I need to find a cute pair of flip-flops for a wedding gift. Yes, a bit unusual but trust me, totally appropriate.
In the Fall of 2008 I was in a bind. Will was then doing his MBA at UVa, and was out of commission for Friday and Saturday. My sweet and faithful mom was going to come stay with the boys while I went on the retreat that kicks off the C.S. Lewis Institute’s fellowship program, but something came up. I don’t remember the details but I think my mom was feeling poorly. Anyway I needed help.
I was striking out every which way. It’s no small commitment to watch a seven year old, a five year old, and a one year old for a solid thirty-six hours.
I was brainstorming with Caitlin, who was going on her own retreat that weekend. She said that maybe her friend Liz could do it. I ended up flying Liz in from Grand Rapids. She flew in on a Thursday night. I met her for the first time at the curb at BWI. By the time we made our way back to Falls Church, VA I knew and loved a LOT about her.
I’d made arrangements to take the whole crew along with me to my retreat in Wintergreen, VA, which was complicated, but seemed better than the alternative. That Friday morning I had a breakfast and lecture with my group from the Institute, then I raced over to pick up little Will from school. Back at our little condo I threw our things in my minivan because I was meeting with my group for lunch en route down to Wintergreen.
As we piled into the minivan I knew I was forgetting something. I asked the boys do you have this and do you have that. Do you have shoes? Does Sammy have shoes? Finally we pulled out and hopped on the beltway. After a few minutes I looked down and realized my feet were bare! Unbelievably, in the confusion, I didn’t bring shoes. Since we were running behind (no one else was grabbing kids from school or the weekend nanny from out-of-town), I decided not to go back home.
“What size are those flip-flops?” I asked Liz.
Eight. I think she answered.
“Well, can I borrow them for this lunch? Then I’ll stop and buy shoes on the way.”
What could she say, right? So my size ten feet pranced into the restaurant hanging off the back of Liz’s flip flops. Meanwhile she took the boys through the McDonald’s drive-thru barefoot. Since she’s a good sport, we cracked up about the whole scenario.
I can’t really explain why I never did buy another pair of shoes. We surely must have passed a place or two. I think Sammy was sleeping and I knew he’d wake up if we stopped. My optimism that we’d see another place proved erroneous and we ended up arriving at Wintergreen with a size 8 pair of flip flops and a size 10 pair of three inch heels I had packed to wear on Sunday.
Mostly we just shared the flip flops. At one point I did take the boys to the indoor pool in my heels, allowing Liz to visit the coffee shop in the flip flops. It was a GREAT look, I’ll tell you. Shorts and snazzy heels, chasing my toddler around. Liz and I had some great laughs that weekend.
About a year later Liz moved to India to work for the International Justice Mission (IJM). When her time in India came to a close she came to Northern Virginia to work at IJM headquarters. One night we had Liz over for dinner.
“You don’t happen to know Sandy Gavin, do you?” I asked.
“Sandy!” Liz exclaimed. “Of course, I do. I prayed with Sandy this morning.”
“Liz, Sandy was on that retreat with me at Wintergreen! She was there for the flip flops!”
It’s a tiny, crazy world. And I love that. I love that my own embarrassing idiocy has formed connections that are so very memorable.
So Liz is marrying Matt this weekend just over the hill from Wintergreen in Staunton, Virginia. She may not be wearing flip flops down the aisle, but she is getting a pair as a wedding gift.
Giving thanks today for this beautiful bride and the amazing way that God allows us to experience and love one another.
How will you rejoice with those who rejoice today? (Romans 12:15)