Extended Family · Family · Friends · Holidays

Christmas 2016

Christmas Adam

I found the week before Christmas Day exhausting as I worked around the clock to finish making gifts for my best friend and her family. Only when the Rawlings ran out of their home to greet us (and Mrs. Rawlings and Noah verbally expressed their amazement) did I realize the multitude of gifts I bore. I suppose one, handmade present for each member of their family is a lot. 😅 😅

After placing the gifts under one of the Rawlings’ two Christmas trees, Noah fetched the rest of his family while I gave into Abi’s insistence that I open her present for me: a black frame containing a burlap background which depicted our friendship. The gratitude and praise I expressed to her did not accurately communicate my profuse love for her sweet, creative, and thoughtful gift (which also included a bar of dark chocolate and multiple bookmarks). Once home, I placed the present on the headboard of my bed and noticed that, since doing so, an overwhelming emotion fills me when I see the frame upon entering my room: joy. Today was the first time I fully realized how happy Abi and my friendship with her makes me. I am forever grateful for both and don’t deserve either.

Once the rest of the Rawlings had been rounded up, the youngest children opened my gift to their family: a cross-stitch of an eagle. With one glance Mrs. Rawlings, Abi, and Sarah knew the thought and effort that went into this gift and so their praise, comments, and questions were the first to reach my ears. The more time that passed after the cross-stitch had been revealed, the more Mr. Rawlings and Noah squinted. The closer their faces came to the gift, the more they realized the long and complicated process required to produce such a piece. Each family member was amazed. Despite her few words, it was Mrs. Rawlings who expressed full knowledge of the loyalty, love, appreciation, and kindness I sewed in every stitch, the effort that made my gift so much more than string and cloth.

Christmas Eve

Breaking from tradition, it was the day before Christmas that my mom’s side of the family gathered at my grandparent’s house for dinner and a gift exchange. One humorous gift included a bucket of golf balls for Uncle John (each of which was individually wrapped), but the highlight of my evening occurred shortly after Haydn unwrapped a VR (Virtual Reality) Headset.

Appropriately, my brother was the first to experience a virtual reality: a roller coaster ride. In the real world, he held onto a doorway like he was tied to the mast of a ship and only left this position when explaining to me what he was seeing and where it was. “And the seats,” Haydn continued. “Their red and black.” He lowered himself to the floor and patted the space around him. “And they’re right here.” Following my voice, my brother did a bit of exploring (which landed him on the armrest of the couch) before returning to the staircase where he contentedly plopped down for the rest of his ride.

Haydn was quick to share his gift with the rest of the family, so the VR headset made its way around the room thrilling whoever dared to put it on. When the device reached my Aunt Chris, she turned around in her seat and stood in her chair on her knees. “Ooh.” She said.

“Christina,” my dad gave voice. “This looks quite awkward.” Aunt Chris did not seem to hear.

“Whoah!” She exclaimed, stretching her arms into the air and swaying back and forth. 😂 😂 I love my family.

Christmas Day

Santa outdid himself this year. The lengthy list of presents he left had me (at least) sincerely believing that I am spoiled. My family and I are truly blessed.

One of the items my dad put on his wish list (besides 3 John 1:4) was an Amazon Echo Dot speaker (the smaller version of Alexa which is basically another rendition of Siri), so Grandpa and Grandma bought him one (which my Dad received on Christmas Eve). On Christmas morning, Dad opened a present to find that Mom, too, had bought him an Echo Dot. Minutes later Dad opened two more gifts (both, also, from Mom) each of which included another Echo Dot, bringing his total up to four. Apparently, they were on sale and Mom didn’t know Grandpa and Grandma had purchased one. 😂 😂 Sharing the love, Dad gave one each to Mom, Haydn, and me.

Once darkness blanketed our town once more, my family and I left our cozy home to experience the Roper Mountain Holiday Lights (a family tradition). Upon our return, having requested and received permission, my siblings and I grabbed our ENOs and some additional bedding in preparation for another adventure: camping out under our back porch. Only in the south can you get away with sleeping outside on Christmas night. 😂 😂 Happy holidays, everyone!!!

