Multimedia · Personal Update · Perspective

29 Years

29 feels good to me.

30? Well, we’ll see when that hits, but I have a whole year to be 29 first.

And what a year it should be!

It’ll be hard: moving away from Taiwan and saying sad goodbyes, starting life in a new community, adjusting to living with a boy (I hear they can be kinda gross)…

It’ll be glorious: celebrating my wedding with friends and family, starting fresh in a new place with new adventures, sharing life with the man I love.

I am so very excited about the road ahead no matter what twists and turns–exciting or difficult–it will take. But today I’d like to take just a moment to enjoy the journey so far and to celebrate turning 29.

2 Years Ago

Two years ago, I celebrated my birthday with my dad and sisters in Taiwan, and we Skyped Mom in. There was a cloud over the festivities though because the next day I would go to the hospital for my first ever surgery, in a foreign country, no less. That year was trying, as I faced questions about the lump in my throat (pre-surgery), as I wrestled with the physical and emotional pain of surgery, and as I tried to regain balance and normalcy in my life. Still, I’m thankful for all that God taught me and for how He gave me support, love, and peace through friends and family who walked the road with me.

1 Year Ago

Last year, I cried a lot on my birthday. I was lonely, and as much as I tried to put on a brave face, I couldn’t hide my feelings. I missed my family, I was sad about the absence of friends who had left Taiwan, I was turning 28 with no prospects of a man in my future though I desperately wanted to start a family, and I was still processing the difficult year that had just passed. That day wasn’t so much a birthday as it was the anniversary of my surgery and a reminder of all that had happened in the previous year. Again though, God blessed me even through the pain; my birthday happened to fall on a women’s Bible study night, and when I couldn’t contain my tears (no matter how hard I tried), the ladies lifted me up in prayer and love.

September 27, 2012

This year, my birthday was spectacular.

It was the simple things, like the most swoopy (that’s the only way I can describe the way they never actually hit one note and stayed there) rendition of “Happy Birthday” during our morning staff prayer meeting and then an even more off-key and over-the-top (I didn’t think it could get any worse!) rendition of the song from the teachers a little later in the day.

It was all the birthday wishes from friends around the world.

It was the letter I received from my dear fiance, Charles–the letter that just happened to be in my mailbox on my birthday. It was also the package he mailed to me, the fun of opening the package with him on Skype during the few moments we had together that day, and the incredibly sweet and thoughtful gifts that he prepared for me.

It was students wishing me “happy birthday” all day long when I didn’t even know they knew it was my day.

It was a little kindergarten boy fervently hugging me and telling me he loved me and then delivering some beautiful artwork that he had prepared for my birthday.

It was my dear colleague, Cathleen, making signs that said things like, “It’s your birthday!” “Are you really 29?” “Seriously!?” and “If you’re reading these signs, you aren’t teaching!” and enlisting students in her class to help walk these signs past the high window that covers the top half of the wall between our rooms.

It was my 2nd grade ELL student proudly giving me a gift and telling me what it was before I could open it because he was so thrilled to give it.

It was all the cards, and gifts, and special little tokens of love.

It was the entire 8th grade class (the students whom I taught for the last two years, first in Language Arts and then in Bible, and whom I miss so much this year) singing “happy birthday” to me on the stage during lunch and delivering a stack of handwritten birthday letters to me. Thanks, Laura, for making that happen.

It was the delicious cupcake that my sisters made, and the fact that Sara delivered it during my middle school ELL class after lunch with a “9” candle on it because she had candles for the students who turn 8, 9, and 10 in her class, but not 29.

It was spending the evening at a baby shower for two beautiful friends, and celebrating new life together.

It was the silliness of a family Google video chat complete with sound and video effects, a birthday song, and me blowing out the candle on the cartoon cake on the screen.

It was opening presents with Sara and Ashleigh and sharing full-belly laughs like sisters do.

It was falling asleep in the soft, new pajamas that were a gift from a friend and smiling because it was a happy end to a happy birthday.

And it was the surprise birthday dinner the next night that included most of my female friends in Taiwan for an evening of conversation and relaxation.

Thank you to all who helped to make my birthday meaningful. It was a wonderful day, and I look forward to a unique, exciting, and memorable year ahead!

Reflection

It is difficult for me to believe that just a year ago, I was so lonely and hurting so deeply. I am overwhelmingly thankful that God has seen fit to pull me out of that season, especially by fulfilling my dreams and putting such a wonderful man in my life! Still, I realize that my happiness cannot and must not be dependent solely on getting the things I desire, so I am more thankful that God is teaching me to find contentment in Him. You see, even though I now have Charles and the hope of a future with him, life still isn’t easy. My fiance is 7,000 miles away, my friends and family are spread out across the globe, and I am facing saying goodbye to a country, a home, a school, and friends that I love. There’s always something more or something different that we want. But still God is faithful. God is present, perfect, and persistent. He does not let go of us no matter how lost we feel. I am thankful that God is using these birthdays as milestones to remind me of the road I’ve been on and of the path that I have ahead of me. I am thankful that God is constant and that he brings contentment. God is the joy in my journey.

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