I’m just going to come out with it — today is my birthday.
I LOVE birthdays. I rejoice in birthdays. I’m not a 29-and-holder … I’m a proud 34-year-old woman today who is SO thankful to be five years wiser (notice the comparative form here — because it’s going to take about 500 more birthdays and 1.3 million more mistakes before this dense girl is going to gain any kind of REAL wisdom), more experienced and more able to choose joy throughout life’s trials than I was at 29. Bring it on, old age. I’ve got blonde highlights, photo filters and oversized sunglasses to hide the evidence of your damage. Not even your dark circles and white roots can keep me down today.
I LOVE celebrating a new year. A new adventure. A fresh start.
But if I’m just keepin’ it real, I’m not quite sure how I do that on Facebook.
After 15 months off Facebook, I’m kind of a social media moron. And so, for the last two months since I rejoined the 21st century, I’ve tried to watch closely and observe how “real people” celebrate birthdays in the virtual world. Because I would hate for my return to social media to be marred by the mistakes of an amateur.
This is what I learned.
How to Celebrate Birthdays in Three Easy Steps, the Facebook Way
1. The day before your birthday, change your social media profile picture. This is, after all, the only day that most of your 798 acquaintances-called-friends will actually VIEW your profile (only because your cute little picture will show up in their home page under “birthdays” for the day). Make sure to choose a photo from recent history that shows off your adventures, your skills, your accomplishments or your cute family (but only if they’re wearing matching outfits and no one has ruined the picture by frowning, throwing temper tantrums or spilling ketchup on said outfits before photo-taking moment; if so, immediately use Photoshop and some awesome Instragram filter to cover all imperfections).
Because profile pics are public, and we now try to keep the faces of the soldier and the superheroes out of public view, I needed a picture of myself or of our backs for my profile. Sadly, I could not FIND a picture taken in the last 30 days where ALL my people were both in the background AND wearing attire that covered their man parts. I also could not find one where both my hair and teeth were brushed at the same moment (hello public video introducing 2D DJ sporting pigtail braids and boy-chasing sweat).
So, in the name of social norms and in order not to be a total outcast in Facebook society, I forced my 10-year-old to snap photos on the porch on Sunday — the only day of the week I now get dressed — and seriously considered asking him to wait while I changed into five separate outfits to take pictures for the NEXT five birthdays, just so I could be sure to have future photos where my hair was both washed and NOT covered in sand or pine needles.
No, I’m not joking.
Superhero 1 ran out of patience after I asked him to please try and use the “focus” feature on his daddy’s phone before snapping, and there vanished any chance that there will be another such photo with ironed clothes, combed hair and make-up covered zits in my future Facebook history.
There is no time for straightening irons and mascara in this superhero-loving life. These boys with the attention span of gnats and the appetites of elephants will demolish the kitchen before I apply the chapstick if I attempt to get ready during waking hours.
Yoga pants and race t-shirts are my permanent uniforms on days when I am the main adult responsible for tiny humans. (Mental note: Purchase Supersoldier a Starbucks gift card to thank him for the two entire Michelle alone hours he gifts me every Sunday morning. It is because of him that my seatmates at church can inhale during worship.)
2. Wake up on your birthday. Log into social media. See how many people have posted on your page for your birthday. Then do one of three things:
a. Ignore them. Pretend you didn’t even realize it was your birthday, and while sneaking peeks all day long of the people who ACTUALLY love you (because those who can’t even post two words to your Facebook wall are now dead to you, and you’re not about to waste any more of your working hours “liking” the 78 pictures each day they post of their 13 children in their matching red-white-and-blue outfits), say and do NOTHING. Pretend like you don’t even notice. (While this seems appealing, I am not good at saying “nothing.” So I will probably not take this very popular route.)
b. Thank them. But not until tomorrow, when you can reply with one sweeping post along the lines of, “I didn’t expect all this love on my birthday!” Be sure to thank all the people who took two minutes to write two words from their place on their homepage when Facebook, not their calendars, reminded them of this important day. (This seems like a great and efficient plan. I’m filing this one away for June 29.)
