About five weeks ago, my friend, Julie, invited our family over for a cook-out. Julie is a busy woman, so I really didn’t think anything of the fact that we had to make our dinner plans so far in advance.

This morning, I saw her husband at church and asked if he was ready for our family to come for the BBQ.

“Oh yeah. We’re going to flip some burgers and hotdogs. It’s going to be a great time,” he said.

We rushed from church to my son’s karate testing, which seemed to take all afternoon, and had just a few minutes to spare to get to Julie’s house on time.

When we walked in, I was a bit confused. Why were 15 of my friends standing in Julie’s living room yelling, “Surprise!”?

Wait! Were they all invited to the cook-out, too?

I looked at my husband and kids, seeking help for my confusion. “Well, we’ll see you later, honey.”

But what about the burgers and the hot dogs?

My brain was spinning. I looked at the 4-0 balloons. I looked at everyone staring at me and smiling. I saw my husband heading for the door. And now a beautiful birthday cake.

Honestly. I think that was the first real surprise party of my life. And I can’t remember being that surprised by {almost} anything. Many of these women had already gone out of their way to celebrate ME on or around my actual birthday, which was about 12 days ago. I never, ever suspected they were scheming THIS!

WHAT a gift. My friends could not have planned a party that would have made me feel more special, more blessed and more loved.

They each gave me a funny card with advice for life in my 40s. Many of them came with a hilarious gift, such as Downy “Wrinkle Releaser”, tweezers to remove all of my unwanted facial hairs and, of course, a tambourine decorated especially for me.

Once we made it through all the gag gifts, they each read a blessing. Let me just say that my love language is words of affirmation. And truly, there is no greater gift anyone can give me than kind words. I couldn’t hold back my tears as they read their unbelievably sweet messages.

Then, they let me have my fun. We put on my favorite music and pretended to be rock stars.

What a great day! I am so blessed. So surprised. So thankful. (If you were there today, thank you from the bottom of my heart.)

And now, my friends, if this is how fun it is to be 40, I’m ready to get started!

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