Date Day: Anniversary Surprises in SF

While reading, listen to our #ReednTori Mixtape over on Spotify.

In a blink of an eye, Reed and I have officially begun our third year of marriage.


How did this happen? It feels like since we said “I do!” on July 10th, 2015, time has gone into hyperdrive! Yet, as I look back across these last two years, so much has happened, and we have grown and changed in countless ways. From college graduations, to trips to Hawaii and NYC, to becoming licensed pastors, to experiencing a new community of friends and family, to getting our first Bay Area apartment...our first couple of years have been filled to the brim! I feel overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of God, to give Reed and I such wonderful lives, and such loving and committed partners in one another. Of all the people in the world, God gave me Reed, and we have been in love since the Spring of 2012. I knew it would be love from the start. But man, it feels like forever ago when we first met...we were just kids! Those people feel like strangers! And here are we are today, daily being renewed and healed by our Creator, experiencing life in places we never dreamt were possible, and leaning into the refining and changing work marriage offers.

I would not trade our life together for anything, and I know that in so many ways, we are just getting started! There is always more to discover, and I love learning new things about Reed and God’s heart for our marriage every day. What a joy! We are incredibly grateful.

As you know, Reed and I celebrated our anniversary a little early, by enjoying a week in NYC last month! (If you missed it, see snapshots of our trip and a NYC guide here!) Since we had that trip, I assumed Reed and I would not be doing anything extra or out of the ordinary on the actual day of our anniversary. I knew that our special day fell on our day off, so I thought we would just spend time together doing Monday errands. Well, I was wrong. Reed told me with a few days notice, that he had a whole day of special surprises planned in SF! I was so excited! As a recovering control-freak, one of the many lessons Reed has taught me in two years is how to embrace surprises. I am very proud of myself for not begging to know this one! ;)

Surprise #1 - The San Francisco Zoo!

The day started with a delivery of a dozen long-stem red roses (is there a better way to start a day?!), and after we got all ready, we set off to our favorite city. (Reed and I live in Foster City, which is right on the Bay and about a twenty minute drive from San Francisco - we love being so close!) On the road, I held in all my guesses about what our first surprise may be (I’m still learning!), and we arrived at the San Francisco Zoo. The zoo!! Reed and I are quite obsessive when it comes to animals, and we nerded out at EVERY exhibit in this gorgeous zoo. For us, being around animals brings out the inner-child and fills us with wonder. My line for the day was, “Reed, God MADE that!” I just couldn’t believe it, and I’m sure I was really annoying. Thankfully, he loves me anyway. ;)

Surprise #2 - Trouble Coffee and The General Store!

After the zoo, Reed took me to my favorite coffee shop and boutique duo on Judah Street - Trouble Coffee and The General Store! Trouble Coffee serves amazing brews, kill-you-dead-it’s-so-good cinnamon toast, and more. It’s the tiniest little shop (the Oakland location is much bigger and a totally different aesthetic), but I love the SF location best. We enjoyed our decadent toast, and then I “ooh’d and ahh’d” at everything in The General Store. This shop has basically everything I would want a store to have: quality, local, gorgeous, handmade goods. It’s really a little emporium, with an eclectic inventory including books, clothing, artisanal housewares, and furniture. Plus - their back garden is positively dreamy.

Surprise #3 - Grace Cathedral, Huntington Park, and Top of the Mark!

From there, we took off to our next surprise: Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill! Something Reed and I bonded over when we first met, was our mutual love for Christian liturgical practice. I love inserting meditative and reflective practices into my otherwise contemporary expression of faith and church participation. I appreciate the reverence and grandeur found in old cathedrals, and how their doors are open all day to the public. Reed and I spent some time walking the grounds, and prayed for those who would walk in, that they would experience God and feel loved. We thanked Him for our marriage and prayed a blessing over the years to come.

After enjoying the Cathedral, we walked across the street to spend some time in Huntington Park. My favorite thing about Huntington Park is the amount of unleashed dogs you can expect to see running around, playing with each other. And yes, Reed and I were absolutely the creepy non-dog owners, walking around, petting every dog we saw. I personally had a special moment with two French bulldogs, I will never forget. ;) After that, we walked a couple of blocks down and grabbed drinks and an appetizer to share at Top of the Mark, a rooftop bar in the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. Our view was breathtaking, and we took the time to set some goals for year three of our marriage. (Spoilers: take a trip to Tulum, Mexico, build relationships with our neighbors, sell our car/buy a new one...and a few more!)

Surprise #4 - Waterbar and an unexpected moment for both of us!

The last surprise of the day was our dinner reservations. This was was the most magical part of our entire day! Reed took me to Waterbar, a gorgeous restaurant on the Embarcadero, made complete with a glittering view of the Bay Bridge. I had seen this restaurant countless times and have always wanted to try it! We savored every bite of our delicious meals and enjoyed hilarious/deep/teary-eyed/fun conversation. At the end of the night, our kind waiter treated us to a complimentary chocolate mousse dessert and my favorite...champagne! Here is where I lost it. Here is the moment I will never forget. As soon as the waiter placed our beautiful dessert and bubbly in front of us, I heard a song playing. Mind you, I had not been paying attention to the music playing in the restaurant all night, but I absolutely could not ignore the song that had just started playing. Like something out of a movie, my favorite song of all time, the very song we walked down the aisle to two years ago as Mr. and Mrs. Reed Sowell, Wake Up by Arcade Fire, started playing in the restaurant. This song did NOT fit the ambience of the classy restaurant whatsoever, and I started freaking out, “Reed, do you hear it? It’s my song! It’s our recessional song!” He started laughing and said, “Tori, I swear to you, I had nothing to do with this. This was not me! I wish I could take credit for this!” We shook our heads in disbelief...of all the songs, of all the nights, and of all the moments, my favorite song, started playing as we said “Cheers to many more!” and clinked our champagne glasses together! I laughed with tears in my eyes, and could only say, “I can’t believe this! Life is pure magic, a real miracle!” Dramatic as that response may seem, I just could not fathom how all the blessings in the world had aligned for us that day, but really, how God had blessed us with each other and the life we get to live every day.


Yesterday was special, a day I will NEVER forget! (Quite frankly Reed, you are an angel!) Writing about our anniversary was (admittedly), a little more for me than it was for you. But I will say this: every life and every day is full of opportunities to be surprised by God’s goodness. We all have things and people we don’t deserve! We all have privileges and opportunities that are really gifts and miracles. Your life doesn't look exactly like mine, and mine doesn't match yours...but every life is bursting with beauty and value! Look around you! It's there! Don’t miss it. Tell people you love them, and tell them why. Order the champagne. Listen to that song as the sun goes down and illuminates the sky. Eat the cinnamon sugar toast that has too much butter on it. Don’t forget, don’t overlook. Live...just live. Choose to be here today, eyes wide open and heart ready, to take in the magic. It’s all around you, ready to change you.