The Love Nest
“You booked our honeymoon in a place called ‘The Love Nest?!’”
Jeff just grinned back at me, anticipation sparkling in his blue eyes. I couldn’t believe it as I spun around to see the computer screen. We sat at our respective desks in the church office, both working as college campus missionaries through our local church, just three months away from our wedding day. Jeff was in charge of the honeymoon, and while our parents financed the first week of our Kauai stay at the luxurious Radisson resort, for our last nine nights he had researched some off-the-beaten-path resorts and found this little treasure, a supposed nest of love.
“It’s tucked away in a private little jungle area, within walking distance of the beach, with our own Jacuzzi. Besides, it’s called The Love Nest—how much more romantic can it get?!” Jeff was giddy with excitement and leaned toward the door, “Hey guess what, Pastor Curt?! We’re staying at The Luuuuuve Nest!” I leaned back and punched him on the shoulder. Now it was out. Every pastor had to snicker and whisper “luuuuuuve nest” as he walked by the door. Jeff couldn’t stop grinning.
The first week of our honeymoon was straight out of a movie – a luxurious Radisson resort, hours spent by the pool, afternoons splashing in the ocean. It was bliss. When week one was up we packed up our things and headed north along the western shore of Kauai, anticipating our jungle bungalow called The Love Nest.
Looking over the directions we noticed several misspelled words. The directions seemed simple enough, but as we headed farther away from the coastline I couldn’t help but feel a little unsure. The address led us up a long and windy gravel road, lined by old farms. Chickens were everywhere. I kept glancing at Jeff to watch his facial expression. A final turn found us on a narrow dirt road, lined by tall grass, where we spotted a small sign hand-written on cardboard: Heavenly Creations. This was the place.
We continued to crawl along the dusty road, leaning forward in the car and squinting through the sun and dust on the windshield. Broken down cars, rusty and abandoned, sat along the side of the road, engulfed in the grass. More chickens. A last final curve in the road and we saw a large house with three little cottages directly surrounding it. We looked at each other.
“Maybe it’s that little one over there kind of on its own,” I suggested, pointing to the cottage farthest from the main, clearly inhabited, house. We pulled up closer and got out of the car, but as we approached the house, the guests peeked out the window, clearly startled and not ready for company. We darted back to the car and drove back to the main house. By now a man was emerging and walked up to the car. He wore old jeans and a faded t-shirt.
“Can I help you?” We looked each other. Weren’t they expecting us?
“Uh, we’re here to stay in the Love Nest.”
“Oh.” Long pause. “Well, my wife DJ does all the rentals stuff, and she’s on vacation. But uh, if you rented it, then go ahead and stay. Did you pay and everything?” Jeff assured him we did. “Alright then, how long ya stayin’?” I stared at him. Jeff glanced at the house and swallowed.
Just then a woman emerged from what I now knew to be the Love Nest—the small cottage sitting directly in the backyard of the main house, not more than 10 yards away from their back door. She glanced up at us and went back in the house.
“Looks like the cleaner’s still here. Ya mind coming back a little later?”
Jeff said that was fine, and after noticing a few boogie boards leaned up against the house, decided we’d take the boards and head to the beach for the afternoon. As we drove off I decided it was probably beautiful inside, and while it wasn’t exactly private, at least we had four walls to ourselves, right?
Four hours later, we drove back up the windy dirt road, exhausted from the sun, covered in salty sticky sand and smelling of sunscreen and sweat. Jeff began carrying in our bags and I went ahead, anticipating a cool room, an icy cold glass of something, and maybe a nap. As I walked through the entrance, I immediately noticed that lack of several somewhat significant things—specifically a fourth wall and a solid roof. This “nest” was a one-room, three-walled, open-air structure, with netting comprising the fourth wall and an open vaulted roof with sunlight streaming through the various openings and cracks. Even more alarming was the fact that the open fourth wall was the one directly facing the main house. I could see through the windows of their home. Bushes divided the yards, but waist high bushes weren’t my idea of privacy. Another wall was made of solid mirrors, which explained why the pictures on the Internet made the room appear so spacious. Along one wall was a counter, with one outlet and a micro-fridge and small sink. To my right was the enormous bed with canopy that I had seen in the photos, but in person I could see the dingy and pilled comforter. My heart sank.
