So, I am back from my 'vacation'. I got back late Thursday night. And, I am still recovering.
Looking back, it was a whirlwind trip, five states in six days...totaling twenty hours in a car and approximately 17 relatives visited.
I knew God was going to be with me on the trip. He even sent messages along the way. As I am boarding my plane (the first one) halfway down the isle is a flight attendant. He asks if I'm going home, I tell him 'no, I'm going to visit my sister and my parents.' His reply "GOOD, IT"S BEEN TOO LONG!" Yea, God, I hear you loud and clear. I couldn't help but chuckle when I got to my seat.
While I enjoyed the vacation, the overwhelming theme to me was stress. I was met at the airport on Saturday afternoon by my sister, Tina, and my nieces Rikki (14) and Kathryn (9 months). It was such a joy to see them! We then drove an hour to their home. During the trip, my sister went out of her way to make me feel loved, wanted, and accepted...things I spent my whole life trying to get from her. She and I have been a work in progress for almost ten years, and only over the last three have we gotten to be okay. Now, I can say, we are fabulous. She made two special trips to take me to Mass (as she attends a nondenominational Christian church). I say two trips because Saturday evening, masstimes.org said Mass was at five, and we roll up about 4:45pm to find people leaving. Turns out it was at four. I knew to call the church and confirm, but in my anxiety, I forgot. So, the next morning, we woke up at 6:30am to make it to the 7:30am Mass (yea, I called and confirmed, masstimes.org had it at 8, lol). She even attended Mass with me. She sang the songs too. However, she didn't receive communion, and this part pleased me. Why you ask? Because she hasn't been to the Mass in a very long time and therefore, she wasn't receiving unworthily. That made me happy. Hey, she's my sister, and her soul is important to me, as is all of yours.
We then go home for breakfast and head on to their church. It was two hours of singing and praising with preaching entwined. I even knew a couple of the songs. Then, in another God moment Pastor Jamie (I think that's his name) says "God meets you where you are". Yup. Yup He does Jamie. Then, in a move that made my sister giddy, they had communion. I say this made her giddy b/c it is only reserved for special occasions. And, she and I had talked about it. And, as the wafer and grape juice passed me, I let it pass. If I recall correctly, I cannot receive at another church, b/c I know it's not really Jesus. Is that right? I'd love clarification on it if you guys have it. But I digress, to my sister, it was cool b/c 'we just talked about it!" And, the cool thing about my sister is that her Catholic roots shine through whether she knows it or not. She believes it IS the body and blood of Jesus. She didn't even catch when the Pastor said it is a *symbol* twice. I did. She didn't have too. She likes all the singing. She left the church b/c her favorite priest left. I can relate. I mean, if Father Tim wasn't here after Father Antony left, would I have found another Catholic church? I can't answer that. I truly don't know. So, I understand why she left. But, eventually, she'll be back. She just doesn't know it yet. Another God moment.
Then, Monday morning, we finish packing and are ready to drive 6 hours to my dads in Florence, SC from Deltona, Fla. I finally tell her I'm a little nervous. "Why?" she asks. I tell her I haven't seen dad or Sarah in eight years. I don't know these people. In my head the words of a former olive garden colleague play in my head the day he got hired at BJ's and I was going in after him "just be yourself'". Tina said everything would be okay, and she'd be my buffer, and she was.
We arrived at my dad's house late afternoon. He gives his hugs and then comes to me, and in a move I wasn't expecting, he hugged me tight. This caught me off guard. Then as we settle in, the things I knew to expect came about...the tour of the changes in the house since I'd been there eight years ago, the infamous bathroom (they had planned to come down but had to change their schedule as the bathroom was being redone), and then the inevitable talk of why don't I go back to college or back to work for the government. Thankfully, God made those conversations short. lol
Then, as we were hanging out, he would do little things that caught me off guard. He found little ways to touch me. A hand on the shoulder, a rub of my head, a sideways hug, playing footsies. Anything to touch me. While these are beautiful, they were unnerving. So, that's when I emailed my chrp sisters for prayers. My nerves were frayed the entire time there. How, I asked my sisters, do I open up to God's plan for this trip and what He wants it to be, while remaining closed off to my dad and not get sucked in again? I wish I could tell you I was able to figure it out, but I wasn't. Throughout your prayers and emails, I was able to stay strong in my faith and keep turning to Him.
I stayed at my dads for three days. Tuesday we just hung out till the afternoon, and my sister, the kids (Randy (11), Sebastian (5) and Kathryn (9 months) headed off to my Aunt and Uncles in Summerville, SC about 1 1/2 away. I got to see two of my cousins and their wives and child. It was great seeing them, especially one of them, as he is my Godson. We stayed just a couple hours and then headed back to Dads. Wednesday morning, we just hung out. There were odd times where conversations were taking place between my dad, Sarah, and my sister, and I'm just sitting there. But, true to my sisters word, she buffered for me.
Wednesday morning, friends of my dad and Sarah showed up. They don't know me but are friends with my sister. I was left out for most of the conversations. However, Sarah surprised me and went out of her way to make me a part of the conversation. Then, in early afternoon, Tina and I loaded up the kids and drove about an hour to Longs, SC to see my mom and mema (10 minutes from Myrtle Beach). This trip was uneventful but beautiful. Seeing my mom and my 91 year old mema made me happy. We then drove back to my dads.
Thursday was breakfast at Cracker Barrel and then we got on the road for the 7 hour trip to the Orlando airport. We had a ton of fun on the ride back. And, she even mentioned how my dad had told her how nervous he was too. I don't think I ever felt closer to my sister. And, by 9:30 that night, I was back in the loving arms of my family.
The visit played havoc with my stomach and my head. Nerves. I think I'm good for another eight years on seeing my dad, my sister not so much. I've been back three days and we have had about that many calls. I'm sure it will taper off with her going back to work from her vacation, me starting bj's, and all the kids starting school. I still don't know what this trip was suppose to look like, or what it was suppose to be. I just know I was suppose to go on it. And, I did. I knew, even miles and miles away, that all of you were there. And, that made all the difference.
So, that was my trip, nerves and all. There are a ton of pictures on facebook if you'd like to see them!
Until next time,
Hug your family a little longer today