So. I turned 38 yesterday. And if I’ve learned nothing in the last 38 years, I’ve learned this: Birthdays are better in the 21st century.
I had some hilarious and heart-warming voice mails that so made me smile and laugh and shed a slight tear of missing people dearly. Then there were text messages. I had a couple e-Cards. Had cards mailed to me. Some were hand delivered with flowers and even a cake. (A cake!) The best part? Facebook birthday greetings. It’s like all the people you’d invite to your wedding all bid you a “Happy Birthday” at the same time. Like the end-of-reception send off with bubbles, but in html code.
God has a great way of sending little winks and smiles and love to you on your birthday, if you look out for them. I had some unexpected blessings all day long; from a birthday cake, to flowers, to cards. And the most outlandish, lavish thing happened on Sunday night.
First — a little backstory.
Paxton was sick on Sunday morning, so my dad stayed home with him while I took Jaana to church. After church, I swung by the house to pick them up so we could all go out to eat. (Even a sick boy needs lunch, right?) We went to my favorite place to get Green Bean Fries with Cucumber and Wasabi Ranch and I ate about three-quarters of the basket all. to. my. self.
We had a fabulous time at lunch – eating, laughing and enjoying each other. We ran into some friends from church and all socialized for a moment.
After lunch, we came home and let Paxton sleep. Jaana and I went to lay outside and just relax. She played, I read, we laughed and ate Jello. I took some of the most amazing pictures of her.
It was perfection.
Greg and I had a dinner date and went to a place in Highlands I had always wanted to go to. It’s a cute, little place on Lake Sequoyah and we got there just before the sun was setting.
There were only two other tables taken there on that Sunday night. We chose a table by the windows so we could look at the lake and sat by another couple. After we sat down, they suddenly turned to us and said, “Weren’t you at such-and-such restuarant at lunch this afternoon?”
We couldn’t recall them at that place, but we had been there, so we said yes.
They asked specifically about things we had told the other friends at lunch – about my dad visiting from Washington State and about my daughter and baby. We chit-chatted for about 10 minutes at the most throughout the course of dinner. They were visiting town from Charlotte; we never mentioned my birthday, never exchanged names. At best, it was elevator small talk.
Greg and I had appetizers, entrees and dessert. (Let me insert here that I had FRIED BRIE and POMEGRANATE LAMB RIBS and A WAFFLE CONE SUNDAE WITH KAHLUA FUDGE.) (It was my cheat day, after all.) (And my birthday.) (Don’t judge me!) The other couple left before we ordered dessert.
After we had savored the last of our desserts, the waiter came by to ask if we wanted anything else. We groaned, grabbed our stomachs and said, oh no, we couldn’t possibly.
Then he said to us:
“Well then, they didn’t want me to say anything to you until they left and you were finished. But the couple that was sitting next to you paid for your meal.”
? ? ?
Huh? ‘Squeeze me? (This was the intellectual extent of our response to our waiter.)
Greg and I sat there like idiots with our mouths hung open and didn’t know how to respond. We were floored. Utterly perplexed and overwhelmingly blessed. We thanked him, asked for the total so we could tip him, and sat there speechless.
Just when you start to lose hope in humanity. Just when you begin to think that in life people are out to solely suck you dry, take all they can from you and leave you lifeless. Just when you’ve drawn boundaries for the sake of your own sanity, even though it hurts and you’re never sure you’ve done the right thing. Just when you’ve reached a point of exhaustion and say, “I just can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry, I wish I could…but I can’t.”
God winks at you saying, “I got this.”
In the scope of eternity it wasn’t much. The price of a meal doesn’t compare to what this life with Christ requires. Sometimes along the Christ-Walk, you lose relationships that are invaluable. Sometimes along the way you mourn for what you don’t have. Sometimes along the way you wish you could change people and circumstances and the past…but you can’t. All you can do is what God is asking you to do and move forward. It’s always in obedience, but never effortless and easy. Never painless.
But just when that cost and effort and pain get to where it’s almost unbearable, God jumps in with something so insignificant yet magnificent all wrapped into one. And He smiles down on you and wraps you in His love and says, “I got this. I got you. I got you. No one else. Just me.”
We left that night just asking God over and over to bless that sweet couple with a double-portion blessing over whatever their current need is. Because whoever they are, and whatever is going on in their life, I know God will honor their blessing. They have no idea how much that one act of random kindness meant to me, and how much hurt I had been struggling with even up to that specific day. But God knew. And I know and trust He will honor their obedience and knock their socks off more than He’s knocked off mine.