Jeff was diligently making trips back and forth from the car, lugging in our bags. “There’s the hot tub.” He pointed toward the open wall where the hot-tub sat, within a few yards of the main house, topped with a vinyl cover strewn with dirt and leaves and little puddles from the last rain.
“It’s right in their backyard.” I couldn’t even think. My honeymoon, my most prized and personal experience, my dream come true was turning into a nightmare with every passing moment. I went into the bathroom and shut and door. No fan. I could hear Jeff walking around the room outside. I sat down on the lid and leaned forward on my knees. I knew he’d hear me if I cried. I looked up to keep tears from rolling over my eyelids, and hanging on the back of the door were two old bathrobes, faded maroon. My stomach turned. Taking a deep breath, I stood up and flushed the toilet for effect and turned on the water in the sink for a moment, then stopped and realized there’s no shower in here. Opening the door I commented on it to Jeff and we both just looked at each other and slowly turned toward the door. It’s outside. A shower head hung outside the front door, somehow unnoticed as we’d trudged in the first time. A makeshift stall surrounded it, yes, but random boards nailed up with plenty of space between hardly constituted my idea of privacy.
“I’ll just leave on my swimsuit. It’s fine.” And I did. Getting the sand and sweat off me felt good, and for an instant I wasn’t sweating, but then that instant was over. The room was hot and humid, the sun beating in through the “skylights” in the open barn-like roof. Dogs were barking outside, and several cars pulled in and out of the main house driveway.
“I’ll make us some thing icy to drink; I brought some juice concentrate in the cooler.” I said, sounding more cheerful than I felt. Jeff said that’d be great and he headed out, in his swim trunks, to take a shower.
Here I go. It’ll all work out. I’ll make some icy drinks in champagne glasses and it’ll be romantic and wonderful and we can take a nap because I’m exhausted. I coached myself as I took the juice concentrate, now warm, out of the cooler. I opened the micro-fridge to look for ice in the freezer section, to find out that it wasn’t on. The inside was just as warm as the room. Ok, I’ll use tap water without ice, it’s fine if it’s warm. What can I mix it in? I looked for a pitcher. Nothing. Instead I found a blender and figured that would work and I could mix it up with the touch of a button. I plugged it in and added the water and juice, then pressed the mix button to blend. Then as I picked up the pitcher from the base, the bottom fell off, spilling bright red cranberry juice all over my clothes, the counter, and the floor. I almost lost it. I closed my eyes to keep from crying. Everything’s going wrong. I can’t even fix a stupid drink. This is the worst honeymoon ever.
Just then Jeff walked in and saw me staring at the mess. I hadn’t even moved to clean it up.
“I’ll clean it up! I’m sorry sweetie – you go lie on the bed. Why don’t we just take a nap; we’re tired and hot and we just need to sleep.” I just nodded up at him like a little child and went to pull back the covers. As I did I couldn’t help but lean down and sniff. Mildew. You know the smell – you forgot to transfer the wet clothes to the dryer and they sat overnight. That smell. Before I could say anything I heard a radio and voices coming from the main house. Just normal conversation – they weren’t yelling or blaring their radio. We were so close I could hear their normal daily conversation. I looked back down at the bed. Is that a hair? Just ignore it, Kari. I pulled the covers all the way back and lay down, trying to make as little skin contact with the sheets as possible, laying my head gingerly down on the pillow. Jeff came and lay next to me and put his arm, clammy with sweat, across my stomach.
