TOO

On Christmas Day (but really before that because we couldn’t wait so we just did the whole shebang two days early), we brought home a baby Labrador Retriever and named her Penny.IMG_1986

I’m a new labmom, and I want to offer you some ways to know if you are ready to be a labmom too.

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I’m just trying to help you. I didn’t know this before I became a labmom, but there are ways to tell if you’re ready.  I’ve compiled them into a handy dandy list. Refer to it often as you ponder the possibility of bringing home your own furry friend. There are six tell-tale signs that can help you to make your decision about becoming a labmom:

  1. You have too many shoes. I know this is a problem for some of you. But I’m telling you, a labrador puppy will help you with your collecting hoarding obsession in a jiffy. Not only will she destroy the laces and soles, she’ll start with the most expensive pair and work her way down. Labs keep you from becoming too materialistic.
  2. Your shoes are too easily located. When you put your shoes in an organizer, it’s probably to quickly locate them the next time you need to wear them. But that’s kind of lazy, don’t you think? I’m not sure you realize the calorie burning potential of locating a lost shoe. Labs provide exactly that. Think of it as the squats and lunges you didn’t get to yesterday. You’ll look under the couch, the bed, behind the toilet, in the yard, in the trash… And then you’ll find it – under her bed. And chewed in half. By the time you locate it, your heart rate will have been up for the standard daily 20 minutes. Labs keep you in shape.
  3. Your carpets are too clean. No one likes that new carpet look. ‘Lived in’ is really so much more fashionable these days. Why do you think consignment stores, vintage items, and antiques are so sought after? It’s all the rage. I mean, you could go to one of those places and get an overpriced consigned rug, OR you could get a lab! She won’t let that ‘new’ look hang around at all. She’ll be especially good at rounding off the corners. Labs keep you in style.FullSizeRender                                         I call to witness: Bathroom rug #1
  4. You are getting too much sleep. This is problem for most of you, I’m sure. You just slip into bed around 10, and ease out at around 6. That’s 8 uninterrupted hours.  WAAAAAAAY too many. Suppose the zombie apocalypse happens and the zombies only keep you alive if you can stay awake for a SOLID 24-hour stretch, a stretch that involves traipsing through the mud at 2 a.m.? Owning a lab is really about your own safety.IMG_2136           This is how a 24-hour labmom shift leaves you… #deadonyourfeet 
  5. Your papers are too neatly stacked. Perhaps you’re living into your OCD tendencies. You know who you are. If things are slightly askew, do you start to feel a bit queasy? I say – get a lab. Not only will she wreck any chance of order, she’ll save you tons of electricity by not having to operate that pesky paper shredder. Labs basically cure your OCD while saving the environment. Win win.IMG_2046
  6. Your house is too quiet. We have three boys, and when our miniature schnauzer of 12 years died in October, our house became too quiet. Grief is a strange animal. It’s sneaky and unpredictable and just so terribly quiet at times. A few weeks after Prancer’s death, when I caught a glimpse of my eldest holding the empty dog collar and wiping silent tears from his cheeks, I knew we were a family that belonged to a dog. My formerly reluctant husband agreed, and is now completely smitten with our furry little girl. Things are boisterous and loud and filled up once again. The silence has been traded for laughter and gnawing and chasing and chewed up shoes. It’s been traded for walks in the woods, walks up the stairs, snuggles by the fire, and after dinner doggie dance parties.IMG_1994

If  you’re too orderly, too clean, too rested, have too many shoes, or are too silent, it may be time for you to get a puppy too. You’ll lose silence, order, and sleep, but you certainly won’t regret it. Because as Nolan often says, our little Penny is worth more than gold.

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STORM

I grew up in a really, really small town in rural Indiana. Really small. So small, that when my family moved away in 1998, the population dropped a full percentage point.  Our ‘community days’ festival consisted of between 4-6 venders down Main Street, which, when blocked, made absolutely zero difference in the traffic. During said festival, the highlight was the casket race.  This is, essentially, where pallbearers would carry a (living) person in an open casket.  The person would carry a plate of water.  Whosever plate still held the most water at the end of the race, won. (Why didn’t the person crossing the finish line win? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.) This might sound morbid, but it makes perfect sense when you learn that there were exactly 2 possibilities for employment in Lynn, that is if you didn’t own a gas station or work at the school.  They were casket factory worker and farmer.

Truth be told, it was a wonderful place to grow up.  Because there was nothing to entertain us, and nowhere to go, we spent most of our time cultivating relationships on the front porches of one another’s homes.  Although my extended family was 500 miles away, we were surrounded by loving surrogate aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Which leads me to the Ice Storm of 1995.

In rural Indiana, we could handle quite a bit of snow and still function.  But ice is a whole other monster.  Ice = no power = no school/no nothing.  In 1995, I was the horrible awkward age of 15.  Too cool for school, too old for babysitter, but too young to drive.

When the ice storm came, my mother was working as the director of nursing at a nursing home 30 minutes away.  If you don’t know my mother, just imagine Sally Field with the enthusiasm/personality/optimism of Richard Simmons.  Imagine she’s your boss.  Imagine telling her “I can’t make it to work because of weather.” Imagine her driving to your house in her ’92 Pontiac Grand Am and picking you up, because…yeah ya can. So my mother stayed at the nursing home, caring for the elderly (because Jesus), making sure people got to work and picking up the slack of those who refused.

