The last six months have been a season of intensity and change for Curt. He is being challenged on many fronts and has handled the changes with a depth of integrity that makes me so proud to be his wife. He recently turned 37 and as I was contemplating what to do for his birthday, I felt God nudge me to just celebrate Curt.
Every day he pours himself into his relationship with Jesus. Every day he pours himself into his work. Every day he pours himself into his marriage. Every day he pours himself into his children. Every day he pours himself into the young guys he mentors, the couples we counsel, our neighbors, our families, and his friends. He somehow finds time to do all this plus exercise, fix things around the house, wrestle with the kids, play Words with Friends, and watch a little ESPN. He really is my hero.
I felt it was important to rally the troops and give a little love back to a man who gives all of himself and then some to those he loves. So with less than two weeks notice, I invited his friends via email to come to a surprise birthday party a few days after his birthday. I wrote, "Hey Everyone. I'd love to remind Curt what a great man he is and how much God has blessed us. I've been reflecting lately on how good God has been to our family. When we moved here four years ago, we knew almost no one. We spent months introducing ourselves to strangers and building relationships with people that ended up becoming our friends, our neighbors - our family. Those people are YOU. In four years we went from zero friends to an army of friends that love and support our family. How good is God?" Stupidly, I titled the email "Surprise Birthday Party for Curt."
Curt is the master of ruining surprises. He has a sixth sense about him and can sniff out anything out of the ordinary. I was certain we would not make it two weeks without him finding out about the party. The day before his birthday, he busted Sarah and I scheming in her room. He very confidently asked, "What are you girls doing in there? Planning my surprise birthday party for tomorrow night?" I was completely flabbergasted, but those two words, "tomorrow night" gave me hope that he was just bluffing. So I played along. "You mean for your milestone 37th birthday? Why didn't I think of a surprise party. You'll be awfully disappointed tomorrow night at bedtime when no one comes."
We bantered back and forth, agreeing to invite my Mom and Terry to be guests at his surprise party. All day on his actual birthday we kept up the joke. Jumping out and yelling surprise. Even the kids (who didn't know about the real party) got in on the fun. When Curt was leaving work to head home, he sent me a text saying, "I'm leaving later than I anticipated but that's okay. It will give the guests more time to arrive." We "surprised" him over and over all day long. It never got old.
Right before we wrapped up his birthday, Curt busted me responding to the "Surprise Birthday Party for Curt" email from one of his buddies. Instantly and suspiciously, he wanted to know what Jeff and I were emailing about. I made up a quick story about Haiti and he appeared to believe me. WHEW!
I was convinced the remainder of the week that Curt knew about the party on Saturday, but decided to keep up the facade on the off chance that he was bluffing. Curt traveled for work on Friday and I spent the day grocery shopping, prepping food, and stashing it all in our neighbor's refrigerator. I cued the kids in on the secret on Friday night and swore them to secrecy.
Saturday I waited all day for the comments to start from Curt. I expected stuff like, "So when are the guests arriving?" and "I can't wait for my party!" but he said nothing. When we left to go out for dinner, he still said nothing. We talked and ate and he seemed completely oblivious. Halfway through dinner I realized he really had no idea that people were congregating at our house by the dozen to surprise him.
I put my phone on vibrate and texted updates to the babysitter under the table. When our meal was taking forever, I snuck off and told our waitress to hurry things up. I ate as fast as I could without being suspicious and hustled him out of the restaurant with fifteen minutes to get home. If we didn't encounter any traffic, we'd arrive right on time for the party. But then he said these tragic words, "I saved the best part of the date for last. That's right babe. I'm taking you to Auto Zone on the way home. I need to get a part for the trailer."
NO STINKIN WAY! Auto Zone? Auto Zone was literally right on the way home. I couldn't think of a reasonable excuse not to stop. As soon as we entered the store, I snuck off down the car care aisle and sent a text to the crowd at home letting them know we'd be a few minutes late. But then Curt couldn't find the part he need. He doesn't like to be rushed so he stood in the parts aisle FOREVER, hemming and hawing, grunting and groaning, and mumbling under his breath.
The more he deliberated, the antsier I got. I sent text after text. "He can't find the part. He won't leave. Oh no. He's getting frustrated." I was almost over on my data plan, so I threatened to download lots of data on my phone if he didn't make a decision and leave. It worked, but at that point we were fifteen minutes late and our house was filled with over fifty people.
|waiting to jump out and surprise Curt|
But he kept recognizing cars. And he was driving so I couldn't make him pull into the driveway any faster. I kept lying, even though the light was going on for him. When we opened the door and he saw streamers, he knew what was going on. People jumped out from closets. Around corners. From bedrooms and behind doors. SURPRISE!!!!!!!! It was awesome!
After we sang Happy Birthday and ate dessert, Jeff (the guy I was emailing with) gathered our friends, put Curt on a chair in the middle of them, and asked our friends to share with the group how Curt has impacted their lives. One by one, men stood up and affirmed the eternal impact Curt is making on the world around him.
Young men with absent fathers testified that Curt is the dad they never had. Leaders from our church affirmed Curt's stout-heartedness and his devotion to Jesus. His friends bragged on the example he sets as a father. Young couples affirmed the example he sets as a godly husband. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we ARE making a difference. When people were done sharing, Curt's friends and mentors prayed for him. It was powerful. After the guests left, Curt sat down and read more words of affirmation through the letters people brought. I think he smiled for days.