Fresh, solid, and free. {A birthday benediction}

Fresh, solid, and free. {A birthday benediction}

Because it’s my birthday, and I couldn’t think of better words to begin the year ahead.

Not too long ago, my pastor closed the service with a benediction that had me scrambling for a pen so I could take it with me.

It’s my birthday. I tend to indulge annually in a bit of pre-birthday navel-gazing. This year, as I looked back on the year before and thought about what I wanted from the year ahead, my thoughts kept coming back to that benediction, from Thomas Merton:

May you be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit. May you live in safety. May you be free from anxiety and worry.  May you learn to look at yourself with the eyes of understanding and love. May you be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in yourself. May you know how to nourish the seeds of joy in yourself everyday. May you be able to live fresh, solid, and free. May you be free from aversion, but not indifferent.

These 86 words touch on so much of what I want for the coming year: to be peaceful, happy, and light. To be free from anxiety.  To look at myself with understanding and love. To nourish good seeds in myself, and others. To be free from aversion. To live fresh, solid, and free.

I’m adopting these words as my birthday benediction, for today and for the coming year.

It may be my birthday, but I’m wishing these things for all of you, today and for the coming year. May you, too, be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

*****     *****     *****

35 things I've learned in 35 years | Modern Mrs Darcy

For a more lighthearted take on birthdays, check out this post from a previous year. I’m still trying to figure out what to add for this year ….


  1. Jeanne says:

    Happy birthday! Mine was yesterday! I have always loved Thomas Merton, so if you don’t mind I may take this benediction to help me with my next year as well. Fresh, solid, and free is a wonderful mantra for this next year. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Mary B. says:

    Happy birthday, fellow summer girl!! I always wondered why you seemed like such a kindred spirit and now I know: our birthdays are just three days apart! And what a beautiful reflection for the coming year. I am feeling inspired myself!

  3. Karlyne says:

    I haven’t read Thomas Merton in years, but I love “fresh, solid, and free” and I hope to keep it with me for a long time.

    And, happy birthday!

  4. Leanne says:

    Thanks for posting this! A friend of mine linked me to this and I absolutely needed to hear these words. Happy birthday! (Funny that we share one.)

  5. Tina B says:

    Happy Birthday, Anne. Hope it’s a wonderful day. I’m looking forward to another year of your thoughtful and entertaining blog. Keep up the great work.

  6. Heather says:

    Happy Birthday!!! I loved the benediction! Today also happens to be the birthday of three of my relatives :]. Have a fabulous day and a wonderful year!

  7. Sarah says:

    Happy Birthday! Having just turned 40 myself, I think I am on the road to fresh, solid, and free. My 30s were hard, but they prepared me to truly enjoy and take advantage of my 40s. I love your “35 things” list from last year!

  8. Ruthanne says:

    Thank you for a delightful birthday post Anne. I am not familiar with this but will certainly keep it close. Many Blessings to you on this day!

  9. Anne says:

    Happy birthday, Anne! What a lovely benediction. I hope you have a terrific birthday filled with good things.

    (You might already know Merton was a Trappist monk in Kentucky?? I hear the Abbey of Gethsemani is very beautifully situated.)

      • Suzanne says:

        Happy Birthday, Anne. Gethsemani IS a wonderful place. Maybe you can give yourself the gift of a field trip there to see where Merton is buried and hear his voice speaking the benediction all over again. Wishing you a day filled with rainbow sprinkles, literally or figuratively, and a sunny spot with a good book and a fantastic cup of decaf.

  10. Kathy Ericksen says:

    What a great time to reflect. So did you ever reveal your word? Hoping it becomes part of your year. I’ve been doing one little word with Ali Edwards getting her prompts. I totally lose sight of my word and it brings it back in front of me.

  11. Virginia says:

    Happy birthday!!! What a great benediction. I think I shall also write that down for future reference. May your 36th year be full of joy, happiness, and many blessings!!!

