Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (Part Four: Union Street Inn)

Welcome back, dear ones, to our nautical trip down memory lane. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed revisiting this experience, walking through each moment, smelling the smells, tasting the food, seeing the beauty, and jotting it all down before the crispness of the memories fade.

My mom was out of town when I published the first three installments of this series, and came home to find this birthday gift waiting for her on the internet. She has tried to speak to me about it, but the words keep failing and she hugs me and says “Someday I’ll be able to talk about it…”

So thank YOU, to each of my blog readers, for giving us this opportunity to tell our story, and for accepting it so lovingly. You’re the best cheerleaders in the world! If you’re new to this series, part one can be read here, part two here and part three here. And now, I present to you…part FOUR! Settle in for this one…

~

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As I mentioned in my last post, if my mom and I ever go back to Nantucket, we will most certainly take the ferry and skip out on the tiny-airplane-over-the-ocean-thingy — in fact, we briefly considered skipping out on our return flight and doing that very thing, if the timing would have worked out! — but I have to say, the Nantucket Airport was quite the fantastic welcome.

This was no cement and brick structure, cold and airporty.

It was…gorgeous.

Grey shingled walls and roof. Clean white trim. That tarmac full of tiny, rich-looking planes. And, on the inside, instead of little cushioned rows of seats, there were wooden benches and…rocking chairs. ROCKING CHAIRS!!!

We were in love at very first sight, both of us.

The airport was our first drop on the tongue of what Nantucket had to offer, and we immediately knew we had landed in a very special place on the planet.

In fact, if you want to be a real Nantucket geek like me and know even more about the airport, you can read this interesting article that outlines the airport’s recent renovation, as well as describes the policies that keep Nantucket Island looking so uniform and beautiful. It’s fascinating. Well…it is to Nantucket geeks. The article can be found here

(Wait, what? Did I just seriously share an article about an airport renovation? Yes. Yes, I did.)

Anyhow, walking through that completely unique airport, feeling SO HAPPY to be alive, to have made it, to be rid of a sinus headache, to have both feet on the ground, I was first met with a precious navy blue sweatshirt on a rack just outside of the gift shop. “OH!!! I adore that shirt!!” I gasped.

“We just got here!!” Mom laughed.

“I know, right?” I chuckled. “But I love it. I need it.”

We took a vote and decided it was ridiculously soon to buy a souvenir, so we kept on walking, but we had this awesome feeling that, if the first thing we saw was purchase-worthy, we were in for a GREAT TRIP.

(spoiler alert: I bought that sweatshirt before our flight home and wear it just about every other day. M’favorite.)

We quickly grabbed our bags because, tiny plane, and, just like that, we were free to go. Our vacation could officially begin!!!

We said goodbye to our fellow tiny plane survivors, all of us exultant and chatty about the experience we’d just shared, and walked excitedly out of the pretty doors, straight to a row of taxis where, before we could even worry about what to do next, an eager driver immediately stepped forward and asked us “where to?”.

Neither Mama nor I had ever ridden in a taxi before, so we were a bit goosey about the whole experience; the cool island air, the exciting week ahead, the fact that we had just zipped across the ocean in a Cessna, coupled with our first taxi ride…it was the perfect formula for face-splitting grins and giggles.

While the driver loaded our bags, the two of us quickly murmured together in the backseat, consulting the little “guide to tipping” I’d printed off for mom’s purse. Our only tipping experience in the world thus far had been at restaurants, salons and spas; taxis, bellhops and concierges were all new to us, and we so wanted to treat everybody right on our special trip!

We quickly got the hang of it, though, and, by week’s end, Mom — a generous person, already — was passing out bills like a post-redemption Ebenezer Scrooge.

Our driver talked easily to us all about Nantucket as he squired us through winding streets, pointing out important buildings and sharing interesting bits of trivia; one thing we learned right off the bat is that Nantucket Island is very pure and historically preserved. There are no billboards, no fast food, no restaurant or market chains of any sort and very particular codes for new structures. The result is a kind of village-type beauty that I had only read about but never seen, and I just couldn’t stop staring, in wonder, at the scenes before my eyes. It was a feast, one upon which my beauty-hungry heart would continue to gorge all week long.

On one narrow street, in particular, our taxi began to slow and we were pulling up to the curb of the beautiful Union Street Inn.

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Now, backtracking just a bit, in the weeks leading up to our vacation, we had quickly reserved three of our four nights away at a more remote location on the beach (which you will hear ALL about later), leaving us just one remaining night to find lodging; with the rest of our week taken up in the country, we were hoping to spend this first night in Nantucket proper, close to all the action.

The only problem with that is there were about a thousand choices and, oh my goodness, they were all beautiful. It was like “pick a mansion, any mansion”, you know?

That is, until I landed upon the stellar website of the Union Street Inn. Once the site loaded upon my screen, with its gorgeous photography and magazine-quality decor, I simply could not move on. I was absolutely smitten.

I couldn’t believe our luck when their reservation calendar showed that one room was still available for our free night…yay!!!…

that is, alas, if we were staying for more than one night.

Like most popular inns and b&b’s, Union Street had a reasonable two-night stay minimum.

“Noooo…” I wailed, sure that we were destined to be at this inn, determined to be a part of its history while the opportunity was ours. How could we possibly set foot on the island, knowing it was there and yet not calling it home? T’would be tragic, I tell you!

My heart pining and pounding like it does when there is a sale at Anthropologie, I e-mailed the inn, told them of our situation, and basically groveled at their feet. They were so nice, encouraging me to keep checking back and, if it was nearing our trip and no one had reserved the room, they could open up a one-night reservation for us. It wasn’t very likely to happen, I was warned, but it wouldn’t hurt to try, so long as I didn’t mind waiting until the last minute to snag a reservation.

I could handle that. I was in love, after all, and love will make you do crazy things, like go on the trip of a lifetime without nailing down your reservation until it’s too late to get another room!

The inn’s manager and I e-mailed back and forth a couple of times, touching base about the room and, by jing, what do you know??? Just a few days before our trip, glory hallelujah, we GOT it.

I was beyond thrilled.

I had just known, of all the websites I’d visited and all the beautiful places we could have stayed, that mom and I needed to kick off our trip at the Union Street Inn — we HAD to! — and, though I’m wrong a lot…

this time I was so right.

The Inn was amazing. Situated right there on the narrow sidewalk and street, just down the block from Nantucket’s picturesque main thoroughfare, it was nestled snugly in a row of shingled houses that looked like something straight out of historic New England.

Wait, that’s because it WAS something straight out of historic New England. Listen to the description…

“Occupying an 18th-century whaling captain’s house, this high-end boutique inn is a 1-minute walk from Main Street, a 4-minute walk from the ferry terminal at Straight Wharf, and 0.4 miles from Children’s Beach.

The luxurious, individually designed rooms include period details and feature free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Some have wood-burning fireplaces.

Complimentary hot breakfast is cooked to order and there are also free afternoon snacks. A patio overlooks a garden.”

Is anybody else out there swooning right now?

I AM!!!

Lucky for us, since we had left Tulsa before dawn, we arrived at Union Street Inn just in time for those free afternoon snacks! Making the acquaintance of the manager and then stowing away our things in our pristine room, we had the sweet luxury of sitting down at a table on the spacious and quiet back patio to a variety of teatime treats and coffee.

Heaven, it was.

HEAVEN.

The air was crisp and perfect, the mood was tranquil, and the treats, delicious. What a perfect way to kick off our time on the island, and to fuel up for an afternoon and evening of exploring.

Mom, by the way, was still beaming.🙂 Is she not the cutest 64-year old girl you’ve ever seen??

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There was no doubt about it, we’d found us a spot in this world, one of incandescent happiness and relaxation. We leisurely finished our repast, had a refill of coffee, took some time to unload our things and freshen up in our room, and then set out, on foot, to see what this Nantucket had to show us.

Now, I will save the details of that unforgettable jaunt for my next post (stayed tuned!! You won’t want to miss the bustling Main Street, the homemade ice cream and the shopping!!) and, fast forward, instead, to the moment when, many hours later, tummies full, hearts SOARING from all we had just seen and experienced, we walked, in the dark, back to the inn to call it an early night; our day had begun many, MANY hours ago, and 8:00 p.m. was feeling an awful lot like midnight!

As we approached the little steps that led to the front door, however, a light fell across the threshold and I looked up to see a couple exiting the foyer, starting their night on the town just as we were ending ours. We stepped aside as they descended the stairs, nodding and smiling at them in greeting before beginning our own trek up the stairs to go inside.

But before we could, the woman stopped, laid one hand gently on my arm and another on mom’s, looked us deeply in the eyes with the most genuine expression I think I’ve seen this side of heaven, smiled like an angel, and lilted, with a voice full of otherworldly joy, “I hope you two have a wonderful night…”

It was a simple but world-stopping moment, an extraordinary act of friendliness in this increasingly unfriendly world and it sort of stopped mom and I both in our tracks. We thanked her, gushingly returned the sentiment, and then stood, gaping, at her retreating back.

“Who was that?” I whispered.

“I don’t know…” Mom said, her voice matching mine in wonder.

“Does she own the inn?” I guessed, marveling over the kind familiarity that had passed between us. “Do you think she recognizes us from our I.D’s or something?…”

“I don’t know…” Mom repeated.

The woman had just been startlingly beautiful, for starters. The kind of beauty that you don’t see every day. Her figure was petite and perfectly trim, her bob haircut was sleek and shiny, her eyes sparkled with a rich soul, and that outfit, though: figure-skimming ankle-cut jeans, a simple and classy black sweater, a leopard-printed belt with the perfect amount of taste, and skim brown flats that just shouted style and class.

At least that’s the way I remember it. Sometimes I think she might have had a detachable fur collar on her sweater. And then I think the sweater might have been a twin-set cardigan. And then I wonder if I made up the leopard-print on the belt…

regardless, she looked like a movie star from days gone by, one who had voluntarily left Hollywood before becoming jaded, and had been living out her days in anonymity and health and beauty. And the John Hamm lookalike who was escorting her looked so happy to be hers and she looked so happy to be his. They were, in a word, dazzling.

Mom and I eventually retrieved our chins from the path and scuttled up the stairs and into the inn, but this unusual encounter had somehow added the perfect story to end our day.

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Our night there in Room No. 5 at the Union Street Inn went on to be as relaxing and luxuriating as I had hoped it would be. The bathroom in our room was minuscule, as the reviews at Trip Advisor had warned, but I didn’t see what the problem was in that: it was gorgeous and clean and looked straight out of a magazine!

The room was perfectly cozy and immaculate, the kind of clean that refreshes your soul, the very essence of what you shoot for in the look and feel of your own home, but in this instance, on this one glorious night of your life, you didn’t have to lift a finger to get it to that state.

How delicious it felt to shower away the day of travel, not one responsibility on my brain, not a worry, not a timetable; I might have gone through a thousand degrees of mental anguish to find my way to this island, wrenching my heart away from my husband and children, flying across the country on those dying-flying machines, but now, here, with my mom beside me in this perfect room, I was immediately tapping into a deep rest, a time of refreshing, that I didn’t even know would be beneficial for me.

And here I thought this trip had been for Mom!

With open windows pouring sweet Nantucket air into our room, Mama and I settled into our four-poster bed for the night with our books, two like-minded and like-hearted women propping up our feet in the primary way that delights us, whether we are in the Northeast or the Midwest, and we read to our heart’s content.

And then…

we slept.

Like babies.

~

One thing that can be said about our time in Nantucket is that we didn’t waste time.

Primping and long grooming sessions could be done in Oklahoma, but not here: we had exploring to do! Food to eat! Stuff to buy!!

It struck me many times on this trip how happy I was to have this experience well into my adulthood, all of my man-hunting days behind me. “Let my hair be untamed! Let my make-up be passable! No one knows me here! No one will remember me! Hallelujah, no one cares, and neither do I!!!!”

It was a fantastic way to live, especially since my very thick hair, next to the ocean, was an untameable beast. And I just let ‘er fly, like never before.

All that to say, we typical slow-pokes readied quickly the next morning and made our way back down the stairs, full of excitement for the day ahead, to the inn’s dining room and kitchen where a hot, made-to-order breakfast awaited our command.

“Is this real?” I asked myself as we walked through the maze of historically-preserved rooms. “Have I died and gone up yonder?…”

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The dining room, so quaint and picturesque, was a tempting place to sit and enjoy our food, indeed, but the fresh fall air beckoned us back out of doors with a call that we couldn’t resist. To the garden patio we went!

