sabbath taking

When I see people out and about, especially people from my church or the presbytery, they always ask how my sabbatical is going and what I’ve been doing (as well as comment on my tan).  They usually seem disappointed when I say something like, just hanging out – spending time with my kids (especially fellow pastors).  It’s like they expect to hear about a great pilgrimage or study.  Nope….I just need time to enjoy life with my family and friends.  That’s what’s renewing my spirit.  And it’s really hard to sum up all the greatness of this summer (so far) with just a few words.  We’ve been busy.  I’ve been spending much more time on twitter and instagram this summer than facebook because all my church peeps are on facebook and it’s hard to disconnect when you see their updates and they comment on yours.   But here’s the gist of our Sabbath seeking:

We had our annual 4th of July Cook-Out with my dad’s family on the hottest day of the year.  The kids didn’t mind.

We hosted 12 people in our house for a week.  The best week of the year:  Vacay 2012!  (more on that later)

We went to Fort Mill to spend a few days with my college roommate (and high school friend – gosh, we’ve been friends for a LONG time) and her sweet boys.  It’s amazing how good time with old friends is so good for the soul!  I even got the bonus of hanging out with four of my friends from high school one night over mimosas and wedding invitation assembling.

Caleb turned TWO (more on that later)

He also had a party with all of his crazy cousins, of whom, he is the craziest

Then he had his two year-old check-up and got rewarded with a cupcake (so did his sister who helped him be brave and who also answered all the nurses questions and accompanied him to the scale.  They didn’t really need me)

For a break from the 90+ heat EVERY.DAY in July, Taylor went to an ice skating party for her BFF

Taylor and I had a mother-daughter day at the waterpark

Caleb, Grammy, and I had a great day at the Fire Museum

Caleb, Taylor, and I got decked out for Tie-Dye Free Donut Friday at Dunkin Donuts

Taylor went to her first play.  She sat on the edge of her seat and clapped enthusiastically at the end of every scene.  SO. FUN.

Taylor and I had another mother-daughter day in which we played in the fountains downtown, went on a carriage tour of Charleston, and saw Ice Age: Continental Drift (which Taylor thought was HI-larious – she was the loud laugher the whole movie)

We have also had several beach days which were not photographed.   On Friday, Russ and I got to go to the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course with my sister and brother-in-law, but unfortunately didn’t take a single picture of that either!   The day before that, we celebrated our 9th anniversary.  It was pretty pathetic, so we are already planning our 10th anniversary celebration to make up for it.  Speaking of Russ, you’ll notice that he isn’t a part of our sabbatical shenenigans…that’s because he’s been working like a crazy person.  Residency is B-A-N-A-N-A-S (more on that later).  I have also been watching a ridiculous amount of Olympics and even watched the whole first two seasons of Downton Abbey (while Russ was on night float for a week and I had trouble sleeping).  I have also had the pleasure of church hopping and seeing some good friends do what they do so well (picking up some pointers along the way).

I remember in high school when I was voted Most Likely to Succeed, I had a mixed reaction because I knew that I would not be successful in the way that most of my classmates viewed success.  So I don’t know if most would say that my sabbatical has been successful so far, but man, has it been fun and full of good things.  I’m hoping the rest is just as fun, with hopefully a little more working out and a little less time in front of the TV now that the Olympics are over, but I’m making no promises.

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bliss

People keep asking me how my vacation was, and I can’t truly describe it well enough to give it justice.  You may think a 13-hour car trip with a 3 year-old and 11 month-old to go to Kentucky and spend six nights/seven days in a house with 8 adults and 7 kids (ages 11M, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7) sounds like a recipe for disaster…but it was quite the opposite.

There was nothing remarkable about the trip, what we saw or what we did.  It wasn’t restful or relaxing (see above:  7 kids).  But it was completely rejuvenating and refreshing in ways that I just can’t describe.  It was good time with our family, with whom I hadn’t spent much time after two weeks of back to back Montreat and VBS and Russ’ six weeks of surgery rotation (which FYI is the worst specialty EVER).

We got to see a part of the country that we had not seen before…driving through the breathtaking mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee and the picturesque farmland of Kentucky.

We got to watch a farmer farm.

There was a lot of running free

But above all else, it was amazing time with amazing people.  We do this group chaos vacation once a year…and it is the best week of the year.  Each day, we enjoy time with the kids, but we also strive for the goal of bedtime so that we can just hang out.  There was a lot of laughter, catching up, stories of woe and of goodness.  It was the opposite of restful because we would stay up until midnight (even 2:00 am the first night), but then get up with the kids at 6:30am everyday.  But no matter how tired I was, it was so hard to go to bed…I even found myself falling asleep in the living room a couple of nights because I just couldn’t go to bed for fear I would miss something.

