To the best of my knowledge, July 4, 2016 was the only Fourth of July for which I was free. My husband and I spent the day, and many of the surrounding days, trying to figure out how we could prevent our new rescue dog from hearing the loud booms and pops, since she was not a fan. Our poor girl, upon hearing anything out of the ordinary, immediately begins shaking and cowering, and doesn’t stop for a long while. She can barely stand the clipping noises from a nail clipper. It’s actually quite sad to watch, but it does lead to some great snuggles!
Anyway, I’m fairly certain that every other Fourth of July in my life has been booked. There was one year in college when I worked until 10:30 pm, so I missed out on any activities, but all of the other years have been spent with my family, even post-marriage.
You see, Fourth of July is a major Carpini holiday. My parents got married on July 5, 1985, and 364 days later, my brother was born—on July 4, 1986. If a birthday and an anniversary weren’t enough to celebrate, my niece (my brother’s daughter) Maggie was born on July 6, 2016—hence why we weren’t with my family last year for the Fourth. We were waiting for a baby to come before we made our trip!
It took a while for me to fall in love with the Fourth, however. Growing up, I resented that my brother had fireworks—which I love—every year for his birthday. I also resented that he always had a big family picnic on the back porch, and he always had a bunch of friends over. My birthday was never like that. Those parties were always inside and boring, and you never knew how the weather would be in mid-April.
After I grew out of the resentment, the Fourth became one of my favorite holidays (perhaps tied with Halloween, both coming second to Thanksgiving). Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato wedges, baked beans, strawberries and blueberries arranged on a giant sugar cookie with a cream cheese and whipped cream icing to resemble an American flag—what could be better? (Besides Thanksgiving dinner?) The Fourth of July tastes like freedom. Sweet freedom.
What really stands out to me now, though, is how my brother never really seemed to complain about sharing his birthday with a holiday. I guess the Fourth just mixes well with a birthday. Or I guess Joe just didn’t care that much about sharing. We all had a picnic and fireworks, but he was the only one who got presents. He could have his red, white, and blue cake and eat it, too.
Joe was also the first person to share the Gospel with me. When I went to college, he stuck his neck out to get me to hang out with him and his friends instead of other folks who wanted to go party. For a month or so, I hung out with a good mix of both crowds. But once October hit, after a whole lot of persistence from a handful of people, I finally understood the Gospel.
And I have my brother to thank most of all.
So thank you, Joseph, for always sharing your birthday, for sharing Jesus with me, and for leading me to a freedom that wasn’t free, but was bought with the blood of Christ.
It’s the sweetest freedom of all—sweeter than an American flag dessert pizza!
Natalie currently lives in the greater DC area with her husband, Andrew, where she works as a Technical Writer/Editor for a global IT company.