I spent last week at the beach with my parents, my sister’s family, and the family of the exchange student my family hosted for a year in the late 80’s. My kids refer to my exchange sister and her husband as “Aunt” and “Uncle” and if you saw a picture of all fourteen of us together you would probably have to look hard to figure out which grandkids aren’t biologically related to my parents.
We were there to celebrate “Nana & Papaw’s” 50th wedding anniversary. Nana & Papaw, otherwise known as my parents, told us months ago that they didn’t want a reception for their 50th anniversary, they wanted to rent a house at the beach and have everyone in one place at one time. We couldn’t do it on the actual anniversary date because we had to coordinate fourteen schedules that included several careers, teenagers’ sports camps, university summer studies, one job change & relocation, and family members who reside in two US states and one foreign country. But we did it! It was a fun week that included beach and pool time, mini golf and go karts, fireworks, lots of good food and fresh seafood, and tons of great memories made.
So here are five things I learned (or perhaps remembered) during our week of travel, family time, and trying to sell and buy houses.
1 – Keep Gas in Your Tank
During our driving trip down and my parents’ trip back, traffic happened. At one point in our drive it took us almost an hour to travel a distance that should have taken fifteen minutes. If our gas tank had been on fumes we might have been stuck on the side of the road in zillion degree heat with 172% humidity. (Ok, I exaggerate…a little…but you get the point.) Anyone coming to help us would’ve been stuck in the same traffic jam. Just as I encouraged after our experiences with Hurricane Ike, I’ll encourage now. Keep gas in your vehicle at all times.
But keeping gas in your tank can also mean giving yourself time to rest. With home renovations and the impending relocation to pastor a new congregation, which was a stressful secret we had to keep for several months, we were eager for some down time to get ready for the forthcoming busy days of moving and starting a new ministry. We spent time at the beach and with the family, but each of us also spent some time alone to enjoy the solitude and get ready for the hectic days we know are coming.
2 – Build Margin Into Your Life
We did our best to have everything in order for the sale and purchase of the two houses before we left. Then, during our trip to the beach and after we were already a few states away from home, our realtor called and told us some surprises showed up during the inspection. We ended up sitting at a rest stop for over an hour on the phone with her and a contractor friend trying to figure out what to do. Then came the traffic I mentioned earlier. We were unhappy about the news but thankful we didn’t have to be anyplace at a certain time that evening.
The day before we were supposed to leave the beach I made a point of doing a couple of loads of laundry so we wouldn’t be buried in dirty clothes upon our return home. I knew we’d have to hit the ground running, so to speak, when we got back and our schedule wouldn’t allow me much time at home to tend to the washer and dryer. Sitting in a rocker on the porch where I could see the beach and hear the waves crash while waiting for the dryer to finish was much more pleasant than adding to the mad scramble that I knew was waiting when we returned home.
A little planning and preparation goes a long way. In normal life this looks like having easy-to-prepare food in the pantry and keeping an eye on how much milk is left in the fridge, avoiding cramming life with activity, deliberately building in time to rest (and do laundry), keeping an emergency fund in the bank and a smaller emergency fund within easy reach, and doing what you can to eliminate unnecessary sources of stress, like “What’s for dinner?” and “How are we going to pay for that?“, in order to focus on what’s important.
3 – Have Fun With Those You Love While You Can
It took some effort to get all fourteen of us in the same place at the same time. We discussed during the trip that it may be impossible to do it again now that the grandkids are older and their schedules are filling up even more. So we enjoyed the time we had. There was no melancholy weepiness about how few days we had left. We visited on the porch. We took tons of pictures. We played mini golf and drove go karts in spite of the heat. We had a party for Nana & Papaw and formally shared 50 years’ worth of memories and stories through a memory box and photo album we made just for the occasion. We prayed together and thanked God for our family. Blood is thicker than water…even salt water! Enjoy your family while you have them with you!
4 – Be Blown Away by Beauty
The beach where we stayed features clear water and sugar sand. Those things are easy to see. But I also appreciated colorful parasailing chutes against a blue sky, perfectly tiny seashells, brilliant fireworks above crashing waters, schools of tiny fishes swimming around my ankles, the music of the waves, the fragrance of salt air, the echo of laughter, and the smiles on faces I hold dear.
Even when the inspector finds unhappy surprises or traffic is snarled or the humidity is off the charts, there is beauty to enjoy if you’ll just look for it.
5 – Stand in Awe of What God Has Done (and Is Doing)
I’m blessed to have come from a family that honors God and I take comfort in knowing we’ll be together for eternity. I got to witness my parents’ vow renewal ceremony, officiated by my husband. Despite the hiccup with the inspection, everything is moving smoothly again with our home sale and purchase. Our new congregation is welcoming us eagerly and we are excited about the new work being opened to us. And despite its troubles, I’d still rather be a citizen of the USA than anyplace else in the world.
I’m blessed by the generosity of my family, the church, and the great God we serve. I know it doesn’t always feel this way (been there!) but at this moment I’m in awe of what He has done and is doing, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!
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