My brothers both (somehow) landed in hotels in the quasi-neighboring city of Richmond with friends.  I, and my best friend, Erin (whose mom was also a nurse and was keeping vigil at the hospital), were stuck in Lynn. Because of those close relationships, Erin’s family was my family and we spent a few days with her grandmother because she had a generator. We pretty much felt abandoned, jealous of our brothers, and IN.CRED.IBLY. bored.  But, eventually, when flushing (and misery) became an issue, we somehow convinced our moms to let us stay home.  So Erin and I, in some sort of mid 90s survivor-style adventure, stayed at our house which had a gas fireplace and ‘city’ water, thank God.  At the time we were both boyfriendless, but obsessing about our crushes.  Which is the worst possible scenario for two teenage girls.  We sang “Always Be My Baby” 1,434,345 times.  Conversations went like this:

Do you think he’ll drive by here on his moped/bike/with his mom/permit?

Probably not. The ice storm.

Oh yeah.

Do you think he’s thinking about me right now?

Do you think mine’s thinking about me?

Let’s get our makeup on in case there’s a fire on the other side of town, and this is the only house that is left standing, and all the boys have to come here!

Uhmygosh! Kay!!

It went on like this for days.  We were like wondering souls in the desert imagining scenarios of otherness.  No one came. We ended up playing cards.  We built a giant snowman in my front yard.

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 (see my hair with no electricity!  And what was I looking at?? There was literally…NO ONE else to look at!)

We kept warm under hundreds of blankets. We resented our mothers.

Can you believe them?

I’d never do this to my children.

Me either. I can’t believe they didn’t get us our own hotel room. With room service.

We burned candles and talked and talked and talked.  She told me she wanted to be a professional beach rater.  I decided on physical therapist.  After the storm passed, my mom said, ‘One day, you’ll look back on this and laugh. You may even thank me.’

‘Ha!’ Was my reply for the rest of high school.

But today, when I saw that it is going to be -14 with tons of snow in Indiana next week, I texted Erin (in Arizona) from my home in North Carolina (we probably moved to milder climates as a direct result of the trauma we endured).  We chatted about our endless ordeal together.  Secretly, of course, we loved every second of it.  Secretly, I would love to spend 4 days my best friend with nothing more than time to kill and snowmen to build and dreams to dream.

So, my dear Indiana friends, if your forecast is correct and you get snowed in next week, enjoy it, even if you’re 15.  Let the lights be out, put the fireplace on, wrap up tight, and dream dreams and play games and enjoy one another.

One day you’ll (really) be so glad you did.

I just hope your toilets work. 😉

BECOME

I remember being in the concrete driveway of your old house. You had effortlessly set up an entire play land of activities with hula hoops, giant homemade bubble wands, a crazy sprinkler, and a little kiddy pool. You were quietly keeping order while sun bathing, and eventually you stood up, picked up a hula hoop, and began to hula. You had managed to get at least 4 hoops going simultaneously. One was around your waist, one on each arm, and one around your neck! Suddenly, we all wanted to hula too!

‘I want a turn, I want a turn!!’ we yelled impatiently.

‘These hula hoops have been laying here all morning, and no one has paid them any attention,’ you responded in your calm, firm way, which we didn’t dare question.

Those hula hoops were boring rings of plastic before they were set in perpetual motion, at which point they became the most fascinating things in the driveway. The same scenario played out with the bubbles, as you took the rope and dipped it into the homemade solution and created the most giant bubble circle I’ve (still) ever seen.

And we’ve been watching you quietly create a life full of beautiful masterpieces with your gifted hands ever since.

I can’t express what your constant presence in my life has meant. For sisters, you and my mother couldn’t be two more different people. She with her exuberance, you with your calm spirit. She with her everyone, you with your each one. She with her drive, you with your patience.

But you have the same Joy, the same Peace, the same Love. Because you know the same Savior. And it is invaluable to behold the wisdom you both possess and to see the manifestation of the Word through both your unique lives. She with her vision, you with your voice. She with her unwavering encouragement in a culture of despair, you with your unwavering testimony to Truth in a culture strife with lies. To witness what God can do no matter your personality, no matter your size (you’re so tiny), no matter what.

What if you had never used your gifts? What if you had never sung your songs? Made your cakes? Painted your masterpieces? Written your children’s books? What if you had never become what God created you to become?

The little 8-year old girl who gave her life to Jesus while reading The Merriest Christmas Ever wouldn’t be who she is. And so many others who have been touched through your music and your art wouldn’t understand our Savior the way you have helped them to understand Him.

And I wouldn’t be who I am either. I’ve needed to see you stand for Truth. I’ve needed to see you take a risk to follow a dream. I’ve needed to see you pay attention to things. I’ve needed to watch you patiently hold up your hand so still and so high, a sea gull would brave the decent for a morsel of food. I’ve needed to see you watch the animals in wonder and in awe. I’ve needed to see you create something wonderful from something plain. (Lord knows I needed you at my wedding. The dress, the flowers, the cake, the music, is there anything you cannot do??) The lessons you continue to instill in my life are plentiful and precious. The hours we get to spend over coffee, over Russian Tea, over the driveway, over nothing, are some of the sweetest moments I’ll know.

