“It’s my birthday! Now what?”

Ever felt like that? You want your birthday to be special and meaningful, but sometimes it can be a bit of a letdown. You had expectations of what other people would do for you, and those expectations didn’t always come to pass.

My birthday was on Sunday, and I had a great day! Perhaps more importantly, though, I have other things that I’m putting into place to make sure that the year ahead of me starts out on solid footing. So I’d like to share with you today, on Top 10 Tuesday, 10 things you can do on your birthday to make your own birthday special and meaningful.

These include a few ways to make sure you enjoy your actual birthday, but also several ideas about how to use your birthday as a springboard for taking stock of your life and making sure that you’re on the right path.

Remember our Top 10 Tuesday philosophy: you don’t have to do all 10 things! Find 1-3 ideas that really speak to you, and put them into practice! That’s the way to make your life better: read a bunch of things, but then actually DO the few that you know would make the most difference in your life.

So here we go: If you’ve been wondering what to do on your birthday, here are 10 Ways to avoid the “It’s my Birthday!” disappointment, and start your new year right instead:

Make the Day Fun for You

It's My Birthday! 10 Ways to Make Your Birthday Meaningful

1. Plan Your Own Day

If you have certain things you want to do, or certain presents that you want, tell your family. If it’s vitally important to you, then don’t take the risk that it won’t come to pass. My husband is relieved when I tell him exactly what I want for my birthday or exactly what I’d like him to do, because then he doesn’t have to plan it or risk choosing the wrong thing.

Doesn’t that make it less romantic or less special?

Perhaps. But I’d rather have the guarantee that we’ll do what I actually want to do! If you don’t have a clue what you want to do on your birthday, or if you have a family member who is really good at thinking up the most fun surprises, then by all means just go with it. But if you have something specific you’d like, let them know. Don’t expect them to mind read.

2. Get Outside

Think back to your most meaningful memories over your life. How many of them are spent inside, in front of a screen? Likely few. How many of them are spent outside in nature, or in a car heading somewhere special, or browsing through new shops? Probably many more. We remember things that are special.

So try to get out of the house on your birthday and do something special! Explore a quaint little town near where you live with some friends. Take your children to a special park and giggle with them. Visit a zoo.

3. Let Yourself Splurge on One Thing

Have you been depriving yourself of something? Maybe you’ve cut out all chocolate, or you’ve cut out coffee, or you’ve cut out pop. Maybe you haven’t let yourself read a novel for a while because you have too much to do.

Let your birthday be the one day a year when you’re allowed to partake in ONE thing that you’ve been saying no to. Obviously this won’t work if it’s a major addiction to something bad, like alcohol or smoking, but sometimes this can work wonders! I told myself when I quit Diet Pepsi in December that I could have as many as I wanted once a year–on my birthday. So at 6:30 a.m. on my birthday I cracked open a Diet Pepsi for the first time in 6 months–and found out I hated it. I’ve been craving it for months, and now I think that craving is over because my tastes have changed. So I’m glad I tried.

But knowing that I could have some once a year made it easier to give it up. I wasn’t saying “never again”, after all!

Take Stock of Your Health on Your Birthday

Every year, on your birthday, you’re supposed to change the batteries in your smoke detector. In my neck of the woods they’ve been trying to push this as a new habit for years, and it does make sense. We never forget our birthdays; if we think of birthdays as a time to change those batteries, they’re more likely to get changed.

So why not think of birthdays as a time to take stock of your health, too?

4. Make Sure You’re Healthy–or Do what the Doctor Says

This time last year I had a blood test requisition hanging on my fridge door. I had been to the doctor in April, and she had said I should probably get some blood work done. But I had two issues with that: I figured I was perfectly healthy, and besides that, who likes needles?

That requisition sat there, until finally, last November, after almost collapsing from exhaustion after a speaking engagement, it occurred to me that there might actually be something wrong. I went, and discovered I was severely anaemic. And now I think I’m on the road back to health.

If I had just gone and had that test this time last year, my blood levels would probably only have been slightly low, and I could have avoided a lot of misery this year.

My mother had breast cancer at 43. I’ve been going for yearly mammograms for over a decade now.

I’d like to be here for my grandkids, and I’d like to grow old with my husband, but that means taking care of my body now. Let each birthday be a reminder to you to check in with the doctor, and make sure everything is okay.

