Many years ago after a large meal with the family, I asked my grand nephew who was about three years old at the time if he was full. He turned to me and asked what’s full? Hum. I never thought about how to define “full” especially when it comes to a full belly. I couldn’t ask him that today because he is big fella now and full doesn’t seem to be in his vocabulary. He always seems to be hungry.
Last week, my family gathered at the beach for our annual beach trip. I think this was our twenty-ninth year of gathering at the same place, mostly in the same house. This year, we had to get a duplex because of the number of family members getting together. We started the tradition with ten family members but we were up to nineteen at the house this year. My parents are gone now, but the nephews have grown, married and have kids of their own.
I once thought our family was built around my Mom. I thought she was our rock that held us together. When she passed almost eleven years ago, I thought we wouldn’t be the same. In reality, we are not the same. I think we are stronger and better equipped because of the foundation she and my Dad laid for us. Yes, both she and Dad are gone now, but the family did not fall apart because of it.
I have come to realize it wasn’t Mom who was our center – our family was (and still is) centered on Jesus. He is the foundation Mom and Dad laid for us. He was the center from the beginning and is continuing in that tradition as my nephews are building their foundations with their families. I love seeing my nephews with their kids and I love seeing how much they love their wives.
When we started this tradition twenty-nine years ago, I had no hope for those boys! They were a hot mess. Mom was not a boy’s mom. She had girls and wasn’t accustomed to the boy’s way of life. It was hard for Mom to cope with the messiness that comes with boys. She was a bit on edge whenever we were at the beach with those young boys. But as they grew up, she mellowed. She loved those boys dearly and wanted the best for them.
I wish she could see them today. I wish she had witnessed what the boys have become and the families they are now raising. Dad got to see it. Before his death, Dad got to see all these great-grandkids. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the capacity to know what was going on. He didn’t really know who all these little kids running around were. But Dad knew my nephews and remembered they were married to those young women. But the kids, he didn’t know they were his children as well. But he loved them just the same.
After last week, I remembered all we had been through; the good times and there were many, and the bad times when the rain didn’t stop for days. The special times with Mom and Dad and houses we occupied for a week – making it our home for that week. The times with Mom and the games we played. The one time she kept winning while our attention was diverted. We laughingly accused her of cheating. We got one of the best belly laughs out of her that I can remember.
The boys told us at Dad’s funeral how he used to talk with them on the crow’s nest about – well, I’m not sure what they talked about since they didn’t go into any detail of those conversations – but the boys all remembered those times with Dad up on that roof top as one of the greatest times with Dad. Year after year, memories are made. Even today as we look back at this past week, there will be memories we can all look to as one of the best times we had at the beach.
After the last four months of being alone, I was feeling a bit empty. Today I am full. I still don’t have a good definition for “full” that I could tell a young child. I just know today my heart and my emotional wellbeing is full. No matter what happens next, I have a memory bank full of hearty laughter, good food, putt-putt games and unending joy, but the best part is that it is all centered on Jesus. Jesus is the reason our family time is sincerely one of the best weeks of our lives.
This annual beach trip wasn’t originally started as a tradition. But I believe it was a God-given idea for the family to be strong through the start of this tradition. Year after year, we decided to do it again. God made it happen and I am so thankful today because of His love for us and for His love of family. It was His idea for the family to be the lifeline in a chaotic world. It is our safe harbor when things go astray. In this craziness we have experienced over the last four months, I truly needed this time of refreshment with my family. Thank you family for loving so well this week!
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV)