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Thursday was my 53rd birthday, the 8th time in my life that my birthday fell on Thanksgiving. I deliberately carved out (pun intended) a little ‘me’ time to write this post after pondering my birthdays of yesteryear and the day I was born.

I know that my mother was not awake when she gave birth to me. Back then, doctors administered a combination of pain and amnesia medications which would render a woman unconscious during childbirth. My father waited expectantly in the waiting room, probably with other fathers, for word of my birth.

In those days, there were no ultrasounds to ‘preview’ the child’s gender. “It’s a girl!” were likely the first words I heard as I entered the world.

I was named after my father’s sister, who eventually became my godmother. I wasn’t very close to Aunt Ardis. She always lived hundreds or even thousands of miles away throughout my life. She couldn’t have kids of her own, but she was honored to have a niece named after her.

Aunt Ardis died many years ago. Sadly, I was not able to attend her funeral. When her husband, Uncle Edgar, died six years ago, the executor of the estate gave me the opportunity to take some personal belongings for a keepsake. I took the small amount of inheritance I received and flew to their home in Wisconsin to explore the estate. I returned home with a beautiful set of china and some silver pieces that grace my dining room table every holiday.

More than that though was the treasure trove of cards, letters and keepsakes overlooked by other family members who arrived before me. That night in the solitude of my hotel room, I scoured through the pile and was blessed beyond belief as I read letters from my mother to Aunt Ardis, filling her in on my childhood and sending her my school photos. My aunt had every letter and Christmas card I sent her as an adult as well.

I also read through the condolence cards sent to my uncle when she passed away. I really got a feel for who she was, even though I didn’t know her well when she was alive. Being in her home and going through her belongings also gave me a glimpse into myself. Best of all was finding the original birth announcement my parents sent to her decades before. She kept all of my mementos—and in the process, left me a legacy of love!

That trip was a precious gift to me from above. It gave me more wholeness and helped to fill in the gaps of my earthly identity. It is the gifts like this, the ones that touch my heart, that mean the most to me. This Thanksgiving birthday was celebrated with gratitude for the One who has transformed my heart in so many ways over the last few years.  He has redeemed the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).

Thank you, Mom, for giving me life. Thank you for investing in me. Healing and wholeness are true gifts to be celebrated on Thanksgiving and everyday.

~ Ardis A. Nelson