Last Sunday I woke up on the first day of the second half of my life.
A card leaning on the mirror of my dressing table with Happy Birthday in H’s handwriting reminded me that breath is a gift. And I’m aging.
I stared into the mirror backlit by sun streaming through an open window, wishing the fine lines away; wondering over passages of time and the sly swiftness of sagging skin.
Why couldn’t I have been scheduling a professional photo shoot for my first book jacket a few decades earlier, when products for reducing puffiness around the eyes weren’t part of my morning ritual?
After five months of physical separation from my daughter, our first morning together in London she crawls onto my unmade bed with a bag of cosmetics in her lap saying, “I want to show you the new things I bought.”
Did I mention my daughter is here? In London? For a month? And I am no longer out-numbered by testosterone?
After she pulls each product out with an explanation attached, I invite her to sit at my dressing table where she tutors me on a new-to-me way to apply foundation.
As we walk to church, I point out which way to look before crossing the street because it is now the opposite of what I taught her as a toddler. We pass our favorite curry restaurant and make note of the number of pubs in the span of a short distance.
And I realize I also woke up to the first day of the second half of parenting.
We walk into the church of stained glass windows where I lose myself in the community hug of welcome and is this your daughter and I just found out today is your birthday.
“Who are all those young people sitting together over there,” I ask Jan, the Vicar’s wife.
“Oh, I think they’re from a school in San Diego,” she says, “it starts with a P. Pa, pah, poi, she stutters trying to remember. A Nazarene school, I think.”
“Oh! Point Loma!” I exclaim while throwing my purse on the ground and jumping up from my seat. I have less than one minute before the guitar starts strumming. Conversation will be an unwanted interruption during worship.
Taking bold liberty, I stand in the middle of a section of seats like a conductor cueing a student choir looking for eye contact and loudly ask, “Does anyone here know Caryn Christensen?”
All I receive back are blank stares and odd looks.
When I ask again, waving my arms for attention, a palm slowly raises shoulder height in shy hesitancy.
“I do,” says a girl rather sheepishly. “She was my elementary school teacher.”
I introduce myself and learn her name is Ellen. Sit behind her, lean in close so we can hear each other speak and explain why I’m asking if she knows our mutual friend.
My confidence that someone in the group would recognize the name wasn’t a fluke or even a prophetic leaning. It was a sign of God’s nearness and love for me on my birthday.
You see, a few days before, Caryn messaged me, asking where I live in London. She tells me her best friend’s daughter is living short term in the Kensington area with a group of students. “Is that anywhere near you?” she asks, “If you two are anywhere near each other, I’m hoping you have an opportunity to meet.”
This is becoming commonplace – people connecting me, their American friend living in Europe, with friends and family who are visiting the city. And I love it!
“Yes,” I tell her, “our church is St. Barnabas Kensington, we’re in the area.”
We end the conversation with hope that our worlds will somehow collide in London knowing I’ll soon be on holiday in France.
Ellen has no idea Caryn and I am in virtual conversation about her. She is oblivious that her elementary school teacher is attempting to connect her with a blogging friend, because we are both passionate about Jesus.
And that’s why the serendipity is meaningful for all of us.
It turns out the host couple for the student groups bring them to St. Barnabas shortly after their arrival to the city, because it is one of their favorite churches in London.
The day I awakened to begin the second half of my life could’ve happened anywhere but God knew it would happen in my favorite place, the city of London and the place I call home now.
I could’ve celebrated without my daughter except God knew being with all the members of my family was the only gift I asked for.
Caryn could’ve chosen to ask me where I lived any day of the week or not asked at all for that matter.
That group of students from Point Loma could’ve chosen another church to visit that Sunday but they didn’t.
They could’ve visited our church on a Sunday my husband wasn’t speaking and never realized he also was once a student at another university in California. And missed all his jokes about Zonies in California during the introduction.
H could’ve chosen to speak on any subject for his sermon that morning. But on the Sabbath which was my birthday, he told us how God illuminates our eyes, our heart and our path; how we reflect the Light of the world around us.
When you are tempted to second guess the past, live in regret or wish for a do-over, remember that God sees you. You are known. He remembers. The details of your life aren’t random.
He is the divine quilt maker, pulling all the threads of your life together into one vibrant tapestry declaring his faithfulness. A Father knows how to put a smile on the face of His children best. He thought of you first, when you were still in darkness.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” Psalm 67: 1-2
How is His face shining upon you lately? Tell me in the comments.