If you have been a longtime 'Letters and Stories' reader, there is a girl named Ivy G. Chiu who has been mentioned a few times already. Today is Ivy's birthday, and I would like to share this story to thank her and celebrate the joy she's brought to so many lives, particularly mine.
I have always believed in following one's intuition. And never has it proven to me more accurate than when I became friends with Ivy Chiu.
We did not attend the same schools, but during my college years I often saw her smiling in pictures with many mutual friends and overheard snippets of conversation about her acclaimed status as a talented musician, cinematographer, and overall outstanding person. Perhaps it was our shared career paths or the sheer overlap of our networks within the Asian-American Christian community, but for some reason, I had this idea that we would be really good friends if we ever met.
Last fall I had the opportunity to test out this theory after we ended up living in the same city and joining the same small group around the same time. However, for more than a month we did not exchange more than pleasant introductions. She was always surrounded by people. By the time we arranged a meeting, now as assigned accountability partners, it was January, the month of Ivy's birthday.
In fact, it was the day before her birthday that we ended up across from each other at my dining room table. In hours we went from strangers to unearthing our deepest struggles with narrative arcs that could only be articulated so well by prior practice. Our greatest hardships, though vastly different in content, had left us with the same determination to cling onto a hope that seemed to constantly slip away. It was incredibly energizing yet draining at the same time to pour out my own soul and in return be filled with another alike. Only much later, after facing considerable difficulty eliciting the same enthusiasm from other friends for personal life stories, would I eventually learn the hard truth (from Ivy, in fact) that only a small subset of people in the world are willing or capable of being that emotionally vulnerable to another person. I am grateful that on that night, we were two of them.
Ivy, in many ways, is the version of me I dream of being. When I tell friends that I am a filmmaker in Austin, they ask me, "Oh, have you met Ivy?" Selflessness is a virtue I value above all, but I worry one day Ivy's back will break from the way she bends over backwards for anyone in need. I have also never known anyone who has 477 likes on her profile picture or who is literally nocturnal.
But for all her admirable qualities, there has never been a hint of envy within me - only sheer gratitude that for this season, I am able to walk alongside her so closely and reap the enormous benefits. Each day, I am reminded of the privilege it is to be Ivy's friend. To rejoice and weep with her (although she's usually crying during both). To have her pray for me boldly. To text her long paragraphs about my fears that she responds to with equal urgency. To hear the truth from her in a way that hits deeper than anyone else has tried to penetrate.
In one of my darkest moments she suddenly said to me, "You are loved." I tried to mock her use of such clichés, but tears began welling up in my eyes instead. I didn't realize how long it had been since I stopped believing that.
My friendship with Ivy makes me believe in God's sovereignty and timing. Had I gone to UT, she was involved in a college fellowship I would have never joined. When I first moved to Austin, I had joined a different small group before changing my mind. Had we both not joined at the same time we might not have ended up accountability partners. And had we not poured our lives to each other on that fateful night, giving me hope that there was someone in this new town with whom I could feel known, I would have lost my way these past few months.
It has only been a year since we became friends, but our friendship already feels timeless.
Happy Birthday, Ivy. I hope you receive with joy and obedience the good gifts our Father will give to you this year.