- I turned 34 years old. This is not an important fact, but, to me, it was significant that the other events of the day happened on my birthday.
- It was the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. This always happens around my birthday, but not always exactly on my birthday.
- It was a full moon.
- It was a perigee moon, which means that the moon was at the point of its orbit where it is nearest to the earth. (According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, a perigee full moon on the winter solstice had not occurred since 1885, and in 1885 it was one was a day off, the full moon being the 21st, and the perigee occurring on the 22nd. This phenomenon will not occur again until some uncharted time that comes after 2094, which is as far into the future as I could find calculations.)
- In Syracuse, NY and its northern suburbs (such as Liverpool and Clay), the sky was crystal clear, filled to the brim with moonlight and shining stars, and absolutely no cloud cover. This, in itself, is a miracle.
I remember that night because I was feeling sorry for myself.
It was my birthday, and we were "celebrating" by running a Christmas pageant practice at our then-church, Grace Covenant. Jonny was an unruly sheep, and Shannon and Laura were angels. David, if I remember correctly, was a shepherd who took it upon himself to chastise the unruliest of the sheep, his brother. As mother and pageant director, I was stressed out by wild children, holiday preparations, fatigue, details, and a feeling of forgotten-ness. I was also going to have to figure out dinner once we got home, if we ever got home. I had no dinner plan, and if I couldn't find hot food, there was a certain one of my children who was going to be most dissatisfied. This was my birthday in 1999.
We kept forgetting things for the pageant practice. I don't remember how it all went down, but I had to make an unexpected trip home to get something.
That's when I saw the moon.
Driving across town on Route 31 in the frozen darkness, I happened to look up and notice the huge, white moon shining with luminous beauty above me.
I don't remember very clearly. It was nearly 15 years ago. It seems that I forgot other things we needed, other things that necessitated other drives back and forth on Route 31, Clay to Liverpool, Liverpool to Clay.
I remember a sense of peace, calm in the cold quiet. I remember contemplating the beauty of the moon and thinking, "I love the moon. I love the moon. How could you make something as beautiful as the moon, God?" I remember starting to look forward to finding out I'd have to make yet another trip down Route 31 that night, just for the opportunity of looking at the moon.
I heard someone on the radio talking about the uniqueness of the moon that particular year, and I felt so special, so very special. It seemed as though God had designed that moon specifically for me, so I could celebrate and enjoy it that winter evening, bedraggled and forgotten as I felt. I swelled with emotions as full and throbbing as the light of the moon itself, deep in my chest and rising. I remember whispering, "Thank you, God. This is the best birthday present ever. For Christmas, You gave me Jesus, but for my birthday this year, You have given me the moon. It's not as important, but it surely is beautiful."
I will never see that moon again, as long as I live. But whenever I do see the moon, I remember that night, and the love I felt God lavishing over me--undeserving, worried, selfish, petulant as I was. I remember how God restored my sinful heart by pouring out beauty on me from the night sky and turning my face toward Him. I remember how I stopped feeling sorry for myself because I didn't get to have a "birthday party," and realized that the Lord of the Universe cared enough about me to give me the full perigee moon on the winter solstice for my birthday.
The best birthday present I ever received-- I am thankful for it, thankful for every moon that has ever followed it.
I am thankful for the moon.