Grandmother once told a nine-year-old Jonathan to fix a mistake on his picture by making it into something new. She said, “Gaye always just makes something new out of a mistake. That squiggly line can become anything you want it to be. That’s what Gaye would say.”

Thank you for allowing Him to make beauty from ashes. For becoming the beautiful, wise, amazing, artistic woman God created you to be, despite being a merely a human in fallen world.

I love you.

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KIM

When I was 13, the most amazing thing that could happen to an awkward rising eighth-grader, happened.  My beautiful, fashion forward, has-her-license, Sunflowers perfume-wearing, 16 year-old cousin, moved in with us.  She and her guinea pig, Kiefer, came to live with us her junior year of high school in our small Indiana town.  And when school started that year….

She did not ignore me in the halls.  She did not shut me out of her room.  She did not treat me like the annoying tag along that I most certainly was.

She included me.  She let me sit with her (and the other juniors) at lunch.   She let me ride around with her.  She ate fettuccine alfredo with me after school until we were sick.  We got so close that we eventually chose to share a room so we could talk as late as we wanted.  That year we turned my juvenile lavender room into a much cooler midnight blue and I learned how to appropriately wear flannel, as we were well into the grunge phase of the early nineties.  Oh, and she let me borrow her clothes.

The two years that Kim lived with us were by far the best of my teenage years.  She taught me so much. Her gift of mercy is unmatched.  Her heart breaks when she sees suffering.  And when she sees animals.  She is always rescuing and caring for them.  Which is why that year we acquired a cat, Mischief, who spent the next 15 years trying to assert himself as the dominant creature in our home.  (Kim hates having her picture made, but I did manage to get this shot of her behind our house one day.)

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She taught me about helping.  She completed her chores without complaining and encouraged (guilted) the  lazy three of us into doing ours as well.  Teenage years are tough.  She was such a bright spot in those years for me.

We’ve come a long way since then.  Although we have ditched (most of) the flannels, she is just as beautiful as ever.  And she has grown into one of the most amazing women I know.  I recently wrote her a letter and here is an excerpt from it:

Kim, when I think of you, I think of strength.  I think of a person who lives with resolve and conviction to do what she deems right by God.  I think of passion and determination.  I think of a person who won’t settle.  I think of a tender heart that sees His creation in a way that others do not; I see that you see the Creator through His creation.  I also see a person who has been wounded and scarred by those in whom she has placed her trust.  But greater than her wounds, your wounds, and greater than your scars, is the amazing love and grace you have found in Christ.  What I see now is one who is learning to abide in His love and trust in His grace as she navigates the waters of today, of right now.
 
Kim, I admire you so much.  You have taught me so much about life.  You exemplify loyalty, creativity, imagination, passion, laughter, and mercy like no one else I know.  Your gift set that was entrusted to you by God is so incredibly unique that His purpose for you could be fulfilled by no one else BUT you.  
 
Kim, I love you, so much.  I am a better person because you have invested in me.  I know who God is better because I know you.  I love people more because of having been privileged enough to know and love you.  I look forward to our cousinhood throughout the rest of our life.  I pray that it is filled with drip castles at the beach in the summer and Christmas in the basement in the winter and creek walks in the woods in the spring.  I pray that our unique bond will carry us through the next season of life as it has thus far.  I am so thankful for you.  
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 “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philipians 1:3
Kimmer, on this, your birthday, I pray that you feel every bit of the treasure that you most certainly are.   I cannot wait to see what God has in store for the next year of your life.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! I love you!!!!
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#OPERATIONTOGETHER

Our vacation was so epic, it was named and hash-tagged, #operationtogether.  I thought it only fitting to follow-up on my post ANTICIPATION.  Was it everything I dreamed it would be?  Did my family align with my predictions?  Well, read on.  (Update in red print).

When I was little, I would get so excited about Christmas I would puke.  No kidding.  I would get a sick headache, as a child, and just throw up.  For me, there is as much excitement in the anticipation of an event as the event itself.

It’s exactly the same for me now, as a grown up.

Soon we are headed to vacation.  It’s a big one.  ALL the cousins & Co. will be together in one house for one week.  At the beach.  The introverts in the family are nervous as all get out.  And I’ve driven the relaxed people in the family mad with a series of emails, attempting to preempt any disaster like forgetting pepper.

There will be coffee, sunrise, (the sun rose all but 2 days, when it was extremely cloudy and cold).  beach, repeat – daily for seven solid days.  I’m giddy with excitement and anticipation.  Giddy.  It’s going to be so epic, I think I’m going to call it a ‘sabbatical’ on my email auto reply.   The piety that ‘sabbatical’ implies makes people think twice before asking you to do something.  Besides, God and I have a thing about the beach.  He knows what I mean.

I am anticipating a marvelous week of reading, writing, and loving my family.  Let me tell you about the company I will be keeping….