  12. Katherine says:

    Happy Birthday! Thank you for sharing this benediction. You know how they say you need to look for signs? I have been trying to work on being happier and less anxious for some time. This post is like a big hug from the internet saying ‘you can do it!’

  13. Jennifer says:

    Happiest birthday wishes to you! May you be blessed today — and throughout the whole year! — with love, laughter, and many good books 🙂 What a gorgeous benediction. Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. Nancy says:

    Happy Birthday! Love the birthday benediction 🙂 I may share if that if you don’t mind. I’ve got quite a few friends that are celebrating a birthday today – – it’s a good day!

    Today would have been my mom’s 88th birthday. I’m having a slice of pie today in her honor. Pie was her favorite.

    • Nancy, my mom would have been 88 this Oct. 8, so our moms were both born in 1928. Eight was Mom’s favorite number, and she died June 8. How long have you been missing your mom?
      The reality of life without Mom is still sinking in. Mom’s favorite thing was ice cream, so that will be a fun tradition to do in memory of her on her birthday. Btw, my older sister is also a Nancy. Blessings!

      • Nancy says:

        My mom got her wings in October 2014. Last night’s pie was a slice of peach; she would have approved! Glad you’ve got a Nancy in your life 😉

      • Nancy says:

        Thank you for allowing me to share. I did have that pie last night – a slice of peach! I hope you had a special treat too!

  15. Ann says:

    Happy July birthday! I had my birthday last week. I love the idea of reflecting on a birthday and did so last week. It helped me take stock of all the good things in my life. The benediction is perfect and I would love to share those words with others as well. Thanks for sharing them with us and also for your great blog!
    Wishing you many blessings on your birthday!🎉🎉

  16. Katia says:

    Happy birthday, Anne! 🙂 Thank you for sharing that benediction with us. Wishing you a year of magical words, plenty of quiet time for reading and reflection, and happy bursts of inspiration.

  17. Melinda says:

    Happy Birthday, Anne! Thank you so much for this very thoughtful post today. The benediction is very much appreciated and a perfect reflection for me as my 64th birthday approaches in two weeks. Hope you have a wonderful day and an even better year ahead!

  18. Tracy says:

    Happy Birthday, Anne! I love your Thomas Merton quote and look forward to using it as a devotion in my parenting class. You are an inspiration and I am in awe of how much you read and of how much you get accomplished while raising 4 children. It’s truly impressive. Wishing you love, joy and a lightness of being on your birthday. May you also know what a gift you are to others.

    • Anne says:

      Hahaha! I’ve never heard “fiscal year” in regards to the year ahead a birthday begins but I LOVE it! Thanks for adding that to my vocabulary. 🙂

  19. KRISTIE says:

    Happy Birthday Anne! Thanks for sharing the benediction, I’m bookmarking this for future reference, those are words I need to sink deep into my heart! May you be blessed always!

  20. Anna says:

    Happy Birthday! Thanks for sharing your lessons learned. 🙂 For the past few years, I have thought of this Anne Lamott quote, “Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life – it gave me me. It provided the time and experience and failures and triumphs and friends who helped me step into the shape that had been waiting for me all my life…I not only get along with me most of the time now, I am militantly and maternally on my own side.”

  21. Kelly S says:

    Happy happy birthday, Anne. You bring great joy to my life because of your blog, reading lists and Podcast. I look so very forward to the Podcast each Tuesday. Thanks for all you do to bring reading joy to our lives. Enjoy your birthday with a piece of cake and some new books.

  22. Melissa says:

    Happy birthday to you! Today is my 36th as well. Thanks for the blog and all the wonderful book recommendations!

  23. Shannon says:

    Happy birthday! Thank you for sharing Thomas Merton and his message. It resonates with my current season of life.

  24. Samiyah Hudson says:

    Happy Birthday! This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. I am printing this out and putting it on a wall.

  25. Julie says:

    Happy birthday Anne! So many great new beginnings this year for you! Wishing you a wonderful day and a year filled with new adventures and fun! Julie

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