Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Today is my fiftieth birthday.

It sounds so strange to say that.  Inside I feel (and outside, I may still appear) very much like the awkward, eager-yet-timid girl I used to be, not a middle-aged woman who can now attend the 50+ Club at our church.  (Woo hoo!)

I've never understood those who refuse to admit their age.  To me, reaching a particular age, whether a milestone like 50 or any other number, is something to celebrate, especially when you look at the alternative:  NOT reaching that age.

On my birthday last year I had a little party on my blog to say thanks to my blogger friends for the encouragement, fellowship and wisdom I've received from them.  That was really fun.  But today I'd like to take a few minutes just to honour the people I consider most influential in my life so far. 

My dad and mom, Arnold and Meredith MacEachern.  I could say something glib like "Without them, I wouldn't be here today," but that would be a much too flippant way to refer to the two people who have been so important in my life.  My dad is a humble person who always helps others and gives everything for his family.  One of my earliest memories is seeing my dad on his knees praying by his bed; that is the kind of thing that stays in a person's mind forever.  My mom is a very hospitable, creative person who graciously accepts everything life has to offer and truly embodies the word resilience.

When I was growing up the people I looked up to most were Chad and Nancy Stretch, who attended my church.  They were always faithfully serving God and His people.  I babysat all four of their kids and always enjoyed being in their home, and I admired their loving relationship with each other.  Even now as they humbly devote time and energy to establishing their new/old congregation -- which is slowly rising out of a difficult church split -- I continue to respect their devotion to Jesus and to doing whatever He calls them to do, wherever and whenever that might be.

Allan and Lois Andrews were also very influential in my teenage life; they were in a Christian singing group that I was part of.  Allan encouraged me in my singing, taught me to play the guitar, and was an important mentor figure to me; he was also the master of ceremonies at Richard's and my wedding.  Lois influenced me by her beautiful voice and her joyful, worshipful spirit -- and still does.

When I left home to move to Kingston and attend Queen's, two people who affected my life most notably were Doug Caldwell and Bill Van Groningen
- Doug was the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship staff worker, and when I attended an IVCF meeting and heard him talk about a trip he had taken with his family (it was something about how God wants us not just to fast, but to feast), I wanted to be in his small group.  Doug taught me so much about the parables of Jesus, about how to really study Scripture, and about the grace of our prodigal God.  I still treasure my friendship with Doug and with his wife Sue Caldwell, with whom I've become closer in the last year and have shared many walks and great conversations about life and literature. 
- Bill was the Christian Reformed chaplain on campus, and when I first heard him speak, it was not just his impressive beard but his incredibly gifted way of talking about the Kingdom that drew me. At that first talk I heard him give, I must have looked extremely wide-eyed and interested because a couple of days later I saw him on campus and he said, "Hey [or, more likely, G'day] -- I saw you the other night!"  We have been members of the same congregation as well and have had significant conversations about the challenges of living faithfully in the Body of Christ.  Although Bill now lives in the U.S. with his wife Connie and we don't see each other, he is still one of my most valued friends and mentors.  Maybe it is because Bill recognized me and saw me on the inside that I consider him such a strong influence.

Also on this list of important people are Sam and Shirley Vander Schaaf.  I met the Vander Schaafs when Sam periodically visited our former church as guest preacher.  They came to our home several times, including for Richard's and my fortieth birthday party in 2004.  We were shocked and heartbroken when Sam died of a heart attack in 2010.  He was a very thoughtful, wise, real person whom I greatly admired and enjoyed talking to.  Shirley is warm and caring and has a gift for making the person she is speaking to feel special and loved.  I admire, and can only hope to emulate, her faithful trust in the Lord.

Another person who has made a significant impact on my life is my friend Lori Vos.  I met Lori when we were both M.A. students in English at Queen's; after starting out as classmates and officemates we developed a friendship lasting 27 years.  Lori is a beautiful person, inside and out.  I look back with gratitude at our many deep and life-giving conversations about faith, suffering, books, writing, and a few thousand other things.

 And of course there is my family.  My husband, Richard, is without a doubt the most influential person in my entire life.  As this song by The Weepies puts it, he "turned me into somebody loved."  Richard is the most conscientious, faithful, humble person I have ever met.  He is also really funny.  But since he's reaching the big 5-0 milestone in a few weeks himself, maybe I'll say more about him then.  (And please, no "robbing the cradle" comments:  I'm only 27 days older, after all.)

