this tornado loves you

I have to give credit to Neko.

Her song “this tornado loves you” was the inspiration for all the surprise birthday party craziness. Well, her and Patrick’s obsession with surprises. I wanted the whole night to feel like a tornado – the surprises, the plans, and the people. But, the best kind of tornado – the reason why Helen Hunt was one of those storm chasers in the movie Twister. Because there is something exciting about getting swept up in that spinning motion; there is something really thrilling about the energy in the air that can lift things off the ground.

That’s the kind of feeling I wanted to create.

The surprise-keeping was torture. Last night, after he walked in and looked like this:

photos courtesy of Chris!
photos courtesy of Chris!

…after that I started breathing again. Why was it so important for him to walk into a room full of people celebrating him unexpectedly? Because he loves surprises and I love him. 

All the weeks of knotted up insides and half-truth schemes and several versions of party themes… all of it was worth the look on his face when he realized his friends in this city will do crazy things to make him feel special.

He didn’t make it easy, though. He wanted to come over yesterday to help me deep clean my apartment (from the terrarium party the week before). After I had hidden the morning’s baked goods and refrigerated the first of many bacon treats and covered the rum bacon ice cream, I relented. He brought over fresh doughnuts and his Swiffer (the good kind that sprays) and immediately handy-manned a lamp we’ve been needing to fix. Then he spent a good 20 minutes beating my area rug on the fire escape before we cleaned all the floors. He almost insisted on carrying my laundry down, but I wiggled out of that one (because the laundry was a ruse to get him out for a few hours, but I legitimately need to do laundry desperately).

When he left, my party planners (and the best friends ever) arrived and we set the tornado in motion.

And then I changed our dinner plans so many times that he became very hangry. He got so frustrated (to be fair, we had planned to eat at 6:30 and I didn’t tell him where to meet us until 7:30). Instead of being suspicious, he was just a really severe combination of hungry and angry. I can thank his stomach for helping to keep the surprise, I guess. But I felt horrible. When he opened the door and I was dressed up, he still didn’t think anything of it. He was mostly still hangry.

But then he turned the corner and a room full of people sang to celebrate him. And that whole scene made me so happy!

People brought magnets (one of Patrick’s random favorite things) and wrote memories down on tornado cards. There was bacon ice cream and bacon wrapped dates and candied bacon and nutty bacon chocolate bark and chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake. And there was laughter.

Midway through the party, Patrick read one of the tornado cards that said “this surprise has wheels.” And everyone grabbed coats in time to make the B43 a party bus (the driver even said Happy Birthday, Pat over the microphone when we got off). We caught a sweet concert that our friend Rebecka rocked out, where we met more friends and ANOTHER surprise cake. From there we headed to one of our favorite spots to close out the night with some multi-colored disco lights and some of Pat’s best dance moves. It was all so good, it almost felt like I  was the one unwrapping gifts all night.

But after all that, after all the party planning and party having and party traveling, my favorite part was this morning. It didn’t have anything to do with the party last night, but it was the most special thing.

We were sitting in church with big grins across our faces. We greeted our friends we had seen just hours before and we passed the peace to friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. We worshipped in song and through prayer and with full hearts as the sun reached through stain glass to warm the tops of our heads. And as we stood in line for communion, we heard “Jesus Paid It All” circling over our heads.

This was my favorite part. There is a bigger tornado of love that swallows up any we can create. It’s heavy and light and mysterious and reckless. And it happened this morning when I heard about Jesus healing the paralytic.

As much as we love surprises – giving and receiving and sharing – God must love them most. He made us to have that face we have when we walk into a roomful of people who want to celebrate us. He made us with insides that knot together in nervous excitement when we don’t want to spoil the story. He made us and we reflect Him. So He must love surprises. I wonder what face He wore when He surprised creation with His love.

I wonder what His delight looks like when we are surprised by His joy and grace every day.

we are friends!

We lost track of time Friday night, circled up in that curiously high-ceilinged Williamsburg living room. Some were strangers and some were friends, but I am growing to love all combinations.

In high school, we had a phrase among my friends that may sound a little silly. In the middle of adventures or as a way to say hello/goodbye or just blurted out because it felt right, we would say, “We are friends!”

It feels foolish to type it out.

Of course we were friends. We spent every weekend together at the coffee shop our church bought for a dollar. We wasted gallons of gas together cruising the loop in our small town, hanging out the windows with punk and indie music blaring. We crowded into basements and bedrooms and living rooms together to watch movies or play games or just to be.

Anyway, something about that statement bubbling out of all the things we did together made our friendship beautiful. And it still is. We all think it is a miracle, really. The group of us from the rural backroads in Iowa are now carrying on shenanigans in different parts of the country/world but whenever we get together it’s the same excitement and “We are friends!” comes rolling out.

Last weekend, our good friends Dusty and Barb were visiting from California. It was kind of like hanging out with the rural backroads of Iowa, even though Barb was born in New York and grew up in California. Friendship is funny that way. It is a wave rippling out from the ocean, reaching further and further up on the sand.

At least that is how I felt driving upstate with Dusty and Barb last weekend and that is how I felt sitting in that curiously high ceilinged living room Friday night in Williamsburg and that is how I felt huddling around a table at Rosamunde Sausage Grill last night at 1 am.

Honestly, my high school friendships are still the best kind. That’s a miracle. But, I am always surprised when I want to blurt out the same silly exclamation when I am far from home. That’s a miracle, too. I leaned in to tell a story to three new pairs of shoulders Friday night and my delight made me squeal. I was so excited to be in their company – to consider them friends – that it came out like adolescent giggles.

It shouldn’t, but sometimes it surprises me how good God’s good gifts are. Friendship is one of those surprises. I never expect for the friendship wave to reach further on the shore, but it always seems to claim more ground.

And even though it takes energy my heart says I don’t have, I always end up squealing with delight – on rural backroads or crowded city streets.

Monday Madness


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Enjoy this list of wonderful things (arts, crafts, music, and generally things that have inspired in the past couple days).

  1. Sleeping at Last new music
  2. Slothpop new music
  3. beautiful mess blog
  4. inkismyfavorite blog
  5. Oh Joy blog
  6. Friends of the Challies blog
  7. this sermon by John Piper
  8. paper lanterns
  9. recycled fabrics
  10. Dr. Seahorse new cd you can download for FREE

Yes, folks. My post today is mostly pointing to inspiration instead of giving any, but there are more important matters… like planning for this weekend’s SLEEPOUT event to raise money for the Micah Project and cleaning up after a crazy weekend…. and enjoying many uninterrupted cups of coffee, accompanied by Miike Snow, Joy Williams, and Brooke Fraser.

I guess my stories about changing a car battery, learning to jerk in my living room, and making sushi at 4 am will have to wait for another day very soon!