Every family has rules and traditions, preferred ways of relating. For the Blestnest, traditions involve tools and kitchens, long lists, big projects, large events. Working together is the family heritage. And the rules aren't so much rules as a focus on relationship and the "And Then Some" mindset.
First, let me explain the "And Then Some" mindset.
In recent years, this has become a family motto, a short-hand for overabundance in anything: effort, stress, blessing, fun. "We came good today," followed closely by someone else refraining, "And then some!" is a common interchange. De facto, we have a lot of quantity; there's a ton of us and we prefer to flock together. The only way this whole evolving family system functions is due the intentional cultivation of a humble heart of service. It's the lynchpin family value. We value each other and Christ in each other through service.
The phrase "and then some" originated in a sermon we heard a decade or more ago. In the message, our Pastor talked through Matthew 5:38–42, that part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus wonderfully flips Hammurabi's brutal "eye for an eye" law and replaces it with sacrificial love and service.
In it, Jesus says,
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
We are to turn the other cheek, give the shirt and coat off our backs, go the extra mile. Pastor's catchphrase for this point was "and then some." Do what's required, whether the circumstance is just or unjust, and then do more because that's what Christ did for you. We've been saying it ever since.
When we say "and then some," it's got a double meaning. It's an aphorism used to express any overwhelming element in our lives. But we're also preaching to each other. It's a reminder of God's redemptive love and Christ's edict for us to love and to forgive and serve each other no matter the circumstance or cost. (And the costs can be staggering, but that's another post.)
This core value is what makes our emerging community lifestyle possible, it's what makes church possible, it's the very best part of our faith. Unconditional love as action.
I tried to draw a relational web of the family. One line represents a connection between each individual in the family. It looked like this, and that's not even everyone.
This picture, it's our mess and our noise and then some. It's also a pretty good explanation of our therapy bills.
So when we went to plan Anna's baby shower, for grandbaby number seven, the inevitable happened. Things got a little out of hand.
We knew her name would be Nora. We knew Anna wanted a woodland theme. Jenna, Shirley and I sat down and plotted a few weeks in advanced. We have these sorts of showers down to a science now, 7 babies in. Jenna's on decorations, Shirley's on food, I'm on games and invites.
Shirley said, "just a couple woodland themed desserts...maybe brunch...what about Mexican themed brunch?"
Jenna said, "just a couple cute little decorations, LOOK AT THIS," she shoved her phone in my face, "woodland baby animals are SO CUTE."
I said, "just a couple of games...maybe I can get Tanya to do a diaper cake."
Suddenly, we had a full Mexican spread for lunch and, with the aid of sister-in-law Kat 8+ woodland themed desserts,
Suddenly, Jenna was hand sewing banners and felt animal mobiles and hotgluing moss everywhere and doing endless amounts of hand lettering.
And suddenly I was ordering my husband to behead baby dolls and leading some lovely ladies to do any number of questionable things for general amusement.
And that diaper cake, I mean, come on.
Anna's sporty mother-in-law Alison, upon taking it all in, said, "it looks like someone had fun on pinterest."
"Yeah, I guess we did," I said.
But really, as the seventh child in a large family, it's easy for Anna, or any of us in this family, to feel lost and isolated and also hemmed in and crowded all at once. We wanted to show Anna how much we loved her, how we had space for her and Nathaniel and baby Nora and then some.
After the days of planning and hours of work, after the guests left and we cleaned up and debated what to do with all the leftovers, I asked Shirley, "counting wedding showers, how many of these do we have left?"
She started counting on her fingers, "seven, no...eight..."
And then some.
Introducing Elinor Rea Thornton, born July 29, 2016. This is her mother's current favorite picture of her much-loved firstborn daughter.