Remember December

True to its Northwest predilection, the end of fall gave us torrents of rain. The first weekend of December had so much rain that floods, sinkholes, and landslides swept into neighborhoods that are normally impervious to our soggy climate.

Our own little private road was not immune. I left the house for an hour one afternoon, and when I returned, I nearly ran into this:

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You can only imagine how ready we were to fly far away from here two days later for our Dryden Family Hawaii Vacation (2nd edition).

Two senior Drydens, four middle generation Drydens, and four grandkids landed on the lovely, laid-back island, loaded into rental cars and drove north along the eastern coast of Oahu, back to the same adored house in Laie we stayed in last year.

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A year of regular life had blurred some of the memories, but the next morning I woke to December warmth, the sound of rustling palm trees, roosters, and clicking geckos, and the view of waves skimming the shore behind the house. The Hallelujah Chorus exploded in my brain, and John got the happy greeting of a giddy, grateful wife every morning thereafter (even before my first cup of coffee).

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This year our days together were even more carefree and enjoyable. We knew what we liked on the island, and we were comfortable in our routines and workings of the family dynamics, the house, and the community.

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The eight days in Oahu stretched out as gift upon gift, grace upon grace for a family weary from the year.
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There was very little agenda, few decisions to be made, and the ones to make were simple: Shall we sit on these chairs to read, sip, and talk, or shall we sit on the sand? Should we drive up to Matsumoto’s for shave ice or try the shave ice close by? Piece together a puzzle or read a book?

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We brought our Christmas spirit with us because admittedly, it is hard to remember that Christmas is just days away when surrounded by sun, sand, and surf boards. Each night we circled up to read a story from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, a family advent book. Away from the hustle of Christmas preparations and retail reminders of stocking stuffers, Santa songs, and stressed-out shoppers, the stories following the branches of Jesus’s family tree (the Jesse Tree), leading to his birth in Bethlehem let every heart prepare Him room.

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One evening, early in the trip, Uncle Andy mentioned that it would be fun to have a little game we could play during mealtimes when we gathered round the table. The suggestion surprised me, since Drydens never have any problem filling conversational space with scintillating topics such as the careful selection of bumpers for 4-wheel-drive vehicles, gear ratios and variable velocities of Hawaiian windmills, and the history of concrete.

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I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass, so I suggested we make up “hink pinks”: two words that rhyme that others guess given a descriptive definition (thank you, Stevens and Beaudry clans). For example,

Q: What is “a peaceful tropical tree”?

A: a “calm palm”

Hinky pinkies are two-syllable rhyming words, and hinkity pinkities are 3-syllable words. The family approved and the clues and rhymes dominated dinner table chatter (not to mention car rides and sand lounging) for the rest of the trip.

(My favorite hinkity pinkity, crafted by my son: Q. “What is a wiggly dead man?” A. “a gelatin skeleton”)

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On our last full day on Oahu, we split up, some returning to an amazing snorkling location an hour’s drive away, and the rest of us taking a short drive to the most beautiful little bay and swimming spot on the island. Watching the children splash, dig holes, and create pirate adventures while I squished my toes in the sand next to my husband, dipping into the water now and then, I knew I was unwrapping a good, good gift. A sabbath spot of pure rest and beauty handed to me by a kind Father and artistic Creator.

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The next day, we left our beloved Laie paradise and split up again. While the rest of the family flew home, John, the kids and I continued our Hawaii vacation and flew on to the Big Island, a destination most anticipated by my geologist husband and volcano-loving son.

We rented a little cottage on the green, wet and lava-strewn side of the island, which was just fine after a week of sun and beaches on Oahu. The backyard of our rental had a natural geothermal-heated pool, and just steps away, tide pools swarmed with colorful fish.

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We ventured out each day trying to capture the many unique sites of the Big Island. We explored Hawaii Volcano National Park, black and green sand beaches, Mauna Kea observatories, the southernmost point of the United States, and so much lava.

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Dreams came true for our rock and space-loving family during these five days.

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A friend asked me when I got home, “What has God been teaching you lately?” My usual inclination is to consider how God has been challenging me through his Word, or shaping me through something difficult. But all I could think about were those 12 days in Hawaii. I felt as though I had been plucked from my regular life with all its cares and demands, deposited on an island with no escape, and was given the gift of delight.

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Here: Delight in this warmth, this beauty, this man, these children. And I did. When forced to stop and rest and delight, my heart naturally responded in worship to the Giver and Creator of these gifts.

