This year I received what I can honestly say was my best birthday present ever – my friend Deanna and her friend (and now mine) Kristy sacrificed time, money and vacation days to come visit me for my birthday! These are two single ladies, so they don’t have a lot of money or vacation days to spare. It is hard to fathom the extravagance of such a gift, but if you knew my friend Deanna, you would understand – that’s the kind of person she is – an “I just don’t want you to be alone on your birthday” kind of friend. Just for the record, she is also the friend I called when my husband left, who kept talking with me on the phone (all the while I was telling her I was fine and she didn’t need to come over) until my doorbell rang and it was her! She also kitty sat for Charcoal and Embers so that I could go on my trip to Israel in December 2012 – and she’s not really a cat person! So you can see what a selfless kind of friend she is.
On top of all the sacrifices of traveling all this way to see me (including dealing with multiple unexpected travel glitches the day before that made their departure preparations stressful and exhausting), they graciously brought three of my packed suitcases of stuff from home, a few extra requested items, plus surprise birthday greeting cards from many of you! Their actual time here was very short (only three and a half days), but we made the most of it. I did my best to give them a snapshot of my life in Ecuador:
1) Saturday afternoon/evening we went to Puerto Lopez for dinner at a restaurant owned by an American lady who has lived in Ecuador for 20 years. On the way home, our motor taxi broke down on the way to the bus station – we walked a little ways and then caught another. Then our bus attendant fell asleep and missed telling the driver to stop in Cayo – we ended up in Jipijapa at 8:00 p.m. and had to take a cab back home. Kristy said she felt like we were on the “Amazing Race”!
2) Two weeks before their arrival, I started saying my weather prayers and miraculously we went from several months of cloudy, chilly weather to two weeks of beautiful sunny days up through the morning of their arrival day! However, we awoke to a cloudy day their first day and a drizzly, misty rain the entire day on Sunday – I can honestly say it was the worst weather day I’ve seen since I’ve been here! (We actually saw no sun until we arrived at the bus station for their return trip home and got 10 minutes of it before they boarded the bus! Both these girls previously lived in Portland, so the weather was no bother to them and we finally decided God provided the clouds to preserve their pale flesh!) But despite the miserable weather on Sunday, we still attended church, ate breakfast on the beach, visited my friend Mesfin, celebrated with a pre-birthday party and went to visit my house.
3) Monday (my birthday) I hired my “visa angel” friend, Jo, to tour us around the towns of Manta and Montecristi. We went to the fish market and shopping market area of Manta and visited the museum, park, church and artesian market area of Montecristi – we ended the day with a fabulous birthday dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in Manta.
4) Tuesday morning they got to experience my regular morning beach walk with the four dogs! We enjoyed walking and praying on the beach together. After we returned home, I fixed a light breakfast and after they packed their bags we had lunch at my favorite restaurant in town before I rode with them on the bus to Jipijapa to put them on the non-stop bus for their return flight from the airport in Guayaquil.
I am so very grateful to them for coming all this way to make my first birthday in Ecuador so special – may God richly bless them for their selfless sacrifice! Also, thank you to those of you who sent cards with them or birthday greetings through Deanna’s Facebook (she shared them all with me) – all of your thoughtful wishes and sentiments touched me deeply. And most of all I am grateful to God, who knew way in advance that they would be coming at a time when I would really be needing some love and encouragement from home – muchas gracias Dios!
Below is a slideshow to view pictures from our adventures (if it goes by too fast to read the captions, just hit the “pause button” and scroll through manually).
Another interesting fact about this year’s birthday worth noting – in Spanish, the phrase to wish someone a Happy Birthday (the title of this post) signifies that you have “completed” that many years. So this birthday is the completion of the number of years to launch me into my “year of jubilee,” which officially begins today (and to know what that means, you will have to read Leviticus 25:8-13). It seems very poignant, especially since one of the things the Lord kept telling me before moving to Ecuador was, “I’m making all things new.” I continue to be full of anticipation of all that means and what this next year will hold for me!