I am blessed. This year has had its rough spots, but I am consistently amazed at how God provides.
I turned 29 on Tuesday. It was a wonderful birthday, but a very different one. I'm just more conscious of getting older I guess. I know that probably makes many people want to slap me, but that was my main reflection. I've always been told I'm wise beyond my years. Now I'm purportedly catching up to that wisdom in years. Am I still as far "ahead" as I was credited with being as a teenager, or has my advance in wisdom slowed down? I feel like I’ve made more stupid mistakes in my 20’s than I did as a teenager, which I don’t think is the normal trend. But it did take until my 20’s for me to start taking more risks. Too many variables in this dilemma.
I can't remember if I've done this consistently the last few birthdays (I know I did it for one of my birthdays where I was working in Modesto, probably my 26th), but I like the idea of literally running into my next year of life. So at 11:45 p.m. on the eve of my birthday, I donned my running shoes and shorts, and hit the pavement. Everything was lining up for a perfect run. My Garmin watch found the GPS signal inside my house (I often have to wander outside for it to pick up my location). My music player put on "’Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus" as the first song, one of my favorite hymns.
I started running east along the canal, one of my normal routes, but I realized a half mile in that I wanted to break up the routine, so I veered off the canal bank onto Dakota to continue running east. When I arrived at Blackstone, the busiest N/S street in Fresno, there were NO CARS in sight. Even at midnight, it's usually not deserted. I continued until I got to Fresno street, and actually turned south into a subdivision just prior. I was now officially in new running territory. I zig-zagged through the neighborhood. I encountered a small dog barking, but even though it appeared to be unleashed in the front yard (Ugh!), it didn't come out into the street and chase me. I made it across Shields and turned west when I arrived at Princeton, another new neighborhood. I made it back across Blackstone and turned south when I passed this guy, presumably homeless, walking north.
As I was running, I felt God telling me to turn around and tell this guy that God loves him. I struggled with that for a moment, not wanting to break my awesome pace thus far. But eventually I dutifully turned north and started to catch up to this guy. As I ran past, I pulled out my ear bud and called to him that God loved him. Then he enthusiastically responded to me. I forget the exact wording, but he called me God in thanking me. So I'm pretty sure he must have been high on something to think that I was God, but at least I passed on the message. He called out to me to be careful running out here this late, concerned for God's well-being I presume. I turned west on Michigan, then north on Maroa, west on Shields, and back into my neighborhood on Harrison. I had been planning on three miles, but I got in five. Perfect kickoff to training for my first half marathon of the year next month. Pace was excellent, mid-8's! And the closing song as I sprinted back into my neighborhood was Jo Dee Messina’s “My Give-a-D*mn’s Busted,” one of my favorite country songs.
It took awhile to wind down for bed, but I eventually showered and crashed. I ended up sleeping until 9 a.m. the next morning. Mixed up some fruit smoothies for breakfast and headed off to work a little later than planned.
My staff wished me a happy birthday, and all day long my phone was buzzing with Facebook greetings. I know 90% (maybe) of those are from people who wouldn’t otherwise remember my birthday, but I am always touched by those posts nonetheless.
The best text I received by far was from my sister Joy. “Hey big brother!! Happy birthday! Just wanted to say you are awesome and a huge inspiration to me. I appreciate how you've always been there for me and am amazed at how well you exemplify Christ through serving with hard work and diligence while somehow finding time to maintain social relationships at the same time! I hope you have an amazing day! Love, your littlest sister!”
I had planned to go to my chiropractor after work, but he had to reschedule for tomorrow. So I went home to get ready for Bible Study. We do a potluck every week, with an assigned person bringing the main dish and everyone else bringing an unassigned side. Sometimes we end up heavy in one food group or another, but usually it’s pretty balanced, so it all works out. I was planning on claiming a birthday excuse to not bring something since I would be at my chiropractor, but this gave me time to steam up some vegetables so I didn’t have to go empty-handed.
This Bible Study is a new one I just joined in February. It’s a group of career-age (25-35) singles that is part of another larger church in Fresno. I found out about it, decided to try it out, and it was a great fit. Phil & Sandy, an older couple in that church, host it in their home every week, we all bring the food, and Phil leads the group in a discussion on our topic the Harmony of the Gospels. The group even sang Happy Birthday for me during the dinner portion before the study. It was an impressive rendition! The found the right key to start in so that it didn’t get too high or low out of anyone’s register. Heidi even brought cupcakes for dessert.
Finally I headed over to Amy’s house to cap off the night. Her kids had made me a card, but afterward, Noah and Aislynn each decided to make an additional card for me and each of them wanted to stay up to give them to me in person. I was so touched. It’s those cool moments when you give them free expression that you see that you really mean something to them. Noah’s card had me almost moved to tears as he read it to me.
Then Amy and I sat down to watch an episode of Army Wives. She’s finished the series already, but she’s very graciously (because she usually hates watching anything a second time) watching them again at my pace. So we’re in Season 5, and this was the episode where Trevor is grappling with being home from war and all the changes that went on while he was away. It was looking pretty bleak, but the reconciliation and the communication between him and Roxy toward the end as they finally saw the other person’s point of view.
We could have squeezed in another episode, but I was so happy not to have a cliffhanger on this episode, that I decided not to press my luck. Amy and I talked and caught up for awhile longer and then I drove home.
It was an awesome birthday, but the celebrations didn’t even completely end there.
On Wednesday, my staff surprised me with cake and ice cream (well, frozen yogurt, I guess, because we’re all trying to eat healthier). It was a combined party, because my A/R clerk Jeannie’s birthday was on Monday.
And on Saturday, Amy cooked brunch for me: an amazing egg bake, fruit salad, and apple pie. I brought over orange juice and champagne, because what is brunch without mimosas? We invited a few other friends over and planned to eat out on her deck, but none could make it, so we just ate in her living room and watched a couple more episodes of Army Wives. Then we went to pick up her brother Aaron and join her parents to watch the movie Home Run, the movie promoting Celebrate Recovery. It was pretty well done in my opinion, but it rushed through the main character’s transformation at the end, which took away from the believability and build-up of emotion.