I marveled once more over the beauty of Union Street Inn, the cleanliness, the order, the perfection.

“Could I not live here, for good?” I sighed. “Or at least stay here once a month?…”

Mom and I are dreamers, both of us, and we had only been eating for a couple of minutes before we started imagining out loud about how often we would frequent the inn if we lived in Boston. Every fourth weekend, to be sure.

Our laughter and our daydreams mingled in the air and unbridled joy was our comrade as our breakfast was consumed.

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The blueberry pancakes were scrumptious, the sausages the fattest, and we felt like the queens of the manor. But before we had quite finished our patio breakfast, one more blessing came our way when, to our surprise, the celebrity couple we had briefly met the night before, looking just as beautiful in the daylight as they had under the street lamps, came outside and took their seat at the table nearest us on the patio.

We exchanged polite greetings once more and, before too long, had begun to acquaint ourselves. They did not own the Inn (ha!), they were not former movie stars (aww, shucks!), and they, too, were as enamored as we were with the beauty of Nantucket.

It was a nice, lively chat, with words easily flowing and, before we returned upstairs, they offered to take a picture of mom and me on my camera. “That flower behind you is just so beautiful,” the woman said. “You two look just like a picture!”

We returned the favor for them and, just like that, we were on our way, my heart a little sad to know that, since we would be checking out of our room in just a few minutes, we would likely never see this couple again.

It was a pity, for I could have stared at them all the day long.

We said our goodbyes to them, then to the inn’s manager (who kindly offered to store our bags for the day until we checked in to our new hotel), to our beautiful Coastal Living bedroom, to the screen door that I adored, to the quaint lobby, to the yellow buffalo-checked dining chairs, to the spacious back patio and garden, to the kind wait staff and, with our hearts already full of memories, my adventurous mother and I, her homebodied mate, made our way back to the streets to do some more exploring, which, again, I will share in more detail in my next installment.

Our precious time at the Union Street Inn had come to a close.

Or…

had it?

Skip through the hours with me, if you will, to late in the afternoon when, full-up on sight-seeing and shopping for the day and eager to begin the next chapter of our trip, our feet stepped one last time over the threshold of the Union Street Inn to retrieve our bags from the foyer.

At least I thought that’s why we were there; what I could not see with my common eyes is that a sort of magic — my favorite kind in the world — was at work in that room and strange and amazing things were about to take place.

Grabbing our bags from their neat pile in the corner, we were about to load ourselves down like pack mules and walk to our shuttle location when, would you believe it, our new friends materialized once more, and the four of us again began to converse. Turns out, some friends of theirs were also vacationing in Nantucket and they were meeting them in the foyer for a group excursion.

I was so happy for this chance to say a final goodbye, and I tried to convey to the woman, without sounding like a flatterer, how happy I was to have met her, and how she and her husband were genuinely special to us just from the short time we had conversed, but I needn’t have worried, for God, as ever, was very near, and had very special things in store.

“I know the answer to this already,” she said, smiling knowingly at mom and me from behind her shaded glasses, “but you two are believers, aren’t you? Am I correct in guessing that you are my sisters and that we’ll be spending eternity together?”

“We are!” I confirmed, delighted to my toes. A mid-westerner, through and through, I had just never once dreamed that we would stumble upon other Christ-followers in Nantucket and, though I had not been able to shake the familiarity I felt with this couple, I had been reluctant to put my finger on its source. I had hoped, I had prayed, I had wondered, but, to my shame, I hadn’t dared believe it.

And now my joy knew no bounds.

Wordlessly, like magnets, we crossed the room and embraced as family.

“I knew it,” she murmured, hugging me like a daughter, a sister, a friend.

“I did, too!” I laughed, tears filling my eyes as I recounted how reluctant I had been to leave them that morning.

Our entire group exchanged heartfelt hugs and greeted each other anew, one by one, our acquaintanceship left behind us as our true kinship took root and sprang up like some enchanted tree in a faraway Kingdom. Clasping hands with mama and me, the woman went on to recount the recent loss of her mother, the way God had allowed her to speak to her mom about Christ, and the way she had been abundantly blessed just by watching mama and me interact with each other.

“Hold on to each other,” she encouraged us, tears spilling onto her cheeks. “It’s so beautiful to see a mother and daughter together, loving each other, enjoying each other….it has ministered to me so deeply in my grief.”

I’m telling you, and I will tell you all the way to glory-land that, right there in the foyer of the Union Street Inn, the floor just fell out from underneath my feet.

Why? Why was this “chance” meeting such a big deal to me?

Because, though I have seen proof of God’s sovereignty and kindness my entire life, though He has led me, faithfully, every step of the way, I never stop being shocked and amazed by it.

In the “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief” sort of trajectory I was born into, I am always looking, always inspecting, always longing, to see this work, to see this power, to see this proof that God is, indeed, real and active and working, and yet, when I do see it — again and again and again — I see it as if for the first time. Like a hungry child, I cry out and He feeds me. And He does it the next day. And He does it the next day. And I stand amazed, every single time the food reaches my soul.

Precious readers, to see and know, deep down in my heart, on our first full morning in Nantucket, that this mother-daughter trip might have been about something bigger than just my mom, than her birthday, than me, than our relationship, than the things I could see and understand and orchestrate…

to see that it reached beyond our own life, our own state, our own story…

it just made me want to weep.

My mind reeled back through what it had taken to get us to this inn, at this moment, with these people, the little things that had seemed random and circumstantial, those reviews I read that kept us away from Martha’s Vineyard, the room at Union Street Inn that had remained free, the timing that had allowed us to bump into this couple one, two and now three times…

not a bit of it seemed so random, anymore.

It was just another beautiful step in my long, long journey of learning to trust the God who made me and to rest in His will for my life, whether he has me in Tulsa or Nantucket, and any hidden doubt that I’d held onto about this trip being Spirit-led, planned by God, every detail, just flew out of that beautiful screen door, never to alight again.

I was free in that moment, free to trust Him, free to praise Him…

free to believe.

Mama and I had left our nests in Oklahoma to find this sister and brother in Nantucket, and it was one of the most joyous and awe-inspiring parts of our trip because, yes, Nantucket was beautiful and remains so in our memories, but the REASON it is so beautiful is because God was there, from start to finish. What joy. What grace. What LOVE!

As we bowed in prayer with our newfound family, hand grasping hand, voices lifted to God, I realized once more that the Christian life truly is a pilgrimage and one of the most beautiful aspects of that journey are the fellow-travelers we meet across the way. Some we do life with, day in, day out, meeting to worship together weekly, through the breadth of our days….

some we simply pass as we’re walking and, joining hands for a moment on our way, we spur each other on.

We meet to part.

We part to meet.

How sweet it was to meet at the Union Street Inn.

~

Ah, lovely memories! Thank you for hanging in there with me through the recounting of this sweet tale. I can’t move on without sending you first to the Union Street Inn’s website, but I urge you to do so cautiously…you just might fall in love. To take a look, click here.

And stay tuned, for a fun-filled visit to the sights and shops of Nantucket! Until then, find us on Facebook!

 

Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (Part Three: the Journey)

Welcome back, dear readers! I can’t thank you enough for travelling with mama and me on her birthday adventure and lending me your ears to share our memories. If you missed the first parts of this series, find part one here and part two here! Happy reading!

~

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I would say our mother-daughter trip began early on a Monday morning, September 21st, 2015, to be exact, but…

it actually began before then.

It began at Trip Advisor, scouting out all the best places to eat and stay and shop in Nantucket. It began at Dillard’s and J. Crew and Banana Republic, buying new sunglasses and loungewear and cardigans to take on our trip. It began with an online friend who listened to my fears, prayed for me, helped me plan and told me about a special book that would end up playing a big role in our trip (more on that later). It began one dark night, as I rocked my baby boy on the edge of my bed, tears flowing at the thought of spending ONE night away from this beloved extension of my heart, let alone four! It began with heartwrenching goodbyes to each of my children late Sunday night, the unsurety that I always feel about us making it back together again filling up my soul with trembles and doubt. It began with one last tiptoe up the stairs to drink in the sight of their sleeping faces, praying with all my heart that I would hold them again. It began with an amazing husband, deep-down happy and eager to take on a week of housework and homeschool, without blinking an eye, so he could honor his mother-in-law and bless his wife. It began with a daddy, willing to splurge on the trip of a lifetime for this wife who is so different than him, but so worth it…

And then, yes, our trip literally began. Still dark outside, I kissed and hugged my husband one last time, my tears bravely tucked away for the rest of the week – I was determined! This was MOM’S trip, and I would not sully it with my homesickness! – and walked resolutely down the sidewalk, my rolling suitcase making quite the statement on our cobblestone path.

“Something BIG is happening!!” it reverberated through the silent morning, “Mrs. Gore is going places!!!”

My daddy helped me load up my bag – we were traveling very light – and with the thud of the back hatch and three car doors, we were really on our way.

I was keeping a secret, though.

All the way to Tulsa, though I spoke oh so brightly and tried very hard to conceal the fact that I had a massive (MASSIVE!!) sinus headache, by the time we made it to the airport, I was as close as I had been in some time to throwing up.

I wanted to cry!!!

Why was this happening, now, of all days???

I can’t rightly convey the misery, trying to be chipper and focused on Mom’s special day, yet really unsure how I was going to make it another minute without dying.

The headline would read: Local Woman Dies in Tulsa Airport of Sinus Headache and Acute Plane-o-phobia.

And now I was in a real pickle. I had a whole pack of Tylenol Cold and Sinus in my carry-on bag, but I am quite sensitive to medicine.

What if it made me so sleepy I couldn’t function?

What if it made me even more nauseous?

What if it make me so hyper I’d be WIDE AWAKE on the flight?

What to do???

Finally, I could stand it no more. Throwing my paranoid collection of questions to the wind, I took the full dose and just prayed for the best. This headache could ruin the start of our mother-daughter extravaganza, and it simply had to go.

Thank God, about ten minutes into our flight to Dallas, the pain began to abate, and I could think clearly and smile sincerely once more.

Great news, yes?

Not so fast.

By the time another ten minutes had passed, I discovered a new crisis: my limbs, thanks to the full dose I had taken, were beginning to feel like jell-o, jiggling about in a bowl in the refrigerator.

I did my best to snuff out this alarming awareness, but the escalating thickness of head and limb became impossible to ignore when we stood up to disembark for our layover and my main question became this: HOW AM I GOING TO WALK????

How was I, in this heavily drugged-up state, to carry our bags and act normal for Mom? I needed a wheelchair…a fainting couch…a conveyor belt…a man to carry me…anything!

But this was my first test of selflessness and I was dead determined to tough it out: how I managed to walk across that airport with our bags and pillows and normally converse with my mom and the other folks we met on the train, I’ll never know. I was dying inside. Dying.

No longer from a headache, but an overwhelming desire to dig a hole in the airport tiles and hibernate for the winter.

For a girl who is rarely sick and simply wanted to give her mom the week of a lifetime, this was a lot of drama to face, especially before 8:00 in the morning.

Thankfully, though, sometime during our flight to Boston, things began to even out and I was no longer ruled by the headache or the medicine. I’d been traveling on a pendulum since leaving our house, swinging first this way, allllll the way to the left, and then swinging the other way, allllll the way to the right and how WONDERFUL it felt to be back in the middle again!

And this was one of the funniest parts of our trip, our time in the airplane together.

Flying used to be fun for me and I was a well-traveled gal, but once I had kids, a new anxiety was born, and it settled with a vengeance.

Therefore, while we were in the air, this trip became just a teensy bit about me. Obviously, I had to have the window seat so I wouldn’t be by a stranger whilst trying to compose my inner junk, but I also couldn’t have the window shade raised so I could block out the view and pretend that we weren’t in the clouds, but on a happy little bus, on the ground.

I also couldn’t speak. Or look around. Or make or listen to jokes.

So basically, my mom was stuck in the middle of the row, in darkness and absolute silence. But she and I both knew that this was just part of the getting there…I was deeply suffering for her, because I LOVE her…and she was both tickled and touched by the drama.

Neither of us, however, had any idea that our first two flights were just the prologue to a greater drama that lie ahead for us.

After walking in confused circles at the Boston Airport in pursuit of our new gate and meeting many…er, frank?…Bostonian airport workers who obviously thought we were daft Oklahoman looneytunes, we finally were directed to a completely different wing of the airport, one with a separate name, security gate, and staff.

