for and loved me for the person that I was, people that were special and precious to me. This isn’t a very easy task since these special friends are spread all over the world.
And so today I am thankful that Bernd and I will be celebrating my birthday this evening with two very special people – my lovely “little sister” Nina and her husband Prem. As I have written in an earlier post, Nina is a very dear sister and friend. This is also a very special occasion because the last time I celebrated my birthday with her was 24 years ago! I am so thankful for her today – for her love, her support, her encouragement, for being there for me as a friend, as a praying partner and above all for the joy and laughter she brings in my life! Waiting to see you this evening Nina and to get that special Nina-hug-and-cuddle!

 

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