“Julie wouldn’t keep a knife near the bed, would she?”

So I wondered as I tiptoed over her parents’ snow dusted driveway late last night. It was so still, the crunching snow thundered under my sneaks. “Someone’s going to call the cops if they see me,” I further assured myself.

I have just completed my first term in Oxford, away from the family. We sold our home at the end of the summer, just before I left for term, and Julie and the kids have moved into her parents’ home near Vancouver. I was able to return home from Oxford for Christmastide, after the eight week term, sooner than I thought. I was able to move my flight forward by two weeks! And, being the responsible husband that I am, I opted not to tell Julie.

Her and my parents were in the picture. My brother in law helped coordinate, as Julie’s mom can leave her email open, so I didn’t want to tell her that way in case Julie would catch an open computer screen. My dad picked me up from YVR and dropped me off down the street from the home. It was 11pm. I checked the upper window where Julie would be. All dark. “Here’s hoping she’s asleep!”

Kids, Don’t Try This at Home…

I gently pulled the door tight to the frame and slowly turned the key. You have to unlock that boot-room door just right to keep it from squeaking (I learned that while we were dating ;). I set my case down ever so slowly, removed my shoes and, after slowing my breath, began my creep up the back staircase.

“What if she freaks? There’s no bat in that room is there?! This may not have been a good idea….”

Thankfully the door to our room at Julie’s parents’ house never squeaks. I still only hesitantly pried it open, not daring to breathe, peeking in.

There she was, all snuggled in under the duvet. In the pitch black, I could barely make her out, but I could hear she was fast asleep and wasn’t just pretending. After 14 years of marriage, you know the difference. It worked! All my fears about the surprise leaking out and backfiring on me vanished. Now for the final trick.

Julie loves having her feet rubbed.

I had woken her up with a foot rub a few times before, but never while she thought I was a nation and ocean away. My eyes had now adjusted to the dark. Quick scan for blunt objects. “The lamp would hurt but I think I could get out of the way quick enough.”

I knelt at the end of the bed, folded the covers back and found those familiar feet.

As I pressed them, soon her breathing changed. I could no longer hear it. The room went from being sleepy quiet, to that terse quiet that sets the hair on the back of your neck on edge.

“It’s you,” she whispered¬†through the dark, “It’s you.” I’ll never forget that moment.

Happy Birthday Son!

But the daring foot rub was only stage one of the surprise. Today was stage two. My son’s seventh birthday! My exceptionally resourceful father-in-law had managed to lay hold of a giant box, which I set up before the kids got out of bed in the¬†morning. I closed myself in it, along with gifts not only for the birthday boy, but the girls as well – including a giant bear for Anna.

“Surprise!” What a blast.

To be sure, it’s been a sacrifice to be apart for term-time. But it hasn’t been void of sweetness as well, and fresh appreciation for the incredible gift God has given our family in giving us one another.



Categories: Family

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