“Are you ok, hon?” I nodded and raised my eyebrows for emphasis, biting my lip to keep from crying. “Ok, let’s just go to sleep.” I looked up at the TV/VCR sitting on a shelf above the bed. Next to it were unrated movies of all kinds, and games sat on the shelf below. The Sin Game? I felt sick. Below that sat a shelf with half-full bottles of massage oil, lotions . . . I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had guarded our purity, we had waited even to kiss until we were married, we’d honored God and strove to keep our marriage upright and pure from the start, and here we were staying in this filthy pit. My mind raced. How could I complain? We’re missionaries; we hardly have enough money to pay our rent when we get back , let along stay in some nice resort for our honeymoon. Some missionaries are off giving their lives for the gospel and here I am crying over musty sheets? What is wrong with me? I’ve only been Jeff’s wife for a few days and I’m already falling apart? What will he think of me if I tell him how grossed out I am? He thinks I’m godly and sacrificial and really I’m just shallow and weak. Oh Jesus, help me. What do I do?
“What are you thinkin’ about, hon?” Jeff leaned back over me and kissed my forehead.
“Oh nothin’. Just trying to sleep.” I turned from his gaze.
“You sure you’re ok?” This time I couldn’t answer. I closed my eyes to feign fatigue and fight off tears. “You’re pretty quiet. Nothing’s wrong?” I just shook my head with my eyes closed, and pulled my lips in to keep them still. He waited. Then I broke.
Tears spilled through my closed eyes. “I want to be a good wife . . . I’m so sorry . . . I can’t . . . I can’t . . . The neighbors can see in here and the shower’s outside and there are creepy gross games up there and porn movies and this place is filthy and everything’s wrong . . .” I looked over at his face. “I want to be a good wife . . . I want to be grateful . . . some people are dying and I can’t even handle a bad honeymoon . . . I’m so sorry.” I rolled toward him and buried my face in his chest, weeping. He pressed his face down against my hair and rubbed my back. He said nothing, just laid there and held me close to him, rubbing my back and kissing the top of my head. When I’d finished my cry he gently pulled my head away from his chest and brushed my hair away from my tear soaked face. My head throbbed and my eyes stung from tears. I wiped my nose with the back of my hand. Jeff just cupped my chin in his hand and smiled into my puffy eyes then kissed me on the forehead.
“Come with me.” He stood up and held out his hand and led me out of the Love Nest and up to the main house. The owner came to the door, and my tear-stained face clued him in.
“Is something wrong?” Jeff respectfully informed him of our disappointment with the cottage, and explained that we’d be leaving within the hour. Though relieved, I thought of the almost $900 we’d spent to pay for our nine nights in advance. I knew we didn’t have enough to find a hotel for the rest of our stay.
“Ok. Well, I’m sorry for that. I need to have $100 to pay for the cleaners, do you remember how much you paid?” I told him the dollar amount to the penny. “Well, let me write you a check for $800. That ok?” I couldn’t believe my ears. He left us on the porch for a moment and returned with a checkbook. “I’m sorry; I don’t even know your names.” Jeff spelled it out for him and he handed us a check. We thanked him for being so kind and looked at each other in disbelief. As we turned to go back to the cottage, an old three-legged dog came limping around the corner of the house. It caught sight of us and stood, staring at us, teetering on its three legs. We stared back, speechless. Finally, we looked at each other and broke into laughter.
“Unbelievable.” Jeff shook his head, a smile stretched across his face, his white teeth showing against his tanned skin and dark two-day beard. I held up the check like a trophy and pulled myself under his arm, wrapping my arms around his waist. As we walked back to the cottage, a thought occurred to me.
“We had to book our hotel months in advance. It’s late June and there’s no way there is anything still available on this island and we don’t fly back for nine more nights. Are we gonna sleep in our car?” Surprisingly this didn’t alarm me. At this point I was so happy to leave, and so happy to have our money back and so happy to be married to the most wonderful, tender, and protective man in the world, I’d have slept on the beach for nine nights for all I cared.
Again, Jeff just smiled at me. “I’ll take care of it.” Like a man with a plan, he opened his laptop bag and pulled out his computer, unplugging the phone line and connecting to the Internet. Within minutes he looked up at me and grinned. “Let’s load the car.” Denying my urge to demand what was going on, I grabbed my purse and let him carry the suitcases. It wasn’t until we got to the end of the dusty road lined with broken down cars that Jeff finally revealed his thoughts.
“Can you believe that place? What a nightmare!” I jerked me head around toward him. He shook his head and grinned with his eyes still on the road.
