Now That’s OLD! {some notes on my birthday…}

 

{Originally written June 10, 2008}

Some who know me well have accused me of planning this trip to China to coincide with my birthday because I wanted to avoid the surprise birthday party replete with black balloons and a cake bearing the words “old Fart” inscribed in frosting.  Others who are familiar with my attraction for men “short, dark & Asian” have claimed I’ve come to China simply because I am tired of being single…the ratio of men to women is an amazing 30:1.  I take umbrage at both accusations.  Though I do so grinning…30 to 1?  Really?  Hmm.

 

I didn’t tell my friends here that today was my birthday because I wanted it to myself…to reflect & pray & celebrate all the goodness that the Lord has lavished on me over the years.  Also, as a guest in their home, I didn’t want my friends to feel they had to make a fuss.  All that went out the window when Matt called from Colorado and left the message with my host, “Tell her I called…I wouldn’t want mom to think I missed her birthday.”  Secretly, Song immediately launched into conquering a birthday cake and Sarah busied the boys with making cards for me.  No one let on all day that they knew.

 

The day began with an unusual “quiet time”…Bible reading in Isaiah while construction roared all around us & horns blared in traffic.  One glance to the streets 15 stories below where  6 rows of cars straddling 4 lanes reminded me that lanes are merely a suggestion here, not a mandate.  God’s word urged me to “cease to dwell on days gone by & to brood over past history” & he continued “here & now I will do a new thing, this moment it will break from the bud.  Can you not perceive it?” {Isaiah 43:18-19}. “My witnesses are you, my servants, you whom I have chosen, to know me & put your faith in me and to understand that I am he.” {43:10}  I received again the commission in Isaiah 58:3-12…my purpose for living though I felt I was reading it with fresh eyes, embracing it as if for the first time. 

 

The bulk of the day was spent in Tongli, an ancient city on canals…with 15 rivers, 5 lakes, & 49 bridges joining 7 islands, this awe-inspiring town has often been called the “Venice of Asia”.  Depending on which brochure you read, the city’s ancestry dates between 4,000-6,000 years back.  Regardless, Tongli is OLD.  I smiled as I pondered God’s sense of humor… turning “39 again” pales in comparison to this place!  We enjoyed strolling throughout the narrow streets, thankful that the rain had driven away most of the tourists and the place was quiet, peaceful, almost deserted.  Though no one here speaks the slightest English the locals gave friendly smiles & calculators served to interpret prices, each of us fussing in our own language “too much”, “not enough”.  Ultimately they were happy to bargain with one of the few customers they would see all day.  We delighted in a boat ride meandering through the canals and played dress up in Emperor & Empress style attire at one of the gardens.  Later, in a huge air bubble on one of the rivers, it didn’t take me long to decide to simply float & leave the “walking on water” to Jesus!

 

With plans to meet Sarah & Song for dinner, we returned to Suzhou.  Three year old Dillon could hardly wait for me to get cleaned up before he came to my room, took my hand & directed me, “close your eyes”, led me to the dining room where a small host of friends & my younger son Zech shouted “surprise” & burst into a chorus of “Happy Birthday to You”.  The cake beckoned us to eat dessert first before we left for dinner.  It was touching and a sweet time.

 

The evening culminated in Chinese theatre at Master of Nets…an interesting experience in that we moved from room to room in an ancient Chinese home to enjoy 7 different cultural performances including opera, drama, and several different types of instruments being performed by locals robed in traditional Chinese ancestral attire.

 

After everyone else had gone to bed Sarah & I sat up sharing our hearts and praying together ‘til after 1 a.m.  A burden for the lost people of China washed over me as we poured out ourselves to the Lord for unsaved friends.  I finished this very long day prompted once again to read in Isaiah…

 

“My people shall live long life as a tree, and my chosen shall enjoy the fruit of their labor.  They shall not toil in vain or raise children for misfortune,” {65:22}… “no longer will you be deserted…I will make you an eternal pride & a never-ending JOY {60:15}  “Let me rejoice with all my heart, let me exult in my God, for he has robed me in salvation as a garment & clothed me in integrity as a cloak” {61:10}… “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me;  He has sent me to bring good news to the humble, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to those in prison” {61:1}…  

 

God is up to something…I feel it in my spirit.  To say that this was my best birthday ever would be an understatement.

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