5. Check Your Weight–and Your Measurements

I know this doesn’t sound like fun, but making a birthday meaningful isn’t just about having a pile of fun. It’s also a reminder that life is fleeting, and we want to be able to enjoy it and serve with purpose for as long as we can. I make it a point to check my weight and my measurements (waistline, hip measurement, etc) every birthday, just so I get a sense of where things are going. I’m perfectly at peace with getting a little bit bigger. That’s part of aging. But I’m not at peace with growing by 10 pounds a year, because if we do that every year, suddenly we’re up 100 pounds in a decade.

Making sure I have something to measure against every year is helpful. I have a special notebook for that, and I just pull it out every year to look at the direction I’m going. That way I know if a course correction is urgent, or if I’m doing well.

Take Stock of Your Purpose

Birthdays are great times to reflect on the year that has past and get inspiration for the year ahead. Here are some of the things I’m thinking about:

6. What’s Your “One Word” for the Year Ahead?

Have you heard of the “one word” challenge? People pray for one word that encapsulates what they want to work on this year.

I definitely know my one word for the next year. It’s PASSION. I’ve felt lately that I need more passion in my life: passion for God, passion for nature, passion for my husband, passion for my family. I’ve been living my life lately too much by rote, pushing myself to do what needs to get done, and I’ve forgotten how to be passionate about it.

Now that my health is getting better, I want to find that passion again in all areas of my life.

When you think of what God is trying to teach you, what word comes to mind? Pray that God will give you a new word.

7. What’s Your “One Song” for the Year Ahead?

I also ask God to give me a song. I don’t want to share all the details here, but God so often confirms things to me through certain songs being sung at key times. And so I often ask Him–what’s the song that you’ll speak to me with this year?

Last’s year’s song for me was “Enough”, originally written by Chris Tomlin. Here are the Barlow Girls singing it:

And guess what song was sung at church on my birthday? That was a cool God moment.

So I’m asking God for a new song this year, one that I will listen to everyday, and sing in the shower, and meditate on. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m asking!

8. What’s Your Verse for the Year Ahead?

Last year the verse that kept coming back to me, over and over again, was Philippians 4:13:

I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.

Perhaps it was because I was so tired, but I needed that verse.

This year I’m asking God for a different one, one that will help me orient and keep my eyes focused on His purposes for me this year. And when will I get that verse?

9. Plan a Yearly Retreat

I know my “one word”, but I don’t know my verse and I don’t know my song. How am I going to figure them out? I’m planning on taking a weekend by myself to pray through decisions I need to make, relationships, and work. I’m bringing some heavy duty planners so I can look at all my responsibilities and ask, “do I want to keep doing this particular thing?” I’m going to figure out where I’m too busy, what I need to cut, and what I need to add (I haven’t been knitting enough lately. For my own mental health, I need to knit more!).

I’m working through an awesome bunch of printables called “Your Retreat” that help you think, plan and pray so the next year is memorable.

Your Retreat

I have the luxury of being able to go away for a weekend because my children are older now. If you still have little ones at home, maybe this sounds like a fun activity for your birthday? Gather all your planners and go to Starbucks, or better still, pick up some snacks and head somewhere outside. Get some extended peace and quiet by yourself so that you can plan, focus, and clarify.

I can’t do my retreat on my birthday. My book 9 Thoughts That Will Change Your Marriage is due at the publisher June 20, so I’m frantically editing until then. But I’ve already set the date and put it in my calendar.

Take Stock of Your Relationships

10. Thank Your Family, or Make Amends

You’re getting older. And over this last year you’ve either grown closer to your family members or grown further apart–or perhaps a combination.

Your RetreatIt’s a good time to think about the key relationship changes you’ve had this year. Have you had a particularly difficult year with a sister? Have you reconciled with a mother? Have you been sharp and critical with your husband?

Pray about it, and if God brings someone to mind, write a letter or arrange a special date to either make amends or say thank you. Personally, when I need to say thank you, I like doing it in a letter so people can have it as a keepsake. When I need to apologize, I like doing it in person, face to face. Don’t start a new year without making your relationships right.

I know we don’t tend to think about these things as “birthday” issues, but then, changing the batteries inย  your fire alarm aren’t birthday issues, either. Yet it needs to be done, and I believe all of these things need to be done, too. If we can start seeing birthdays as a time to take stock and make sure that we’re heading in the right direction, then I think birthdays can be a source of inspiration, energy, and peace for us, rather than a day of expectations that everyone else has to do everything right.

I’m planning my Retreat right now. I hope that you all can take advantage of your birthday, too, so the passing of another year can actually be something meaningful!

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