Happy Birthday to Me

or Real Life Is All about Re-Allocation.

For my birthday, Jacob gave me an uninterrupted night of sleep and a 5:30 wake-up time, which means instead of going back to bed after feeding him, I’m up for the morning and setting out to break blogger rules by posting a whole handful of things I’ve been musing lately.

For my birthday, Mike’s giving me a required doctoral organ recital he must attend at 5:00 p.m., and a sweet family I’ve just met is giving me childcare, which means I’m actually going on a date with my sweetie tonight for the first time since we moved to Indiana. Ohmygoodness.

Anyway.

Last year I knew I was an adult when I spent my birthday money on groceries for the week.

That’s kid stuff.

THIS YEAR I know I’m an adult because I gave myself my birthday money and then spent it on last month’s groceries. All I wanted for my birthday was a $0 balance on our credit cards, groaning under the weight of a cross-country move and a summer of unemployment. So we wrote ourselves a check from our investment account and paid down our credit cards.

Oh, and did I mention I got a beautiful Yamaha piano for my birthday too? Yeah, that was money in our investment account, too. We had to scrape things around from here to there and back again to come up with that cash, which meant we waited several weeks to go get the piano after we’d set our hearts on it. A little Craigslist beauty in the hills north of Kentucky, bought almost-new from a university for a young daughter and barely touched for 18 years. Ours now, and looks brand new. Glitch after glitch forced us to wait till this week to get it, and some more birthday money I happen to know is on its way is going toward a tuning on Monday. I can hardly wait. Giddy doesn’t begin to describe it. Deep joy and anticipation, more like. I feel my soul seeping back into me, just contemplating the hymns I’ll play on that thing again.

What I’m learning at the outset of this adventure called Being an Adult is that real life is all about re-allocation. I’ve learned a big important lesson about wealth this year. I’d say we have it. But as I was struggling to balance numbers on my spreadsheet late this summer I’d keep having to close the books till the pit in my stomach settled. The numbers in the investment account, gift from a generous grandma, which in our dreams we’d earmarked for part of a down payment on a house someday, were getting smaller and smaller. I wrestled with feeling guilty that it was nearly gone, feeling despair that we’d gone and spent so much.

I prayed.

Sometimes.

Not very often.

And then one day it hit me: Wealth is not numbers on a page and a chunk of cash is merely a representation of wealth, not wealth itself. Meaningless, really, without our assignment of personal value to it. The thing I realized is that we’re still very much in possession of most of what we’ve spent this summer: A few essential pieces of furniture making our new home comfortable, functional, beautiful, and welcoming to our friends. A pipe organ. A beautiful piano. Those things are worth more in personal value than what we spent on them, and the truth is that both of the musical instruments, if we sold them for their real value, would give us a 200% return-on-investment. At least.

God has been generous to us and looking at numbers on a page to assess how we’re doing is childishness. I’ve got what I wanted for my birthday and more besides: A few minutes rocking my sleeping boy, a date night with the love of my life, the most beautiful Yamaha piano I could’ve imagined owning, and, well, an almost-zero balance on those credit cards. Sure, none of it is new wealth, but in re-allocating it I’d say we’ve made ourselves richer.

We grasped onto this verse when we read it about 6 weeks before we were married and it has shaped our thinking:

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. –Proverbs 24:3-4, ESV

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