This seemed odd, but I couldn’t make sense of it. I’d never seen a set-up like this in all my acquaintance with airports; we were in too big of a hurry to do much guessing, though and, arriving at our gate, we had been seated for approximately two minutes…

(we even had time to take a selfie!)

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…when our names were called over the loudspeaker.

Puzzled, we went to the front desk to speak to the associate, a kind lady who greeted us with one simple question: “We just need to know your weight for your upcoming flight to Nantucket?”

Excusemewhat?!

This felt like an important moment, one that demanded honesty, so I proceeded to answer with a weight only five pounds below my actual weight instead of twenty, like I normally put on my driver’s license.

And this is when the question marks started flying through my brain. “This is all so strange…” I thought, but I couldn’t even drum up a scenario that made her question make sense.

That is, until they called our flight number.

My mom and I stood up, along with six other people – that’s right, I said six – and the group of us were instructed to walk, single file, down a long staircase and wait at the glass door for further direction.

Um…come again?

??????????

I was getting nervous by this point…very, very nervous…but with no experiences like this to draw from, I had no idea what was happening. I couldn’t even guess. I was all question marks now. Really, my brain looked like this:

?????????????????????????????????????????????

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?????????????????????????????????????????????

After waiting for a couple of minutes, the entire group of us nervously laughing and wondering what in the world was going on, a flight attendant approached the door and opened it.

“Single file,” she reminded us, “please follow me.”

A wave of fresh, comfortable air hit my face and before me, on the tarmac, I beheld a collection of tiny planes.

I blinked, disbelieving, as my brain and my reflexes struggled to work together, first to comprehend what I was seeing, and then to find an escape route, godspeed.

“But…my mom!… my MOM…” my conscience reminded me, and my feet continued to march me forward, my expression impassive but my eyes as big as the biggest plane in front of me.

Which was, don’t forget, tiny.

I couldn’t begin to pick which one I’d rather die in…er, fly in…because they were all about as big as a Matchbox car.

But I didn’t get to pick. Our line was led to one plane, in particular, where a smiling pilot greeted us and said, “Welcome to Boston, folks, destination Nantucket. Who wants to be my copilot?”

GULP.

Dearly beloved internet, I will never be able to explain how I was able to pass my bags over to the attendant (who stowed them IN THE WING…my laptop!…my fancy camera!…my identification!!!!) and board that dying machine…er, flying machine…knowing that, not only would I go up into the air in it, I would go up into the air and OVER THE OCEAN.

The situation before me, one that I’d had no idea to prepare for (if I had, we definitely would have taken the ferry!!) was the culmination of so many of my biggest fears, it made my head spin: Tight spaces. Airplane. Surrounded by strangers. Ocean.

I’ve always broken into near-hyperventilation at the thought of entering into an MRI scanner. This was like FLYING in one, miles and miles above the water, with people you don’t know staring at you and observing your paranoia. Certain death. CERTAIN DEATH.

But, doggone it, y’all…

I DID it.

I got on that plane.

Well, I crawled into it.

But…I did it!!!!!

I did it for my mom and only my mom, so help me God.

Now, remember how I gulped when the pilot asked for a co-pilot?

Thankfully, a courageous young man was eager to fulfill that role. Phew! Close call!

I, LUCKY ME, got to sit directly behind the co-pilot, with my knees touching his seat. You see, this plane was so tiny that EVERYONE WAS THE CO-PILOT!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

It’s so funny!!!

It’s…so…funny…

right?

Funny.

The pilot quickly gave us the run-down, telling us where we were going, how the weather looked, and that we would be landing in Nantucket in forty minutes.

Our group nodded, placidly.

“FORTY MINUTES!!!” I inwardly screamed.

Forty minutes. That’s close to an hour. That’s a whole episode of Gilmore Girls. That’s a church sermon, on a day when my husband’s not preaching.

So here’s what I did. It’s what I had to do.

I told my mom I was going under and that I wouldn’t be talking to her, or anybody, only God, for forty minutes.

I slid down in my seat, I closed my eyes, I accepted my mama’s petite, cool hand in my large and clammy one and…

I counted to sixty, very deliberately, very slowly, very calmly…

forty times.

One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand…

I did not stop.

I did not open my eyes.

I did not think.

I did not move my head to the right or the left.

I just counted and I breathed.

In and out.

In and out.

In and out.

It was, in reality, a forty minute mind game. I was counting and I was trying not to picture the tiny plane that I was in, which would then cause me to picture the tiny plane that I was in, and I was trying not to picture the ocean below me, which would then cause me to picture the ocean below me, and then I’d think about the numbers I was counting and try to focus solely on them, ignoring, to the best of my ability, the sky wind that was coming in through the OPEN WINDOWS of the front seat and…

(see? see the open windows? see how close I am to the pilot?!?!)

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…and somewhere in the middle of our march to doom, I took a moment to think it, because God had pushed me into this crazy, hilarious, terrifying situation where the affection had been tested and now proven: “I love her,” my heart declared. “I love this woman and I know now that I would do ANYTHING for her and…I think she knows it, too. Thank you, God…”

It felt good. I knew in that moment that, even if we died, even if our plane crashed, even if I never saw my little family again, I had trusted and obeyed God in this journey and, frantic as the situation felt to my external senses, I was at peace in my heart. The bond between us was complete, in a sense, and so tangible and pure that it cloaked me in a comfort that felt like Eden.

Well, praise be to the Maker…PRAISE BE TO THE MAKER!!!…on my fortieth round of sixty seconds, my mom squeezed my hand and quietly murmured, “You really need to open your eyes now, we’re landing. You HAVE to see this!!!”

I opened them, blinking at the brightness of the world I had shut out for forty minutes.

And do you know what I saw ahead, with just a little bit of ocean between us?

Beautiful land.

Blessed land.

SWEET land.

And, how beautiful this land, in particular, was, surrounded by ocean, this little sandy line of earth that was beckoning us down…

down…

doooowwwwwn!!!!…

But, looking to my left, a relieved smile of victory dawning across my features, I saw a sight more beautiful than land, more beautiful than Nantucket, more beautiful than safety and comfort, and more beautiful than the end of this flight, and it was the face of my mother.

She was beaming.

Her eyes were lit up like a child’s in front of a birthday candle and her smile was as free as I’d ever seen it.

She looked…full…somehow, from the inside out, full of adventure, full of excitement, full of life! This woman whom I had watched for years and years at the kitchen sink, at the kitchen stove, at the washer, at the dryer, in the church nursery, in the flower beds…

she was high in the sky, with water below, the wind in her hair, adventure in her heart, and she was beaming.

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The sinus headache, the drug coma and my forty minutes of tiny plane hell had most definitely been worth it.

~

Me and the co-pilot, after landing. He doesn’t know I almost threw up in his hoodie there.

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Introducing…Miss Nantucket!!! It suits her, don’t you think?

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I’m happy here. SO HAPPY. And, I have to admit, even though I’d spent the last forty minutes inwardly whimpering like a baby, I felt pretty hardcore after conquering the Cessna. It wasn’t no big thang…

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Goodbye, tiny planes. I’ll see you again in four days…

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Gulp.

~

“Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder and a big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape. But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend stood firm.

Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him. Meanwhile, the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore his very heartstrings he set his face down the road and followed submissively…”

The Wind in the Willows

~

Phew! We did it! We survived the journey and now we’re ready to explore the gorgeous island of Nantucket. Stay tuned for our next stop, the Union Street Inn! And until then, keep up with Mrs. Gore and family on Facebook!

Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (Part Two: the Planning)

Happy Wednesday! Thank you so much for joining me in this gift to my mother on her 65th birthday, the story of our mother-daughter trip to the place of her dreams. To read part one of this series, click here.

~

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The phone rang.

“Hello?” I asked.

Is this for real???” my mom’s voice squeaked over the line. “Are you guys serious?!

We were so serious, and apparently, Daddy had just broken the good news to her.

For a week in September, even though I hate flying, even though I hate leaving home and being away from my kids, even though it had never crossed mom’s mind, or mine, for that matter, that I would even THINK of doing such a thing, I, the homebody of all homebodies, would be packing my bags and joining her for a special birthday trip to…somewhere! The possibilities were endless!!…to spend a week.

Just me and her.

“Where are we going to go??” she asked, her voice skipping down a lane like a little girl going to a tea party.

“Maine!” I laughed. “Or…this magical place in your mind that could be Maine! We’re going to find this dream place and we’re going to go there!”

You see, even though my mom’s dream destination has always been “Maine”, the two of us had seen pictures one day in a Country Living magazine, not in Maine, that made her reconsider her “dream”.

“That’s it,” she said, pointing resolutely at the photo. “That’s where I want to go!…so…maybe I don’t want to go to Maine? Maybe I thought it was Maine but it’s actually somewhere else! See this sand? See this fence? This is where I want to go…this, to me, is “Maine”…

I agreed. I had been to Maine for part of my honeymoon and, while beautiful, indeed…it didn’t look quite like the picture she was showing me.

This picture looked more beachy and New England-y. Less rustic and tree-filled.

The only problem was, these several years later, I didn’t remember where “this” was, nor could I recall the issue of Country Living we had seen.

“We’ll find it,” I promised her. “To the Northeast!”

“To the Northeast!” she laughed, dumbfounded.

And to the Northeast we went, via Google.

Before long, after doing image searches all over the area, we had narrowed oukr trip down to four potential places:

Kennebunkport, Maine – while beautiful, though, it looked a little TOO ritzy for us, like a place Regis Philbin or Donald Trump might stay.

Cape Cod – nah, it just didn’t sound right.

Martha’s Vineyard – SO beautiful, it sounded SO right (“Martha’s Vineyard”! Squeal!), and it was so close to being our final choice…but, alas, reviews revealed we’d need to rent a car to get around and that, go ahead and laugh, it felt very dark and remote there at night. On top of my fear of flying and leaving home, I’m afraid of darkness, especially in strange places, and mom agreed: this seemed like a place we’d want to go with the menfolk, not alone.

Nantucket – while this island seemed a little more “happening” than Martha’s Vineyard, a quality that would usually have turned us off, it also seemed more doable for two gals on their own. We wouldn’t need a car and could easily get around by foot or shuttle, it looked very similar to Martha’s Vineyard, and…well, enough said.

Nantucket it was!

And we never looked back.

The lodging options were many, but after checking out every website from Trip Advisor, I quickly narrowed them down to two and, before I knew it, our trip was PLANNED.

Done.

Just like that.

We were actually going to do this thingy!

Now, before I continue, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to lay some groundwork about our vacation, for the sake of my own conscience.

First of all, I want to say that my mom is a hard working woman, and about 98% of that work is done for others. Here is a woman who fiercely loves her family, who keeps grandkids at the drop of a hat, who has people in her home around the calendar, who cleans our houses and does our laundry any chance she gets, who gives her things away, even her favorites, because one of us mentioned liking it…

and what is so astounding about it all is that she thrives off of this servanthood. She never complains, she never regrets, and she. never. stops. It’s why she’s so skinny, I’m convinced.

And so here’s where that “advocate” thing comes in: even though Mom has always been all of the above, as I have begun to listen, as more of an invested friend than a needy daughter, I have started to realize some surprising things that I had never paid attention to before.

Namely, this: my mom might be a full-time family woman and she might happily pour her life out for us but, deep down, in the youthful heart of her, she is something of a traveler.

That’s right, a traveler.

An adventurer, really.

MY mom!

Who would have thought it??

I sure didn’t.

But it’s true, as our friendship has grown and our understanding has harmonized, these bits of her personality have been revealed to me and, with them, her long-cherished dreams.

And I have marveled, for, unknownst to us, these sweet desires have been lying dormant, tucked away, through all of her years of homemaking and housekeeping and childrearing; focusing her efforts on her family, she kept them hidden, entrusted to God as she chose contentment in the life He had written.

It’s such a contrast, really, who she “is”, in her heart, and who she has “chosen” to be, in obedience to God.

In fact, it kind of knocked me over when I caught my first glimpse of what she had given up for us.

What love. What kindness. What sacrifice.

But she would only call it “love”.

All that to say, this choice has kept her pretty busy and, though the idea of a big trip to her dream destination would be occasionally discussed, something would undoubtedly come up and “Maine” would be put on the backburner.

