Thursday, November 7, 2013


Birthdays tend to be a big deal here in Ukraine.  Last year when my team leader turned 50 he rented a hall and held a 50's themed party complete with costumes and dance lessons.  His wife had a western themed party a few weeks ago with costumes and bbq.

An introvert by nature, parties typically aren't my thing.  In the weeks leading up to my birthday last week, if someone asked me about it, I tried to blow it off and indicate that I really didn't want to do anything big.  I don't want to be all "bah humbug" about it.  When I was younger I looked forward to every birthday- for years I couldn't wait to be 15 and get a drivers license.  And then it was 18 so I would be "legal".  And then 21 so I would be "legal-er".  And then 25 so my insurance would go down (they lied, it didn't!).

40 was fun.  Almost everyone in church wore Black.  It was quite a coordinated effort. I turned 43 in China and my mission team planned a weekend long excursion that was amazing.

And then last week was 49.  49 isn't 50.  It isn't a milestone per se.  It's not a level I've been trying to unlock.  Honestly, 49 is a reminder that the next one is 50 and 50 makes me remember that many of my friends are grandparents and watching their now grown children launch into their lives and here I am.  This time next year I might be married with a baby and eating my words...but right now I don't see it and I don't know how I feel about it.  Some days I obviously lament the fact that I am where I am; I'm not a daddy and I don't see it happening.  Other days I'm ok- I trust that God knows what He's doing even when I don't see it.

But I do want to give credit where credit is due.  My 49th Birthday turned out to be very special.  My co-worker Christina and I left Uzhgorod on Halloween morning to spend a night with ministry friends in Lviv before going to Kalush where we've been coaching the youth ministry team at Grace Church for more than a year.  Our friends in Lviv are wonderful and their home is a like a very godly Bed and Breakfast.  They spoiled me with good home-cooking including sausage and eggs and muffins on my birthday.

When we arrived in Kalush that evening (my birthday) the kids in the youth group had planned a party- they gave me an awesome cake and a bunch of small, thoughtful gifts.  When I say "thoughtful"  I mean they wrote little notes to accompany each gift.

On Sunday night we returned to Uzhgorod.  I was sort of thinking that some of my friends in town might do something; I knew Tanya- my friend Katya's mother- was making a custom Vishyvanka (shirt) for me but I didn't know when I'd get it.  I figured either upon my arrival Sunday night or maybe at band practice on Monday.

Well- Katya, Ira, Anya, and Rudolf- all wonderful friends that I work with quite a bit doing some of the orphan-care and worship ministry- met Christina and I at the train station late Sunday night singing happy birthday and carrying a Mississippi State birthday cake!  How awesome is that?!

Then Rudy offered to give me a ride home.  I suspected then that something was up because everyone else piled in the car too.  When I asked if they wanted to come in for cake they declined...which I also thought was suspicious.  So I wasn't too terribly surprised when I went into my house to find more surprises.  What did surprise me was how many people were there and the gift they gave me.  (A few minutes later the aforementioned car load of friends joined us).  Inside my dark kitchen were a few kids from the youth group and several of the other missionaries- with the car load that brought me home, there must have been 15 people.  They bought me a new grill...a big, heavy one.  They like my cooking!!  We had cake and tea and some of them stayed and played on the playstation.  Mind you, it was after 10 pm when I arrived at the train station.  I got my Vishyvanka- it's beautiful!  And a nice card signed by a lot of friends.

I should also mention that the little youth group from the Messianic church gave me a poster with pictures and some encouraging words the weekend before my birthday.

So all in all, 49 was very memorable.  I mean, I still have thoughts about life passing me by in terms of having a family and all that but... I have friends that care.  And that means a lot.

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