Yesterday was my birthday and it was not a day I was initially looking forward to. About a month ago, a couple of friends had asked me about my birthday plans and I almost burst into tears. This year has been continually changing, growing, moving, isolating, and, confusing. Much in my life has changed and I have struggled in the midst of my shifting world. So, the thought of celebrating a birthday felt lonely. Who would I celebrate with? Even as I write these words, the tears come. My thirty first year in this world has been difficult, to say the least.
However, the loveliest surprise smashed into my dismay on Wednesday. I was walking through the retreat center I work at and was reminded of a time, almost two years ago. I was in Europe with my two closest friends, just finishing up our time in Santorini, Greece. Up till that point, I had been dreading turning 30. It felt like such a big number and I realized all the expectations I had for my life at that point (i.e. marriage, steady job) that were not actualized. But there was a moment, waiting in line for our boat back to Athens when it hit me. Yes, I am not married, but look at the rich things God has given. I’m always prone to expect the worst in life and even on my trip to Europe (I had a foot injury right before that I was convinced would ruin the trip). Yet my trip had been amazing thus far. I kept experiencing moment after moment of God’s goodness. And then I remembered the abundant provisions of God throughout my twenties. I came to a conclusion on that boat dock, if God has had such good gifts for me up until now, how could that not be true in my thirties? In that moment, a piece of my unbelief began to believe.
In this past week, I’ve had a similar experience, of feeling overwhelmed with God’s love and goodness. The first piece has been my brother’s college graduation. This was a day that at one point I couldn’t have even hoped for it seemed so out of the realm of possibility. It was such a special day, seeing my little (now not so little) brother walk across that stage in his cap and gown, knowing the journey he has walked. It was a day of joyful tears and deep celebrations. Then on Tuesday, my co-workers had a birthday explosion on my desk! We had lunch and it came with beautiful flowers (which happened to contain my favorite flower, dahlias, unbeknownst to my co-workers) and a new book. It was much more than I was expecting and I loved the time with each of them that day. On Wednesday I was facilitating a direction group and we were interrupted by a young man who needed help. I had a moment when I almost brushed him off in order to keep my own plans. Somehow, I felt the nudge of God and we all were able to love and care for this person. My plans were thrown out the window, but I felt grateful to be part of God’s unfolding plans. The experience that night somehow reminded me of why I want to walk with and care for people, pointing them towards the only one who can fully care for them. I came home that night to my lost Birchbox (a monthly subscription I have for beauty samples) and it was one of the best ones yet, as well as a birthday card from a dear friend who is not in town. By this point, I was actually looking forward to my birthday. I felt overwhelmed by all that God had put in my path thus far. He must have smiled at that moment in anticipation, knowing what was to come on my actual birthday.
I woke up on my birthday to find my apartment decorated by my lovely roommates. No one’s day can start off poorly when you wake up to streamers and banners in honor of you. Then, it was off to my friend Chelsea’s place so we could drive up to Downtown LA. I was gifted with a fun book, which I can’t wait to read! We stopped by one of my favorite coffee shops in LA, Handsome Coffee and had a fun interaction with the folks working there. Then, we went to heaven on earth, AKA The Pie Hole. I walked into the shop and was shocked to see my friend Kim there. I immediately thought, what a coincidence that we happen to be here at the same time. Then it dawned on me: this was planned. This is a birthday surprise. I wish I could have seen my face as it switched from confusion to knowing to excitement. I even did a little happy dance in the moment. But there were more surprises to come. I ordered my food, an heirloom tomato pie and a Mexican chocolate pie, and the cashier told me it was on the house in honor of my birthday. Again, I wish I could have seen my response. The Pie Hole isn’t cheap and this was probably $15-20 worth of food. Just free. I was in shock. I asked again. I thanked the cashier. I did a happy dance again. Chelsea, Kim and I sat down and were treated to some of the best pies ever. We all sampled each other’s, but all agreed that the Mexican Chocolate Pie was the best. It was so good that you had to close your eyes while eating it. As we were finishing up, the staff sent over another free piece of pie. What? With a birthday candle in it. What is going on here LA? Since when did you get so nice? We ended up writing a thank you note to the cashier and as we were leaving we exchanged a round of hugs with her. My day could have ended there and I would have been fine. We spend some time walking around the Arts District, where I kind of want to live now, just enjoying each other’s company. Kim headed off and Chels and I visited the Fashion district and then had a yummy dinner at Bottega Louie. We had a car mishap in between that all, but it was fixable and it afforded a nice break in the midst of our full day. By the time we arrived back to Orange County we were properly tired and ready for bed.
When I wrote my thank you note to the cashier at The Pie Hole, I wrote “my cup (pie plate) overfloweth.” And that has become my phrase for turning 32. I didn’t expect to feel this way. I expected a disappointing, lonely day. I’m so grateful that God’s plans for me are different. It is often hard for me to believe that the Lord has good for me. I’m predisposed to anticipate the worst. But this week, another piece of unbelief begins to believe.
P.S. Extra big thanks so my roommates, Kim, and Chelsea for making by day so incredibly special. Chels planned the surprise at The Pie Hole and sneakily was texting and calling as we were headed to the shop.