Back in Singapore, I never did anything fancy for my birthday. Mostly, it was spent going to a restaurant with the husband, with a mandatory dessert order and not-so-mandatory candles.
In Vancouver, I had a surprise picnic at the beach, indulged in a yummy cheesecake that my friend had to queue an hour for, received two bouquets, had the most delicious pancakes at a lovely French restaurant, enjoyed a free concert by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, got two gift cards to shop at my favourite clothing brand here, and played ping-pong at a bar.
In short: I don't think I've ever had so much fun (or so many gifts and cakes) for my birthday in a long time!
But the real point of me saying all this is that I'm absolutely grateful for the friendships God has established in my life here.
I feel a little ashamed to admit this - even though I think I shouldn't be - but I've come to realise that my sense of well-being is closely tied to the friendships I have. Obviously, I'm not looking for the kind of friends you chat with at a party and then forget about each other afterwards, but the kind that bother to get to know who you really are, what makes you tick, and what you're dealing with below the surface... you know, authentic connections. Real friends you can be silly with, joke with, talk about deep stuff with, and just be yourself with.
Who would expect that to happen in a place so unfamiliar, and over the span of a few months to boot?
I sure didn't.
But it happened.
I'm reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, in which he puts forth the importance of having a community beautifully.
I'm reminded of my chat with Bernice, the co-founder of Singapore-based publishing and training consultancy Graceworks, on why spiritual friendships are so essential for growth.
I'm reminded that God answered my (hitherto unspoken) longing for friendship of a certain kind in the simplest of ways: by sending me friends who possess hearts that are so much bigger than mine; who speak words of life and encouragement to my spirit; who show they care just by being there; and who teach me to see the world in new ways.
I know this post is super sappy and sentimental, but I do think I would go bonkers here without friends like these - so yeah, here's a cheesy but totally feel-good song to round it all off: