I decided to split this post into two days after I started. Consider this PART ONE
It's that time of year: vacation posts are popping up everywhere on blogs. Most of the ones I've seen? Some beautiful beach somewhere or mountains or something else glamorous. Ours? Piling in our new mini-van and heading across entire states of Missouri and Illinois to get to two places that may not seem glamorous, but are never the less near and dear to our hearts. We will save the beach vacations for later.
We left bright and early Saturday morning to make it to Louisville by suppertime. I told Brent as we drove into the city that it finally felt like we were visiting instead of returning "home," as it has been three years since we left. But that may have been a little premature, because as we turned onto familiar streets and visited familiar faces and worshipped at our old church, I had to swallow many lumps in my throat. We stayed with some great friends, Justin and Heather, and visited lots of others, and then headed south to Nashville to be with my sister, her husband, Dan, and their two girls, Caroline and Ellie.
I should mention that as we pulled into Louisville it started raining, and this should have been a sign to us of what lay ahead, as we never saw the sun again. When we got to Nashville Tuesday the weather was cloudy but warm with no rain, and Wednesday morning it was a little sunny, but the rest of the time-- from Saturday through two Sundays-- rain rain rain. As we were driving home Brent finally took the co-pilot chair to rest a little and as I drove down the highway raindrops once again started hitting our windshield. It was then the silly English teacher and constant philosopher in me saw a perfect metaphor: I noticed that if I focused on the rain drops themselves as they splashed and collected on my windshield before I wiped them away, they were all I could see and the road became blurred. But, if I focused instead on the road and my surroundings, I didn't even really notice the raindrops. And even though there were a few moments of cabin fever with three little ones, I feel like this really summarizes what we did on this vacation: we were so caught up in just enjoying one other and everything around us, we hardly noticed the rain.
I always have a bajillion pictures [which is totally a number, I promise], and never quite know how to go about posting them, lest I overwhelm everyone. I'm just gonna do a few of my favorite moments from the trip, and throw the pictures in along the way. [And then at the end when it's just my sister and my mom still reading, they will at least have a good update ;)]:
*BEING BACK IN THE CITY*
Moving was a very hard transition for me. When we decided we were going to Louisville, I cried. I just KNEW I would hate it. And then I didn't. And I made some the very best friends. I fell in love with our church. I had the best year of my teaching career. And then though I was excited to move home, I didn't know what to do with the feeling I was experiencing like the rug was being pulled out from underneath me. Even as I type this, three years later, it still makes me sad to think about leaving Louisville, because it shaped me and Brent in so many ways. But it has made returning there so sweet [and at times, bittersweet]. Though in different ways, Brent and I experienced a lot of "moments" while we were there this time. Maybe we are getting more nostalgic? But I think the Lord just really revealed to us how He was so present in our time in that city.
*THE PEOPLE! OUR PEOPLE!*
This is why our vacation trumps any beach vacation, even with the rain: We spent it with some of the best people.
Justin and Heather let us stay with them, the day after they returned from a week long trip with high schoolers, and in the middle of them closing on their NEW HOUSE!, and right before their anniversary trip! To say they outdid themselves is an understatement. We kept them up too late talking every night, but we just couldn't help ourselves-- we love them. I didn't even get pictures of them, but I did get a picture of Blythe trying on all of their marathon medals.
Then we were able to briefly pop in and say hello to some good friends we made through our small group, Hannah and Landon. We really wanted to see them as they will be moving soon and we don't know when the next time we would have the chance would be… but mainly I wanted Blythe and their cutie son, Emerson, so meet. And Hannah, the cookies were uh-mazing!
And no trip to Louisville is complete without "The World's Best Team"! This crew and I taught together for two years, and when I walked into that middle school as a very green teacher, I was intimidated by the ease and skill by which these guys taught and related to their students. Little did I know, they would help me and shape me into the teacher I am, and that along the way we would become a family. Which is strange because just look at us? We kind of look like a random group of people thrown together- but that is why it worked! And since I met them almost six years ago, we haven't let a year go by without getting together. I hope we never do. Our time together was so short, but we still managed to laugh until bathroom breaks were necessary and hug and pick up right where we left off. I made some other great friends while in Louisville, but I think this group may have been the very specific answer to my prayers when we moved there.
We ran into some other friends from church, and I even had a couple of wonderful former students say, "Hey! We want to see yoU!" so I met them for coffee and realized that my little 8th graders had grown into beautiful women. They even made a blanket for Blythe. So sweet. We also got to see our very first friends we had in the city, and meet their beautiful new daughter, Adalyn. We plopped on their living room floor and talked as if we'd just seen them last week. I was reminded again to never take the people in my life for granted.
If you don't have a sister, you may not understand, but there is something cathartic about being with each other. Even though Kali is 8 months pregnant, she was ever the gracious host, but more importantly, so much fun to be with. We had one day where our men said: "GO OUT!" and Kali wanted me to help her shop for items for the nursery that needed to be de-pinked, and so we went. And we laughed at lunch. And we talked for ours. And I made fun of her indecisiveness. And she didn't get some of my creative ideas that were a little "Out-there" for her taste. And we shared smoothies. And we breathed deep in the beautiful gift our parents gave us when they gave us each other.
I was so happy I got to help her get things a little put together for my nephew's new room. This was another reason the rain was a blessing: I wouldn't have wanted to come inside to actually get everything done, but as it was, I was able to completely paint his room, hang things on the walls, and hang things up in the girls' room for Kali and Dan.
It felt like such a small thing to do to repay her for all the big things she has done to help me out with Blythe in the past year.
My mom once told me that her wise mother once said to her in regards to a family they knew that said they only were going to have one child so they could "give her everything": Well they aren't giving her everything if they don't give her a brother or a sister. Her words echoed in my heart as I spent time with Kali.
Brent and Dan often refer to one another simply as, "Brother." They eagerly wait for the moment they can break free and play games together, or throw the football, or bike [more on that in a minute], or WHATEVER! They can share theological conversations, or laugh at the craziness of the family they married into. I am not too naive too know that this is a rare and beautiful thing.
Now here is the little story of biking: after grilling and helping clean up supper, the guys whisked away the first evening thinking it may be their only clear day to bike [they were right]. They hopped on their mountain bikes and hit the trail, apparently forgetting they are not 15 anymore. Both of them had crashes. Brent's was a little more major then he first let on, having flown over the handle bars and hitting the ground face first. His helmet was dented, and his face looked pretty bad. He felt like he had been in a car crash and had to take it pretty easy the next few days. He is feeling much better now.
*FOURTH OF JULY!*
I love the Fourth of July. Brent and I have spent three of our sixth Fourths with Kali and Dan. Even though we had to stay in the garage for most of the evening, we still managed to light off a few smoke bombs and sparklers in the rain.
Not that the girls cared…they hated the small things, so it was yet another reason the rain was a bit of a blessing, as it kept a lot of people around us from doing anything too big! Blythe didn't mind any of them though!
Although there is nothing like dancing in a good smoke bomb, is there?
more to come tomorrow…