And possibly my favorite part of the week (even though the guys and the kids are swell) was the ladies day out on the last day.  We toured a winery.

We were done with the tour, wine tasting, and lunch by 12:30, but then just talked and wandered around the vineyards for the rest of the afternoon.  And it was marvelous.  It amazing how you can feel isolated in your issues but after a few samples of wine and a few hours of talking you find yourself saying or thinking or hearing “oh, me too” more often than not.  It was just what I needed.

These women (and their husbands and kids) are some of the best people I know, so it was an honor and a privilege to spend a week with them in the middle of nowhere, KY.

It’s a shame we can’t do this more often, but coordinating the schedules of 15 people with crazy lives for one week a year is a pretty big success I say.  But even so, Vacay 2012 can’t come soon enough.

Gratitude

While I certainly wouldn’t wish a giant cyst and it’s necessary surgical removal on anyone, I do wish everyone had the opportunity to experience the blessings that come from an event like this (or at least to intensely recognize the  blessings surrounding them everyday).  I am truly overcome with gratitude and humility.  I have the best support system ever.

My mom has been here since the night before my surgery (two weeks exactly now) taking care of me and the kids….feeding us, cleaning, doing load after load of laundry, playing with the kids, driving us around…basically loving us in every possible way.

I have not cooked in two weeks and yet have eaten heartily (I take that back – I have only eaten heartily for nine days – since I was in the hospital before that – no hearty eating there).  The amount of food in our house is incredible.  Russ is getting spoiled…poor guy won’t know what to do when the food runs out and it’s back to me to determine and prepare what we eat.  Taylor has also grown accustomed to her “church friends” coming bearing food.  The one night we did not have a new meal (we needed a break to take care of some leftovers), she asked “Which of my church friends is bringing dinner tonight?”  For all of us it’s a double treat because we get to see some of our favorite people AND get delicious dinners.

I love the note in a recent card from a loved one:  “So, I’m southern and feel the need to feed you because that’s what we do when someone we care about is hurting.”  That note included a gift card…we have received a few of those as well, so we can still eat when the meals run out.  INCREDIBLE.

I received lots of beautiful flowers (and a balloon).  It seemed like there was a steady stream of flower delivery people coming in.  Flowers from friends, family, church people, and even the MUSC Dean’s Office (!).  INCREDIBLE.  I used to wonder why people sent flowers for things (other than an occasional love bouquet from your spouse), because really what do you need all those flowers for?  But, man, did each arrangement bring a huge smile to my face!  In the sterile white hospital room, I was surrounded by beautiful color, reminded of love and awesome people.

There were more cards than I could have dreamed

on top of the electronic love through comments here on the blog, on facebook, txt, and e-mail.  I got a stack of magazines to keep my loopy brain entertained and some games to play with Taylor.  I had visitors who braved the downtown craziness.

I am truly humbled by it all.  It’s not that I ever doubted that I had great people in my life or that I was loved deeply by many, but I have just come to a new understanding and appreciation.  I will never be the same (or at least I hope I won’t).

I will begin writing thank you notes tonight, now that I’m feeling better and hopefully won’t fall asleep as soon as the kids are in bed.  I made a list of everything people had done before Sunday because Russ wanted to make sure he knew what to thank people for when he saw them on Sunday…but I added all the non-church people as well for my future note writing (since the drugs do crazy things to my memory).  When I handed Russ the list, he stood there for a second with his mouth wide open – in shock by all of the acts of service we have received.

Shock.  Awe.  Overwhelming Gratitude.

I am grateful for all of you – for your love and support and prayers.  I couldn’t have made it through without them.

Thank you.

Back to Life…

…Back to Reality.   Back in the college days, one of my roommates would taunt another with that song because it would get stuck in her head.  It’s been stuck in my head all week (well, all three days of the week so far) because I returned from an awesome vacation to an incredibly real life.  I think it was even providential that the day before we left for vacation my blackberry died – so I was not able to be contacted by anyone and not tempted to check e-mail and facebook every 5 minutes as I usually am.  I was unplugged, and it was awesome.   The whole week was awesome.  and also perfect:

The beach.

The $50/week beachfront accommodations. say what?!

It pays to have connections (or friends with connections) and be a group of ministers/students/SAHMs on whom people take pity

The company.

The food.

The birthday.

The bliss.