Redeeming Grace

Cross Current Christmas Party 2016

As is the tradition on Cross Current Sundays, I went home with my best friend, Abi. We usually spend the afternoon hanging-out before returning to the church building for our monthly, youth-group meeting. However, on the evening on December 18, we would be returning for our annual Cross Current Christmas party. This year’s theme: “Dr. Seuss”.

Around 3:40 PM that afternoon, “costumes” became the focus in the Rawlings’ home, the main focus at least. Mr. Rawlings, Noah, and Abi had technically been piecing their’s together all afternoon. After having put on the basics of my costume, I went to see if Abi, who was making her ears in the kitchen, was ready to do my hair. Sarah snatched up the opportunity before Abi came in and re-did it. 😂 😂 My best friend arranged my scarf, and then I stood aside and watched people run around, busy with one thing or another until we left. Abi looked so adorable as “Fox in Socks,” and Noah looked ridiculous as “Sam I Am.” Little Eva, who must have felt left out, put on two mismatch tops along with hand sanitizer in her hair and on her clothes before announcing that she was “a Who.” 😂 😂

The party was a blast. Although several people did not dress up, the majority did:

  • Mom – a Who
  • Tristen/Me – Kox
  • Haydn – Horton
  • Mr. Rawlings – the Grinch
  • Mrs. Rawlings – Horton
  • Noah – Sam I Am
  • Abi – Fox in Socks
  • Isaac – Dr. Seuss
  • Mr. Morgan – a tree stump with an ax
  • Lilly & Sydney – Thing 1 & Thing 2
  • Liam – the Lorax
  • Ainsley & Cailin – Thing 1 & Thing 2
  • Cameron – the Grinch
  • The English family – 1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Ryan & Katie – Thing 1 and Thing 2
  • Mr. Ballard – Cindy Loo’s Dad
  • Mrs. Ballard – a Who
  • Hunter – the Grinch
  • Patricia – the Cat in the Hat
  • Mr. Villa – the mayor
  • Charis – the mayor’s son
  • Maddi – Cindy Loo

Mom won the costume contest (thanks to her big bow), and Cameron and Ainsley won the pie eating contest. For the lip-sync battle: Cameron won “best lip-sync,” Mrs. Ballard and Hunter won “most creative,” and Joanna and Lily won for “crowd participation.” Honorable mentions included Noah’s “The Grinch,” Charis and Maddi’s “Baby,” and me and Abi’s “Love is an Open Door” (which, I would argue, should have won “most humiliating” 😂 😂). After playing a fun game of White Elephant, I ended up with two boxes of Little Debbies and one box of Honey Buns. Yum!

Once the party was over, Abi and I changed out of our costumes and spent the rest of our time together running around with food or a cup of punch in our hands, arms linked, and bodies shaking with laughter. We were practically the Dolly sisters from BBC’s Mr. Selfridge, so I am sure this act caused us to look like the idiots that we are. I love that I can be weird with her but, then again, isn’t that what friends are for? 😂 😂

Logos Theater

Prince Caspian

Saturday, December 17, 2016

As an early Christmas present, my mom took me to see the Logos Theater’s performance of Prince Caspian. The last time I stepped into this auditorium was two years ago when I was in a play titled The Lions of Trondheim. So much has changed since then, a time when the Academy of Arts did not have a paved parking lot, painted columns, or cushioned seats.

I had forgotten what it is like to be there. The Logos Theater has a nostalgic smell to it that brings back happy memories and a sense of belonging. Ever since my first play there (The Basket of Flowers in 2013), I have felt at home at the Academy of Arts because it is there where I feel the most like my talents are being used for my good and God’s glory. Mom thought it would “bless my socks off” to see Prince Caspian but, although she was right, the part that blessed me the most was simply being in the building.

As the house lights dimmed, videos played, and transitions occurred, I was whisked off to another time when my evenings consisted of the pitter patter of feet sneaking about backstage, suppressed giggles, and the rush of adrenaline each time I stepped on stage, whether under the heat of the spotlight or the dark of a transition.

The play itself was spectacular. I saw the faces of so many people I have come to love and admire over the years, however, hardly any of them recognized me. Racheal was the first of few followed by Ariel, who had switched roles with Laurel and been stage manager for the evening rather than Susan Pevensie. Zac Johnson, who had been cast as Dr. Cornelius, was one of many who I approached for an autograph since Mom had bought backstage passes.

