Sometimes God speaks to us through little “gifts” that He sends our way. For my 40th birthday, one I really was not looking forward to, God sent a gift to me that I will always treasure.
I have always thought of turning 40 as a milestone. For some reason, that is the number that I’ve always dreaded–the one that, for me, felt like I was turning a corner in life. I was waving goodbye to being “youthful” and saying hello to the next stage of life. Everyone has that certain age in their head where they feel they are turning that corner–for some it’s 50, for some it’s 70, for some it’s 30–for me, it’s always been 40. And here I was, turning that corner. My 40th birthday happened to fall on the first day of school this year. I work in a school and I knew it was going to be a busy, crazy day. And it was. It certainly did not feel like a birthday and as I went through my day I remember thinking how good it was that it was such a busy day–maybe I could just forget it was my 40th birthday and just move on. Toward the end of the workday, I remember even thinking that maybe I could just order some dinner in and do some work that evening. I could say goodbye to the day just like any other day. Well, God had other plans for my “big day”.
When I got home from work I was ready to go eat–our plan was to go out as a family to Applebees for a birthday dinner. When my husband told me to wait just alittle while, I was annoyed, hungry, tired and ready for the day to be done. But, I waited…impatiently. When he finally told me it was time to go and we stepped out the door, I watched a stretch limo pull into our driveway. I thought that was a pretty neat surprise and had the driver take a picture of me and my family by the limo. But that was not the surprise.
When the driver opened the limo door, there was in front of me the best surprise I have ever gotten. There I saw my nieces, my sister, my mom and my grandmother inside the limo, waiting for me, singing to me. My family had driven 6 hours to come celebrate my birthday with me! To say I was in a state of shock is an understatement. I could not believe my eyes–it felt like a dream and I remember thinking to myself, “no, this is really happening!” I started laughing and crying all at once. The joy I felt was inexpressible. I did not know what to say…I only knew to laugh and cry and hug each one of them. I remember saying their name as I hugged them–I was still wondering if this was just a dream and I had to say their name to make sure it really was happening. In that moment I remember thinking to myself, “So this is what it must be like when you get to heaven.” The joy, the unparalleled joy of seeing those you love most in the world, when you least expected to see them was, I know, God’s 40th birthday gift to me. And in my heart, I knew that the joy and the love I felt in those precious moments was only a glimpse, a small 20 second preview of the unimaginable joy and love that awaits us in Heaven. It is a joy and a love that cannot be compared to anything we experience here on Earth. Not even the joy of seeing your child for the very first time. Because even in that, there is still physical pain and a certain unknowing and apprehension that is there. I use to think there could be no greater joy than seeing and holding your child for the first time. But this joy, this feeling of being loved was different. Because it was a love you knew. It was a safe, accepting, familiar love. It was a love that you miss when you’re apart and can’t wait to be together again. It was the joy of being reunited. When you see and hold your child for the first time, it is the first time. It is the beginning of many things to come. It is the beginning of a love that will grow and deepen. But this, this was being united again with a love that was already deeply planted. And this joy was immense because you knew how deep the roots were. These are the best words, the only words that I have to describe God’s gift of a glimpse of Heaven.
And now, when I look back on that dreaded 40th birthday, I smile. It was one of the best days of my life.
This video was taken as I opened that limo door: http://vimeo.com/user22677115/surprisevideo