THE PREACHER'S DAUGHTER: Here's to 34

Today is my 34th birthday. It still sounds weird saying that outloud. I'm not sure where the time has gone, but when I look in the mirror now, I see my mother.

As a child my mother used to play a cassette on my birthday each year that was personalized. It was a catchy, I'm fairly certain she bought it at Toys-R-Us. I always got excited every time I heard it playing! "Hey Erinn! It's your birthday!"

I'm told 1985 was a good year. Like most "not old, yet not young" thirty somethings I can't remember a great deal of the 80's, but I can personally vouch that the 90's were glorious. Clear Pepsi, the Sears wish book at Christmas, decent pop music, landline phones, and my personal favorite… New Kids on the Block made all of that decade memorable.

I spent most of my childhood outside. It grieves my soul that kids today will never truly understand the benefits of the glow of a street light, rather than the glow of an iPad. I grew up in Highland Park in Williamsburg. Our street was a close-knit community, if one yard got mowed, rest assure the rest did in the days to follow. Dad and our neighbor Al used to joke with one another from across the lawns. I cherish those times; they are embedded in my memory like tattoos.

I think back on riding my bike up and down that street over and over again, at six years old I couldn't fathom doing anything else. This was as good as life got, I thought. I didn't have a care in the world, I didn't need anything else to sustain me other than a popsicle and a pitcher of cold Kool aid. Lord knows I didn't need shoes or a game plan, I just needed plenty of daylight.

A lot has changed since then. Like most little girls I dreamed about getting married and seeing the world. What I didn't know then was I would get to do both, maybe not in that order, but both, nonetheless.

I've served as a missionary twice. Telling people across the ocean about Jesus was one of the greatest honors of my life. In that sense I have literally seen the world. I also like to think that the faces I have come into contact with over time have enabled me to "see the world" too and sometimes maybe too much of it.

I've seen broken. I've seen tired. I've seen lost. I've seen the "world" in so many people that it overwhelms me and inspires me all the same. My hope is for as much "worldly" pain as I've witnessed, maybe I can instill a little hope in others as well. So far, this 30 some odd year journey has allowed me to do that too.

I reflect on what I used to think made me happy, and what actually does now. It's amazing how that shifts with age. Over the weekend I got to spend time with my parents and my husband at Dollywood. Something as simple as hearing my parents laugh while riding a roller coaster brings my heart joy. These are the best gifts any birthday could bring.

I stood upfront at my daddy's church yesterday as the congregation sang "Happy Birthday." Mind you I've done the same for the past 34 years. This time as I looked out at the church and my husband sitting up front, I couldn't help but smile. I have every last thing I've ever wanted out of this life and then some. I don't need a party or fancy cake; I have the love of those around me. So, here's to 34, I'm ready for all it has to offer.

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