I woke up early & she woke up with me, pulling herself up in the darkened room to softly sing “Happy Birthday” over me.
We both, smiling, went back to sleep for awhile. I got up again, got sick, got dressed, got knee deep in words I’m trying to memorize. Then, as I curled back up across the bed, my sweet friend threw the covers back and said, Ok, now we will pray little bit, because it is your birthday!
She bent down onto her knees, laid her Bible open, and asked, What is your favorite song? It is such an easy answer—the first Hindi song I ever learned, in a basement with twenty other students 6 years ago, will remain forever the dearest in my heart. And so we sang. She read some verses and gave me her heart’s words for me—to never be lonely or afraid, because God is with me. And she said she hopes that the year ahead will be full of new vision, joy, and peace. Her prayer over me echoed all these words and more, as my mind raced to understand them all behind their syllables.
And I remember thinking: This. This is all I want for my birthday. This is more than I need. Him. His Word. His nearness. His hope that fills my heart with peace. Even if I must lay down yet again after breakfast and sleep a few more hours in heavy fatigue and sickness. Even if I still wake up and wrestle tomorrow morning with the same questions of purpose and wonder and desire. Today, at least, I was brought to the altar of the One who made me, who made my days as He made me, who made my mind that would question, my heart that would want, my body that would weaken—all that I would find Him still.
All this has been seen and learned and heard in nighttime whispers of now 25 years of living. All this I desire to press into words He has and is giving. All this is His—and I’m wrapped up in it with Him, He who wrapped me up in my momma’s womb and brought me out before I was ready, so that He could show His miraculous power over the body of a premie they all said would be broken forever.
I was born three months premature. My birthday wasn’t supposed to be in the blazing days of summer, with baseball fields in the review mirror of my parent’s pickup heading towards the hospital. It would’ve been in the Fall, with scattered leaves and the ever-dreamy possibility of snow that this writer’s heart loves. Maybe that’s why I’m always longing for what’s next. Maybe that’s why I’m constantly, grippingly, thinking ahead—I was born a little bit behind, and I have always stretched a little bit more forward…from stripping myself of IVs and oxygen tubes to constantly dreaming of the next step in life. Growing up a little bit too fast in the process.
But today He quiets my heart, as He remedies in my resting and whispers of the answered prayer that all this is. And He takes care of me while I’m far away from home, trying to make a home, a tent, here. I’m just a sojourner who used to love sojourning much more than I do now, who wants roots in places and people and routines. So I’ve stretched my roots into the shifting soils of what’s next instead of what’s here…when both are the wrong places, both are places in which I could never fully stand, fully live upon.
Why? Because my roots were made for Him. My roots were made to sink deep into His love, His love that doesn’t only lead me from here to there but holds me for eternity—seeing so much more than the confines of time and space and callings can give or take.
And as I read a book about the full life and remember the study of it I’m making here, with the ladies I’m teaching here, and with the ladies they’ll teach, I’m hoping here. And my mind’s eye sees the verse I keep repeating—the one abound the full life promised, the abundant life given even in the midst of an enemy’s prowling promise to destroy it. It’s embedded in the rich soil of an imagery that most listening couldn’t understand. But my soul, my stubborn, very sheep-like soul, gets it.
His words to us on the abundant life He wants for us fall from His lips just as His says, I am the good shepherd. Not just a shepherd, who knows about sheep and how to tend them, but a good shepherd, who goes beyond their needs, who steps into the folds with them, so that they know His voice and know His heart and know Him.
And that’s where it’s found, this abundant life: in being His sheep. In knowing who I am under the watch of all that He is. I am His sheep, and He calls me to come, to follow Him. And He leads me out. Where? How? When? At His voice. Something about His voice will enable the obedience. Something in His voice will lead me out of what the enemy intends, out of what I think is better, into what He knows is best—abundant.
All these birthday thoughts culminate into this one—I want Him.
But more important is the thought that I cannot claim, the thought that calls my own into reality—He wants me.
The shepherd, this good shepherd, calls me. I know His voice. My ears are tuned. My hands love to type it out, write it down, scribbles of a glorious sound. And I come running.
Running on empty, needing fullness.
Running from the enemy, needing protection.
Running from myself, needing Him.
But this week, I’ve taught the most beautiful story to the most beautiful ladies. The story that the Shepherd taught us about His Father, our Father. The story that shows us—oh, oh, how He runs to us, this Father whose child was lost but is now found, was dead but is now alive. In Him, in Him—abundantly alive.