“You thought so too?! Why didn’t you say something?” I punched his leg.
“You seemed fine with it so I didn’t want to say anything.” He shrugged. I laughed and began to tell him my inner struggle, the thoughts and battle in my mind, and all the gruesome details that he hadn’t even noticed.
“The three-legged dog was the perfect end! I mean how could it get any more bizarre?” By this time we were both enjoying ourselves, going back and forth with “Can you believe . . . ?” and “What about . . . ?” and “When I saw . . . !” Before I knew it we were back in Kapa’a and Jeff was turning left into the Radisson parking lot.
“What. . . ?” Jeff smiled at me.
“I got online and they had a last-minute Internet special for $100/night. We just have to hope they have a room available for nine nights.” I couldn’t believe my ears. It’d cost almost three times that regularly. I sat and prayed in the car while Jeff went to the front desk. I could see him through the glass doors, talking to the clerk. She looked down at her computer, clicked a few times, and smiled up at him, nodding her head. He beamed back at her and looked out the door at me. I leaned back on the head rest and closed my eyes. I’d never felt happier.
For the last four and a half years, we’ve revisited The Love Nest story over and over. Now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For one, it makes a great story to tell at parties and to young couples anticipating their honeymoon. But it’s about more than a sketchy cottage and a three-legged dog. It taught us, from the very first week of marriage, that it’s safe to communicate with each other. While of course I don’t want to be a nagging, complaining wife, it’s a necessary part of intimacy to be able to share struggles, weaknesses, and disappointments with each other. I learned that Jeff delights in blessing me. He loved that I allowed myself to be weak with him and that I let him take care of me. By letting him handle the situation, I communicated to him that he was worthy of my trust and capable as a man. By making the effort to get a different hotel, even before he was certain that we’d get our money back, he communicated to me that I was worth losing money over, that he was willing to bless me at any cost. By crying in his arms and being vulnerable, I communicated that I trusted him with my feelings. By being patient and tender and gentle with my tears, he communicated that it’s safe for me to do so, and communicated that my emotions and feelings are valuable to him.
The Love Nest cost us $100, but has proved invaluable to starting our marriage out right. We’ve been told that pressures can either push us together, tighter and tighter, or push us apart, further and further. Our prayer is that The Love Nest would just be a little example for us to follow, that we would work through the difficulties and step back, pray, and laugh. A three-legged dog may be just around the corner.
Journal of a house enjoyed: Gig Harbor getaway 6/29-7/1
By 10am Saturday morning we’ve decided this is our ideal vacation. No dinners out, no exchanged pleasantries with other guests or hotel staff, no need to dress up or shave or for that matter shower. The weather is perfect. Weather.com was wrong on this one—no rain, hardly any clouds other than beautiful puffy white billows lit up all along the edges from the sun. The sky is brilliant blue, and the morning is cool but the sun is warm on my face and arms and on my calves where I’ve rolled up my jeans to my knees. We slept in until 8 (!) and awoke to the cooing of our little son, happily playing with his hands around the corner in his portable crib. The bed is firm but soft on top—perfect—and the house is cool. A cool morning is perfect for sleeping in, the warm bed luring me to stay, the crisp fresh air filling my lungs and waking me up. Jeff sneaks away and brings Dutch to join us in bed. He cuddles with Daddy, reaching up and grabbing Jeff’s cheeks and chin and goatee. His face is full of light, smiling his trademark grin, his upper lip sticking out in wonder and delight.
After breakfast, we three go for a walk. The tide is fully out and the wet pebbles sparkle with the sunlight. The rocks and mud are slushy, but we take Dutch out to examine rocks and shells and algae. I hold lavender up for him to smell and tickle his nose. He rubs it with both little fists and hides his face in Daddy’s chest. Dutch’s morning naptime comes and it is now time for our favorite pastime—reading. Jeff waters the tomatoes, and I gather a bouquet of daisies, various roses, lavender—colorful and fragrant. Our bouquet makes the house ours, lived in, ready for life. It graces the porch table and Jeff and I sink into lawn chairs with our Bibles and a glass of water, leaning back to bask in the sun, savoring the silence, the view, the shared moment. Only a few birds chirping and an occasional dog punctuate the delicious silence. The stillness permeates our minds and souls and relaxation comes. It’s only 10:45.
