Birthday Row

There’s something that I love about early mornings – the stillness, the crispness of the air, the metamorphosis of rich colors transforming the sky. When I was a kid, my dad used to wake up my mom, sister, and I at 4:00am, then drive us to the edge of the Grand Canyon. We would put on our headlamps and start hiking down the trail in darkness, the world around us still so black that it overwhelmed our senses, our eyes searching to find the steps in front of us. As time passed, the sky above and around us would turn from midnight to navy to vibrant blue, the sun gradually waking, bringing forth day into the world and enabling us to see the countless buttes and buttresses extending for miles in every direction. When sunlight hit us, we celebrated the fact that we were in the most beautiful canyon in the world by pulling out the backpacking stove and cooking a gourmet breakfast of Southwestern-style hashbrowns coupled with hot tang (yes, hot tang!)

Through this, I’ve come to believe that there’s no better way to start the day than by watching the sunrise.I think that was one of the reasons why I loved rowing so much – it required me to get my lazy butt out of my bed early each morning and be with with my teammates out on the chilly Spokane River, having finished rowing practice before the alarm clocks of most other students on campus had even sounded.

Since I stopped training, I have gotten out of the habit of waking up that early, but this morning somehow I woke up wide awake at 5:30am. I laid in my bed to listen for the wind (I tend to be a fair-weather rower). It sounded like a still morning so I decided to bring in my birthday with a row. I said a quick prayer that it would be a birthday row, not a birthday swim (as boats can get tippy on the first row of the year!) then headed out the door and walked the two blocks to launch a boat at Riverside Boat Club.

As I came around the bend past the B.U. bridge, Boston came into view and  rays of sunlight started to come over the horizon. I didn’t have my camera with me in the boat, but it looked something like this:

(photo copyright Steve Dunwell,

I felt like God was telling me, “The sun is rising on a new day in Boston.”

The Psalmist wrote:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
(Psalm 19:1-4)

I noticed that as the sun came over the horizon, everything changed. The monotone world beamed with color. The sunlight penetrated into even the darkest of places, bringing light and warmth to the city of Boston.

Time and time again, I have seen that is a reality in the spiritual world as well. When I was in college, I was searching for the truth, and one night I prayed that I would fully know that Jesus is who He says he is, that God would reveal Himself fully to me. The next morning I woke up and literally the whole world looked different – the grass was vibrant green and the sky was bluer than I’ve ever seen it. There was something in me that had changed –  I knew that everything the bible said was true – my doubts had been replaced by an assurance of faith. There was an unexplainable presence of peace and love in my heart like never before. Something in me had shifted, and the only way I know how to explain this is it was God.

Trader Joe's gave me these flowers to celebrate my birthday. They are super gorgeous and smell even better than they look. Lilies are definitely my fav!

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). There’s something about Jesus – When we follow Him, His light comes into our hearts, into our souls, into our being. In the same way that the sun rising transforms the world that we see, when Jesus comes into our lives, He transforms us to make us more like Him. Later, Peter wrote: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

I praise God for being born this day, 27 years ago, and for Christ revealing His love to me, bringing me from darkness into the light. I thank God for my parents who have loved and supported me unconditionally. I praise God for the friends He has put into my life who are continuing to encourage and hold me accountable to be all the Christ has made me to be. Each person in my life has written a footprint on my heart; I know that I would not be where I am today without each of you.

Tonight I get to go to dinner and swing dancing with friends to celebrate this day. I feel so blessed to have such amazing people to share life with!


4 thoughts on “Birthday Row

  1. I like this post. Thanks for sharing Kelly. I want to go see the sunrise now!

    I hope you have an amazing 27th year!

    Smile :)

  2. Wow!
    Thanks for an amazing blog about the sunrise, Christ’s light, and your journeys with rowing and in the Grand Canyon.
    It reminded me of our incredible Rim to Rim hike on your Dad’s 50th birthday. God gave us a spectacular sunrise, and a beautiful day together.
    The sun is just rising over Denver this morning, and it’s so good to see and feel His presence!
    I was thinking of you when I heard Hillsong’s “Hosanna” song on Tuesday night. I’m so inspired by you and your generation rising up in selfless service to Jesus!
    Lots of love and prayers for Unite Boston while you’re on your mission, Kelly.

    Uncle Lee

    • Hi Uncle Lee! I love that part of the Hosanna song that you referenced – “I see a generation, rising up to take their place, with selfless faith, with selfless faith.” Yes, God, may we be that generation!

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