I turned twenty-one on Saturday. My birthday was absolutely nothing like I expected, partly because I have low expectations of my birthdays and partly because I was in London with people I’ve only known for less than three weeks.
It’s always funny to see about how life turns out completely different. We take turns and end up in an unexpected place, but it turns out to be exactly where you were meant to be.
Saturday we had a seminar at the church, so I spent most of my day at the church. After the seminar, we were hanging out upstairs. Sidney, one of my teammates, told me he had to talk to me, so I walked downstairs with him.
I have never had a surprise party before. I walked down and the church was decorated with a birthday banner, balloons, and a birthday cake. It was really great. Some people from the church got me some presents (a champagne glass that says “twenty-one” and a few associated small things).
It was really nice. Honestly, I was dreading my birthday. I wanted to be home. I wanted to be with my mother, my friends. But God has a better plan for my life, and even for my birthday.
After we toasted to me (seriously? No one ever toasts to me), we drank some non-alcoholic sparkling juice and ate some chocolate cake. It was great. There were little champagne bottles of bubbles, so we all blew bubbles.
My teammates and I went out to dinner. It took a long time to figure out where to go to eat. I wanted to just get off the Tube somewhere and find a place. (Sometimes I pretend to be a free spirit.) Rachel (my teammate and friend as of three weeks) looked up some places online, so we found a good local place. It had good reviews, so we got off on Warren Street and walked to this little hole in the wall place.
The waiter (and probably owner) was inside chatting it up with the one customer and cook, who were both watching the football game (the Czech Republic was playing Norway). He seated us at a table way too close to the television. It was Italian food, and delicious. There was this moment when I was eating ravioli with football playing, Billy Ray Cyrus singing about his achy-breaky heart in the background, sitting at a table with former strangers who have become friends in a short three weeks, and I thought there is no place I would rather be in this exact moment.
You see, I have learned a lot of things in my twenty-one years of living (and still have plenty plenty left to learn), but if I have learned anything it is this: when I say yes in spite of my fear, I rarely regret it. And I always seem to learn something. When I was riding in the suburban with my pastor, his wife and my mother as they drove me to Fargo to fly to El Paso for Youth in Mission training camp, everything within me was crying out, “No! Turn back.” But the yes in the midst of fear is the yes worth living.