I discover the iced tea bags and make a full pitcher of icy refreshing tea. Lunch is big spinach salads and soup for Jeff that Nan made. M&Ms top it off and Dutch is happy with mashed bananas and Gerber green beans. The sun is beckoning us outside again. We have an hour before Dutch’s afternoon nap at 2, so we unfold the stroller and head out to circle the island. The sun shines warmly through the welcomed dappled shade, and the stroller rattles along the bumpy road. Glimpses of crystal blue water peak through the trees as we walk – Jeff and I stop periodically to look at For Sale flyers, shaking our heads at the prices. I decide that this is the absolute perfect place to live. The 1.5 mile loop has numerous arms and I envision morning runs around the island before settling down with my tea and Bible on the porch overlooking the Sound. I decide that I’m ready to sell all that we own to buy a lot for ½ million and live in a tent. Jeff thinks I’m ridiculous. Our walk makes us thirsty for more iced tea, and having put Dutch down for his nap, we resume our favorite spot—on the deck with our books.
Dinner is all the bell peppers I brought, sautéed with garlic and spread between two tortillas topped with salsa and a fresh tomato. Mmm. We eat outside and Dutch feeds himself banana, which ends up on his clothes, on the floor, in his nose and in his hair. We decide that it’s bath night. M&Ms once again follow dinner and we’re thrilled to find just enough Cookie Dough ice cream to top off our tummies. Cookie Dough ice cream happens to be my favorite—was this all planned? It’s too perfect. After Dutch is clean and fresh and in his bed bug jammies, we head out again for a Raft Island walk, this time weaving through inland streets and hiking up hills—I find more beautiful homes and upon discovering the island private tennis courts and basketball hoops, announce again that this is paradise, the perfect place to live. After reading more (surprised?) and nursing Dutch, he is snuggled into bed and we sneak downstairs. Jeff pops You’ve Got Mail into the DVD player and we settle in for an evening watching other book-lovers fall in love as we have done. Our first four years have been sweet. The house is quiet, the hum of the refrigerator peacefully filling the kitchen, the single recessed light on above my computer. I can see houselights reflecting off the surface of the Sound, flickering slightly from the ripple of the water. The rest is all black outside. The clock on the microwave reads 10:36. Time for bed and the end of a perfect day.
Sunday was, as usual, less restful (isn’t that ironic that the day of rest is often the least restful), but still sweet. Still awaking on our own accord, without the aid of an alarm (glorious!), we quickly gathered up our things, fed Dutch, gobbled down some cereal, stripped the bed, packed the crib, and headed out to church to meet Anne and the family and Grandma Ruthe. In our haste we didn’t have time to write a note, saying thank you so much for the wonderful Raft Island vacation, so this journal will have to suffice. The rest of the day was full – worshipping with family was sweet. Dutch chewed on Nan’s Kleenex travel pack through the church service, attacking the plastic wrapping as if it were a ferocious animal to be wrestled into submission. We shared communion and received the message on the Lord’s Prayer. After church we met briefly at Dave & Anne’s, to gather Nan’s things and snap a few pictures of the kids together with Nan.
Now sitting here at home I hear a few cars. The sprinklers are watering a thirsty lawn that is happy we are home. Jeff’s fingers moved quickly over his keyboard. It’s calm and twilight, but there is much to do. I’m thankful for the reminder of the beauty of rest. I’m thankful for a house enjoyed. As I look around my house, which is in a shambles of boxes and piles (we move in 2 days!), I’m thankful to be able to sit here, with my water glass and my feet up on the ottoman, savoring a summer evening. To my left our large picture window displays the roses blooming brightly in pinks and yellows. There is no Sound—no sparkling water or boats bobbing in the water—but this is home. For two more days this is home. After that a new place will be home, but it will still be home. Dutch is asleep and Jeff is here. Raft Island may be my little paradise, but home is wherever my boys are. I like home best.