First, there is my Mom.  Now, she needs this week more than anyone else. Period.  And I hereby proclaim that if her iPhone rings and she even thinks about answering it, I will subsequently and immediately be forced to throw it as far into the ocean as possible.  And her computer.  She needs this week.  She needs that great big ocean and that long sandy beach to get right down to the bottom of her spirit and settle her all the way to her core.  I can’t wait to see it.  To see her fingers dangle off the side of the chair, carelessly.  To see her walk at a regular pace.  To see her smile and linger and not rush.  To see her read and sleep. To see her fuss with her beach hair, which is curly and unruly and beautiful.  She. Needs. This. Week.

Here is a picture of my mom, right before I threw her iphone in the ocean.

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Here she is after the iPhone was drowned. 

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IMG_1875IMG_1926Love you, Mommy.  There is nothing like you at the beach.  

Then, there is my aunt.  She is as serious a beach nut as ever there was.  She will park herself out there on that beach until the day is done.  She’ll drink 3 cups of coffee before she gets out there, then a massive Pepsi out of a massive cup, and she will mysteriously never have to go in as long as the day lasts.  She’s trained for this, if you know what I mean.  She’ll sit and feed the birds, from her hands.  She’ll be the only one still enough and patient enough to do it.

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Here she is attempting to feed the birds.  That seagull was inching towards her when there came up a storm and we had to clear off the sound quickly.  There were 9 screaming children running about trying to gather their things and being peeled from the water.  I’m not sure if the seagull was fed or given an anxiety disorder.

My oldest cousin is exactly like her mother.  She will drag herself in from the beach at the last possible moment of the late afternoon.  She’ll be sorry that the day is done.  She’ll sit idly by, waiting for someone to trip (it will probably be me) on something.  Then she’ll laugh so hard, she won’t be able to talk.  She’ll tell everyone else about it too, calling each of us by the nickname she has bestowed lovingly upon us.  Mine is Nanner.  “Hey Porky, did you hear what Nanner did?  ahahhhahhaaaa……Chippy or Uni, you tell it, I can’t quit laughing.”  My favorite memories of her are from the beach.  Where she taught me to make drip castles.  We’ll still make them.  And we’ll get to talk.  And no matter how loud the people are, the ocean will drown out the sound enough so that we can have our own conversation.

We were able to talk.  Just us.  For about 2 hours.  Here are ruts I dug with my feet while we talked. Treasured, precious, moments.    

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My sister, Keldy, will be there.  She’s my sister by marriage.  And I’m telling you,  I don’t know how we did family vacation sabbatical without her.  I wish you could see what she can do with a kitchen that isn’t hers.  She will get in there, and in 10 minutes, have it make sense for us.  We won’t know where plates or cereal should go until she gets there.  I’m not sure what this is called on the spiritual gift inventory, but it is undoubtedly from the Lord.  I’m so scared because I’ll be there 1 day earlier than she will.  We’ll just have to eat donuts for every meal until she arrives.

Until Keldy arrived, the counters were FULL OF STUFF.  Approximately 16 loaves of bread, 14 cartons of half-n-half, 5 pounds of coffee, 3 varieties of Cheeze-Its and 4 bunches of bananas.  Keldy arrived the next day and sorted us all out.  We only lacked labels… because although everything was perfectly organized, my short-term memory failed me.  Every time I wanted Cheeze-Its (and let’s face it…that’s all I wanted on vacation), I looked in the cereal cabinet (the door of which was broken and fell on my left foot every. single. time).  I’m limping without labels, Keldy.  Limping. 

Ashley will be there too.  Now, I’ve always liked her, but I fell head over heals for her when we went to New York City together 8 years ago.  The Pierce family was a disaster in the Big Apple.  We aren’t fast paced. Like…at all.  All we did was walk from one Starbucks to another complaining about how far we were from an actual beach.  When she found humor in our ignorance of the subway system, the ferry system, and the bus system, I knew she was a keeper.  She fit so perfectly into our family’s hilarities… and I’m pretty sure that was the weekend that my cousin, Jason, decided to propose.  Am I right?

Jason will be there.  And no matter what, he will be talking.  To anyone or anything. We just love to talk to each other, and these pesky things called careers, kids, and home maintenance are constantly getting in the way of our important conversations…which could probably solve global warming, the marriage crisis, and all the wars if anyone would just listen.

When I was six years old, I followed Jason into the woods without my mother’s knowledge.  Four of us did.  We four went into the woods in search of one, who we assumed lost.  We were very dramatic in our reasoning about being disobedient.  “What if someone kidnapped her?  We should find her. We have to find her!”  Instead of telling our mothers of the alarm or waiting for them to finish their coffee, we set out.  Exactly 1 foot into the woods, Jason stepped on a yellow jacket nest.  We were stung from head to tippy toe.  I remember walking around in only underwear and having to bathe in a baking soda bath for several days. 

