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            It was one of those elegant evenings . . .

            rare for a parson and parson’s wife.

I immediately began to feel like a queen as soon as my husband and I were greeted at the curb by the engaging elderly gentleman in black tuxedo. The pampering continued all evening long. After having our picture taken, my husband and I are invited to enjoy the hors d’oeuvres. Bacon wrapped water chestnuts, a delightful cheese board, and what appears to be extra colossal shrimp, dance before our eyes.

I barely finish eying those delectables until Joyce (founder of Ladies Encounter) says, “Each of you be sure to identify something on the display tables that you would like to have. After we eat, I’ll call each of your tables to go up and get what you want.”

The tables were close to the hors d’oeuvres, and I walked over to browse.

There was almost too much to take it all in.

Can you envision about six or long tables stocked with wreaths, blankets, adorable Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations, hand crafted tall wooden candle holders topped with chunky candles, a collection of perfumes, journals, and gift certificates? I also saw a lovely handbag, an indoor grill, a set of knives, and a toaster oven. Gifts thoughtfully chosen, some suitable for men, and others appropriate for women.

I chose a soft cozy blanket, and joined my husband back at the dinner table.

The delicious meal, which by the way included two meat entrees, elegantly encircled the table’s centerpiece. “Oh yes,” Joyce reminded us, “Each couple please remember to take one of the baskets in the center of the table home with you.” The little autumn basket that was overflowing with chocolate kisses, candied pecans, and lifesavers . . . which is the now-nearly-empty vessel, is a visual reminder of God’s affirming presence still radiating from that evening together.

Joyce and her jolly tuxedoed husband, Erwin, are unstoppable. They sure know how to spoil a folk when they pair up with the Calvin House. Not only had they given us this amazing dinner in an exquisite restaurant, but they also prepared enough gifts for everyone of us. Both the pastor andspouse were to each individually choose one. I think the attendance numbered close to one-hundred that evening.

As our tables were called one by one to go gather our gift of choice, Erwin entertained us with jokes and laughter so as to never have a dull or awkward moment.

As we all claimed our gifts one by one, and I had gathered my cuddly new blanket, the evening was at last drawing to a close. “On your way out,” Joyce announced, “each couple please take a box of paper (four reams per box) along home. Also, each couple please pick up a restaurant gift certificate. There are several to choose from. That way you can go out to eat again.”

Did I mention this was not a fundraiser dinner?

It was an area wide pastor appreciation meal, and free to all invited.

This is the seventeenth year Joyce and Erwin Bassler have given a banquet to honor the area pastors and their spouses. And it’s the second year Rob and I attended. We are grateful for the classy meal and relaxed evening Joyce and Irwin blessed us with again this year.

The first year we went everything was just as wonderful.

On our way home that year, however, much like we squeeze every dollar, Rob and I squeezed every ounce of delight from the evening by recounting, to one another, each indulgence and detail.

This recalling made room for the evening’s blessings to sink deeply into our beings, and to be carved vividly in our minds. The stellar memories would carry us through until we returned next year.

Those memories will soon be far in the distance . . .

Because twenty minutes down the road our car began to sputter *and choke* then die.

That’s right.

But no worries, we have AAA.

What?! My husband tells me we can’t call them his phone’s dead.

And mine? Why ever did I decide to not bother bringing mine. (Yes. I take it everywherenow.)

We’re stuck on route 99 South, a four lane highway, smack in the middle of nowhere.

Our return home from our most exquisite evening, was feelinglike Cinderella’s return home from the royal ball without her carriage.

I was so angry at my husband. How could he let the car run out of gas?

How could I have not brought my phone? How could he let his cell run out of charge?

We were sunk.

Had no choice but to walk.

Thirteen or so miles to home.

I WAS ANGRY, I WAS MAD, AND I WAS VERY GRUMPY.

It was about 9:35 pm

A cool November night.

We had no flashlight.

I was wearing heels and a fitted pencil skirt. Not the kind of clothing for any kind of walk, especially a walk in the night, without a flash light, on a four lane, in the middle of nowhere, at least thirteen miles from home.

Sure wish I had my walking shoes with me.

With no other choice but ot go afoot, we began our trek.

