Birthday Surprises!

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

You probably already know this about me, but if you don’t I’ll say it now.

Sentimental and Mushy

I am a seriously sentimental mush and my gift giving behavior usually reflects this. 

Knowing that John had a significant birthday this year, I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged it in a way that would be lasting and memorable. I try very hard to give thoughtful gifts that will be appreciated and I rarely give something that someone could buy on their own unless I know it’s something they want but wouldn’t splurge on for themselves.

A Constant In Our Relationship

One of the unexpected gifts of my life has been my time with John, a good bit of which has been spent walking. I know that may sound awful to those who don’t enjoy walks in the country or along the sea, but even when the trails have been tough, I’ve loved the experience and sharing it with him.

Long walks and mountain climbing have always been a part of his life, along with periods of dinghy building and sailing when living near the sea. While I’ve been an outdoorsy sort and have done a good bit of running over the years, I’d never considered doing something like our 105 mile hike through the Alps in 2008 or thought that my everyday life might include the coast path walks we do regularly in Cornwall.

We’re just a four months shy of the fifth anniversary of our first face to face meeting and I have thousands of photographs of John. I have always taken more photos than he necessarily liked, ten images where two would have been welcomed and I can often be heard saying, ‘Just one more shot, please?’  

It was one of my photographs that inspired my birthday gift to John. I took it during one of our coast path walks in Cornwall and it reflects his spirit in a near perfect way. Looking rugged and windblown, I can almost smell the sea behind him and I am reminded of the times I’ve tasted a faint bit salt on his lips when we’ve stopped on the path for a kiss.

My friend, Lauren Finley turned the photograph into the more lasting gift you see above. She is an accomplished artist who does lovely things with watercolor and I never considered anyone else once I decided to give John a portrait of himself for his birthday.

(A Side View To See What It’s Painted On)

Lauren and met for coffee last summer while I was in Atlanta to discuss the photo I’d chosen and when I returned to England a few weeks later, I brought the painting back with me. John never saw it until the day of his party and was very pleased with what he thought was a more handsome version of himself.

My Birthday Surprise – A Dream Of Things To Come

Some of you know the story of how I woke up dreaming of John on my birthday, in September of 2007, a few months before we met online. 

You read that right, I said before we met!

I’ve had some other dreams and waking experiences that were unusual, but even I thought it was strange to dream of having such an overwhelming feeling of love for a man who I identified in the dream as my husband even though I’d never met him and had no idea why I would dream such a thing.

It was very powerful and stayed with me for a few days, but as it didn’t fit the life I was leading in Atlanta and made no sense, I forgot about it until five months later when I made a trip to Cornwall to meet John.

We were out on the coast path and I was walking behind him pausing as I do to snap a photo and I looked up as he crested the hill in front of me and watched as he walked into the sun causing his body to appear mostly in shadow and backlit.

He was the lean image of the man I seen in my sleep and I was suddenly flooded with the memory of the feeling I’d experienced in my dream.

It was an ‘Ah hah’ moment of grand proportion. I got a bit teary as the awareness flooded over me, whispered a quiet thank you to the origin of the dream and hurried on to catch up. 

People often ask me how I could change my whole life as I did by following my heart to another country and the only answer that really makes sense is, how could I not? 


25 thoughts on “Birthday Surprises!

  1. Ohhh….the man of your dreams. No wonder he is so loved by you, and you are so loved by him. Love is miraculous….true love is rare, a treasure to behold and cherish….”these three abide, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love…” I am so happy for your love.

  2. What a gorgeous painting and gift!

    Before I moved from Toronto to Montreal in August 1986 I was absolutely convinced I was going to meet the man there I would marry…and I did, barely two months later. The marriage did not work out but it brought me to NY which I wanted to do and I’m still here, with hubby no. 2. 🙂

    • I really love the painting too, Caitlin. Lauren and I went to the same high school, but didn’t really know each other until a few years ago. She was blogging too, mostly art related and a mutual friend introduced us because of the blog in common thing. She creates some really amazing things and not just with paint.

      As for the knowing piece … good thing you listened and married the first so you could be where you needed to be later to meet Jose. Thanks for taking time to comment.

  3. I am in tears over this story. It is so beautiful and heartfelt. The painting is absolutely superb…kudos to Lauren. When I opened the blog up, all I could say is WOW! If I didn’t have such a wonderful relationship of my own, it would be very easy to be envious of what you two have. It is so obvious how much you two love each other, and all I can say is…I am more happy for you both than I can say.

    • Thanks, Lani …I think Lauren did a great job too!

      As for our story, I still get teary thinking about it myself. I’m impressed with your relationship as well and the way you two still look so ‘obviously together’ (thanks to Facebook) 🙂 and your history as a couple. I always love seeing couples who are clearly still in love years after they met and married.

    • Thanks, Dianne for reading and commenting. I love the painting too and I had such a good time planning it and sneaking around with it to surprise him. He had no idea what he was getting which made it even better!

  4. Thank you to all your readers for such nice comments. Congratulations to John for reaching a milestone birthday, tell him I will do another portrait when he’s hits 3 digits!!!

  5. Lovely!! I had a similar Eureka moment when I found my soul partner. Sadly I was already married at the time. Untangling one life and walking into another was the hardest, most painful decision I have ever taken. I don’t know how that recognition of direction works, but it felt almost as though I wasn’t in control, and paradoxically as though it was the one time I chose with authority how to go forward. Nine years on, we’re still as convinced even though its had its moments!

  6. What a fabulous birthday gift!!! I didn’t know about the dream, but, I love it when life gives you a tiny sweet foreshadowing of what is to come…just so you know when it arrives. I love that. What a wonderful birthday 🙂

  7. You are such an amazing wife! The whole birthday experience sounds lovely and full of thoughtful details.

    As for the dream, my Mom had one of those. I think it was less romantic than yours. A year before she met my Dad she dreamt she was struggling up a really steep hill. At the top, his back to her, a man sat on a fence reading a book. Somehow she knew it was her future husband. She struggled and struggled and he kept reading. She made it to the fence and climbed over, he kept reading. When she breathlessly said hello, he turned with joy to greet her though he’d been oblivious to the struggle. It’s SO true of my Dad! When he’s aware of things, he’s present to them, but he easily gets caught up in his own world.

    Another friend of mine dreamt about a scruffy dog that she wanted to ignore, but somehow knew she wasn’t supposed to do that and that she should love it instead. Somehow she knew that was her future husband, too. She married a guy younger than her who didn’t yet have a career or much polish. Yet he’s been a wonderful husband.

    Both my mom and my friend were/are women who are really sensitive to what God is saying to them and to others. I suspect that you are as well, though you may frame it in different language.

    Anyway, I like that your dream was a glimpse of love and that it’s come true. How could you not indeed!?

  8. That is such a wonderful gift for John. I love the story of your dream. And I’m always as intrigued by the comments you get on your posts. They are as interesting to read as the blog posts themselves!

  9. Elizabeth… that is so romantic! I loved it. 🙂 You reminded me – my husband recognised a photo of me as a child after we met. I was showing him old photos, just before our wedding. He looked at this one of me at about 10 years old with shock and said… “I dreamt of this girl once.” He even told me what was in the background outside the range of the camera shot. Spot on.

    Small miracles are the best. 🙂

  10. Ahhh! So very beautiful!! The dream, the portrait, the gift, the love story, the journey, all of it. How fortunate I am to know about you and your inspiring, lovely life.
    All the best to you, to John, to youandJohn, to your life well-lived. And thank you for the gorgeous glimpses you share!!

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