In a very similar act of drama, Jason, Ashley, and I set off on a walk to the sound side of the island.  Instead of driving to the other side of the island like everyone else, we decided to walk.  “Where’s their sense of adventure?” we said.  “We have to walk!” FOR THE LOVE OF VACATION! We took off across a field with 5 of our children (Michael and Nolan were chasing a kite, the string of which had broken for the second time, and the retrieval which required my son to learn the term ‘trespassing’.)  Keldy had specifically warned us not to walk through the field because of the sand spurs.  Whatev.  We’ll just watch where we step.  (I wish the yellow jackets had entered my memory here.)  Sand. Spurs. Hurt.  Bad.  They can also puncture straight through a flip flop.  4/5 children were in tears, and unafflicted Josiah (read: Michael Jr.) was telling everyone, “you should just ignore the pain.” 3/3 adults were punctured and sweating and holding multiple bleeding children.  And although Jason has gotten us into a few sticky situations, he’s also kind of a hero.  He once rescued 3 of us from a riptide.  Similarly, he ran through the spurs and cacti and carried each child/wagon/stroller across the field.  We’re limping because we didn’t listen to you, Keldy. Limping.

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Don’t let them fool you, the little ones were just as painful.

My uncle, Eddie, will be there.  He’ll wander off daily, and have a seriously unbelievable story to tell when he returns.  Like, we won’t actually know whether or not to believe it unless my aunt confirms it.  I thought he served in the military until I was 22.  He’s likely to pick up a new hobby as well, like surfing.  Or kiteboarding.  Whatever it is, it won’t be coffee and conversation for 16 straight hours.  He’ll find something to do.

Want to hear an unbelievable story?  Well, during one of Eddie’s many excursions with my brother, Jonathan, they saw a frantic woman in a store.  She was looking for a lost debit card.  Eddie, moved with compassion and his gift of evangelism, prayed for her right, out loud, in the middle of the store.  When he got done praying, he looked her in the eye and said “You’re going to find your debit card in the next five minutes.”  (Uhmmmm…..can you say, ‘faith’?)  So, upon finishing the prayer, Jonathan noticed something he hadn’t seen before, “Does your name happen to be Sandy?”.  “Yes…” was her nervous reply (at this point she has to be thinking she is on candid camera).  “Is that your card?” he said, pointing to a debit card on the floor across the aisle.  And that is a true story. My aunt confirmed it.

Kelly will be there.  And we’ll stay up until we can’t hold our eyes open, talking.  Because we can.  And it’s worth it to be tired and grumpy the next day to talk just a little longer, to make one more memory.  Her husband, David, will be there, thinking up hilarious one-liners for all of the idiosyncratic things we all do all week long.

David and I got stuck in the 2 x 2 elevator with 22 pounds of crab legs on our way up to the kitchen to fix dinner.  We busted down the door on the 2nd floor to escape.  It was almost as awkward as when Ashely grabbed Michael’s derrière  at Thanksgiving a few years back. 

Kelly and I made it every night until at least 9:45 p.m.  Vacation is exhausting. We did manage to paint our toes one night, but fell asleep so soon after, the paint got smudged.

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Michael will be there.  He’ll drag the kids around on the snow-sled-turned-skim-board.  For hours. On. End.  The ‘rope’ you see is an extension cord.  (That’s the kind of thing David will comment on.)  But, hey, it’s been going strong for about 5 years.

Mmmmmkay.  Here’s something you’ll need to know if you ever visit the OBX.  This is a raw beach.  Meaning, commercialization has not yet reached every single nook and cranny.  There are undeveloped miles and miles of beach.  AND you can’t swim in the ocean.  The rip currents are so powerful, they knock  you right off your feet.  Also, sharks lurk about 30 ft from the shore line.  David spotted one, and the water had to be evacuated.  Nolan informed me that it was a hammerhead, due to the placement of the fins.  (We once had a shark book from the library, for like 3 months.)  Also, there were giant sting rays.  (See picture.)  Ok, so there was 1, and it was dead.  But still. Steve Irwin. Enough said.  So, rather than risking the lives of our children, we moseyed over to the docile ‘sound side’ of the island.  There, the kids could play for hours, virtually risk free.  The only sea life on the sound side were some minnows and a hermit crab.  Uhm, I get overly excited to see creatures in their natural habitat.  I once drove down the road in nothing but a robe and a towel on my head because Ashely and Jason had spotted a bald eagle 1 mile away.  It was the coolest thing ever.  A real bald eagle, unclipped wings, sitting in a real tree – wild and free.  It was awesome.  Exhilarating.  So when I spotted a large hermit crab in the sound (the kind you can buy at Myrtle Beach for $2) I shrilly screamed “EVERYBODY STOP!!! I’VE FOUND A HERMIT CRAB!!!!!!  HURRY!  SOMEONE GET A NET! I NEED A NET!!!!!  NET!!!!”  At that very moment, Jason walked over, and scooped it up with his hand so the children could see.  We also saw hundreds of dolphins, moon jelly fish, several deer, bunnies, a turtle, and a sign that said ‘watch for bears’.  This beach is legit. 

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My brothers will be there.  They’ll be fully present too.  Jeremy will dig a hole big enough to park a car in.

Jeremy started to dig a hole.  It just wasn’t very deep.  Here’s the thing: we have so many children. There are nine of them, ages 7 and under….and more to come.  As fast as he could dig, children would throw sand back in said hole or see it as an invitation to slide.  Mission: semi-accomplished.

Jonathan will cook.  This is his meal from last year (see previous post)….  I mean…

And here it is from this year:

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They don’t sell this at Costco.  Sorry.

