Family strong

Sometimes life has a way of reminding you just how strong a family bond can be when you least expect it.

Like when you’re on the dance floor.

My brother got married on Friday night, and I have to say it was probably the most fun wedding I’ve ever been to. And seeing as how I’ve been in 17 weddings and attended even more than that, I have a lot of experience in this area. But God did something to my heart at this wedding, and I was overcome with complete joy.

The week leading up to the wedding was long. I’m usually pretty tired by Friday and shoot for the earliest bedtime possible, so the 7:30 p.m. start time at a place more than an hour away wasn’t my ideal situation, but it wasn’t my wedding, so I wasn’t calling the shots. I was already pretty tired from sitting in traffic for an hour and a half on Thursday to drive out to the rehearsal dinner, but I popped in some Taylor Swift for the trek out to the venue Friday and tried to think positive thoughts. It was a happy day for my brother, and I was going to be there for him.

I got there early enough that I was able to take a short nap in my parents’ hotel room while they got ready, and I even got to watch the start of Coyote Ugly on TV. Gosh, I love that soundtrack. As I was sitting there and listening to their conversations and then my dad’s phone convo with the wedding photographer (a family friend who was apparently completely lost), I couldn’t help but smile at how much these two goobers make me laugh. They’re so quirky, yet they’re also so intentional and sincere in all they do. I honestly wish I had been more thankful of them when I was younger.

It was strange to see my brother get married, but it was also good to see the look of happiness on his face that evening. Some of his childhood friends were there, and it was heartwarming to see them all grown up and matured and with wives of their own. Growing up is so weird, but growing up is so good.

My mom was adorable on Friday. Of course she started crying when my brother walked her down the aisle, but she was the epitome of beauty and grace. And the look of joy on her face when she was dancing with him to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” during their mother-son dance can’t be accurately described with mere words.

My dad was a true pal all night. He has a way of making friends with pretty much everyone he meets, and Friday was no exception. He was also a real buddy to me and kept me cracking up the entire evening.

My Uncle Bobcat is so caring and just as entertaining as my dad; my Aunt Vickie has a heart of gold and truly listens to you when you talk; my cousin Ryan is the sweetest gentleman you’ll ever meet; my cousin Rachel is the best friend you always wanted and someone who will forever stand by your side; my brother is one of the most determined people I know and reminded me on Friday night that he will always be there for me, no matter what; my sister is the most beautiful person (inside and out) who always knows how to make you smile; and her boyfriend, Theo, is a true gem and a real trooper for willingly spending so much time with our craziness.

my people
Every moment with them matters

These are my people.

Something hit me pretty hard on Friday, and it touched my heart in a way I can’t explain. I know not everyone has a great family situation, and I’m certainly not trying to boast in any way, but I became overwhelmed with one thought Friday night: my family is the best. Now, obviously that’s a very biased statement, and by no means are we near perfect (we can be about as dysfunctional as they come), but there’s a bond between us that can never be broken and never be shaken.

And it was completely obvious when we took over the dance floor.

As soon as the music started playing, my mom, dad, sister, aunt, uncle, two cousins, my sister’s boyfriend (I just consider him part of the Merrill clan at this point) and I were all out there having a blast just dancing with each other. At one point, my dad, uncle and cousin Ryan all did the gator. (If you are too young to know what that is, for the love, consult the Google.) We were all laughing almost to the point of tears. During one of the slow songs, I looked up at my parents dancing and looked around the room and thought, I don’t care if I never have a dance partner of my own. I have my people, and they have my heart.

When Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” started playing, you can bet the women in our family were out there belting and shaking. My sister and I took that whole “dance like no one is watching” saying extremely literally. My heart was full, and it was a perfect way to end the night. We’re family, and together we stand when the world stands against us. Together we ignore the haters. Together we are there for one another through every trial and every moment of joy. And together we dance.

As I made the long drive home that night, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I had to run a race the next morning on not a lot of sleep—I was praying and thanking the Lord for making my heart so full of love and for a family I wouldn’t trade for anything in the entire world. It can be easy at times to take family members for granted and get more frustrated with them than we do with many other people, but I hope I can show more appreciation to them more often. They’re truly Godsends, and the world is a better place with each of them in it.

Especially when gators are involved.

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