Last week our six children, with spouses and their kids, gathered with us for a long planned celebration. June 7 was the date circled on the calendar since January for our FamilyLife staff and board to honor Dennis and me for our 40 plus years of ministry.
Several hundred friends joined our family for dinner and an evening of reflection and remembering all God has done during our years at FamilyLife. It was a sweet evening of seeing old friends, fellow and former staff members and being encouraged and affirmed that our time at FamilyLife made a difference after many times of wondering, “Does this matter, Lord?” We felt honored and loved and the evening was followed by singing praises to God for “the things He has done.”
Half of my beautiful granddaughters!
Bright and early Friday morning, 28 of us piled in a rented bus and headed north to “float” the Buffalo River, a beautiful meandering crystal clear river. We piled into canoes and kayaks, slathered on sunscreen multiple times throughout the hot 94-degree day, and played, laughed and swam. And I said “float” because it was actually more work than we were anticipating. The river needed a bit more water for it to be true floating and less paddling, but hey we got a good upper body workout all day! :)
All of us safely back on dry ground filled with fun memories
Saturday was our last full day before everyone began departing for home and it was definitely a day to recover. Most of us slept in until 8 or 9 if kids allowed, then we hung out in our rooms or with kids at the hotel pool until after our lunch of leftover sandwiches and chips from the float. Thenwe delegated the care of the 12 kids to husbands … “Take them to the trampoline park,” we said … and to Papa … “Stay with baby Annie at the hotel while she naps.”
That’s when us girls made our escape!
Rebecca and Ashley had cooked up the idea of taking Deborah to one of our fave stores that she’d never been to, Altar’d State. It is so her style … artsy, slightly bohemian, with an intentional Christian message. After an hour and a half of shopping we said goodbye to Laura, who had to head back to Memphis, and drove to the restaurant, laughing all the way, and arriving 30 minutes before the men and children. We all giggled with the anticipation of uninterrupted time to sit and talk.
It was the best 30 minutes of the day. And it all began with a simple question. Daughters Ashley, Rebecca, Deborah and Stephanie, our daughter in love, and I were settled in chairs, dipping chips into queso and exhaling deeply … no little people were tugging with “Mommy, can I? questions. Unpretentious Stephanie asked, “What is the hardest thing for you about being a mom?”
- “Being needed all the time by kids and my husband.”
- “My kids come to me with everything, even if my husband is in the room with them.”
- “Right now the emotional needs are harder because my older kids are teens and I can’t always understand what’s happening in their hearts. I can’t always solve the problem either like I did when they were little and that makes me feel like a failure as a mom. Plus it takes so much time.”
Then I asked Ashley, “Would you mind telling us how you knew it was God’s voice who told you to watch for the ways He was going to show you love this weekend?” After she answered we all jumped in.
- “He’s been showing me how much He loves me this year and I knew when I had the thought ‘just watch for how I will love you this weekend,’ that it was God. I also knew it was Him because what I heard was contrary to how I was feeling at the moment. And I now have a list of things I saw as evidence of His love for me.
- “After I walked out of a meeting with a lawyer asking about divorce I heard God say to me, ‘I didn’t tell you you could do this.’ I knew it was God because it was true to what He values, plus it was a correction to what I was planning. I obeyed His voice and cancelled my plan.”
- “God speaks to me often through song and hymns that reflect His Word, like the time He reminded me of the song, ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.’ I was at that moment in time trusting my ability to parent and my child’s ability to make me happy. He corrected my misplaced affections. I confessed I was making my child an idol and surrendered to His ways once again.”
The answers surprised and encouraged me. We don’t talk often enough about how God is working in our hearts but in those minutes I heard that God is speaking to each of my girls in ways they all recognize as from Him. It is a sacred place, a mysterious connection with the Creator, when we hear from Him. When we risk sharing our divine encounters we remind one another He is near, He is listening, He wants to speak to us.
Hope you enjoyed the little photo tour of our all too rare family time last weekend. We took LOTS more photos but I don’t want to bore you with too many!
May you listen for His voice whispering love to you, and bravely share with a few others that they may be encouraged to watch for His words to them too.