The guys will play football until they have sandburn so bad they can’t move.  It will be on top of the sunburn they all have, except Jason….who will liberally apply SPF 70 every hour on the hour.

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Here are the 50 shades of my face.  I forgot to sunscreen my face one morning.  My nose didn’t take it so well.

We’ll eat ‘Sweet 16’ powdered sugar donuts every day.  Because my granddaddy started the tradition, and we will honor that, by golly.

I can’t talk about this yet without pure anguish stirring in my heart.  You can’t buy Sweet 16 donuts anymore!!!!  Because they were made by Hostess, they are presently not being produced.  I saw today that you can again buy Twinkies.  Twinkie, you disgust me.  GIVE ME MY SWEET SIXTEEN!!!!  Oh sure, there are inferior, bad tasting brands like Tastee-O’s.  But there is nothing like our Sweet 16.  I plan to sue somebody for pain and unnecessary suffering.  For the honor of my Granddaddy, people!

We’ll try to set a time for dinner, bless our hearts.  But we’ll be late every single day.  We just will.  It will be annoying, and we’ll try to figure out why.  And that will take 10 more minutes.  (That’s what my husband will comment on.)

We consistently ate between 6:00 and 6:30.  We told everyone, every night, dinner would be done by 5:30.

All of our kids will be there.  There will be screaming and crying and carrying on.  It’s all part of it.  I am super afraid my kids (who are oldest) are going to teach all the kids who are learning to speak words like ‘lame’ and ‘stupid’ and how to roll their eyes at adults.  But Nolan said today he is most looking forward to watching TV at the beach. Whatev. It’s his vacation too.  We don’t have cable at home.  I honestly don’t care if they max out their screen time for the entire year.  I’m going to stick them in life jackets, put snacks on a low shelf,  and re-lax, my friends.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanied our 7 day trip is to be noted.  For sure.  Children were up between 5 and 6 a.m. daily.  And daily, there were children who needed consoled.  And daily, there were children who fought.  And daily, there were things being hurled from the top of the steps to the bottom.  And they did watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas” at least 27 times.  But at the end of the week, after bubbles, pool time, beach time, sugar (although not too much because of the Sweet 16 debacle), and even a 14 hour birthday party, our children responded the same to our question.  “What did you enjoy most about your vacation?”

“Playing with my cousins!” they all responded.

Me too. 

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And at the end of the week, when we begrudgingly pull out of that drive to go back to our various responsibilities, I will be so saturated in gratitude for this precious family I won’t be able to speak.  Everyone is sacrificing something to come.  Money, work, time.  I’ll glare out that window and try to sear every single moment into my memory, because I know how unusual it is to truly enjoy a family vacation.  I’ve seen every single National Lampoon’s movie.  Our vacations are exactly like that, except we all like each other.

Playing with my cousins are my greatest memories from childhood.  And being with them now is a gift I treasure more and more as time goes by.  It’s been so long since we’ve all been together.  Someone is always in PNG, Cambodia, Africa, giving birth, or otherwise obligated.  There are usually 4 or 5/6.  But this week, we all six made it with families in tow.  My gratitude for these people, for this week, is more than I can bear.  

Thank you, Lord, for your creation, which teaches us of You.  And for these people, who have shown me to love like You.  May these blessings always turn back to praise.  

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#operationtogether

ANTICIPATION

When I was little, I would get so excited about Christmas I would puke.  No kidding.  I would get a sick headache, as a child, and just throw up.  For me, there is as much excitement in the anticipation of an event as the event itself.

It’s exactly the same for me now, as a grown up.

Soon we are headed to vacation.  It’s a big one.  ALL the cousins & Co. will be together in one house for one week.  At the beach.  The introverts in the family are nervous as all get out.  And I’ve driven the relaxed people in the family mad with a series of emails, attempting to preempt any disaster like forgetting pepper.

There will be coffee, sunrise, beach, repeat – daily for seven solid days.  I’m giddy with excitement and anticipation.  Giddy.  It’s going to be so epic, I think I’m going to call it a ‘sabbatical’ on my email auto reply.   The piety that ‘sabbatical’ implies makes people think twice before asking you to do something.  Besides, God and I have a thing about the beach.  He knows what I mean.

I am anticipating a marvelous week of reading, writing, and loving my family.  Let me tell you about the company I will be keeping….

First, there is my Mom.  Now, she needs this week more than anyone else. Period.  And I hereby proclaim that if her iPhone rings and she even thinks about answering it, I will subsequently and immediately be forced to throw it as far into the ocean as possible.  And her computer.  She needs this week.  She needs that great big ocean and that long sandy beach to get right down to the bottom of her spirit and settle her all the way to her core.  I can’t wait to see it.  To see her fingers dangle off the side of the chair, carelessly.  To see her walk at a regular pace.  To see her smile and linger and not rush.  To see her read and sleep. To see her fuss with her beach hair, which is curly and unruly and beautiful.  She. Needs. This. Week.