It was just never going to happen, and she had resigned herself to that fact and put it to rest, no bitterness, no regrets.

Therefore, as rare and surprising a treat as this was, and as perfect was the timing (i.e. no one was pregnant and no one was due with a baby and no one had a newborn and no one was nursing!!) we decided that, by GOLLY, if we were going to go on this trip, we were going to GO.

In other words, we would stay at the best places, eat the best food, and tip like there was no tomorrow!!!!

This trip was a long time coming — the trip of a lifetime, really — and, though the pictures to come might insinuate that we are of the swanky set, believe me when I say we’re NOT. We just decided that, for these four nights and five days, we were going to be, tee hee!

This sort of commitment to luxury was mostly in part to the credit card rewards mom has saved up for years. Our plane tickets and much of our trip was paid for, and the rest was covered by her birthday money and the teeth that I sold so we could scrape together enough to live in style for a week.😉

So there you have it: “Go big or go home”. That was the motto of our trip to Nantucket.

Now, moving on, I mentioned earlier that this was a Spirit-led trip, and I meant that, truly; there are times in life when you feel you’re on auto-pilot and your feet, of their own accord, are compelled to follow, your heart is wooed to trust, and the details just fall into place like magic.

This was definitely one of those occasions.

I don’t throw “Spirit-led” out lightly, but neither will I downplay the Lord’s work and power when I see it and feel it and know it and, well before this trip even came up, He was at work in the way I thought of my parents

Christians focus, rightly so, on loving our spouses and our children well, and we speak often about loving the members of the body but…

we don’t bring up our parents a lot.

In fact, if you listen very long to us young or middle-aged people, you might hear common jokes, disparaging the towns where we grew up, the churches our parents took us to, the archaic ways we were raised, the theology that was wrong. We would never flat-out say we are more spiritual than our parents or have arrived to a better understanding of all the things concerning God, marriage, children, and recycling, but…

we can act like it. It makes my cheeks burn to think I have ever made my parents feel less-than from my high and mightiness. That I have spoken, prideful, when I should be humbly listening. That, so focused on my own life and how difficult and busy it is, I have failed to appreciate that they have not only been through that already, for my sake, but are still going through that. They still have a life! A full life!

And yet, when we need a baby-sitter, who do most of us run to? Who do we receive the most help from, the most gifts, the most true and consistent care? Who is there, still loving us, when we are despised and abandoned?

Heaven knows I have been guilty of still playing the child, seeing my parents as two people who are there for my good and my needs without taking a day out of MY life to do something for THEM.

Increasingly sensitive, however, by the grace of God, to these failings, I have tried, in my grown-up years, to do a better job at honoring them, helping clean when company comes or after they’ve left, or bringing home a little gift when Mom keeps the kids for us (usually, a scone or a cinnamon roll), or making sure she knows when she’s baby-sitting that we plan to be home at such-and-such time and being true to our word, or taking care of her internet shopping because the internet confuses her…

these are just a few of the things that the Lord has been teaching me, and I pray for grace to do better and to do more.

But this trip — oh my goodness, this trip!! — was an unprecedented opportunity to practice those God-given convictions in the most beautiful and satisfying way, to put them into concentrated action, and to shore up what was being written and cement it securely in place.

It amazes me still, to the depths of my soul, for I have never in my life had the Spirit-led foresight to personally diminish like I did on this vacation.

You see, I wrestle so daily with selfishness. It is my vice. The baby of four children, I just grew up in this happy bubble of thinking the world revolved around my comfort, and those tendencies have been hard to squash; to this day, even without meaning to, I can end up making things about me, and I hate that.

It has been a long, slow death, one that I struggle with constantly, with much failure. And that’s how I know that God wanted me to see to this trip for my mom and accompany her on a dream…

to reward her selflessness and to sanctify my selfishness.

“Oh, boo hoo,” I was afraid people would scorn, “you’re really doing “big things” for God, “sacrificing” yourself to go to Nantucket…”

But…I was.

I was following Him in this. I was obeying a summons. And, through my fears, my crippling fears of tragedy and separation and change and…gasp, adventure!…the Lord was compelling me to the point where I didn’t even have to question it…

I needed to do this.

For Mama.

And I didn’t just need to do this, I needed to pour myself into it.

For the first time in my life, oh bless the Lord and His story-writing, I became HER shadow instead of the other way around, following two steps behind her as she realized this long-held dream of her heart. I kept a lid on homesickness and swallowed it whole. I watched her. I delighted in her joy. I photographed her like she was my baby. Where she wanted to go, we went. What she wanted to eat, we ate. I carried her bags and I let her have first dibs on everything, which, believe me, was a complete reversal of our relationship thus far. She always takes the seconds, always.

But in Nantucket, she was my queen. 

And, oh friends, it was the most beautiful and heaven-like week the two of us have ever spent in this fallen, broken world.

When my mom and I reminisce about our time in Nantucket, we sigh. We yearn. We marvel. We sometimes cry. Our hearts hurt at the remembrance.

We found our spot in this world, mama and me, we found it together, and we’ll never, no, never be the same.

“You deserve this,” everyone told her, including me.

“I don’t deserve ANYTHING,” she said, not blinking an eye. “But I’m very grateful…

Me too.

~

Stayed tuned and join us for Part Three where I will face some of my biggest fears, holding tightly to the hand of my mama! And, as always, to read our daily stories of life, love and humor, find us on Facebook!

Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (the Prologue)

Greetings, blog readers!! Life has been as full as ever, a good thing, and most of my writing has been shared on my Facebook page in 2016, but I am taking some extra time in the month of September to write a very special series. My beloved mother turns 65 years old today and, for her birthday gift, I am penning a recollection of THE most precious time the two of us have ever shared.

This is no vacation slide-show; rather, the story of two women who flew across the country to find each other in a place that God, in His unbelievable kindness and sovereignty, had prepared for them.

I invite you to join us, as we travel to the island of our hearts, and celebrate one of the deepest and most faithful bonds there are, that of mother and daughter. I pray this series will not only knock my mom’s socks off, but will renew and inspire mothers and daughters everywhere, to see each other, to die for each other, and to love each other, wholeheartedly and purely, as God intended. 

~

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Moms have dreams, too.

I didn’t realize this, of course, until that topsy-turvy moment when my first child entered the world and I understood, for the first time, maybe, that my own mom is just a girl, a girl who had a baby and then had another baby and another and then one more.

This woman who raised me, who knew all the answers to all my questions, who has, from the moment my lungs first drew in a breath, caused the world to feel steady and secure…

she has a history?

She has a heart of her own, and a brain full of ideas and opinions and longings?

She is, like, a person and not just “my mom”?

She doesn’t just exist for my happiness and comfort and to find my stuff?!

Oh.

One of the greatest gifts of motherhood, then, is that it allows us to understand our own moms like we never have before. A veil is lifted and we step across and join them on the other side, in heart, in mind, in spirit.

I can look into my mom’s eyes now and understand her gaze, for was I not just turning that very same love-filled eye toward my own children?

I know now that her praise of me is sincere.

I know that she truly loves me unconditionally, to the moon and down the street and back.

And I also know that she probably wanted to eat the last piece of pie.

I had no idea, truly!

As the only daughter of the family, though, even before I had children of my own, there naturally came a time in my life where I stopped solely being the recipient of my mom’s ministrations, and began slowly taking on the role of advocate.

As I matured, I started seeing, really seeing, all the dishes she had to do.

I started empathizing with her workload.

I started tuning in to her faithful character of kindness and hospitality, even when I knew she was tired, and I did what I could to hold her arms up.

Ha, I even started making it my own personal calling in life to keep people out of the kitchen while she cooked, striking up conversations in the dining area and living room so she could think clearly and juggle all her different recipes until the last dish was in the oven!

We became a real team, the two of us, much like my brothers and my dad out on the farm or at the sawmill or at the gas plant.

I’m not good at many of the things there are to be good at in this world, but I was born, I think, to be on “Team Mom”.

Anyhow, my mom had been talking about it for years, this dream to go to Maine.

It didn’t reach my ears for the longest time.

It didn’t reach anybody’s ears, not really.

This was Mom! She needed to stay home and take care of us. And we had places that we needed to go. And then there was that long stream of graduations and marriages and pregnancies and births and newborns and then I looked up and I was 33 years old and my mom was about to turn 64.

Where had the time gone?

It was as spontaneous as anything we’ve ever done, by a MILE, and I will say that it was Spirit-led for the rest of my life, because I’m telling you, it was.

I called my dad. I called my husband. Three ‘yeses’, including mine, and…

oh my goodness, the rest is totally history.

The kind of history we will never, ever forget

~

If Mom’s dream was to go to Maine, why is this series titled “Dancing Hearts in Nantucket”?! Stayed tuned for Part Two tomorrow!! All will be revealed…

You Are Worth It: a letter to my family

A year or more ago…maybe two…I had an idea.

I suppose I could be categorized as a creative person, and while I don’t paint or sew or craft, when my heart feels something big, I yearn to DO something about it. To express it, somehow.

Most often, I do this through writing, occasionally I do it with a party, but every once in awhile, another outlet comes along that quenches my thirst for expression.

For many years now, I have been keeping up with the work of a young man who grew up behind me. He is a visual storyteller and, though his business title would probably fall under the “videographer” category, I marveled-from-afar at the talent of an artist in him, and eagerly watched every video he put out for the university he attended, and then for the weddings he filmed. They were amazing!!!

And somewhere along the way, a dream sprang up in my heart, and a twofold yearning could be found therein:

  • I wanted to make something really special for my family that would express my love for them.
  • I wanted to help Clinton exercise his talents and perhaps find another customer-base for his business: families.

The wedding industry is huge, yes? Americans have poured countless dollars into this one special event in a person’s life, and we don’t feel our day is complete without all the must-haves: an amazing dress, great food, an impressive cake, special music and, perhaps most importantly (or at least right behind the dress), a photographer and/or videographer.

It’s so important to us to have proof that our day existed, and to memorialize it somehow.

But…

what about life after the wedding?

What about the sacred space where our families are planted and take bloom?

What about the years after we make our vows – the years of intense spiritual growth and personal maturity – when God goes on to use the groom, and then perhaps the offspring we share, to sanctify us and help us to know Him better?

There might be a nitty-grittiness to marriage that is not there on the wedding day, but I’m a firm believer that the beauty of the union in its everyday state is so worth capturing and celebrating.

Granted, we do take a ton of pictures, most of us. You can scroll through i-photo on my desktop and get a pretttty good idea of what our family has done almost daily for the last ten years!!🙂

But videos are different. They allow you to see how your loved ones move. How they walk. How they laugh, from start to finish. How their mouths form words. How they hop off the bottom stair with gusto after walking carefully down the others. (that will make sense later).

And so, with all these ideas swimming around in my brain, I contacted Clinton with a crazy request: please, please, PRETTY PLEASE, come to our house and make a day-in-the-life video?!?!

PLEASE?!?!

I’ll spare you all the wordy details of our back-and-forth discussion that took place for months, trying to figure out how to even make this WORK – the equipment it takes to film a wedding video is crazy expensive, and it took some mulling-over to figure out how to truncate things in a way that we could afford – and, instead, I’ll just tell you that this project that was on again and off again for a long time was, out of nowhere in early May, brainstormed, planned, executed and DONE.

We went from scheduling an appointment to having the finished product in our hands in a matter of weeks!

And here’s what we had finally ended up settling on: a collection of recorded events that would paint a true picture of what our family does on a regular basis. We filmed a morning scene, with the kids actually eating breakfast. We recorded our morning Bible study in the schoolroom. We did our read-aloud. We played the piano and sang together. We had lunch. We played with toys. We went for a walk. Basically, we did everything we could think of that we do regularly enough that our kids wouldn’t watch the video someday and feel like they were watching a Pinterest version of our life.

The ONLY things, in fact, that weren’t realistic in our “movie” are as follows: 1. My house was SPOTLESS. There are usually parts of our house that are clean and tidy, but never the entire thing at one time! 2. I wore real clothes and shoes (I couldn’t let my cadaver feet be shared on the internet, I just couldn’t). 3. I was awake before everyone. In a truly genuine representation of our life, I would wake up with at least three kiddos playing recess on the bed around me.

Other than that, this was a pretty normal day in our neck of the woods! Minus the whole guy-with-a-camera thing.

So then, after we had finished with all the film and put Sheppy down for his nap, Mr. Gore, Clinton and I closed ourselves up in the schoolroom and made an audio recording of me reading a letter I had written for my family.

