On evening one we sat on the deck for a game of Tell Tale and soaked in this scenery.
The great and powerful hymn "It is Well" sprang forth in my heart because of the surroundings- "When peace like a river attendeth my way..." Yet it was the second line my heart recognized by circumstance- "When sorrows like sea billows roll." I knew I wasn't alone. We are a family united by a common thread of transition at the moment where the weight of earthly stress weighs heavy.
I wondered what God would be up to. How new memories would mold outlook and how perspective would influence the heart.
All twelve of us claimed bedrooms, blessed with space large enough to commune and quiet enough for a little alone time when needed. Each night the different family units made a meal and together we came around one table to eat. During the day, my sister-in-law manned the oh so tasty "fat kid dips." We played Yahtzee on the porch and teased my mother-in-law for dating the scorecards (which, impressively enough go back to 1995), the kids threw countless games of horse shoe, foosball was ongoing in the house, and hikes were happening in abundance. The adults reclaimed our youth and ran around the property for family tag. And, on the huge adjacent lawn we came together for a family football scrimmage. With five kids 7 and under that involved a lot of redirecting running rotations on the field and I may have taken a huge crash resulting in a battle wound trying to outrun my brother-in-law because I'm just a tad bit competitive wink but adding this new activity to the yearly gathering conjured up images of fun opportunity as the children age.
It doesn't get much more simple or joyful than this.
At night fall chairs were gathered in a circle and my father-in-law prepared the fire.
S'mores delighted our tastebuds and darkness made way for dreams to be spoken, stories to be shared that made us laugh so hard we cried, and most powerfully, hymns to be sung.
"With thanksgiving, I'll be a living Sanctuary for you..."
Our heads hit the pillow exhausted and our hearts grateful with anticipation of more porch discussions, games, and fun to be had. So much so, we noticed, that we never even felt the urge to leave what was afforded to us in that space.
When the yearly talent show arrived, we crowded onto the wrap around couch pumped for what was to come. Each year brings with it new skits, dances, songs, raps, unfolding of the family history, etc. But perhaps most beautifully to me was how my mother-in-law ended this year's. She's been known to invite the family into creative activity, like the family tapestry, and this year she chose an Emmaus walk. Pairing us in twos, we went out assigned three points of discussion.
Partnered with my brother-in-law Joe, I walked the trail in capris. Those of you who know me well know this is an act of faith in itself. I don't dig getting up-close and personal with nature, particularly without the aid of long pants, socks, tennis shoes, long sleeve shirt, etc. to distance me from the bugs. If you were to ever see a girl outside in the summer that looks seasonally confused, it's probably me, and that's a long shot because I don't make habit of doing it often. I really, really don't like bugs.
But, I followed Joe's suggestion in faith all the while talking faith. Along the way I was captivated by the creation, magnifying God's power and reinforcing the gift that comes in being His.
It was like I, we, could all look around and hear the Jesus say, "I got this." Rest.
There is no struggle to big, no transition to great, no dream to impossible for the One who gave us each other and leads us forward.
Thus, I left this morning genuinely feeling all was well with my soul. For when we give the Lord our hearts and rest in simplicity without the distraction of everyday life and work, refreshed perspective follows.
If you find yourself weighed down, I encourage you to take a break with people you love. It will fill your cup.
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