Then, there is my aunt.  She is as serious a beach nut as ever there was.  She will park herself out there on that beach until the day is done.  She’ll drink 3 cups of coffee before she gets out there, then a massive Pepsi out of a massive cup, and she will mysteriously never have to go in as long as the day lasts.  She’s trained for this, if you know what I mean.  She’ll sit and feed the birds, from her hands.  She’ll be the only one still enough and patient enough to do it.

My oldest cousin is exactly like her mother.  She will drag herself in from the beach at the last possible moment of the late afternoon.  She’ll be sorry that the day is done.  She’ll sit idly by, waiting for someone to trip (it will probably be me) on something.  Then she’ll laugh so hard, she won’t be able to talk.  She’ll tell everyone else about it too, calling each of us by the nickname she has bestowed lovingly upon us.  Mine is Nanner.  “Hey Porky, did you hear what Nanner did?  ahahhhahhaaaa……Chippy or Uni, you tell it, I can’t quit laughing.”  My favorite memories of her are from the beach.  Where she taught me to make drip castles.  We’ll still make them.  And we’ll get to talk.  And no matter how loud the people are, the ocean will drown out the sound enough so that we can have our own conversation.

My sister, Keldy, will be there.  She’s my sister by marriage.  And I’m telling you,  I don’t know how we did family vacation sabbatical without her.  I wish you could see what she can do with a kitchen that isn’t hers.  She will get in there, and in 10 minutes, have it make sense for us.  We won’t know where plates or cereal should go until she gets there.  I’m not sure what this is called on the spiritual gift inventory, but it is undoubtedly from the Lord.  I’m so scared because I’ll be there 1 day earlier than she will.  We’ll just have to eat donuts for every meal until she arrives.

Ashley will be there too.  Now, I’ve always liked her, but I fell head over heals for her when we went to New York City together 8 years ago.  The Pierce family was a disaster in the Big Apple.  We aren’t fast paced. Like…at all.  All we did was walk from one Starbucks to another complaining about how far we were from an actual beach.  When she found humor in our ignorance of the subway system, the ferry system, and the bus system, I knew she was a keeper.  She fit so perfectly into our family’s hilarities… and I’m pretty sure that was the weekend that my cousin, Jason, decided to propose.  Am I right?

Jason will be there.  And no matter what, he will be talking.  To anyone or anything. We just love to talk to each other, and these pesky things called careers, kids, and home maintenance are constantly getting in the way of our important conversations…which could probably solve global warming, the marriage crisis, and all the wars if anyone would just listen.

My uncle, Eddie, will be there.  He’ll wander off daily, and have a seriously unbelievable story to tell when he returns.  Like, we won’t actually know whether or not to believe it unless my aunt confirms it.  I thought he served in the military until I was 22.  He’s likely to pick up a new hobby as well, like surfing.  Or kiteboarding.  Whatever it is, it won’t be coffee and conversation for 16 straight hours.  He’ll find something to do.

Kelly will be there.  And we’ll stay up until we can’t hold our eyes open, talking.  Because we can.  And it’s worth it to be tired and grumpy the next day to talk just a little longer, to make one more memory.  Her husband, David, will be there, thinking up hilarious one-liners for all of the idiosyncratic things we all do all week long.

Michael will be there.  He’ll drag the kids around on the snow-sled-turned-skim-board.  For hours. On. End.  The ‘rope’ you see is an extension cord.  (That’s the kind of thing David will comment on.)  But, hey, it’s been going strong for about 5 years.  IMG_8613

My brothers will be there.  They’ll be fully present too.  Jeremy will dig a hole big enough to park a car in.

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Jonathan will cook.  This is his meal from last year….  I mean…

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The guys will play football until they have sandburn so bad they can’t move.  It will be on top of the sunburn they all have, except Jason….who will liberally apply SPF 70 every hour on the hour.

We’ll eat ‘Sweet 16’ powdered sugar donuts every day.  Because my granddaddy started the tradition, and we will honor that, by golly.

We’ll try to set a time for dinner, bless our hearts.  But we’ll be late every single day.  We just will.  It will be annoying, and we’ll try to figure out why.  And that will take 10 more minutes.  (That’s what my husband will comment on.)

All of our kids will be there.  There will be screaming and crying and carrying on.  It’s all part of it.  I am super afraid my kids (who are oldest) are going to teach all the kids who are learning to speak words like ‘lame’ and ‘stupid’ and how to roll their eyes at adults.  But Nolan said today he is most looking forward to watching TV at the beach. Whatev. It’s his vacation too.  We don’t have cable at home.  I honestly don’t care if they max out their screen time for the entire year.  I’m going to stick them in life jackets, put snacks on a low shelf,  and re-lax, my friends.

And at the end of the week, when we begrudgingly pull out of that drive to go back to our various responsibilities, I will be so saturated in gratitude for this precious family I won’t be able to speak.  Everyone is sacrificing something to come.  Money, work, time.  I’ll glare out that window and try to sear every single moment into my memory, because I know how unusual it is to truly enjoy a family vacation.  I’ve seen every single National Lampoon’s movie.  Our vacations are exactly like that, except we all like each other.

Good food, great coffee, endless waves, people I love….

I’m so excited I think I’m going to puke.

