Disneyland could’ve been my favourite day as an intern, but July 31st 2019 took the gold medal as my favourite day in LA.
The day before my birthday, I took the day off to actually celebrate my birthday. I did what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to do was to go to the beach but I was already burnt. So I got out of LA traffic, went to a petting zoo and hung out with a ton of guinea pigs and toddlers, ate the best chicken tenders at Canes, took a nap, did my first ever VR experience where I went on an underwater adventure with whales, went to Din Tai Fung for chocolate dumplings.
So if you think a day could beat off my birthday celebration AND Disneyland, it is possible because God is awesome and full of life-giving surprises.
I tend to not enjoy celebrating my birthday because I don’t like deciding what I like, and I’d rather the attention not be on me. I prefer it when someone else plans and executes my birthday.
The reason why I didn’t celebrate my birthday on the actual day was because our Chaos Leadership session was moved to my birthday, and I knew I couldn’t miss it. Somehow the email about the rescheduling reminded me on my last week of my internship that I came here for this.
I didn’t come exactly for Chaos Leadership, but I came to LA to learn and serve.
So after I slept late after my birthday festivities the day before my birthday, I woke up late-ish at 6:15AM for a 7AM calltime. I sped to Pasadena, and as soon as I parked my car – I got a call from Pastor Andy. He sounded concerned and I explained that I just woke up late.
But as soon as I walked into the room, everyone greeted me with a ‘Happy Birthday’ song. THAT is grace – showing up late and getting showered with love.
Also, breakfast was provided, and it was bagels and fruitcups!
You can’t really decipher what ‘Chaos Leadership’ is from the seminar title. But that was exactly what it was.
Instead of a teaching-style seminar, we were assigned to different groups with different tasks and challenges.
One group had to invite a stranger to lunch. Another group had to jump in the ocean. I can’t exactly remember what the last group had to do, but I do remember that they decided to make one person’s day the best day they’ve ever had (and honestly, nearly cried during their recap video).
Meanwhile, this is our group’s highlight reel (thank you Lilly! Check out her Instagram, follow her and maybe hire her for your next wedding):
After the session, Pastor David Arcos hosted lunch at his place, and then after quite possibly the best cake I’ve had in a long time, we talked about different kinds of leadership.
My favourite moment was when I was talking about our group dynamic and he picked out a phrase I didn’t even know I used – ‘I always assess’. After all, I am never not assessing.
He later explained by exclaiming, “No one ever says that! I don’t even know what that means.’ Yet everyone in the room completely agreed with him.
Then it clicked in my head that it’s within the group setting that something that was natural to me, became a strength of strategy. I could know of my strengths, but true strength comes from others recognising what makes you you.
To me, that was one of my favourite gifts I received on my birthday.
Being seen and acknowledged for what I can bring to the table, and not an empty compliment that’s there to boost my ego.
At the end of the session, I went up to Pastor David Arcos (it’s weird, you can’t just call him Pastor David) and thanked him for the best birthday yet. I’ve had some pretty memorable ones, from lasertag birthdays to watergun fights to completely missing my entire birthday from flying across timezones.
Pastor David Arcos asked if this was worth ‘giving up’ my birthday, and I said it was worth every second so far.
Just like anything I surrender to God, it comes back into my hands more beautiful than I could ever remember.
We then talked a little bit about what brought me to Mosaic, and what’s waiting for me after Mosaic. But I felt that I had to share more than what was usually comfortable for me. I shared why the word ‘chaos’ meant so much to me.
I told Pastor David Arcos about how God said to me that ‘if I can make beauty out of this chaos, what makes you think I can’t do the same for you?‘
(The story is found here if you’re lazy to read the whole thing, it’s in the final few paragraphs)
In the past few days leading up to this session, God’s been reminding me about His first words to me – in Chaos Leadership, in another session with another pastor, in passing conversations.
It was as if He was reminding me of my origin story, reminding me from who I came from.
That was only the first half of my birthday.
After that, I took a 5 minute nap in my car before going off to Mosaic to serve for Prayer Night. I was extremely tired, yet I remember deciding to commit whatever energy I had left into this Prayer Night.
The Broadcast team surprised me with a Happy Birthday wish during their all-call. The whole church prayed with such fervour for the ‘Here To Stay’ campaign and for lives to continue to be changed through the building in which we prayed in.
And although my memory of the Prayer Night is fuzzy, I remember feeling full and content that this is the God I serve, this is the life He’s gifted me with, and these are the people I get to do this LA adventure with.
I helped with clean up and stayed till about 1030PM, as late as I possibly could before feeling like absolute death. And when I got home within 15 minutes because I found street parking on my first try (thank you Jesus), the boy was waiting in my living room with dinner.
He reheated it for me, and served a delicious dinner. We put on ‘Emperor’s New Groove’. The last thing I remember was that I rested my head on his shoulder after the first song. But according to him, about 20 minutes into the movie, he realised I hadn’t moved in a while. He turned around to see me completely knocked out on the sofa.
He tucked me in, and wished me Happy Birthday.