I was grumpy, and a tad frightened by the occasional whizzing by of a passing car. What if they couldn’t see us? What if they could see us? My brave man was walking on the manly protective side. Between me and the road. Oddly he seemed quite happy, and was trying to cheer me up by noting the beauty of the starry night sky, and reminding me that I like to go for walks.

I was not impressed. The last thing I wanted to do was gaze up at the dark sky, and march through the night on a four lane highway in my high heels and pencil skirt. My goal was to get us off the highway as quickly as possible.

The sign said exit #10 Blue Knob one mile.

I do like to walk a couple miles a day ideally, and if I can spare the time. And I was due for a good walk cause I hadn’t walked for a few days. And I do like to walk with my husband, which happens only on rare occasions. And Hmmm this was a rare occasion. And Hmmm he was very present and happily walking with me.

Shortly before we walked onto the #10 exit ramp I began to realize I still had some things to be thankful for. A positive husband who was trying to make the best of a miserable situation. A happy husband who was enjoying a walk with me, even though I wasn’t enjoying the walk with him. And I hated to admit Rob was right, but the stars did look awfully pretty that night.

My attitude gradually began to change from grumpy to grateful when I accepted things as they were, and began to think about the virtues of the situation. After all I could enjoy the long walk with my husband under the canopy of stars. (something I’ve been wanting him to do with me many a day). Or just be grouchy it’s not the kind of walk I want it to be. I can have a grateful walk or a grumpy walk. I choose grateful.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 NKJV

We already walked about 1.2 miles and calculated we would finally arrive home a little past midnight, which would be in three or four hours.

As you would guess, we were growing weary, and had some disagreements about how we could creatively get home more quickly. He wanted to stand at a deserted intersection and wait for someone to offer us a ride. I wanted nothing to do with that. I wanted to knock on the parsonage door, even though it was 10:00 pm, and ask to use their phone, instead of just walking by. (Maybe they were at the pastor and spouse appreciation dinner we were just at, who knows) Rob wanted nothing to do with that.

This walk in heels and a pencil skirt was getting old. I was struggling once again to think about whatever things are lovely, praiseworthy, or virtuous. It was dark and we had no flashlight.

At about three miles into our journey home, we passed by a business with some activity in the back. Not seeing a way to get across the fence, we kept going.

We only took a few steps, however, until we heard a tractor trailer pull up from around the back of the building. With everything we had, Rob and I dashed toward the truck. Tim, the trucker, was a rather rough looking guy with long blonde hair, a bit of a smile, and most importantly a phone.

Rob explained the situation to him, and asked if he could use his phone to call our son to come rescue us. When Tim realized we were contacting our son, because we ran out of gas, he laughed heartily and stated, “Well, you don’t look like ax murders. You two can just hop in with me and I’ll take you home.”

Rob sat up front when Tim moved his collection of food and bags from the seat, and I sat beside the mess in the back. Riding in his rig was an adventure. Along the way Tim crossed a bridge that, according to the road sign, was not sturdy enough for his big truck. And he often swerved to the other side of the road as he became more intensely engaged in conversation with us.

The talking went like this.

“So,” Tim inquired, “what were you doing tonight before you ran out of gas?”

“Well, you wouldn’t believe it.” Rob continued, “We were at the most elegant banquet ever. We were greeted at the door by a man wearing a tuxedo. Then ushered into this beautiful restaurant with huge chandeliers. You should have seen the shrimp, and delicious plate of food. We all were given gifts including a gift certificate to a restaurant of our choice. It was amazing.”

Tim: “Wow. Was that for your work?”

Rob: “Yes.”

Tim: “Oh, what do you do?”

Rob: “Well, I’m a pastor.”

Tim laughs loudly then adds, “Well, I used to go to church.”

As he and Rob exchange further “what’s and how’s”, Tim explains that his rig is his home, his son is in prison, and he’d like to come to church sometime. The conversation continues comfortably, and before we know it we arrive home. As we climb out of the rig right in front of our home, Rob and I both thank him for being our angel. To which he heartily chuckles.

I’m grateful once again.

In celebration of our first year, use the code OneYear for a 75% discount

on the purchase of the live video recording

of our spring 2017 retreat

here!

($5 now until end of November, regularly $20)

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