“Where do you all live?” He asked, handing my Playbill back.

“Around here.” Mom replied.

“Oh, okay. I know you guys came to see The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe so, how did you hear about us?”

“I’ve been in a couple of plays,” I explained. “Three. A Basket of Flowers, Hero, and Lions.” I added hoping that at least he would recognize me and, to my delight, he did. The short conversation that followed included me saying “I miss this” and him replying “you’ll have to come back”. I will, Zac. Lord willing, I will.

I shook Nicky Chavers hand tonight. I believe the last time I did that was three years ago during Hero when I won the ticket selling contest. He seemed to recognize me. I also met Douglas Gresham, one of C.S. Lewis’ two stepsons. He came from across the ocean to see Prince Caspian and I am honored to have had the privilege of meeting him.

Maybe one day I will be able to get back involved with the Logos Theater. I really do miss it. The place, the people, all of it. Everything from the stairwell we took to lunch to the floor vents that cooled us off. Maybe one day, Lord willing, I will go back.

If you would like to read more about the three Logos Theater plays I have been, click the title of the play you would like to know more about: The Basket of Flowers, Hero, The Lions of Trondheim. Thanks!

Extended Family

Double Trouble at the Rink

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The afternoon following a sleepover, my family and I went roller skating with my two, six-year-old cousins, John and Joel. Not long after I began helping one of the twins around the rink, Mom took over, and I skated on in a slippery fashion; however, I never fell. Haydn soon came along my side, and I took his hand. After leaving me at every other turn (so he could go fast), Haydn spent the majority of the rest of our skate time with me (which I much appreciated since I can skate much quicker, and with more confidence, when holding someone’s hand). John and Joel spent the more significant portion of their time on the floor but, as our skate time ran out, they could be found inching their way across the rink feet at a time before they toppled over again. In the end, everyone left the rink a better skater than they were when they entered the building. 😂 😂


Merry Christmas Tree Farm 2016

On November 26 my family and I went to the Merry Christmas Tree Farm in Central, South Carolina. For the past 15 years, it has been tradition to go there to find the perfect Christmas tree. After walking through the grounds many times (and doing several Manaquin Challenges), we finally found a sufficient seven-foot tree. The rest of the afternoon was spent with our friend Mrs. Deborah.

We had lunch with her at Mac’s, a local burger joint. After our meal, Mrs. Deborah looked down the table and observed me coloring. “Are you always doing something?” She asked me, wanting to know if I was bored. I explained that I simply prefer to be productive.

As I pondered over her observation, I realized how true it is. Even when I’m listening to music (to help me fall asleep) I am mentally planning a possible music video. I am sure my projects could tally up to a million, I have so many. As Dad once said, “You are a busy beaver.” 😂


Thanksgiving 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! I thought I would take this post to write about what I am thankful for. Just so I can spare you the agony of me repeating myself: I do not deserve anything I can call my own.

First, and most important: my salvation. I am inexpressibly thankful for His love for me. Words can not accurately describe how grateful I am that I am His.

Although at times I wish the good Lord had not given them life, I can not accurately describe how immensely grateful I am for my family. I would be utterly devastated if they were taken from me. I am so thankful for each of them: my dad, my mom, my little buddy, and my little sis.

I am SO grateful for my friends. Big and small, young and old, near and far, I am thankful for them all, especially Abi. The fact that she can even cope with me is enough to be grateful for. 😂

Of course, I am thankful for so much more: oxygen, this beautiful earth, laughter, tears, comfy beds, and a home to return to each and every day. The Lord has been much too good to me. I have done nothing to deserve my life and the fact that He has blessed me with it blows me away. Thank You, Jesus, for everything.


A Theater Treat

A little while before my birthday, Grandma mentioned that Bob Jones University would be putting on Little Women in a couple of months. She then asked if I would like to go (and maybe the family, too) for my birthday present. I heartily agreed but soon forgot about the entire proposition.

Tuesday, November 15 was a usual day at school except for the fact that I wouldn’t be home until dark due to a field trip. Those plans, however, changed during fourth when Mom texted me through a friend (since I don’t have a phone). Apparently, Grandma had bought Little Women tickets for that night but Mom had misheard the date. One very stressful conversation later, I decided that family is more important than an extra credit opportunity.

