Ice Cream Cake on the Patio in Midst of a Pandemic
Brittany Stillwell

Several years ago, before I knew him personally and before he was a fellow 2BC-er and my state CBF Executive Coordinator, I began learning from Ray Higgins. I was riding to a TN CBF Coordinating Council meeting when my carpool buddy received a message from Ray. I can’t remember the context for this conversation, but Ray shared that, every year on his birthday, he reads the Psalm that corresponds with his age **. It quickly became a fun road trip game (not quite what Ray intended, I’m sure) as we read the Psalms that corresponded with our ages, marveling at how they seemed to intersect with our lives so well.

It has become a treasured birthday tradition and spiritual discipline ever since. I love spending the week leading up to my birthday reading my Psalm, looking for the ways it speaks to the year that has passed, and I love the anticipation of getting a new Psalm, trying not to read ahead, anxious to see what words might become my prayer for the next year.

But this year didn’t go exactly like I planned (I’m guessing quarantine birthdays never do) and I did not have a chance to spend time with my new Psalm until a couple of days later. I did, however, make time to have ice cream cake (a Stillwell family tradition) on my patio, with a few strong and compassionate women. It was a strange juxtaposition. Birthday cake with women I admire is a normal birthday rhythm I have grown to love. And yet… it was obvious this birthday was anything but normal, as we sat spread far apart, careful not to touch, sanitizing at every turn, intentionally not inviting anyone inside. It was a beautiful day and a weird day—a combination I’m starting to get used to in this strange season of life.

A few days later I finally found time to spend with Psalm 34.

The angel of the Lord encamps    around those who fear him, and delivers them.O taste and see that the Lord is good;    happy are those who take refuge in him.

Ps. 34:7-8

I immediately thought of ice cream cake on the patio; a delicious reminder of the goodness of God, as I experienced the satisfaction of my favorite birthday dessert shared with beautiful friends. And I was struck by the verses that surround one of my favorite invitations in all of scripture. Sure, we are called to “taste and see that God is good” but this verse does not exist in isolation. It is found sandwiched between talk of protection, deliverance, and refuge; words that wouldn’t be necessary if everything was hunky-dory.  The table isn’t prepared only when everything is going according to plan and life is smooth and normal and easy. In fact, it is often prepared in the “presence of mine enemies”—and still “my cup runneth over.” (Ps. 23:5)

Perhaps some of the best birthday feasts happen on the patio, tucked safely between the garage and the house, with ice cream cake and good friends, in the middle of a pandemic. I have no idea what else my 34th year holds, but I have a feeling it will be beautiful and weird—and hopefully, delicious!

** I asked Ray about this as I was writing this article and it turns out this story has a very fun 2BC connection. Who knew?! Here is what he said: “I got the idea from attending the funeral of Mr. Buddy Sutton, who was head of the Friday Firm in Little Rock, one of the most highly respected attorneys in Arkansas, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in LR, and a recipient of 2BC’s Brooks Hays Award before I became pastor. At his funeral one of the pastors who was speaking said that Mr. Sutton had the practice of reading the Bible each morning and one passage he would read is the Psalm that corresponded to his age, and he would read that Psalm for that year.”

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