Which was, like, TORTURE for me. But that’s another story for another day.

And just like that, five hours and three wardrobe changes after we had started, we were done, and Clinton was on his way with a major piece of my heart stuck on a memory card.

I didn’t realize how accustomed I am to being the chief of my own creativity. Collaboration is super fun, but it takes a lot of trust. Thankfully, I put my trust in a guy who knows his stuff, and then some. And then some MORE.

Before I share the video, I want to take a minute to share with you what a meaningful experience this turned out to be for me. It was staggering, really…

The way the Lord put these specific heavy words and emotions on my heart the month our video ended up taking place.

The way Clinton messaged me with a request that I write something up for a voice-over a DAY after I had “coincidentally” been writing a mental letter in my head to my family. 

The way no one was sick and nothing happened to postpone our appointment. (I can’t even tell you how rarely that happens!!!).

I don’t put a lot of stock in my own discernment, but when it was all said and done, this entire project felt very incredibly Spirit-led and sovereignly-timed and, as a result, what had begun as a neato idea to memorialize my loved ones became something quite spiritual.

Thus, the entire week preceding our film day, that two-fold desire I’d had in the beginning was daily growing and morphing into something far greater…

I was VERY SURE that I didn’t just want to do this for my family, or for Clinton, anymore.

I wanted to do this for moms.

For people who, like me, have seen their childish dreams of fame and fortune crumble into chaff under the weighty glory of life at home.

For the dignity of family.

For the sanctity of human life, and for the scores of aborted children who never got a chance to say “I’m important! I’m WORTH it!!”

For my amazing Creator-God who knits together a people who are fearfully and wonderfully made and who, for some crazy reason, put four of them into my care.

And, oh, my dears, although I remained critical of all those personal things about me that I don’t love during my first viewing of the finished video, by the time I had finished my second viewing, there were tears of love and joy and motherhood streaming down my face.

I didn’t care what my “baby” voice sounded like (that’s an inside Facebook joke!) and what I looked like, ever. I could have had a big zit on my forehead. Or my muffin top could have been hanging over my jeans. Who cares??? This was what I had wanted to tell my family, this is how I wanted to capture them, this is what I wanted to DO for the One who created us!!!

And Clinton, the little stinker, was even more of an artist than I had initially realized: he had seen and put together things that I had not even DREAMED of, joining words and film and music into a beautiful and fluid medley that took all the things that had been on my heart and sent them heavenward in an act of genuine worship.

UMMM…CAN YOU TELL I’M EXCITED?!?!?!

When we shared the finished video on Facebook last week, I was feeling a LOT of things…

Scared — I was offering up a huge part of myself here and was mostly just hoping to be handled with care.

Hopeful — I REALLY wanted some people to see and appreciate Clinton’s work.

Excited — I was looking forward to a typical handful of shares from people who like our family and some sweet comments from those who enjoy things like this; I was excited to bring some light into their day, which is one of my favorite things to shoot for.

What I was NOT EXPECTING was the feedback that we ended up receiving. In fact, I was rather blown away.

The video seemed to hit a nerve, of sorts, solidifying deep feelings in the hearts of so many moms who have found unexpected joy in giving up their lives for the ones they’ve been entrusted with. Before the day was up, my Facebook newsfeed was full of our video, shared over and over again by friends and relatives who saw themselves in this SAME story and whose heartstrings were tugged by the reminder that their family is worth living and dying for.

{Sidenote: that nerve apparently ran a different direction over at Youtube, among those who do not see children and motherhood and family as “worth it”, further proof to me that this was, indeed, a spiritual act that engaged a spiritual battle. We witnessed some major darkness as a result of this project!}

And now, one week later, my emotions have settled into something far less complex: I’m just happy. Happy to have spent a day doing something that the Lord had convicted me of. Happy to have helped other mamas and daddies have a fresh perspective. Happy that Clinton’s work was so lovingly noted and applauded.

Happy to have taken a moment in time to tell my family — and my God — how I REALLY feel about them. For our time together is so short…

Before I tuck this video away into our collection of mementos and keepsakes, I’m offering it here today to my blog readers, in the hopes that it will remind you of what you’re doing in the trenches of home life, that you will see your children and your husbands and wives with renewed love, and that you will remember once more that this job you are doing of washing feet and wiping bottoms and making food…

it’s really, really important.

It’s eternal.

And it is so totally, completely, 100% worth it.

God bless you, as you raise up a family for the glory of God and for the spread of His Kingdom. I’m cheering for you, my brothers and sisters, from our little white house on a hill.❤

~

For more information on Clinton and ARETÉ Videography & Photography LLC, to discuss an idea for visual storytelling, or to book him for a wedding or a family video of your own, click here (and tell him I sent you and what you thought of his video!). I personally think it would also be awesome to do this same format, but write a letter to your high school senior doing their favorite things, intermixed with the typical scenes of them standing in front of old trucks and walking down railroad tracks and moseying through fields…you know, senior stuff! It would be such a beautiful tribute!

Okay, I’ll be quiet now, although I have a thousand more “visual storytelling” ideas.😉 Thank you SO much for watching our video (and listening to me go on and on about it!). If you want to keep in touch and hear daily funnies or encouragement, join us on the Facebook.❤

Mother’s Day in my Heart

I was kind of a toot on my first Mother’s Day.

The expectations I had built up in my heart — never verbalized, of course! – were sky-high. I wanted a new dress to wear to Sunday morning services. I wanted a wrist corsage (that’s right, a wrist corsage). I wanted to win the “newest mother” flower during the worship hour. I wanted a present from my husband, a present from my infant son and a present from my mom. I didn’t want to lift a finger the ENTIRE DAY.

Basically, I just wanted I and all of my contributions to the mothering world to be meditated upon by my entire circle from the first second of Mother’s Day to the very last.

That’s all, though. Nothing more.

Bless it. Needless to say, by ten o’ clock that night, I had crashed and burned into a sad heap of unmet expectations. Even though everyone was lovely to me and I had more than any woman in her right mind could ever dream of, it wasn’t enough.

Because, like a said, toot.

I was a big one.

Thankfully, as the years have gone by and God has gently and consistently pulled me away from myself, I am learning to celebrate Mother’s Day in a much healthier way, and it goes a little something like this…

My husband is off the hook.

My gosh, I KNOW this man loves me, I know he celebrates me, and I know he is thankful for me. Instead of expecting him to give me the moon and grovel at my feet, all before he preaches his Sunday morning sermon, I simply ask for a little time off sometime around Mother’s Day.

And sometimes, “time off” doesn’t always mean I want to be alone and away from my family. It just means that I’m free to do…well, whatever! By myself or with him or with the kids or with my mom or with Netflix.

For instance, last year, on the Friday before Mother’s Day, my mom and I loaded up my girls for a day on the town where we got haircuts, ate out, went shopping and, best of all, laughed and talked and celebrated not just motherhood, but the friendship that can grow between generations of women who are dedicated to one another for life.

That was our Mother’s Day. And it was awesome!!!

Rebekah and Betsie watched movies and ate snacks in the car while my mom and I took turns getting our hair did.

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Next we went to Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, one of those thoughtful places where hungry kids get balls of dough to keep them distracted until the food comes.

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Now, I have to interrupt this string of pictures to tell you a crazy story. See right over there below that American flag? And see the exit on the left side of the room? And see the booth right before you get to that exit?…

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I’m talkin’ about the area right beyond the lady in red…

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Yeah, so Ed Sheeran was sitting there, eating pizza.

We didn’t KNOW it was Ed Sheeran, at the time.

We noticed that he LOOKED like Ed Sheeran, and my mom might have even verbally pitied him for trying SO HARD to look like Ed Sheeran, but we never DREAMED it was actually ED SHEERAN.

Because…why would Ed Sheeran be eating six tables down from us at a pizzeria in Tulsa on a Friday afternoon??? The idea never even crossed our minds because it made absolutely zero sense.

Even though some of the staff were taking selfies with him.

But…

IT WAS TOTALLY ED SHEERAN.

He was apparently in Tulsa for a concert, and one of our friends who attended it said he actually mentioned Andolini’s Pizzeria during the show.

But he didn’t mention us.

Because he didn’t know we were there because we didn’t know he was there.

Nope, the only guy WE saw was a desperate Ed Sheeran look-alike. And the staff was taking pictures with him because he looked SO MUCH like Ed Sheeran that it was hilarious.

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I intently examined all of my pictures from the day and, sadly, there wasn’t one Ed Sheeran photobomb. Not a speck of red hair in the background.

Oh, well.

I did decide, however, that Betsie makes a great city girl.

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After Andolini’s, we popped down the street for some tiny desserts from Le Madeleine, heavy on the chocolate.

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And then we shopped our feet off!! It was an unscripted and lovely day — not a greeting card in sight! Not an expectation in my brain!! — but it was the BEST Mother’s Day experience I could possibly ask for.

Not because the world stopped for a day and recognized me.

Not because my husband sweated bullets trying to make sure he read my mind and gave me all the stuff I wanted.

Not because my children took a moment to thank me and read me a poem.

But because I was with the people I loved.

That’s what Mother’s Day should be about.

With the help of the Spirit, I don’t ever want Mother’s Day to be about ME again, because I am starting to learn that, without fail, when things become about “me”, they go downhill really, really fast.

If my kids want to do something for me someday, hooray, if my husband orchestrates a breakfast-in-bed, yippee, but God forbid that I ever end another Mother’s Day in that heap of misery again, not when I have living and loving to do with the very gifts that made me a mother in the first place.

So. That was Friday, but my “Mother’s Day” weekend continued to be sweet and fulfilling, solidifying lessons in my heart that had been a long-time coming. .

On Saturday night, even though they’d already had their church baths, the kids and I wound up outside in the street. Mr. Gore had called from the church (where he had gone to fix the computer) to tell us there was a brilliant rainbow in the sky.

Well, because of all the trees in our driveway, we couldn’t see it.

So we walked out into the street.

We still couldn’t see it, but after days of heavy rain, the lightning and thunder finally allowed us outside, and what was left were little rivers cascading down both sides of our street.

It was irresistible, and before I knew it, the kids were DRENCHED.

Cheeks flushed, eyes dancing, bodies jumping and running and kicking, their childhood was on full display, and I, the mother who, eight years ago, threw a hissy fit because Mother’s Day was not what I thought it should be, was absolutely at rest. I’d had more than enough to call it a successful holiday, and it wasn’t even Mother’s Day yet!

This was sincerely all the gift I needed.

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Listen, one thing the internet has taught me is that Mother’s Day is an awful day for a lot of people. People who have lost their moms, people who have terrible memories of their mom, people who want to have babies but haven’t succeeded, people who have suffered miscarriages of their precious children, people who aren’t married yet and feel like the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking…

this holiday, for so many of the people we love, is the absolute pits.

So much that it makes me wonder if I even LIKE this holiday anymore!…

But at the very least, I am just more and more convinced that, if God has woven motherhood into my story, I have more than I could ask for, period. I don’t need to be recognized at church, I don’t need to be pampered, I don’t need to become a Mother’s Day tyrant, I don’t even need all the gifts and all the thoughtfulness.

In other words, I don’t so much need to be celebrated…

I need to CELEBRATE.

Lucky for all of us, the only necessity for that is a grateful heart.

No corsages needed.

~

p.s. Great news! Late that Sunday night, the kids and Mr. Gore DID surprise me with an at-home pedicure and manicure that they ALL took turns administering. It was like a hilarious nightmare, all the way down to the box of polish they all chose together at Amazon, titled “Jingle Splash”. Happy Mother’s Day to me?…

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Where I’ve Been: a multipart update (Part 2)

Written in January, the next parts of this update will list the resolutions I made in 2016, followed by journal entries cataloging my success (or failure).  You can read Part One of the series by clicking here.

~

I don’t always believe in “New Year’s resolutions”. Some years I have played it cool, like, “my resolution this year is to spend EVERY day like it’s the first day of the year”.

Or “my resolution is to not make a resolution.”

But I just cannot deny, however philosophical I’m feeling, that there is something wonderfully new and inspiring about January the first.

It’s like those days when I take a damp washcloth and wipe down the large chalkboard in our homeschool room. Even the kids appreciate this act of cleanliness and we all “ooh” and “aah” for a bit over the vibrant, fresh slate before us. It’s so pretty, after all. It’s so green.

