Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Favorite Couple's Retreat

A couple of weeks ago, quite out of the blue, Timmy and I decided to put our work aside for a couple of days and head to our all time favorite couple's retreat: the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Oh the memories that we have made both as a couple and as a family at the beaches of North Carolina and Virginia.

As a young dating couple 28 years ago, most of our outings involved trips to the beach.

I remember sewing a white eyelet skirt with matching sleeveless blouse in anticipation of a date that would include an oceanfront dinner and an evening walk on the beach. I recently came across the photo of the cute polka-dotted swimsuit cover-up I made for a daytime beach trip that had to revolve around my working schedule at Chick-fil-A. I recall, as if it were yesterday, one our most important dating conversations taking place as the sun set and we sat together in the lifeguard stand eating watermelon.

A beach date was never complete without a visit to Bergey's - the dairy that made the absolute best homemade ice cream ever. I have such wonderful memories of our many dates that were centered around the beach.

After having been married for 3 weeks, we concluded that we'd rather have a tent than a vacuum cleaner so we traded in the wedding gift and headed to a beach-side campground for a memorable first camping experience together.

As God blessed us with children, all our vacations were spent camping at the beach and playing with the sweet little people in our lives. The picture of Timmy playing in the waves with one, then two, then finally six children will be forever etched on my memory.

A couple of weeks ago as Timmy and I drove around looking at all the familiar sights of the Outer Banks, I had one distinct memory of a time that wasn't too happy. We were in our mid-twenties and Timmy was still on the road to becoming the family man he is today. He was finding that fishing was oftentimes much more attractive than his family responsibilities and he would steal away to the pier as often as he could which was causing more than a little bit of tension in our marriage.

One weekend in particular he offered, quite unexpectedly, to take us to the Outer Banks, about one and a half hours away from home, for a camping trip. I was overjoyed by Timmy's renewed desire to spend time with the family.

You can imagine my surprise the first morning after arriving when we were enjoying a leisurely breakfast as a fishing buddy from work suddenly appeared at our restaurant booth and exclaimed, "Hey man. How much longer until you're out on the pier?! We've been waiting for you forever!" The motive for the family trip was suddenly exposed and I was certainly not a happy camper!

Timmy and I laughed so hard last week as we recalled the incident of more than two decades earlier.

A trip to the Outer Banks always includes a meal at our all time favorite restaurant - Owens', as well as several visits to the area ice cream shops. As a matter of fact, some of the made-up bedtime stories that I used to tell my children even included the ongoing adventures of visiting the beach ice cream shop where the door knob turned into a large, edible gumball as soon as you entered the store.

Although we're middle-aged now, a trip to the beach on a "couple's retreat" always includes wave riding or as some people call it, body-surfing (although it's much more like body-slamming when the wave tosses you around and drops you like a lead brick on the shallow shore line). Wave riding is non-negotiable for Timmy. His bride must always be willing to ride waves with him at intervals throughout the day.

On the first day of our trip I insisted that it wasn't advisable for us to ride waves when the lifeguards had out the "DANGEROUS SURF" flags and we heard that they already had to rescue someone earlier that day.

But on the second day, the waves were manageable even if the water was bone-chilling cold.

During our drying-off, catching-our-breath-breaks, we both enjoyed reading books or looking at magazines. Timmy was all about the farm with his "Pasture Quality" book but I was in serious relaxing mode as I scanned my favorite magazines. I only hoped my cell phone quality was not too sharp as farm business calls came and I answered them over the background noise of squawking sea gulls and crashing waves.

Before leaving our short but wonderful mini-vacation, I scooped up a bag of sand to carry home to the royal blue metal tin that sits on my back porch in the country - so far from sandy shores. Once home again and unpacking, I enjoyed watching Sheridan play on the porch contentedly with the added inches of sand in what she considers a sand box.

I am aware more than ever that these days spent as a couple are of great worth beyond measure. To have weathered the storms of life together, while enjoying the unspeakable blessing of these children that God has given us, is a treasure beyond description. Our couple's retreat reminded me of these gifts once again and gave me a renewed appreciation for the many happy memories in my life that occurred around the sun, the sand, and the shore.

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