Little Women the Broadway Musical was amazing! Ansa and I had recently watched the movie so it was really cool to see the story unfold under a different light. I am so glad we got to see it. Thank you, Grandma!


Sky Top 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Although this year’s trip to the Sky Top Orchard was shorter than our past visits, my family and I did not fail to complete our traditions:

  • getting donuts (yum!)
  • taking pictures throughout the play area
  • feeding the animals
  • running through the bamboo forest
  • buying apple cider
  • taking pictures in front of the wooden “how tall this fall” tree

How tall are we this fall? I measured up to about five and a half feet. Haydn hit somewhere in between five and a quarter and five and a half while Ansa came in at about four and three quarters. So I am still the tallest. However, I suspect these measurements will be drastically different by this time next year (@HaydnThomas). 😂 😂


Clemson VS Syracuse

On November 5th we went to my grandpa and grandma’s house, where we raked leaves with my twin cousins, before driving about an hour and a half away to Mrs. Deborah’s house. We talked to her for a few minutes before she gave us five tickets to the Clemson versus Syracuse game and we made our way to it.

Again, our seats were split two and three so us girls sat separately from the boys. The game was okay but I enjoyed the elated atmosphere more. Again, if Clemson scored more than 28 points, our tickets could each get us a free fry or ice tea at Bojangles. My family and I left at the end of halftime when the score was 37 to nothing. “Bo-Time before halftime.” Mom said. We were at Bojangles when Clemson won, 54 to nothing. Go Tigers! 🎉 🐯

Afterward, we returned to Grandpa and Grandma’s for dinner and to shoot off some fireworks. However, we ended up only lighting a few because the noise was driving some dogs crazy and making their owner very unhappy. Heh, heh, oops. 😂 😂 All in all, we had an excellent time. Thank you, Mrs. Deborah!

Me, Myself, and I

Privileges of being 15

When your dad prefers that your beginner’s permit not be visible in any photo. 🙄 😂 😂

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dad and I pulled up to the DMV. We waited, registered, and paid for me to retake the test. Since Friday (the day on which I made my first attempt) I had read and highlighted the purple and gray sections in my Driver’s Manual, so I felt prepared, but I was scared about the possibility of failing. Dad was excited, and I didn’t want to let him down, again. “You’re at test station two.” The lady at the counter said before using words and arm motions to direct me.

The glass-walled room was empty. I placed my hands on the bar. “Lord, give me wisdom,” I whispered before pushing the door open.


I silently let out a deep breath. The room was full now. I had just correctly answered another question making the number I had gotten right go up to 23, while leaving the amount I had responded to incorrectly at four, and the number I skipped at two. I quickly answered the next question (because I was familiar with it) and then:

Congratulations, Tristen! You passed your exam!

I clicked “okay” and then, for a moment, stared incredulously at the screen which now read: “Touch here to start.” That was it? Did I really just pass?

I stepped out of the room and located Dad. He looked up from his phone and motioned me to give him a thumbs up or down but I just awkwardly grinned and walked toward him, unsure of how I felt. I told him I passed and he hugged me. Minutes later I was holding my beginner’s permit in my hand.


As we walked toward the van, Dad held out the keys to me. “I am not driving home,” I stated, and he laughed. Thanks for the offer but I did not trust myself with the task of getting the van home in one piece, let alone ourselves. Besides, I was still not very familiar with our new van.

So Dad drove. He stopped less than five minutes from home, in the Pelham Medical Center’s parking lot, and let me drive from there. He was FaceTiming Mom while I did so. I’m not sure which of the three of us was the most nervous. 😂 I put off using the gas pedal until Dad said so and apparently there were two cars behind me, but we made it home in one piece so I would say I did alright.

Haydn opened the garage door grinning from ear to ear, the first signs of a jealousy I was soon to become more familiar with. “Did you drive home?” He asked.

“No way,” I replied. Haydn stepped back through the door and returned with Ansa, one of his hands over her eyes. When she saw me in the driver’s seat she attempted to run back inside, but Haydn held her where she was.

Once in the house, I hadn’t even set down the items in my hands while Haydn had already located my Driver’s Manual, flipped through, and marked the sections he needs to study for his beginner’s permit test. 😂 His turn will come…in two years or so. 😂 😂