Last Friday at noon Glenn and I sat in a very nice restaurant in Pigeon Forge, TN. We were blessed by our benevolent God to get to be part of the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat. Together, it was our privilege to get to speak nine times at this event. We do not know why or how we received this honor that’s all at the same such a great pleasure and an extremely humbling experience. After all, our own marriage is certainly far from perfect and our human weaknesses are always conflicting with our divine aspirations. But I’m telling you, if you’ve never been to this event, you ought to think about making plans for next year. The teaching we heard there was very thought-provoking and action-motivating. We agreed that we would love to get to go back and just soak in the teachings of others and that our marriage could not escape improvement if we could do that. The practical adjustments recommended, if even partially applied, could not help but enrich even the best of marriages. So, if you are thinking, “I wonder if this retreat would help us…”, the answer is “Yes.” Prioritization of time for this is our recommendation.
But, back to the lunch at the nice restaurant….That lunch was actually a highlight of our time in Pigeon Forge, because it was the one time while we were in town, that we got to sit down and eat a meal with our kids, Hannah and Ben Giselbach. Really, it was our first time in four years, I suppose, to sit down to a meal with them, without the wonderful, but sometimes conversation-disabling distraction of their children. Ezra and Colleyanna spent the weekend at our house in Huntsville with a favorite cousin (really sort of a double-cousin), Song Nicholas. SO there we were, soaking in the conversation about the retreat, about the beautiful scenery, about the food, and…yes, even about missing the kids.
We had great food and we all splurged and even ordered soft drinks or tea. (How often does this happen anyway?) Not one of us even shared a meal with anyone. We were getting good at adulting-sans-babies by the time we finished up. We told the nice waiter that were were all done and couldn’t hold a bite of dessert. He replied, to our surprise, “Then you’re free to go. Those folks in the booth behind you took care of your tab.”
I know you’ve probably had that happen. If you have, you know how it makes you feel. You think “That’s just about the nicest thing anyone has ever done for us.” You start thinking about the price of that meal and how that those sweet people knew it was going to be a costly sacrifice, even as they were asking for our ticket. Then you think about how you can’t wait to hug them and express gratitude and thankfulness for their tender care of you. What a very special thing to do!
The only hitch, for us, was that, while we knew these people were attendees at the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat, we did not know them, personally. I looked and looked for them (I knew I could recognize at least one of their kind faces…the sweet face that briefly talked to me as we entered the restaurant.) But I never knowingly saw her again during the rest of the weekend. I went into both ballrooms and scanned both audiences at the end trying to find her. Glenn even ask for their identity from a public speech. But these sweet people were elusive.
If you are either of those people in the benevolent booth behind the Colleys, will you accept our profound thanks for such a lovely gesture. You encouraged us beyond what we could say and made us want to be better, more generous and more anonymously thoughtful of those around us. We promise to pay it forward as we go through our immediate future days. May God bless you for your kindness to our family. “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it to me.” We know that there are a myriad of ways in which we are surely among the least and we are constantly thankful for His mercies shown us through His good people.”
Five little lessons:
- You should come to the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat and you should just go ahead and plan to be better for having come. One couple that we encouraged to come has already informed us that they found light at the end of a tunnel while there. We love that. Even if your marriage is not in a dark spot, the light that Jesus is can shine brighter in your home.
- You should sometimes take time with your adult children without the kids, if this is possible. The babies are the best part of your lives right now, but your adult kids still need some conversation and bonding time with you, too. Adult kids, you really make your parents feel special if you want to hang out with them.
- Christians are the best and kindest people on the planet and they have been very good to the Colley family.
- Pay attention to faces and names. I’m not good at this, but I know Christians who are, and they are blessed because of it. I’m going to work harder at this!
- God’s people are one of His primary conduits today for blessing His people; so consciously be a conduit. Conduits are clean and useful, especially when God’s water of life is flowing though them.