c. Entertain them with a monologue. Write a long, thoughtful post about the adventures of aging and the lessons you’ve learned this year. Make sure it’s deep and meaningful so that your middle school friends will linger on your page long enough to also see the cute pictures of your people, your pets and you winning the Person-of-the-Year award at last month’s banquet. (OR just write an insanely long blog post all about your birthday instead so that people can waste their day READING instead of clicking through your Facebook photos. Because the more of their day you dominate, the bigger win for you! Let’s be real — MORE WORDS?! This is TOTALLY my style.)
3. Take advantage of the fact that your Facebook page will likely get more views today than it will on any other day of the entire year.
I’m SHAMELESSLY embracing No. 3 today. With fireworks.
Because MY birthday is an opportunity to share about the birthday of a superhero who will be celebrating HIS this year without family. Without parents. Without HOPE.
This summer, we are hosting DJ, a 10-year-old orphan from China, in our home. He’ll live with us for four weeks while we love on him, play with him and model for him what family looks like. (Dear Lord, PLEASE don’t let him paint all American families by our example. He will both believe that families are people who walk around their properties in nothing but underwear and who shoot each other with foam Nerf gun bullets for fun.)
We are praying and believing that we will send him back to China on August 18 with a forever family to call his own.
Unlike me, birthdays are not a GIFT for DJ. Every birthday he celebrates now brings him one birthday closer to his age out date — the date that, in China, he loses his opportunity to be adopted and is released from the orphanage to live an adult life. (Want to read the unpublicized, mostly unknown, completely heart-breaking truth about aging out in China? If you do nothing else today, read this article from Amy Eldridge of Love Without Boundaries. And then imagine YOUR 14-year-old child in the same shoes.)
The very fortunate orphans find jobs as nannies and cooks in their orphanages; the others search for work in rural areas.
Many will end up in the sex trafficking business; others will end up homeless. Most will end up on the fringes of society.
The most desperate will end up dead.
AT AGE 14.
DJ is 10 ½. He has THREE BIRTHDAYS before his country gives up. Sends him the message that he is unworthy. Undesirable. Unadoptable.
At the age when most of our children are attending their freshman years of high school and discovering WHO THEY ARE and WHAT THEY WANT TO BE in the safety and security of families, these children are thrown into the world alone to pave their own ways.
For my birthday, I want to help CHANGE DJ’S STORY. I want to be a vessel God can use to REWRITE his ending.
I want to help DJ find a forever family.
You don’t have to be a superhero to change an orphan’s story; you just have to love one enough to SHARE HIS.
Today, for MY birthday, I’m asking for the gift of your TIME. Today, would you help us ensure that THIS sweet boy, our host son for the summer, never spends HIS birthday alone again? And that he NEVER sees Birthday 14 without a family singing by his side?
One conversation with that friend you know who once considered adoption.
This sweet boy and SO MANY OTHERS who are here in the United States RIGHT NOW (check out links to their adorable photos, videos and descriptions HERE) deserve a home. A family. A birthday party for the first time in their lives.
EVERY child deserves this chance. EVERY child deserves this love. It doesn’t take superhumans to make superfamilies … it takes ONE imperfect family relying on the strength and grace of ONE perfect God to make ONE incredibly super family for ONE deserving superhero-in-waiting.
This year, as I blow out my birthday candles, THAT is my wish — a family for DJ, and a revival of imperfect people trusting an all-perfect God to say YES to the world’s orphans.
It can start with US. It can start right HERE.
We can be the hands and feet of Jesus. We can live out James 1:27 in a radical way. We can help REDEEM the birthday — so that it’s once again a CELEBRATION, not a dreaded occasion.
So that NO ORPHAN has to face HIS 14th birthday with discharge papers from an orphanage.
Today, THAT is my birthday wish.