Holdridge Family Vacation -- Summer 2017

We just wrapped up the reunion of all my siblings, their spouses (Tim has an imaginary spouse), and all their kids (Tim considers apple products as his kids).  We are spread out all over the map, so getting together is a rare treat.  We have managed to get together every summer as well as either Thanksgiving or Christmas each year.  Two times a year everyone clears their calendar and travels wherever we decide to convene and commune...you could call it our biannual bruhahah.

These are some of the things we do without fail every year...

1. We tell stories.  Some of the stories have never been heard before.  They either have never have been shared or they happened since we last got together...alot can happen in 6 months.  But a good many of them are stories that somehow get reheated and told for the umpteenth time.  I don't know why, but they get funnier every year.  Mind you, we've been getting together for over 20 years as families within this family, so you'd think some of these stories would get old, but they don't.  All of the guys are pastors, so we appreciate the craft of exquisite storytelling and masterful illustrating. It's kinda funny, but if your story isn't told in a compelling and interesting way, you will be eclipsed with another story.  So it really hones your skills and keeps you on your toes.  I love sitting around and laughing at new and old stories.  I love hearing my parent's stories.  I love hearing the grandchildren's stories.  I love hearing my brother's and sister's stories.  Never does time pass more quickly than when we're lost in labyrinth of tales told with passion and creativity.

2. We also laugh really hard.  Life can be quite heavy with a good bit of sad news that bombards you, but there's something about shedding that weight and lightening up.  My brother in laws have been given a particular gift to gab, quick-witted as all get out.  There are times when my stomach just aches after laughing so deeply...I don't do that often enough.  There is just something about our family and the freedom we have that releases the levity in each of us.  No one is offended that easily, so you can pick on each other without fearing hurt feelings...I love the give and take that flows freestyle.  A hearty laugh is medicine for the soul and I love that our kids get to be a part of a relaxed setting where the adults aren't taking themselves too seriously.  They know we are in ministry and many days are filled with meetings and madness...so it's good for them to see us cutting loose and letting down our hair.  The laughter sometimes hits a level where tears are streaming down our faces and it feels impossible to gain our composure.

3. But speaking of tears, that's another thing that invariably happens.  We have a family sharing night where everyone can speak whatever is on their heart.  It could be something that happened in the last year or just the place we find ourselves.  It doesn't have to be deep, but most of the time this night goes "very long" and gets "very deep".  People share their greatest victories and their deepest hurts.  The older kids have been joining us the last several times and so they get to witness our vulnerability and transparency (which I love) and I've noticed the last two times that they are sharing with openess and honesty as well.  This year there were lots of good, good tears.  Aches that needs to be shared, and gratitude that honestly caused genuine weeping.  It's amazing how soft our hearts really are when we're not on guard and are in a safe place with safe people.  My dad crided a good bit this year just sharing his burdens as well as generously pouring out his blessing on us kids and the grandkids.  I remember him crying twice when I was growing up and so this softening of his heart to express his feelings and to communicate his deep heart is refreshing for sure.  We shoulder each others weight and let each other gush with joy if something great has happened in our lives.  You don't have to edit or revise your words in fear of offending anyone...we just get it.  We're family.

4. And we have fun.  I mean just crazy fun.  Activities abound and our children find creatives ways to make the most of whatever environment we find ourselves.  They include the youngsters and as they get older they circle up in chairs and laugh so loud it about makes your eardrums burst.  But it's all good.  We usually have lots of recreation planned so that we're not just sitting around doing nothing and getting bored.  We love to play together and make memories.  Of course there are moments when we just sit around and watch the funniest Youtube videos we've all discovered this past year...that has become a staple nonnegotiable.  But in general, we stay quite active playing with our kids and each others kids.  If we're lucky, a New York Yankees game will be on one night or a Syracuse basketball game...the girls will congregate together and do their thing and the boys will high five and hug each other whenever our team does something spectacular.  I love watching our favorite teams together.  All in all, fun is standard fare.  We stay up late and, because of the small kids, we get up early.  Day after day is filled with loads of laughter and play...a much needed break from the ministry that at times can be quite overwhelming and taxing.

5. Oh, and we eat.  I mean gorge ourselves for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with homemade meals cooked by some of the finest cooks in the kitchen I know.  When we're not eating three square meals a day, we're grazing throughout the day and snacking on leftovers and plates of fruit and bags of chips that are laying around tempting you to partake all day long.  I love eating good food and we typically have an amazing spread prepared for us.  We pray before we eat and often we will break out into the Doxology as a whole family lifting up God for all that he is and all that He's done for our family in providing us with more than we deserve.  Our family is filled with good voices who break into 8 part harmony...it's abnormal and yet I like the quirky nature of our old fashioned heritage.  Sitting around several tables broken up into age groups can be challenging with kids all the way from 18 months to 18 years of age, but we manage and we're ok with messing, we're family.

6. And lastly, we rest.  In between activities and eating and conversing, it's not uncommon for someone to be dead to the world in an arm chair or exiting the fray and finding a bed to take a nap.  There is no pressure to perform or stay engaged the whole time, so occasionally people will break away and nap for a bit and spend some time reading or doing some stuff on their computures.  I love the freedom that happens in little intervals to break away and be alone.  Rest is so crucial on vacation and we know that about each other, so we give each other space to get alone.  After people get rested up, they dive back into the action with renewed energy.  There isn't pressure to have deep conversations the whole time or to entertain each other...we just dwell together.  It's not like there isn't any tension or spats on occasion, we're family, but I think the reason we occasionally collide with expectations or decisions or opinions is that we aren't afraid of disagreeing and coming to a peaceful solution.  We aren't walking on egg shells for the most part, and that is a gift.

All in all, I love our family and value the godly heritage that has formed me and that is now forming my children.  Hearing them share this year and share deep things that they long for and are disappointed by was such a refreshment.  I feel like all the years of establishing these healthy patterns of "doing life together' as an extended family is starting to bear fruit in them.  They are beinning to value the time together and enter in more deeply.

I pray that God gives us many more years together.  I know that my parents are getting older and that time is precious.  I want to make the most of all these moments we share together in the years to come...life is fleeting.

"God, thank you for a wonderful time with my family once again this year.  You have blessed me beyond what I could ever ask or fathom in my wildest dreams.  May I take all that has been poured in and on me and share it with those who don't experience what I'm talking about in their families.  Let me be salt and light in a world starving for close families."


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