Who will dare be the first to mark on it?

What shall be the first thing we write?

The new year looks very much like that chalkboard on the morn of January the first, and I’m sort of a superfan.

Oh, and by the way, I’m not playing it cool this year. I have a ton of resolutions.

~

Resolved 1: Get off the internet. Well, sort of.

One day, not so very long ago, my 8-year old son asked me what my favorite thing was to do.

“What do you think my favorite thing is to do?” I countered.

“Be on your computer,” he answered, without batting an eye.

OUCH, mister.

I have to admit that it stung a little because, even though I am a devoted(ish) writer whose “work” is on a computer, I have never wanted to be the mom who is forever behind a screen. I have tried very hard, from day one, to “cherish every moment” and to be a “hands free mom”, but you know what, writing times aside, there are just so many days when you accidentally find yourself wrapped up in something stupid on the internet, out of mindless habit.

You can really objectively see it, can’t you, when it is someone else? They have an i-phone in their hands and people are saying their name and they can’t hear or focus on anything other than the Facebook page they are perusing, the tweet they are composing, or the Youtube video they are watching. It looks so distracted. It looks so modern. It looks so typical. It looks so…blech.

But when you’re the one BEHIND the screen, and your mind is filled up with what you are reading — and you are so thoroughly entertained and engrossed and entrenched by all twenty tabs you have pulled up on your computer!! — you lose track, somehow. An hour feels like five minutes. Two hours feels like seven minutes. And an occasional “check-in” somehow turns into an entire day of refreshing a page and checking notifications and messages.

I daresay the internet and all of its charms has held a viselike grip on me during certain seasons of my life, stealing my moments until they pile up into days, and I am always quite ashamed to recall the countless hours I have spent in my lifetime just scrolling over things I’d already read or…had I? It all starts to sound the same after awhile, anyway. How eerie it is to see an old post from months past that I have ‘liked’ or shared that I have zero recollection of ever seeing in my life.

I looked at Gideon and sighed.

“I do like to be on my computer,” I admitted, my brow furrowed in honest thought. “But…do you know what actually makes me happier than anything else in the entire world?”

“What?” he asked.

“Just…watching you guys be happy,” I replied, searching for words to express what my heart was revealing to me at that very second. “Watching you grow. Being with you…”

And that’s when it really hit me – hard!! – that I had habitually been choosing monotonous and insatiable fluff over the things that, in actuality, make me so deliciously full inside.

It’s something akin to the deep-down enjoyment of being thin and healthy over the feels-so-good-but-then-feels-SO-bad enjoyment of eating a box full of donuts from the bakery. You may not be able to remember the difference when you’re at the donut shop, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a difference.

And so I knew, right there in my kitchen with my boy looking up at me from the table, that I needed to make a drastic change…I’d had all these big internet feelings since Thanksgiving…now I needed to set some boundaries that I couldn’t cross.

I needed to take control of the internet before it threatened to take control of me.

Therefore, though I have loosely adhered to this new mindset for the past two months, with a new year before me, it is time to make it final.

But WAIT! It’s difficult figuring out the best way to go about these sorts of changes. How easy it is to just pull the plug completely, losing all the good with all the bad, and that’s something I very much want to avoid.

I have made some incredible – and I mean, incredible – friends through the internet. I correspond with some of my best long-distance friends through e-mail and Messenger. I have support groups online that I thank God for with all my heart. I have a readership on my blog and on Facebook that I absolutely adore.

So…how do we slough off the bad without losing the good?

It’s a process, I believe, that takes honest and deliberate thought, and will probably look different for every single person.

When it came to formulating my own guidelines, I wanted them to be simple enough to keep me in check, but still allow me some breathing room.

Thus, for a normal school day, these are my goals. The plan is not to act as though these guidelines will get me into heaven, but I DO want this outline to be the norm for me:

  • Absolutely no internet in the morning, unless I need to look something up for school or lunch.
  • I may go to my own personal “Internet Cafe” for an hour a day, if I so choose. I am free, during this time, to peruse Facebook without guilt, to message friends, to watch goofy Youtube videos, or to check for sales on my wishlist at Anthropologie. I may have wi-fi all day long, but this is the only hour I want to really acknowledge it. Think “college days in the early 2000s” when you had to go to the computer lab to get online
  • No internet in bed. When I cross into my bedroom at night, the computer stays behind.
  • I may hop quickly online during the day for very specific reasons, such as ordering my groceries or making a purchase at Amazon or doing research for school or sharing a quick story, but then I hop right back up. No surfing allowed. If possible, I won’t even sit down for these things, so I’m not tempted to settle in.

So. Why all the nit-picky rules?

Because, even though I love, love, LOVE the internet, it is undeniable to this heart of mine that my family has been calling me home.

And so I’m going to shut this laptop, and I’m going read books out loud, and I’m going to remember what it is like to sit and pray with nothing distracting me, and I’m going to try to make some good food, and I’m going to hang twinkle lights upstairs, and I’m going to play card games and, who knows, maybe I’ll even dig in the dirt and make something grow. The sky’s the limit, so long as there’s not a cloud drive involved!

The sterility of the internet and the voices of the multitudes should no longer be allowed to hold me captive — God forbid it!! — when there is sweet LIVING to do.

Especially when the only one holding the keys to my chains is me.

It’s kind of embarrassing how the freedom I so desperately crave is just a matter of pushing a button and standing up.

~

This was my first resolution. Tomorrow I’ll share some journal entries that have cataloged my new practices!

An All-American Halloween

A couple of years ago, I saw this precious costume in the Chasing Fireflies catalogue (click on the picture to be taken to the product page).

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Rebekah was singing by then, and I could just picture her in this vintage-inspired get-up with her chubby toddler body singing “God Bless Am-ayy-ica.” Here, I’ll help you to imagine it better.

So I added that costume to my (sorta sad) Halloween wishlist at Amazon with hopes to someday center our family costumes around it.

Is that normal for people to have Halloween wishlists for their family-themed costumes?

Don’t answer that.

But then, darn it, these kids ’round here started getting opinions.

We did “Red Riding Hood“. (Okay, which I was totally pumped about).

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Then Mr. Gore had his back surgery and I barely had time to throw this “Hospital” idea together (which actually won us the costume contest that year! BOOM. Mic drop.)

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Then it was “Star Wars“, all for the love of our then seven-year-old son, Gideon.

And I hope you’ve noticed the glaring omission of the Chasing Fireflies patriotic costume that had now been on my wishlist for THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS.

Nope, no red-white-and-blue sequined number, just a slumping Darth Vader who doesn’t know how to hold a lightsaber.

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It’s like I’m in prison or something.

Thus, even as Rebekah and I conceded last year to what felt like maybe a Holy-Spirit-led Star Wars decision at our costume planning meeting (don’t judge), we both made it clear before we adjourned that NEXT year (meaning, this year) we would finally do it…

AMERICA.

No comments, no questions, no take-backs.

There was only one problem, however.

Rebekah wasn’t digging the costume I picked out for her all those years ago at Chasing Fireflies.

I’m sorry, WHAT????

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Rather, she fell madly in love with a random Betsy Ross costume that we somehow stumbled across at Amazon one day.

In fact, she loved it so very much that she put it on her Christmas wishlist, even though the smallest size was for 9-11 year olds (she was 5).

And…she got it.

Her Grandpa and Grandma, who have this uncanny ability to sense what their little ones will love the most off of their lists, bought it for her, and it’s true, when I asked Rebekah what her favorite gift was after Christmas, she got all dreamy-eyed and sighed “My Betsy Ross costume!”

So I decided to love it, too.

It was way too big, but she adored it so much, and I said “buh-bye” to my little 1940’s USO girl before 2014 was even over.

Maybe the next time I have a chubby and fabulous preschooler who voluntarily memorizes and sings patriotic songs, I’ll buy it for HER.

But, in all seriousness — if we’re allowed to “be serious” when we’re talking about Halloween costumes — it’s important for a mama to learn somewhere along the line that, if she will just GO with it and release her freakish control-freak tendencies, life can be great and maybe even better than it would have been if she had remained dictator-of-the-costumes-and-all-the-other-stuff.

(For instance, I wouldn’t trade the memories of our “Star Wars” Halloween for ANYTHING!)

But before we get to the costumes, there’s one more thing I want to tell you about.

You guys know me well enough by now to know that we wouldn’t just be dressing up on Halloween and then calling it a day. Everything has to have meaning around here and things that happened on this day need to line up with things that happened on that day and ALSO with things that will happen in the future and I couldn’t help myself…

sometime around two years ago, this costume theme began to grow into another complicated vision that I just couldn’t let go of.

You see, I love the 4th of July almost as much as I love October 31st, and most of the characters we would be portraying on Halloween had also, long, long ago, conveniently been featured in 20th Century wartime propaganda posters.

Well, guess what? I HAPPEN TO LOVE WARTIME PROPAGANDA POSTERS!!! Golly gee, who doesn’t?!?!

So here was the plan: as each person got dressed in their costume on Halloween Day, I dragged them out to our shed through the wet grass to try and replicate the posters that we had found of our characters. Soon, I’ll be sending the photos off to a graphic designer to be turned into posters – featuring us! – that I can hang up every July.

Do I exhaust you?

Because I certainly exhaust myself.

And definitely my husband and my mom.

ANYHOW, I look forward to showing you next summer the wartime posters we’ll hopefully have hanging all around our house!

But enough with the whys and the hows and the whats and the posters.

Are you ready to see this year’s costumes?!?!

~

First up, we have Uncle Sam, played by the best of good sports, Mr. Gore.

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What a hero. Not only does he play along with my photo shoots, he then scurries down the street to head up our town’s Trunk or Treat, never once acting embarrassed that he is wearing a taped-on goatee. I love that man.

(p.s. If you are looking for details and links to our costumes for a future Halloween, I have a follow-up post in the works!)

~

Next up! Rosie the Riveter, played by your truly.

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I spent a good amount of time on Halloween afternoon practicing Rosie’s pose in front of our computer camera:

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The pose was much harder to replicate when I was outside in the cold in front of the neighbors without a mirror image!

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Can I tell you, though, what I enjoyed most about my costume this year?

Most days, I feel the need to cover up my arms with a cardigan, but I was kinda unexpectedly proud on this day to show off my Mama guns as a tribute to the men and women of the Greatest Generation. There were so many vamped-up costume versions of Rosie out there, making her look all pin-up-y and such, but I ask you, fellow citizens, would the women that Rosie represented be trotting all over town trying to look sexy on Halloween night?

Nay, I say!

They’d be flexing their big ol’ arms from working hard and holding down the homefront and toting around old-fashioned, heavy babies, and they might be a little thick in the middle because they weren’t averse to a good piece of pie after supper. In that regard, the role of Rosie was created for me.

In fact, I mentally called my costume “paunchalicious” because the elastic band of my worksuit sat right on my biggest problem area. It was all good, though.

For this night, I embraced it.

I think it must all go back to the red lipstick. That stuff does something for a girl’s confidence, even when she’s wearing something akin to Carharts.

~

Next up, we have the amazing Captain America! I had never seen this particular poster before, but I LOVE it.

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And here’s our “Cap”, about as handsome and inspiring as the original, if I say so myself.

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Gid the Kid loved this costume, purchased for 40% off at the Disney Outlet in Branson, and my biggest struggle was keeping him from wearing it day and night before Halloween. He is still wearing the gloves every day, with every outfit.

I’m just personally thrilled that he’s still cool with wearing costumes. I don’t see Peter Pan much around here anymore, and I was afraid we’d lost him.

~

Next we have the beautiful and industrious Betsy Ross. I couldn’t find a Betsy war poster, but this artwork served as our inspiration.

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Here’s our Betsy. Not to be confused with our actual Betsie. This is really Rebekah, my co-heart behind this “America” theme, and the biggest fan ever of the costume she FINALLY got to wear. Special thanks to Grandmother for hauling a sewing machine over at the last minute to shorten the skirt to a wearable length!

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Next, we have the statuesque Lady Liberty!!!

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Played by our actual Betsie (not to be confused with our Rebekah Betsy). Betsie loved, loved, LOVED this costume, and I did, too! I can’t help but feel that it went on sale just for us, after years of being too expensive!!!

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We actually did two poses with the Statue of Liberty, and this second one just positively slays me. Betsie is shy in some scenarios, but on costume picture day, she’s our best actress!

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(#ohhoney)

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And, lastly, I present to you our majestic national bird…

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played by Shepherd Gore!