But then after 7 days of perfection and real conversations/group therapy and laughter so intense I thought I might go into labor right there and fun games and success at puzzles and relaxation and pedicures and good food (oh wait I already said that, but then I am pregnant, so I can say it twice), it was back to life and reality.  We came home and immediately unpacked ALL of our STUFF and did laundry and made a grocery list (since there was NOTHING in the refrigerator).  Then it was Sunday.  a work day.  There was worship and a meeting I forgot about.   Then there was grocery shopping with a 2.5 year-old in 95 degree heat and no parking spaces anywhere near the store.  Then it was the start of VBS and preparing for a pulpit exchange and general chaos.  Now it’s the continuation of VBS and final plans for Montreat next week.   You would think that post-vacation I would come back refreshed and ready to take on the world – but this beach vacation wasn’t really full of rest and relaxing.  Because during the daylight hours, there was a very active 2.5 year-old to chase around and a husband who had to study and a me who’s really pregnant.  And during the nighttime hours, sleep was gladly exchanged for late night hanging out with good friends.   And it all went by far too quickly.  On Monday, I remember thinking – “ahhh – we still have 5 whole days” – but all of a sudden it was Friday, and I remember thinking “WHAT?! NOOOO!  How is it Friday already?  I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME!”  I probably even said it out loud a few times.  Because real life isn’t nearly as much fun.  But alas, there was no choice – reality was waiting.

Back to life, back to the present time,
Back from a fantasy yeah.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain at all because at least there was that week of perfection in which we got to live the fantasy.

And the reality really isn’t all that bad – it’s a pretty good life with pretty cool people who make it all worth it. Except the 95 degree heat – I could really live without that.

excuses, I got ’em

Back in the Spring, I decided that I would start the Christian Educator Certification process.   I had already completed all of my class and work requirements, so all that is left is the six part exam.  It’s a pretty intense exam, but I have six months to complete it.   I thought – piece of cake, I’ll do the bulk of it this summer since things will slow down a bit

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH…man, was I having a lapse in sanity…

What was I thinking?!   Of course, back when I had those original delusional thoughts, I did not know that we would have to take Piglet out of daycare.  I did not realize how much work there was left to do on our house – work we hope to completely finish before Russ starts school again in August.  I did not realize how many more responsibilities I would still have at church during the interim time.   And I was blissfully ignorant about how much time and energy preaching, teaching summer Sunday school, Montreat, and VBS would require.   All wonderful, but exhausting and draining.

And we did have an extended trip for family time and vacation with friends – but it was not so relaxing as vacations once were.  Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful for so many reasons…just not as restful as I had hoped.  We would stay up late (late for me anyway) to talk and play games (sleep seems almost a waste when you have such limited time with good friends and good margaritas); we have a little person who likes to wake up painfully early (she hasn’t learned that you SLEEP LATE on vacation); and going to the beach is an endurance test – no more laying out, reading a book, or relaxing in a chair – but more chasing a fearless toddler into the water and down the beach as she chased after EVERY SINGLE dog she saw as well as digging and playing in the sand.

SO…that’s why I’ve blogged a total of four (4) times in the past month – and most of those were just posting pictures.   There has been so much to write about, but so little emotional and physical energy with which to do said writing.  But I feel my soul quieting down a bit, feeling less stressed and more motivated again.  So I hope to write about our many exciting adventures over the past month and our current Staycation – it will be like a show or book that has flashbacks, you’ll get a little present day action, then a flashback or two into the past.  Won’t that be thrilling?!

Three Years = Three Kids

Vacay 2009 was pretty awesome, but it has been so long since I’ve really blogged that I think I forgot how.  What I do know how to do is reminisce and post pictures – so here you go:

The Good Neighbors 2006

quad 06

The Good Neighbors 2009  (three more kids + one more on the way)

beach 09

btw – the one on the way is not mine

Old

There are many reasons lately that I feel old:

  • I will soon be 28 – I remember my sister-in-law starting to say “I’m almost 30!” as if it were the end of the world when she was 28.  PS, now she is in her 30s and says it isn’t all that bad after all…just the anticipation of it.
  • I keep getting e-mails about my 10 year high school reunion…surely they’re sending them to the wrong person –  NO WAY have I been out of high school for 10 years already.
  • I was just tagged in a photo of college friends with the caption “10 years older than the first time we met”.  Then I found old pictures of us to compare.

oldRoommates at 18ish – 1999 – COW Retreat

sw-cold1Roommates at 25ish – 2006 – Sarah’s Wedding

sweet-suiteRoommates at 28ish – 2009 – President’s Day Weekend Reunion

  • I work with youth, who never fail to remind me how old I am and how out of date I am already.
  • I saw a picture of a Victoria Secret model, and my first thought was, “She’s only 15- put some clothes on her!”
  • I see teenagers driving and serving as waiters and I always think they’re not old enough to do that.
  • I’m a minister?!
  • I’ve been married for 5.5 years?!
  • I AM A MOM – DUDE!?

Make it stop.

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PS: lest you think I forgot about Sarah, after going through old pics – there is more scanner fun in the future – perhaps a whole post dedicated to the life and work of the infamous Sweet Suite.  Look out facebookers – I think there is a lot of scanner/tagging fun ahead of me.  and you.  Oh what wonderful photos there were before digital camera – they must be shared with the world.