This is our third year of gathering in the rented beach house that is nestled in the dunes there on the point of land with the bay on one side and the sea on the other. It's comforting to return to the same place these years since my siblings and I, (and our children and grandchildren), no longer have Mama's house as our place to gather. The familiarity feels like a warm embrace.
The sky was blue and clear each day we were there. That's something we don't take for granted on the Oregon coast where gray skies, biting wind, and drizzle can occur any time of the year. This year the children played outside on the dunes in summer shorts, only putting on a light sweatshirt or jacket in the evening when we would gather round the bonfire and make s'mores.
Soft sand surrounds the house. The dunes that form a natural barricade from the bay on one side and the ocean on the other are topped with tufts of sea grass. I'm not one to go around barefoot, but this place seems to call for it. Keeping sand out of the house is an impossibility, much less keeping it out of shoes, so a pile of shoes lays on the floor by the back door, most of us shedding our shoes before climbing the dunes and following the path through the sea grass to walk by the sea.
The children play on the dunes from morning to night with only occasional adult interference. They can be seen through the large living room windows. They've been warned not to go over the dunes without an adult. "If you can't see the house, you've gone too far over the dune." we tell them. Baths are a must at the end of the night as they come in covered with sand from head to toe. Sand settles on the bottom of every tub in the house.
My siblings and I comment on the passing of time. Someone mentions how it seems like yesterday when my oldest granddaughter, eleven years of age, was just a baby. I comment that my sister's oldest granddaughter was out playing in the dunes last year, but now she seems to have matured past the point of wanting to play with the younger ones. My oldest sister mentions that her husband will turn seventy next spring. We all shake our head in disbelief. Me, I wonder how I can possibly be turning fifty seven in a few days. And the reunion itself, we looked forward to it for so long, and how can it possibly be time to say goodbye already?
On the drive home, I notice that the fields of farmland that were green the last time we drove to the sea, have been cut and the golden hay lies on the ground ready to be gathered up. Harvest time will soon be here. The yearly cycle seems to repeat more quickly with every year that I age. I feel the desire to stop and mourn a bit as I see time passing and us all aging. Even the youngest of us, my youngest grandson, is already nearing three months old. I want to stop time, yet I also wonder what his personality will be like at age two. You can't stop time, I remind myself, so savor the time that is right now.
I thank the Lord for the blessings of each day, writing down the ones I remember. I savor the goodness that this week contained, appreciating the truth that every good gift comes from God. I comfort myself when time passes all too quickly, by reminding myself that this life isn't all there is. Most of my family members have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior so His promise of eternal life means that we will have eternity to be with each other. I remember Mama's last prayer when she asked aloud that not one of her descendants would be lost, but that all would come to know Christ, come to love Him. I echo her prayer in the depths of my heart. Amen, Lord Jesus, so be it.
I come home and the busyness of unpacking, washing our sandy clothes, and doing some chores that were put off in our preparations to leave, occupy my mind for a while. It's when I sit down to go over this week's list in my gratitude journal that it all comes flooding back. What an amazing God! He took our broken family, and has made something beautiful. Are we perfect? Farther from it than you might imagine. But we are blessed beyond measure, we are rich in God's blessings, and we are a family that loves one another. A "thank you, God" is the least I can give in response.
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little black journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)
-the lawnmower suddenly deciding to start when we had given up hope
and thought we were going to have to finally replace the old thing
-God's gracious provision
-reading 1 Peter on a "Jesus date"
-cooler weather making for a more enjoyable run
-taking the two youngest granddaughters on a walk to play on the school playground
after not seeing them for over a week while they were on vacation
-the hubs going grocery shopping with me
-sharing a Costco frozen yogurt
-waking up to the sound of a summer rain after a long dry spell
-the hubs working from home today
-running errands with him-and him treating me to Chipotle, one of my favs
-stopping by our second born's house to borrow something and getting to love on the grands for a few minutes
-getting everything done on today's to-do list
-the smell of the rain
-five year old granddaughter getting to ride with us to the family reunion
-stopping at Mo's for lunch and meeting up with our second born's family there as well as running into our nephew and his family
-everyone arriving safely
-my grandkids and great nieces and nephews playing together all day in the sand and the sea
-playing Catch Phrase and belly laughs
-our oldest brother facetiming us since he's in India and couldn't be here for the reunion
-going crabbing together-what fun!
-my sisters and I finally going through Mama's jewelry 3+ years after her death,
(and the blessing that there was no greediness or bickering or hard feelings some go through)
-flying the kite
-eating the crab-YUM!
-the hubs and my son-in-law having a safe drive back home in order to preach on Sunday
-youngest daughter's boyfriend joining us at the reunion to meet the whole family
-this whole wonderful, beautiful day
-many hands make light work-getting the rental house ready for us to leave
-the hubs text that church was really good
-a hubs that encouraged me to stay for the whole reunion even though he couldn't
-the blessing that all of my kids and grandkids got to attend the reunion
-our safe travels home