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I would have made him a nest, but everything was wet, and we had to hurry to get his photos before his 2-year-oldness started showing.

The funniest thing about Shepherd is that he HATED his costume SO BAD. We had tried to put it on him a couple of times, but he ran away from us screaming his head off. I had honestly assumed that he would be wearing his American flag shirt on Halloween night.

Thus, imagine my shock when I was finishing up Rebekah’s photos by the shed and this little eagle came running across the yard towards me, flapping his wings, so he could get his picture made.

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It made me want to say old-ladyish things like “Well, I never!” and “Will wonders never cease?!” It was the best surprise of my night.

So. Those are the official “poster” poses that will be made into our 4th of July decorations.

Now here are just some fun shots we got of each character in between takes.

First, Uncle Sam:

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Okay, so that was the only pose I had of him. I have, like, fifty of that same pose, and you’ll notice in the upcoming pictures that he holds this pose for the entire night. The sky could be falling in on our heads and he would never break character.

Here’s Rosie (these were taken by Gideon, my budding photographer!):

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Captain America:

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Betsy Ross:

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The Statue of Liberty:

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and our Eagle-boy:

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Finally, here’s the whole crew. I will cherish this picture forever!

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And these, too…

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Psst! Little known fact. Did you know that Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter fell in love and had patriotic babies? They live underneath the Lincoln Memorial.

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It may feel, sometimes, that our country is going berserk-o, but we’re still mighty proud to live here and call the U.S.A. our home. We’ll fight for her, we’ll pray for her, we’ll pay our taxes and we’ll love her. Until she takes away our right to homeschool, then we’re outta here. Haha. Just kidding. But totally serious.

AMERICA RULES!!!

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~

Thank you, DEAR readers, as ever, for making Halloween extra fun for me!! Our Facebook group is my favorite place to go to on Halloween night once the kids have eaten ungodly amounts of candy and passed out on the floor.

If you haven’t already, pop over to our page and share a picture of your costume! And ‘like’ our page to get frequent updates and stories from the Gore family. Happy Halloween 2015!!

The Day I Took a Walk – Our Tenth Anniversary Celebration

If you are just now joining us for this week’s very special anniversary series and have a hankering to hear all the details, you can catch up by reading Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

However, here is a nutshell recap of what I’ve shared this week that will explain the pictures you are about to see…

Following a strong conviction, my husband and I decided to shelve any ideas of celebrating our 10th anniversary in a distant location and to spend the day, instead, at the homeplace, with our children.

With a heart to make much of our marriage and to celebrate what God has wrought in our family, we each took two of our children that morning – the girls with me and the boys with him – and spent the entire day talking to them about marriage and walking them through the details of the wedding we had shared ten years earlier.

The girls accompanied me on a complete bridal experience in the big city, getting my hair put up, getting my make-up applied and then coming home to hide in the very same room where I had awaited my wedding ceremony.

And as afternoon turned to evening, we left that room and walked down the path my daddy led me down on my wedding day, meeting our boys in our fancy clothes in the EXACT same spot on the back porch where their papa and I said “I do”.

As I stated in one of the above previous posts, this was not a vow renewal, really, but “a meditation of vows already made, a proclamation to our little family that Papa and Mama spoke sacred words of promise to each other ten years ago, words of promise that God designed for men and women to flesh out, words of promise that God alone has helped us to keep, and words of promise that we intend to fulfill, by the grace of God, till death do us part.”

And then, of course, we would have a PARTY!

~

To everyone who has read so faithfully and with such encouraging words all week, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You inspire and motivate me every day of my life, and knowing that you all would be on the receiving end of this experience gave me the courage to proceed when I wanted to chicken out.

I also have to give MAJOR CREDIT to Champagne & Blush Photography for capturing this momentous day for me in perfect fashion. I couldn’t possibly be happier with the finished product – I sincerely cannot stop marveling over Becky’s talent! – and I would love it so much if you would go and visit her beautiful website here.

Now…

FINALLY…

it brings me great pleasure to invite you to join us on the walk we took, as a family, on June 11, 2015, to commemorate the covenantal vows that Mr. Gore and I made on June 11, 2005.

If you’re on board, just say “I do!”

~

After almost two hours of holing ourselves up in my mama and daddy’s room, the girls and I began to get dressed.

Here is Rebekah in her Boden Christmas dress from two years ago. Still gettin’ our money’s worth, and Betsie hasn’t even started wearing it yet!

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And Betsie chose to wear her precious floral-printed birthday dress that was custom-made for her by my beloved friend, Leslie, at My Dear Poppy. A PERFECT choice, if I do say so myself.

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Because most of my dearest friends are family members, including my mama, I chose not to have “official” bridesmaids on my wedding day and to let everyone have a seat and enjoy the wedding from the front row.

I didn’t know then that, in ten short years, I’d have the perfect girls to fill my bridesmaids role, for life.

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After making purchases online and returning purchases online and then finally making a desperate trip to the mall (NOOOOO!!!!), I found the perfect dress for me.

It was pink and shimmery and ladylike and…

I liked it a whole lot.

I scraped a lot of pennies together for this dress, and so I will be wearing it to every wedding I attend for the next decade or two. Just don’t mention it if you see me in it.

“New dress?” you’ll ask.

And I’ll nod and wink at you.

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The bedroom was full of mementos from our wedding day. First, here are my “engagement shoes”, the Jimmy Choo pumps that my husband surprised me with on the night he proposed.

It was a big deal and I want to tell you ALL about it, but you’ll have to wait until my book is finished and then possibly published.

Give me about eight years, mkay?

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Here are my wedding shoes, a pair of beaded, sparkly flats that were perfect for our outdoor wedding. Heels were not an option, unless, of course, I wanted to sink into the dirt with every step I took.

These shoes were just the ticket.

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This is a little letterpress card that I keep in our bedroom next to our wedding portrait.

“Forever thine” is a true sentiment for me, because I frequently ask God to let me be married to Mr. Gore in heaven, or, at the very least, share a duplex with him.

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This floral handkerchief was one of six different prints that were passed out to the female guests as a wedding favor, and on top of it is the silver tussie mussie that my mama carried down the aisle, featuring, not surprisingly, a rose.

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Obviously, we were in a bridal haven, and it was so much fun to spend time with my daughters and my mama, mulling over my memories and getting dolled up.

I had seriously considered getting my girls’ hair fixed at the salon or by one of my talented friends but, in the end, we settled on sponge rollers and curling irons and pretty hair accessories that we had in our collection.

The metal headband and hair comb that the girls wore came from Anthropologie.

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My darling Betsie.

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And OH how sweet it was to still have my mama here to tie my sash for me.

(p.s. On the television in the background is the series of old movie clips that we played on a big-screen at our wedding reception!)

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By the way, Mama was very proud of the bow she tied.

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As the girls and I continued to primp, Becky ran to the other side of the U-shaped house to get some pictures of the boys in the guest bathroom.

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Gideon was given the very important task of holding onto my wedding bands, put back into the box that held them in 2005.

His vest and hat, if you’re wondering, came from Janie and Jack.

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Ring-bearer or best man?

Maybe both.

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I love that Gid took time to explain what was going on to his baby brother, Shepherd. I might have cried just a little when I got to these pictures.

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My handsome menfolk. I’m so proud and so grateful to have them in my home.

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And…

brace yourselves…

Shep is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen or held in my life, and when you put suspenders on something that cute, be prepared to keel over.

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Mr. Gore’s last task of the day was to set up our wedding music, most of which were selections from my favorite movie, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”.

The “June Bride” song was actually the theme for our entire wedding, and it still makes me feel all mushy and gushy when I hear it today.

You can listen to the song and read more marital musings here.

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And here is the spot where it all started, the married life of Mr. and Mrs. Gore.

There were little mason jars of roses hanging all down the fenceline on our wedding day, and garlands of greenery and roses were draping these porch rails.

Thus, at the last minute, I threw a few of our extra roses from Stem’s into some jars to pay homage to our floral arrangements of yesteryear.

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“Ceremony” time!!

When Mr. Gore was a bridegroom, he walked out of this front door with my brother, Jerry, and his mentor, Mat, both of whom were speaking during the service.

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They stepped into the yard, took a right turn, and my beloved waited for me at the bottom of the back porch steps in front of all of our family and friends.

On that day, I did not yet belong to this man.

Today, I have been his for a decade, and I have relished the privilege, with all my heart.

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And the sun was shining through the trees…

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“It’s time!” my mom told us, back in our part of the house, and the girls and I gathered up our flowers and began our walk.

Sometimes I wonder, if there weren’t photographs documenting my wedding day, would I really remember this walk? Would I have a blank spot in my memory from where my nerves took over and the glory of my wedding day blinded my comprehension?

Perhaps.

But there are lots of pictures and so I DO remember it, very well.

My daddy was smiling at me in his handsome suit, and I was smiling back.

The grass was greener than it had ever been before.

The breeze was filled with songs and love and, for a rare and beautiful moment, what felt like utter perfection.

Had Eden come down to visit, just to feed us on our pilgrimage?

I think it did. It felt like sin was gone for just a minute, and suffering, and sadness, and brokenness.

It felt like heaven…

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With the memories of that day assailing me and the sameness of our surroundings flanking me, I tell you for a FACT that my breath was taken right out of me as I stepped through those doors once more with my daughters by my side.

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And as we rounded the corner and saw them – our men! – a lump rose up in my throat the size of Texas.

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They were whistling and clapping and making a grand fuss over us, and I was glad all over again that I had kept this day simple and small.

Now, it won’t surprise any of our Facebook readers that Betsie got a little lost on our walk – she was VERY excited and just took off like a bullet when we walked out the door – but we’re used to our “oh honey” girl and we lassoed her back to where she needed to be.

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And Rebekah, basking in every aspect of this event, performed like a pro. She’s hiring out for weddings now, so if you need a bridesmaid…

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And, um…

here’s me.

Sing along with me, why don’t you, so I don’t feel embarrassed.

♬ Here comes the wife

married for life 

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My family.

When I said “I do” to Mr. Gore, I was a delusional young woman with big dreams that centered around yours truly.

God has used these five people here to change me, through and through, and to teach me what it means to die to myself.

I would be nowhere without them, and I could care less about the stretchmarks that it took to get me to this point.

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Husbands are a blessing and a gift and a treasure.

Children are a heritage from the Lord.

Let’s shout all of the above from our rooftops, yes?!

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I mentioned my ridiculously idyllic imagination yesterday, and in the months leading up to our anniversary, I grew some big ideas about what the following “ceremony” would be like.

We would read our vows aloud to the children, we’d exchange rings, we’d all cry and gaze at one another in devotion, and then we’d pray as a family, hands clasped in heartfelt pleading.

As it turned out, we just had time to exchange rings, quickly.

Silly me, I had completely forgotten about our less-than-two year old and that he doesn’t know how to gaze OR pray yet.

But do you know what?

This was enough.

As Mr. Gore reminded me, we talked to our children about marriage all day, we had dedicated our day and all the details to God, and now it was time to rest and enjoy, wherever the evening (and our circus of a family) led us.

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Funny sidenote: we had a LOT more trouble getting those little rings on each other’s fingers on our 10th anniversary than we did on our wedding day.

Oh, well. That just means we’ve enjoyed a jolly and bountiful decade, don’t you agree?

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And then, because my husband was both bridegroom and minister, he demanded that I kiss him.

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Twice.

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Kissing still makes me happy, even though I’m 33.

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But a word of caution to all you young ones out there. Kissing is the BEST…

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but it tends to multiply.

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which is the only kind of math that I like.😉

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Ladies and gentlemen of the internet…

it is my TRUE honor and pleasure to present to you…

Mr. and Mrs. Gore!!!

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till death do us part

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Sweet story, when I was preparing for my wedding day, I had gathered up clips from my favorite movie weddings to use as inspiration.

The candles hanging in the trees came from “Anne of Green Gables”.

The hymn singing came from June Allyson’s “Little Women”.

However, the one detail I was never able to mimic was a scene from the American Girl “Samantha” movie where, after Uncle Gard and Cordelia kiss as man and wife, Samantha pulls on a sash that releases hundreds of rose petals from a contraption above them, surrounding them in a shower of, well, flowers.

I did NOT plan this next picture, but when Gideon told us to kiss ONE more time because he had a surprise for us in his hands, Becky had her camera ready.

Sigh. My falling rose petals.