STILL

It’s still in my home right now.  Not a creature is stirring, not even my dog.  2 of my kids are sleeping, because I suggested it and they complied immediately, obviously relieved to give into their exhaustion.  My husband and oldest are on their ‘special day’, which has been in the works this entire summer.  I am getting ready to tackle my final VBS as a children’s pastor (for which I need to do much preparation)….but for the moment, I am going to relish the quiet and be still.

We just got home from Family Camp.  Where Michael and I were asked to be camp pastors/speakers, which aligned perfectly with our theme for the summer, ‘family’.  How could we say no?

Family Camp snuck up on us like a ninja.  We had it on the calendar, but it got here before we could get there fully.  We had spent time in conversation and prayer, but nothing was finalized until late late late the night before we left.  The day we left, all I had to do was pack for the family, and get the kids there by 5:30 (Michael would meet us there from work).

It took me 8 SOLID hours to pack.

I kept walking to my closet to get the suitcase down.  But it was so high, and heavy.  There are 4 suitcases in one….I just stared at it and tried to convince it to come down on its own.  There was bedding to pack, towels, shoes, clothes (for camp??? What in the world do I wear to camp??)  I was so irritated, sweaty, and rushed by the time we left our driveway at 5:17, I was convinced I should hand over the baton because there was nothing pastoral that I had to offer to AN-NE-BODY.

I silenced my kids on the way there.  If I could have just a moment of quiet….

Be still….

We arrived to camp, and because my husband knows me well (I forgot all the paperwork), he had begun the paperwork to sign us all in.  They run family camp just like regular camp.  Boys on one side of the lake, girls on the other.  Bummer.  Wait….  They run family camp just like regular camp.  Boys on one side….girls on the other….  Guess what?  I was in a cabin with 2 other moms of boys.   Thank you Jesus for knowing what I need. My cabin was quiet.  QUI-ET.  Except for the excited chatter of three moms reliving their own camp days, our conversations dragging waaay past ‘lights out’.  One of the moms even snuck out to meet her hubby (it was their anniversary).  Camp felt exactly like it did in 7th grade, when I came to know

….and know that I am God…

Growing up in a pastor’s family, faith has always been a part of my life.  Apparently, I asked Jesus into my heart when I was three.  But it wasn’t until I went to camp as a middle schooler, all on my own, that I remember having a decisive faith experience.  Where I encountered God in a way that was new and authentic.  I knew that He is.  I wish I had never wavered.  I wish I had stayed the course and never went off track.  But when I re-surrendered myself to Jesus 10 years later, I was transfixed back to that alter at camp, and I knew I had a fresh start.  My….how His grace abounds.

It wasn’t until the ride home today that I realized how much I slowed down, how still I was, while at camp.  I didn’t bring my computer, I didn’t check Faceboook or email, and I only texted Michael for logistical purposes.  Okay, and once to tell him I was still madly in love with him (because he set up our coffee maker in the camp kitchen and programmed it so I would have good coffee each morning). Okay and once to respond to a hilarious text from Kelly, and one from Adair.  But only swift responses…no conversations.  Geesh….get off my back.

But on the way home, I felt like I was going so fast.  I looked down at the speedometer and I was going 10 miles under the speed limit.  After 3 days of only walking from one location to the next, my minivan felt just like a rocket.  And I was in no rush to get home.

I didn’t speed up.

I just reflected, and still am, on my time at camp.  On appreciating his creation.  On walking.  On rain.  On walking in the rain. On singing with a guitar by a campfire. On humiliating myself in silly games for sheer fun.  On building a family pine car and racing it.  On meeting new people. On playing volleyball…(oh wait, I already mentioned humiliating myself.)  On stepping out of my comfort zone.  On going without (much) makeup (hey-I’m not a cavewoman). On letting my kids grow up a little.  On conquering fear (climbing that ridiculously high tower and ‘sliding off’ the edge…having to put all my trust in a thin rope/harness and a 20-year-old belayer). On a camp staff who work like mules without grumbling or complaining.  On joy. On Philippians 2. On becoming more like the servant Christ was.  On Michael and the boys washing my feet.  On me washing theirs. On Jesus washing Peter’s.  On Jesus.  On our new family mission statement.  On the importance of being still.

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It shouldn’t take camp to be still.  It should happen regularly, I don’t know, like maybe weekly?  What a brilliant idea.  It should only take the Sabbath to come for me to be still.  It should take me making an observation of something God commanded long ago.  Of course, this camp time corresponded with my finishing Jen Hatmaker’s book, ‘7’, and the final chapter which focuses on stress, and our call to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Originally, the Sabbath had to be planned for, food gathered a day in advance. It wasn’t handed to the Hebrews on a silver platter. This principle remains. I still have to plan for the Sabbath, tying up loose ends and gathering what we’ll need. I still have to prepare the family for rest, enforcing healthy boundaries and protecting our calendar. I still have to set work aside and trust in the wisdom of God’s design. “Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath” (Exod. 16: 29).

Hatmaker, Jen (2011-12-19). 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (p. 216). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What a gift is the Sabbath, to those who observe it.  How I need to heed this command.  O how I need to be still.  For 6 days will I work, and on the 7th, I shall take time to honor my God.  To ‘be still and know that I am.’  

I better get busy preparing.  Sabbath begins at sundown.