It is with love that I introduce you to my college sweetheart and husband of 14 years, Seth.
In a room full of people, Seth tells me I am the most beautiful.
He tells me I look beautiful even when I don’t feel beautiful.
He says to our kids “Don’t you have the most beautiful mama?”
Seth offers manicures and pedicures, but being low maintenance with hair and nails, I never take him up on the offer.
At least once a year, he gives me a complete outfit from my favorite store, always more than I feel is necessary.
When our baby was days old and I was in severe pain from nursing and the kids had taken every last drop of my energy, Seth took my hand and danced with me in the hallway.
When I’m crying in fatigue or frustration, or ranting and raving because something didn’t go as expected, he listens and invites me closer.
And when I reach my end, need a break, when I need filling up, when I’m not so beautiful on the inside anymore – Seth gives me the gift of freedom to do what I need to do to become beautiful again.
My father-in-law and mother-in-law gave me money for my birthday, the only request to use it for something that makes me happy. I knew just what I wanted – to attend a Women of Faith conference where my favorite blogger Ann Voskamp was scheduled to speak. I really needed a weekend away by myself.
I found a floor level ticket on Craigslist. Cyndi promised via phone “you won’t be disappointed” with the seat. Seth, although leery of Craigslist scams, gave me permission to purchase the ticket.
So three days ago, Seth got up, packed the car, loaded three kids, and was off to his parents’ house.
And so began my weekend. The gift. From Seth: The gift of freedom to attend the conference and do whatever it was that helped me feel all was right with the world again.
The gift of being lost in time…laundry, finances, phone calls, putting toys back in their place, organizing files, email, getting ready for the day without kids at my feet. Five hours.
Lost in time so much I forgot to research how long it would take to get to the conference. The trip was 1 ½ hours longer than I thought! If things went perfectly, I would arrive a half hour before the event would start.
One hour into the drive, I hit road construction, driving 5-15 mph for at least 45 minutes.
The gift of accepting what was. It was ok if I arrived late.
The gift of freedom to run in and out of Jimmy John’s, kid-free.
The gift of a quiet drive by myself, the open fields, the windmills. The wind at my back.
The gift of free choice, flipping through radio stations, stopping at songs that spoke to my heart and soul. Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood, I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt, Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin, too many to count.
Car says I have 20 miles of gas and sign says I have 15 miles to Des Moines. I’m not sure I can make it. I fill, just enough to get me there. Isn’t that the way it’s been?
The gift of time. I arrive at the hotel at 6:49, event starts at 7:00.
The gift of learning to trust my intuition, again. Cyndi was not a Craigslist scammer. The ticket was real!
The gift of accepting a table prepared for me. Opening the curtain to see a full arena, beautiful music overwhelming, down a long flight of stairs to the floor level, tears welling up in my eyes as I was led to my seat by one, two, three people, transferring my care along the way up to the 4th row, front and center. My seat did not disappoint.
The gift of laughter. Ken Davis made me laugh so hard I cried. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
The gift of Sheila Walsh’s words “Can you imagine if every day you believed the God of the Universe loves you just the way you are?”
The gift of a beautiful voice in CeCe Winans.
The gift of a quiet room, a bed to myself.
The gift of putting my feet up.
The gift of pizza delivery to my hotel room.
And the next day…
The gift of Liz Curtis Higgs’ words “You are beautiful, right now, as you are, to this God.”
The gift of Christine Caine’s unflinching desire for us to proclaim “Today, I’m going to step into the purpose and power of God.”
The gift of finding myself reflected in a woman I had never heard of before today, Angie Smith. My fears, my dreams, all reflected in her on stage.
The gift of being seen. The original purpose of my journey, to see Ann Voskamp speak, now more than fulfilled, I walked as quickly as I could to the autograph area. I was 31st in line of 35 allowed to photograph and autograph with Ann. My heart was racing, grateful I made it in time. I grabbed the attention of a stranger and arranged for a picture of me with this Ann whose blog has spoken to my soul for two years. Just 3-4 people from meeting Ann, we got word they were shutting down, “only two more.” Ann had to go. I saw the guard approach, I saw Ann’s panic, I saw her heart turn to us remaining in line, looking at each one of us, eyes full of disappointment she could not greet us then smiling in a resigned, apologetic sort of way, cupped her hands with gratitude uttering “thank you,” waved, and turned away with the guard. It took me a while to realize I had welled up with tears of disappointment; I was distracted with amazement and gratitude that those of us left in line were acknowledged so whole-heartedly. Though I did not get to meet Ann, my eyes were fully open in that moment to see deep into her heart. Moments later, Ann on stage, I realized the pull she must feel between her heart and current reality, her book One Thousand Gifts on the New York Times Best Sellers List a crazy number of weeks.
The gift of authenticity accepted in Selah’s Amy Perry. Her story and then song through tears, moving the audience to ovation.
The gift of feeling like I could be me.
And on the way home, I stop at Boondocks USA gas station with only 23 miles of gas remaining. And this time I fill up, and I am filled up.
And when I got home….
The gift of hearing God speak quietly to my heart as I walked in the door – now write it out, live it out. I did, and I will.
Thank you Seth, my dear love of my life, for giving me the gift of this weekend. This gift of freedom, of time, of renewal and refreshment, of remembering who I am and who I want to be, of drawing closer to God, so I can be the wife and mama I want to be.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7