Warm and fuzzy in my heart, cool & breezy in my house. God is so, so good. Gabe and I had the most amazing weekend. Just what we needed and perfect in every way. Thank you, Jesus.
A few months ago (I think), my friend Lori asked me if I’d be willing to come speak to the first-ever Flame Fest, a gathering of Firefighter Wives (and their Firefighters, if they could make it) from around the country. Women who have connected online at FirefighterWife.com (a community dedicated to strengthening marriages and encouraging sisterhood) and were now meeting up in person (most of them for the first time).
Um, women who are loving on each other online and helping each other’s marriages grow stronger and now they’re meeting face to face?
Oh, and it’s in Atlanta, and you want to fly me AND my husband down (and put him to work on video/photography) AND put us up in a nice hotel AND pay us AND I’m only speaking once for an hour and the rest of the time is making new friends, relaxing on the comfiest bed ever and eating at CHUY’S for the first (and second) time??
So Wednesday afternoon, we met Gabe’s mom halfway, and she took our girlies (along with Gabe’s brother’s three kids), and I came home and leisurely packed and prepared. Thursday morning we headed to the airport, hopped on a plane to ATL, and my beautiful online friend, Becca, and her family picked us up. We hung out with them for 90 minutes or so in their living room, then on their front porch (she is EXACTLY like she says she is online, and I love her–and her whole fam), then her husband Adam drove us to the MARTA (train) station, and we headed up to our hotel.
Late lunch at Chuy’s. (I could die.) Evening reception with the Firefighters and their wives. Delightful, relaxing night.
Up the next morning for a day of listening and learning and sharing and laughing (including a fun talk from The Dating Divas). Gabe and the guys headed to a shooting range and lunch, and I spoke to the girls about internet friendships and intimacy and marriage. And also about that one time when my husband almost died and firefighters saved his life.
It was emotional and wonderful, and the women were so responsive and encouraging, and they shared prayer requests with me and personal stories, and it was just more than I could have hoped for.
And Saturday evening, they got all fancy and enjoyed a delicious dinner, a great speaker, and some fun, fun, fun.
I so admire and respect these women. They are some of the strongest women I’ve ever met. Holding down the fort when their husbands are gone for 24, 48, 72 hours at a time, washing their toxic clothes, running their homes and being single moms while their husbands get to “have fun” with their buddies at the firehouse, putting up with groupies (women who are obsessed with firemen like some are obsessed with Justin Bieber), facing the very real, very possible danger that their husbands may not ever come home because of the danger of their line of work.
So far in 2013, we have lost 71 firefighters in the line of duty in our country.
Break my heart.
And that short list ^ of struggles doesn’t even touch the surface of all the hard, complex issues firefighter marriages face. While the divorce rate in our country is a whopping 51%, the divorce rate among firefighters? A staggering 75%.
And these amazing women are determined to do everything they can to bring those statistics down, to save marriages, to mentor younger wives, to let them know they’re not alone, that they have a band of sisters behind them, before them, and around them to build them up and give them the courage and strength they need to make their marriage work.
The dynamics of this conference were like nothing I’ve ever seen. Because instead of a regular marriage conference where a typical couple might consist of a wife dragging a hesitant husband along with her, these husbands were thrilled to meet other firefighters AND are thrilled that their wives have such an amazing support group filled with people who get it. Who get the job, the stress, the lifestyle, the sacrifice.
AND the Firefighter Wives allow no husband-bashing, no mean girl trash-talking. It’s all uplifting, all encouraging, all the time. And I don’t mean that they’re fake happy, denying what’s going on in real life. They share honestly with each other, but the goal is always to build up, never to tear down. “This is what’s going on with me and my husband. How can I make it better, make it work?”
Friends, if YOU are married to a firefighter or if you KNOW someone who is, you could give her no greater gift than to point her in the direction of this amazing group. Everyone is included, no one is left out, and it could change her life.
Gabe and I flew home Saturday afternoon and drove straight to a family reunion. We got home late, had a wonderful time of fellowship and worship at church this morning, now he’s taking a nap, and I’m blogging. And it’s the most gorgeous day in the universe.
So, Firefighter Wives, if you’re reading, THANK YOU. I love you guys, I’m proud of you, and I’ll be praying for continued strength and joy in your marriages. Thanks for letting me be a part of your fabulous weekend. xoxoxoxo!!