I recently turned 40, and my husband, John, threw me a surprise birthday party!
He told me about a month before my birthday that he would be taking our immediate family to London for a week.
He told me I would need a few nice dresses as he had planned some special dinners. Since I adore Masterpiece theater, specifically Downton Abbey, this was a thrill! In my little imagination, I am English. Not only am I English, but I wear fancy dresses everyday and have long dinner parties and dances, just like my friends, the Crawleys!
We did go to London, and we had a ball. I remember thinking it was the most perfect birthday of my life. John told me he had one more dinner surprise for me. We were dining at a very historic house outside of London where guests still “dressed for dinner!”
The little drive outside of London turned into a little longer drive, and I wondered to myself if it would really be “worth it”?
Next thing I know, we pull up to Highclere Castle (the location for Downton Abbey)!
John gave me a huge grin and said he made arrangements for our family to have dinner there. As I stepped across the threshold of the CASTLE, a string quartet began playing the theme song to Downton Abbey, and my dad walked out of a room directly across from the front door. Behind him followed my sister, her fiance, my mother-in-law, and friend after friend after friend. In fact, 50 friends in all flew across the ocean to celebrate my birthday with me!
What turned into one of the most memorable nights of my life extended into an epic vacation with my nearest and dearest. John not only planned that dinner, but high tea at Claridges, a river cruise on the Thames, a night at the theater, and finally a private tour of the crown jewels and dinner at the top of the Tower of London. If I live to be 200 years old, there will never be another birthday like my 40th.
On the last night of the trip, I was talking with my friends about the whirlwind of the previous few days. Someone chimed in and asked, jokingly, what I was going to gift John for his upcoming birthday. I grimaced and said I had no idea. One dear friend spoke up and said,
“This must be what grace is like.”
I remember looking at her with a puzzled look, and she went onto explain. “You didn’t earn it. You don’t necessarily deserve it. You can never repay it. It is a free gift, given to you out of love, and you should enjoy it and be grateful.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have replayed that conversation in my head since that night. I am grateful to have friends who have the ability to point me to heaven especially when words fail me. I am grateful to have a husband who loves me so much that he is a living reflection of my Savior’s love. Most importantly, I am so grateful for a faith that teaches me about grace, and salvation, and redemption from a loving God and Father.