Today is my birthday. I’m now 28 years old.
I am sitting in a Quality Inn near Interstate 57, in Marion, Illinois. I’ve been sitting in the car for twelve hours, Lylah doesn’t really want to go to sleep, and I’ve been sick all week.
This is not how I planned to spend my birthday.
A month ago, today, I was getting ready for youth group on a Wednesday night when my dad called me at church. He told me that my brother, Brad, had been in a motorcycle accident, and he was in critical condition.
I didn’t find out anything more until about 11pm that night. Early the next morning, I flew down to Nashville to visit my brother for a few days before Sunday morning when I had to get back and preach. While in Nashville, I knew that my brother would survive the accident, he had been hit by a car while riding his bike, and his life wouldn’t ever be the same.
Since those initial days, I’ve been trying desperately to get back down to Nashville to see him and to bring Sara and Lylah. It’s been a bit more difficult than usual to get time away from church because we’ve had a bit of a gap between when our head of staff stepped down and when our interim is coming. So I’ve been filling in as head of staff in the meantime. I’ve been having a wonderful time learning all sorts of new things about ministry and my faith. However, it’s just been harder than usual to get away from work for a little while.
So we got everything scheduled out for the three of us to take a week to visit Brad and the rest of my family in Nashville. It was going to be a memorable time for our family to be together for multiple reasons. For example, I was thrilled because it was going to be the first time that my family would be together for my birthday since 1997.
But then earlier this week I started to get sick.
Sore throat, coughing, congestion, the works. It got worse as the week went on. Thursday night, about 8 hours before we were going to start our drive down to Nashville, we decided it would be best to wait a day or so before coming down. The last thing my brother needed was to get the sickness I had. With a few days of antibiotics in me, we left this morning, hoping to drive all 750 miles today, to see my family late tonight on my birthday. But about 550 miles into the drive, Lylah decided that she didn’t want to go any further.
No matter what tactics we employed, she clearly demonstrated that she was the one in control. The inside of a Buick can start to feel pretty cramped when a six-month-old child screams at the top of her lungs.
Needless to say, this is not how I anticipated my birthday would turn out.
But I also didn’t anticipate something else – I had a great birthday anyway.
1. I got to spend twelve hours hanging out in the car with Sara, Lylah, beautiful weather, and my iPad with 3G. Sara drove the whole way, and I actually had an excuse to just hang out, enjoying everything. I’m normally the driver on road trips so having twelve hours in the car was amazing. Who else would I want with me for my birthday?
2. I received countless phone calls, text messages, and Facebook posts from people wishing me a happy birthday. For all the complaints people raise against Facebook, I love how it makes even the most unpopular person feel like they are king of the world on their birthday. People from all parts of my life sent me their warm remarks.
3. Family and friends still love me and want to celebrate me at times other than today. Just because I wasn’t able to have a party with people today, doesn’t mean that I won’t get to enjoy time with family in the days to come. What’s so special about a particular day on the calendar?
4. Before I left, Sara got my favorite – a large, double cheese, double pepperoni pizza from Dominos – when she showed me this. I love how Sara knows the desires of my heart…
As I watch the final moments of my birthday tick away, I’d like to pass on a few things I’ve learned from the 28th anniversary of my birth.
1. Life rarely happens like you plan it. Don’t get me wrong, planning is super important. But amazing things can happen that aren’t part of our plans. Today was a totally cool adventure, albeit an unplanned one.
2. Actively search for the positivele elements of your situation. Yes, some situations are much worse than others. But God is still somehow, always at work. Pray for attentive eyes to see his activity.
3. Savor the enjoyable moments you have. These are gifts God gives us. Enjoy them. Bask in them. Think about what you are feeling, hearing, smelling, seeing, etc… Fully take them in.
I recognize these sound trite, and possibly cliché, but I’m ok with that. I loved my totally unexpected birthday today. These principles helped me enjoy it.
To what unanticipated events can you apply these ideas? Let me know about a time when you saw God’s blessing in an unexpected way?