Today, vav Shvat is my hebrew birthday.
Last year, on my birthday, I took something really small upon myself. I wanted to break a habit. I wanted to stop doing something I've been doing for years. I started on my birthday and continued with my progress daily. The first few weeks were hard. I would keep slipping up...and every time I'd catch myself I'd remind myself to stop.
With time, I would slip less and less often. I'm not sure exactly how much time it took, but by now I can say that I officially broke that habit. And it's a good feeling.
Growth in Judaism must be done in baby steps. We hear it all the time. The trick is to act on it. To take that first step towards change.
In her book, The Committed Marriage, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis talks about the concept of shteiging, of constantly developing ourselves and our characters and growing in our relationships. She quotes her husband who explained this concept so well. If you were told to read the phone book and remember all the names, addresses and telephone numbers, you would give up immediately. However, if someone asked you to memorize just one name, one address, and one telephone number every day, you would do it easily and you would be able to retain that information.
The same is true with changing ourselves, our habits and our personalities. If we thought about the person we want to become one day-the ideal perfect person we want to be-it would be too overwhelming and we would probably give up before we even started. On the other hand, if we were to make one little change, take on one little mitzvah, work on one bad habit and do it one day at a time, we would be able to master it. We would be able to make real changes. The trick is to do it slowly. One day at a time, one thing at a time.
On my birthday, I realize that change can happen. I look back at this past year and I see how much has changed, how much I have changed. When I try to look ahead, I feel overwhelmed. The coming year is full of uncertainties and unknowns. I daven to Hashem to help me become a better me, the me that I am meant to be...and I know that I will have to take the steps to change slowly and I can only do it with His help.
My birthday is also a time for me to reflect on the brachos Hashem has given me and to thank Him for them. Hashem has given me the greatest gift of all...the gift of life, the gift of a family, my precious children. They are all intertwined. I don't know where I would be without my adorable little kids who keep me going, push my buttons, make me laugh and cry and overwhelm me with stress and gratitude and everything in between. I am so grateful for them.
I have learned so many lessons this year. Hashem helped me strengthen my trust in Him in so many ways. Although I don't ask for challenges, when I look back and see how they have affected me, I can appreciate the growth and change that came about because of them. No, I don't want any more tests. But I know that I am not the same person I was a year ago...and that is because of the life Hashem is playing out for me...and because He is strengthening me and helping me every step of the way. I believe in Him more, I trust in Him more and (I hope) I talk to Him and connect to Him even more than before.
On my birthday, I like to give my readers a bracha. So...here goes :)
May each of you be able to zero in on the things you know you need to change and take small and steady steps to be able to break bad habits and start good ones. May you feel Hashem at your side, helping you become the person you want to be. When you feel your strength waning, may you feel Hashem strengthening you-because change is harddd...and even with small steps, you will still need His help to keep at it.
May you be able to notice and appreciate the good you have been given and may Hashem continue to shower you with so much bracha and good things. He should keep each of you happy and healthy always and give you many reasons to keep thanking Him.
Almost every person is awaiting a yeshuah of some sort. Whatever it is that you are waiting for, whether it is health, parnassah, a shidduch, a job, children, shalom bayis, nachas from children, clarity in your purpose in life, answers to tough questions, an end to stressful times, family harmony and peace, Hashem should send that yeshuah so soon. Keep davening for the things you are waiting for. May that connection to Hashem get stronger and not weaker, may that bond never be severed and may you be able to see Hashem answer your tefillos in the best possible way.
And...as easy as it is for me to give out brachos, that's how easily Hashem should make them happen! It's easier for Him to make those changes than it is for me to type up this blog post! :-)
Birthday wishes, brachos, cake, chocolate and ice cream...I take all of those! :-)