My kids, Allison and Jonathan, have profoundly and permanently affected me as well.  For eight years of our marriage, Richard and I wondered if we would ever become parents; the last few of those years were quite difficult at times.  When Allison was born and the doctor announced, "It's a girl!" I felt as if a lifelong dream had come true -- which it had.  Allison is now a beautiful, intelligent, creative girl whose quiet courage in dealing with life's challenges is truly admirable.  And Jonathan is an enthusiastic, affectionate boy whose devotion to simple pleasures and routines has helped me learn to embrace both the joys and the limitations of my life as a mom of special needs children.

So today I celebrate the people who have helped make my life what it is -- and I celebrate my life.  In spite of the challenges in my life, and in spite of the fact that on more occasions than I care to admit I am crabby and grumble about insignificant things, I can say I'm a contented person.  I wake in the morning with hope in my heart because I feel loved by God and thankful that He gives me the strength to do what the day will require of me.  I'm grateful that today I am healthy in mind and body:  I can enjoy my work as a writing instructor; I can write and read and play my guitar and sing and go for walks; I can cook and bake and do laundry and pretend to houseclean.  I have faith, family, and friends; therefore I am blessed.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance. 
 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;  even at night my heart instructs me. 
 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.   With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;  my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:6-11


  1. A wonderful tribute to what matters in life. Congratulations on your big day Jeannie from Charlie and I. Love from Florida.

    1. Thank you, Sigga! Hope to be seeing you in a couple of weeks!

  2. Happy Birthday, dear Jeannie! This post is beautiful in the purest sense. What a blessing to view life with such faith and gratitude! You are certainly "all the ages you've ever been" -- having both a sense of child-like wonder and womanly wisdom. I'm blessed to have you as a role model and a friend. Enjoy your special day! :-)

    1. Thank you, Adriana - I know you are following close behind me (birthday-wise, not age-wise!) :-) Thanks for your friendship and encouragement! xo

  3. Great Blog Jeannie!! Have a very happy birthday and a wonderful day!!

    1. Thank you, Melinda -- and see you soon!

  4. Jeannie, it is so like you to pay tribute to others when it is a special day to make a tribute to you. I have no doubt the LORD looks at you with love and devotion, knowing you are a work well made. Indeed, I can only think that He sees how you use all of your gifts and circumstances as glory to Him and He is delighted. You certainly delight so many others.

    1. Thanks for those kind words, Sarah -- I appreciate you and I value our friendship! xo

    2. Sarah, your words say it all!

  5. The perfect way to celebrate your own birthday, Jeannie. Thanks for inviting us to the party.


  6. Jeannie, this post is a thing of beauty, and a gift to all of us on your birthday!!! It has opened for all of us who love you, a window into your soul. Thank you! Happiest of days to you, and a year filled with joy! Much love always, Franceen

    1. Thank you Franceen -- and thank you for sharing part of my birthday with me today! It made the day extra special.

  7. Such a moving entry you have written. I was particularly moved when you spoke of your gratitude for your children. What a wonderful family you have. They are lucky to have you as a mother and wife. And I am grateful to have you as a friend to hold dear to my heart.

    1. Thank you so much, Pam: the feeling is mutual! xo

  8. G''day Jeannie!
    What a great blog post, and I'm deeply honored to be named in it.
    As you know, the honor and respect you show me is mutual .. and I continue to learn from your blog.
    Knowing your love of books, and since I'm teaching a Spiritual Formation class this semester, it only seems fitting for me to recommend to you a book from my class. It's David Ford's "The Shape of Living" and in chapter one he talks about the "community of the heart"--they are the ones who shape and mold us along the way. You are part of my "community of the heart" and I'm deeply honored to be named among yours.
    I highly recommend this book to you.
    Grace and peace, friend.

    1. That book sounds wonderful, Bill -- I will definitely seek it out. And thank you for commenting. It was a humbling and inspiring exercise to write this post, and I feel blessed. Thank you for being such a kind and encouraging friend. Blessings to you and Connie and your family.


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