FreerangeFriday: Taking time for a Birthday Examen

by Lilly Lewin
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By Lilly Lewin

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Last week, I celebrated my birthday at the Abbey of Gethsemani, doing my annual silent retreat. It’s the birthday gift I give to myself each year. And the practice of silence is truly a GIFT, and a life saver for me!

Birthdays… some people like them, some people dread them. Some people have a favorite meal or birthday cake each year, some go out to celebrate, some throw parties for themselves. I’ve done all of those through the years. In high school I would request carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I was not always happy about my birthday because we often had exams in January. I dreaded turning 40! I even sat in the car and wouldn’t go into the surprise party that my friends were throwing for me. (I had talked my husband into telling me there was going to be one.) My problem? I hadn’t accomplished everything on my “to do before 40 list” so I was disappointed in myself! I wasn’t looking at all the things I had done, but the things I hadn’t done! Turns out these great friends didn’t do an “over the hill party,” but instead, it was a beautiful “40 Years of Love” party! My good friend Suzanne made beautiful paper hearts with red ribbons writing things she loved about me on the hearts and declaring 40 years of love all over the room! I am so grateful for friends who remind me of who I really am! How about you? Who are those friends in your life?

Turns out my 40s were amazing! It was in my forties that God taught me all about creating Sacred Space and experiential worship. My Sacred Space came out in my 40’s. So I was upset for nothing!

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Birthdays give us an opportunity to look back and look forward to celebrate who we are and where we’ve been.

To take a look at what makes you, YOU, and take time to celebrate that!

What do you like about yourself?

What are you grateful for today?

What would you like to heal?

What would you like to learn more about?

How can you celebrate who you are today even if your birthday is months away?

Try a Birthday Examen Practice today

First feel God’s amazing love surrounding you!

Second, what are you grateful for in your life? As Father Michael Sparough says, not a list of things but rather a savoring of the gifts in your life, your talents, the people God has brought to you and are in your life now. Your faith and the journey you’ve been on with Jesus.
Opportunities you’ve had …gifts of the spirit in your life…generosity, patience, kindness etc

Take some time to truly be grateful today.

What about feelings? How have you felt about your life? Maybe you’ve been disappointed, hurt, suffered had heart breaks, set backs …talk to Jesus about these! The God of love is loving you, smiling at you, holding you ! NOT JUDGING YOU.

LISTEN to what Jesus says to you! Allow Him to love you even in the hard memories. Give Jesus the negatives to hold and carry for you.

Finally, LOOK FORWARD in HOPE! What are the good things, the things you want to take into this year ahead? In our Following the Star Epiphany Retreat, Christine helped us consider the intentions, rather than resolutions, we want in the new year.

I want to be more intentional with my friendships, building community, and practicing hospitality again. The pandemic really messed that up, and as an extrovert, I really need people! The people who help me connect with Jesus and who I really am!

I want to be more intentional with my self care. Too often I help everyone else but I don’t leave time or space for taking care of myself. Kind of like the shoe maker whose kids don’t have shoes!

Sit for a while and imagine Jesus smiling at you and listening to you as a dear friend would over coffee or tea. Listen to Jesus. Sit with Him in His LOVE.

As you look ahead, ask Jesus for the GRACE you need for the new year. Feel His loving arms surrounding you!

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Celebrating with Friends

Take time to connect with those friends who remind you of who you really are! Give them a call, go out for coffee or have a zoom chat with a whole group of friends and celebrate the wonder of each of you!

And speaking of birthdays, last year I turned 60 and I gave myself a big birthday present of a pilgrimage to IONA in Scotland.  I have wanted to take people with me to this amazing place of beauty and prayer since I first visited in 2008. Jesus reminded me in the chapel on Iona that helping others experience thinplace is what I am about! So I am jumping in and taking a small group to Scotland and Iona this year on a Finding Your Thinplace Pilgrimage, Aug 28-Sept 4th. The deadline to register is Feb. 25th. Learn more at I am happy to answer any questions you might have, just ask!

Walk with Jesus into this new month and into this new year! Take time to celebrate who God has designed you to be! There is only ONE YOU! Blessings!

Lilly Lewin

Inspired by Father Michael Sparough’s Examen it’s a great audio guided Examen


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Finding Your Thinplace Pilgrimage Aug 28-Sept 4th

©lillylewin and

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