My life is now complete.

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After the ceremony, we took some family pictures in the various pastures surrounding the house.

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And then, just like on our wedding day, we strolled down the path that led to our reception by the creek.

Ten years ago, my daddy and his friends built an open-air wooden pavilion for the wedding, and we decided we’d end our anniversary party by going there to enjoy some cake together.

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Ten years ago…

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Today…

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What God has joined together, let no man put asunder, and the next picture displays one of the most important reasons why.

Friends, let us fight for our marriages for the glory of God, and for our children.

They deserve to see us dying to ourselves and choosing to love one another, for life.

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Denying myself and living for this crew of people has brought me more happiness than I have ever known, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

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During our “ceremony”, my mom, without whom ANY of my blog or fun parties or peace of mind would exist, ran down to the pavilion to set out all the supplies we had gathered.

She did a beautiful job, and it was a feast for my eyes.

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This strawberry cake, from Queenie’s Cafe in Tulsa, was the most beautiful and delicious wedding cake, and we order one almost every anniversary.

The Fred and Ginger figurines were our “cake-toppers” and they dance all their days away on the dresser in our bedroom.

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Now that I’m a grown-up, I can cut cake. This is what all that “dying to myself” has resulted in.

I used to make someone else cut my cake for me.

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Before digging in, we showed the kids how we had crossed arms in the tradition of newlyweds and drank some much-needed ice water on our wedding day.

Whether it is 2005 or 2015, the same is true: Oklahoma is HOT.

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then we fed each other cake…

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and then we partied, relaxing as a family and enjoying the sweetest fruits of creation:

life.

love.

laughter.

strawberry cake.

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Before we headed back to the house, Becky, a TRUE honorer of details, took some more photographs for us.

These are the earrings that I wore on my wedding day, and I hope my daughters will enjoy them when they marry.

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This blue ribbon holding my bouquet of roses together was used on so many of our wedding details, including the mason jars, the invitations, and the choir songbooks.

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And I don’t know if Becky planned this or not, but I couldn’t believe it when I saw this picture.

Here’s my daddy on the day of my wedding in 2005, shuttling guests around the farm in his Kawasaki Mule…

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and here he is in 2015, stopping by after fishing to steal a piece of cake!

That’s a pretty trusty Mule, ain’t it?!

And the vehicle’s not so bad either!

(thank you, thank you very much – my mom really got a kick out of that joke.)

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As my mama began packing up our party, we sat down for just a few more family pictures…

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and then we called it a night and returned to the house, the same house we slowly walked to after being the last guests to leave our own wedding ten years ago.

But this time…

we RAN.

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Cinderella reportedly said “One shoe can change your life.”

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I, after ten years of wedded bliss, am much inclined to agree.

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~

Thank you, again, for joining our family for this very special occasion! My greatest prayer is that God would have used our celebration to draw your hearts back home.

Marriage and family have become disposable in our world and it is time, Christians, that we claim them back for the glory of God, for the health of His Church, and for the spread of the Kingdom.

Marriage belongs to God. May we treat it right, cover it in prayer, and maybe, just maybe, throw it a great big party every once in awhile.

~

And now I invite you to share! Join me in spreading the word that marriage is worth fighting for and that being a wife can be even sweeter than being a bride. Pick a pin, any pin! 

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The Day I Took a Walk – Part Three

New to this week’s anniversary series? Read Part One and Part Two

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The morning of our anniversary dawned as beautifully as our wedding day did ten years ago, but this time, of course, there were children in my bed.

Funny how that works.

Having already delivered all of the necessary supplies to my parent’s house two nights before, the girls and I were free to wake up leisurely and get our day started before being picked up by my mama for our fun bridal-esque day on the town.

Mom and I giggled a bit to recall our identical drive a decade past, leaving my capable sister-in-law, Amy, in charge of all of the wedding chaos back at the house while we enjoyed our last day together sharing the same home and last name. (Thanks again, Amy – you were awesome! I will owe you FOREVER!)

As my mama’s baby and only girl following three sons, the two of us had really savored every possible second of the entire bridal experience, and while I would maybe do a few things differently in retrospect (i.e. save my parents some money by toning things down a notch), we were feeling absolutely on top of the world that day.

And so it was fun to see a similar glee on my daughter’s faces as we loaded up into my mom’s SUV. I’m sure you know this already, but one of the crowning joys of life is having girls in your life to do girly stuff with.

And can I just say that I was so proud of Betsie for being brave enough to wear her sponge rollers all over Tulsa, although I am sure she soon realized that it was a wise choice, as every woman we passed stopped in her tracks to fawn over the cuteness and nostalgia that her ‘do evoked.

Maybe I’ll try to wear sponge rollers to Tulsa someday. Do you think people will think I’m cute?

Yeah, okay, maybe I won’t.

So our first stop was to the donut shop to get donut holes because donuts are important, whether it is your anniversary or not.

Next, we drove to the flower shop to pick out our flowers. We didn’t actually get our wedding flowers from Stem’s in 2005, but we did have roses at our wedding and Stem’s has roses, so there you go. Plus it was in the same shopping center we would be in all day.

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Did you know that The Pioneer Woman has shopped here before? I could feel her lingering presence. That’s why I’m really smiling in this picture, not because it is my anniversary and I’m about to get my hair did.

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Stem’s always has a gorgeous selection of flowers. It was hard to leave without buying the whole room!

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Next, because we were a little bit early for my first appointment, we stopped in at Pottery Barn Kids to waste some money…er, time.

I wonder, sometimes, if Pottery Barn Kids recognizes our family as the people who come and play with toys but never buy anything?

I hope not.

We make up for it at Christmastime.

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And then it was time for my hair appointment at Ihloff Salon and Day Spa, the magical place where I spent many hours in the months leading up to my wedding getting groomed and scrubbed and polished, and where I had my hair done for bridal portraits and our wedding.

I touched on this already in Part Two of this series, but it felt so strange to be having an updo as an old washed-up woman in her thirties.

At least, that’s how we allow ourselves to think sometimes, isn’t it?

Which leads me to the second part of the lesson I told you about yesterday.

If I’m being quite transparent, and I thank you for allowing me to do so, I would have to confess that this was not an ideal time in my mind to be focusing an entire day and photo shoot around myself.

Shepherd’s pregnancy – and my ruthless craving for hamburgers that accompanied that pregnancy, I am sure – was hard on my body, and almost two years later, I have yet to return to my favorite weight range and the size of clothing that I feel most comfortable with.

It doesn’t help much, of course, that Sheppy is a devoted cuddlebug who hypnotizes me with his preciousness at least five times a day. While Betsie had me on my feet every second of her awake-time trying to keep her alive, therefore causing the pounds to just fall off of me, Sheppy is more like, “Hey, Mom, you want to sit here on the couch with me and let everything that we just ate turn into fat?”

It’s cute.

And I always say “Why, yes, Sheppy, I DO.”

And I say all that not to fish for compliments and not to give the impression that I am unhappy with the way I look – on most days, I feel perfectly fine and passably attractive for a mom of four kids in her early thirties.

But a photo shoot?! Where I’m the star? And where there isn’t a baby on my hip, camouflaging my midsection, at all times?

Awkward.

Therefore, this surprisingly painful practice of forging ahead and being the “woman of the hour” was good for me, not only to battle the self-consciousness that can so easily hold dominion over a woman’s spirit – even a woman who holds to all the right theologies! – but to display to my daughters that this earthly shell of mine isn’t something that I will shrink under.

We have bigger fish to fry, do we not?

And do you know what?

I totally went for it. And, please, feel free to go ahead and applaud for me because I didn’t even wear a SHAWL. Sleeveless, baby, for maybe the first time in public in I don’t even KNOW when.

Okay, it was a cap sleeve, but now you’re just being picky.

And the moral of this section of my anniversary series is as follows…

most husbands don’t want perfect-looking wives, they just want confident wives who aren’t so obsessed with their bodies that they keep them under lock and key both in and out of the bedroom.

On this day and on this anniversary weekend, I chose to be confident for my man, and believe you me, he was a fan.😉😉😉

Moving on, before we get to the fun of our outing, there is one last secret that I’d like to pass along, a secret that applies to all family gatherings, especially when children are involved, and it this: though beautiful and touching in theory, this momentous day of ours was no more perfect than any other day outside of the gates of Eden.

Let me explain.

I was telling my friend, Kodi, that I am the queen of dreaming up these idyllic scenarios about the special moments I will share with my family.

In my imagination, there is always laughter and frolicking and I’m never sweating or feeling like I could wring someone’s neck.

And, in my projections for this day, in particular, my impressionable daughters would most assuredly be sitting on the edge of their seats, watching their beloved mother being transformed into a vision of timeless beauty. Their eyes would sparkle as they would watch my hair being pinned up, and they would meditate on how happy they are to have landed in my nest.

HA.

Fake, boooooooored smiles.

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Five minutes into my updo, Rebekah chirped, “How long do we have to be here? Can we go back to Pottery Barn Kids?”

Betsie, who was hanging like a monkey from the neighboring stylist’s chair, dropped to the floor and nodded her head in agreement.

And I realized again, in that moment, that my children are humans – especially on holidays! – and that I should just sit back and enjoy my day in a realistic manner. No pressure on anyone, just love and humor, and this attitude would most certainly serve me well the entire day, and really, my entire life.

I hope you’ll remember this at your next Easter Egg hunt when everyone is crying, your kids have changed into sweatpants without your permission, your hair is wind-blown and stuck to your lipgloss and your underarms have leaked sweat onto your blouse for all the world to see.

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My mom, ever the astute helper, soon whisked the girls off for about an hour, leaving me and my stylist, Whitney, to chat and relax…

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and they returned just in time to see the last pin being slipped into my fifty pounds of hair. (I sincerely felt sorry for this sweet lady who had to figure out how to arrange that mess!)

Before leaving, she put on the finishing touch, the crystal brooch that was pinned in my hair ten years earlier, and then we moved down the street to my make-up session at Saks Fifth Avenue, which was, you guessed it, exactly where I went on my wedding day.

The girls felt a little perkier about this portion of our day – they love make-up! – and Debra at the Trish McEvoy counter was so accommodating to our little party.

How nice it felt to sit at my leisure and have a professional gussy me up. The only problem was, this make-up application felt SO good and relaxing, I just wanted to go night-night when it was all over.

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And now I’d like to display to you for just a second what it is like to sit with Betsie during church…

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Oh! And have I mentioned yet that girls are fun?!

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Before we left for the day, Rebekah and Betsie got to join in the pampering, and they were giddy with excitement.

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I share my lipgloss with them faithfully, but this was another level, entirely.

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On our way out of Utica Square, we picked up the cake at Queenie’s Cafe — the same strawberry cake that was featured on the dessert table at our wedding — the flowers that had been put back for us at Stem’s, and supper for all of us to eat after the celebration.

And then?

We were off!

While the drive to Tulsa had been almost identical to the one I took on my wedding day – heart full of excitement to luxuriate in a bridal transformation – the drive home was much different.

There were no nerves this time.

No fears or doubts.

No somberness about the life I was leaving behind.

Only praise and gratitude from mulling over how good God has been, pure excitement about spending the evening with my favorite people, and, honestly, relief that this entire shenanigan was almost successfully concluded!

Turning onto my parent’s country road from the highway, we stopped and pointed out to the girls where, ten years earlier, their Papa had been standing in the bar-ditch with my brother, Pete, propping up an antique door that told wedding guests where to turn.

As mom and I had slowed down to greet them that late afternoon, Mr. Gore had turned his back to me so he wouldn’t see me before the wedding, and I felt like I was going to burst. I’d had butterflies galore in that moment, and I had them again, just thinking about my bridegroom who has stood by my side for a beautiful decade.

When we finally pulled up into the driveway, Rebekah, Betise and I scurried to my mom and dad’s room through the back door while Mama went through the front door to deliver strict orders to the boys not to come back there.

It was a full-out GIRLS ONLY moment, and the next hour or so was spent thumbing through our wedding album, watching our wedding ceremony on DVD (Rebekah could not BELIEVE how “adorable” her papa was!) and watching the collection of old movie clips that had played on a big projector screen at our wedding reception.

And then, just like on my wedding day, the evening swung into full gear, Becky arrived with all of her camera equipment, we began to get dressed in our fancy clothes, and then, well…

then we took a walk.

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I vow to you that you’ll see EVERY BIT of that walk, tomorrow!