In no particular order…
1. Believe it or not the traveling. We love being together as a family and our kids really do travel so well. Snacking on cheese nips and raisins, singing harmony at the top of our lungs, curling up for car naps, playing I Spy, watching The Muppet Show on DVD and hearing our boys laugh out loud. I love Bear’s dimples and the sparkle in his eye every time he hears the intro to “Real Gone” from Cars. I love my Buddy’s inquisitive nature and excitement to discover new things and new places. And I love little Bella singing at the top of her lungs a song to which only she knows the words (and the melody).
2. The beauty of the mountains. When we arrived in Tennessee, we heard this: “But, Mom, it doesn’t feel like we left Virginia.” Yep. It’s all God’s country!
3. Seeing Tiff’s face standing at the end of her apartment waiting. And hearing my kids yell, “Tiffany!” at the top of their lungs as they jumped on and bear-hugged their favorite baby-sitter, now sadly (for us) displaced to her new home.
4. The food. So, I broke dietary restrictions a lot this weekend. And OH MY STARS the blackberry pancakes at Log Cabin Pancake House in Pigeon Forge! I sigh with contentment. But even better? The pulled pork BBQ, broccoli salad, and beans that Kristin made on Saturday!
5. Spontaneity. I like to call them our “look what God did” moments. Our plans on Friday caved, which opened up the door for us to call our college friends, Scott and Jen, and meet them for supper at a park. Not nearly long enough, but it was so wonderful to see them and catch up what little we could.
6. Hanging out with Josh and Kristin. I will never forget the day Kristin, my senior year summer roommate, walked into our townhouse and dropped all her groceries, smashing her toe when I flashed my engagement ring. We spent years together being groupies for Josh’s band that Brian was the sound guy for, and we have missed their presence. It always amazes me how whenever we see them it’s like time never passed and we pick up right where we left off. We just keep adding kids to the mix and they will soon have daughter number 2. I figure that makes one for each of our boys.
7. Nashville. I could live there. In a heartbeat. I have always loved that city. This trip we went to Centennial Park to see the Parthenon replica, and ended up wading through the crowds headed to the Vanderbilt – Auburn game. (Way to GO Vandy!) We happened to be at the park the same weekend as the Celebration of Cultures, and it was so fun to walk around and see all the festivities. Ash has just learned about the Parthenon in school, so he was thrilled to walk around and tell us all he knew, and pose with a Griffin statue (his school mascot). Bear just wanted to play on the playground, and Bella, well, she was just happy.
8. Beth. My dear, sweet college friend. She drove the trip from St. Louis to meet us in Nashville, and we caught up as quickly as we could. We laughed and cried and I fell in love with her little pregnant belly and that sweet baby girl inside. It wasn’t nearly long enough, but as always, it was wonderful.
9. Worship. Sunday morning was a-MA-zing. I can’t stop talking about the sermon and the worship. I was blown away, convicted, blessed, challenged and fueled.
10. Sonic. Yep. Sonic. Bri and I searched the GPS for Sonics as we neared the Tennessee – Virginia border, because, after all, no trip to the south is complete without a meal at Sonic, so we polished up our burgers, curled up in the dark and finished our trip home with full bellies and happy hearts.
Happy hearts because we had spent the time being together. At one point during the trip, I grabbed Bri’s hand and cried. “We’re here.” I said. “We’re just here. That’s all that matters.” October 4th of last year was the day I started chemo. Another day of life gouging at our hearts and inflicting its pain. But here we were, one year later, just being together. And every moment was a taste of sweetness.
When I think back over the past year, there are several friends who come to mind that truly walked our journey with us. Tiffany, Kristin, Beth, and Jen were so faithful to me.. Tiff to babysit constantly and spend Sundays lying in bed with me sharing her heart. Jen, who was a prayer warrior for me and always willing to hear my heart. Kristin, who reminded me every week to look for God in the details and see His hand, even while she was walking through her own grief. And Beth, who wept with me, showered me with phone calls, visited every chance she could leave St. Louis, and loved me through her own desperation. A year ago, I didn’t know if I’d ever see them all again. So, yes, this weekend was a taste of Heaven for me… community, love and friendship. And it was marvelous.