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The New Year grabs hold, and activities and responsibilities crank to life again. Dark, winter days with cold fingers and dripping jackets will linger for months yet. But I will close this year with a final “hinkity pinkity”. I will not forget the fading of 2015 with its sabbath rest and delights. I will Remember December.

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Dryden Family Hawaii Vacation

One afternoon at my parents’ house, I was sharing some observations and concerns about one of my children. We had a nice long talk, the length and level of detail only moms and sisters can understand, and many helpful and caring comments were shared. There was also this: “Well, [your child] is a Dryden, you know.” As if that explained a great deal. We laughed. But, it actually does.

Drydens are special, as a certain Dryden uncle is fond of reminding us on an almost weekly basis during Wednesday Night Dryden Family Dinner.

As of this week, I have been a Dryden for exactly 15 years. And for the record, they have been 15 wonderful years and I wouldn’t ever wish for a different family-by-marriage. A couple weeks ago, I got on a plane with nine other Drydens for our first ever family vacation to the Hawaiian islands.

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It is quite a marvel that we went to Hawaii at all. Drydens typically vacation close to home in one of many beautiful Northwest locales. One Dryden doesn’t particularly like being in water or being too hot. Drydens are frugal, or at least very deliberative about vacation spending. Hawaii was an unanticipated and much-celebrated vacation pick.

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Deliberative being a key word, we are terrible decision-makers, often getting bogged down in details and pros and cons, and we are exceedingly concerned with each family member’s needs and desires. We worry and consider unforeseen (by more carefree types), unlikely, negative outcomes. Fortunately one of the Drydens eventually cut through the circuitous deliberations and made a decision. And booked flights that same night.

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Once we were past the point of no return, the matriarch sprung into action. Careful planning is her forte. Vacation rentals were perused and analyzed, emails flew back and forth across the Pacific, and sleeping arrangements were discussed. A meal planning chart was distributed and lists were made. Photo opportunities were planned. I simply surfed the wave of Dryden preparedness, confident my landing in Oahu would be comfortable.

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And comfortable it was. We landed in a small town on the northeast shore of Oahu, in a large house with the sandy beach and warm waves in the backyard, and a huge grassy expanse in the front, exceeding our expectations in every way. The Drydens settled in and did their thing.

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First things first. The Dryden men scanned the rental house for structural integrity:

“Do you think this is a load-bearing wall?”

“Check out this beam.”

“They must have different earthquake regulations here.”

The children found and tested each and every fan, light switch, and mattress. The women surveyed cupboards for staples such as flour, sugar, oil, and soy sauce. Once that was settled, swimsuits came out of suitcases and untroubled island enjoyment commenced.

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Drydens are eloquent. They don’t just see cool fish. They see stunning, multi-colored aquatic life. They don’t admire palm trees and green mountains. They delight in the varied vegetation and topography. For some Drydens, to feel something is to put it to words: “I am glad I am a thrill-seeker. It is so worth it” (Ellie Dryden, age 8). The youngest Dryden announced each sighting of water, birds, and lights, repeating himself with increasing loudness until another family member acknowledged his observation with adequate excitement.

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Drydens are thankful. Following decades of practice, voicing gratitude comes as naturally to the senior Drydens as reading informative articles and making popcorn (which, in case you were wondering, are favored Dryden activities, vacation or otherwise). These two give thanks for every little thing, even when they are the ones who should be thanked in the circumstance:

“Thank you for waiting!” (after she returns the shopping cart)

Thank you for coming with us to Hawaii!” (their generous gift to us)

Their modeling has rubbed off on the next two generations. Little thank-yous were voiced by the 4-, 6-, and 8- year-olds (and probably less frequently by the 30-somethings) for treats, games, story reading, and sand castle assistance.

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Drydens love God and love each other. The vegetation and topography around us were made more beautiful by delighting in the Creator and enjoying it together. As we gathered again on Christmas Eve, back on the continent in the cold Northwest, we perused vacation photos and catalogued the attributes of God made evident in what we experienced on the island. We loved cooking together, reading together, swimming and snorkeling together, eating shaved-ice together, and talking (with big words, of course) together. We gave thanks for our children’s strong, healthy bodies and their enjoyment of new experiences.

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The Dryden Family Hawaii Vacation was a smashing success. It was a week of paradise, made even more lovely by the people who enjoyed it together, who are knit together with all of our idiosyncrasies and strengths by God’s hand. Thank you, Drydens, for this gift.

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