It was shortly after returning from vacation early this month that I went for a run. During this run, I believe the Lord pressed it upon my heart to attend some events this past weekend. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I knew the trip would be good.
Yesterday, the girls and I packed the car and headed to Cleveland. My cousin had just graduated from high school and all the “extended” family planned to gather for a celebration. It isn’t too often that we find ourselves available to attend, so I was thrilled to be able to say yes.
As the cousins and second-cousins frolicked in the backyard and swam in the pool, aunts, uncles, and cousins had an opportunity to sit and chat. It. was. wonderful. It was as if years hadn’t passed by at all. Though time would argue with me, there was just something about being surrounded by those who have known you since birth, those who have celebrated your “markers”, those who still speak the same way with the same phrases with the same humor… family. I felt right at home. My girls had experienced a “taste” of my past and are creating their own markers. They were welcomed into the loving arms of the Anderson clan.
And then we went to visit Grandma. In the hospital. And I watched my girls reach over the bed rail to hug her neck. And I listened to them share stories. And they watched her as she shared her stories. And I was able to share a few words with her as well, just my Dad and I in the room. And I could have sat there for hours. And I saw the same glint in his eye as I had for my girls. And I let my heritage seep into the recesses of my heart, the parts that fill and spill over in tears, for here is the soft spot – the remembrance of all that I have been given, and the wisdom of years gone by, alert and awake in a body that would otherwise tell her differently. This moment will be tucked away in a very special place…
And then we visit my brother and his lovely family. While the girls giggle away in all things imaginary… I catch up with my sister-in-law, and after the kiddos are sleeping, we talk about life into the late hours of the night. And in the morning, I get to catch up with both of my brothers over pancakes and a beautiful fruit plate. This is a rare treasure, and it’s as if this takes place everyday – the ease of conversation that trails from the past to the present and back again, random bouts of laughter, no sense of urgency to rush – family. The blessing of a heritage of love.
And then the girls and I leave Cleveland and head to Tallmadge, Ohio. It’s a very special day for a very special family. A family that left a lasting impression on my heart, one that impacted the course of my life. Today Pastor Barry French retired. Pastor Barry was my middle school youth pastor. It’s not often that I think about my past, it’s not often that I have an opportunity to thank the man who not only changed my heart and led me into a relationship with Christ, but one who has changed the course of generations to come – my children, and God-willing, their children as well. Today was a day of remembering. Today was a day to feebly attempt two small words that can’t even begin to convey the depth of their meaning… Thank you.
I sat through a service, sharing so much more with my girls than an introduction to a Methodist service, I shared an experience of walking them through a slice of my heritage. We heard praise music, sang from a hymnal together, listened to scripture while following along on my Bible app, hear d a small group of men sing a medley of songs of the past in beautiful harmony, and even experienced a delightful musical piece performed by the hand bell choir. I used to be a part of a hand bell choir when my family attended Bedford Methodist Church. In fact, my BFF’s mother, our director, was sitting in a pew just to the right of me. Heritage.
And I listened to a congregation thrilled to have a “packed house” (numbers being irrelevant), and there was time set aside for members to celebrate anniversaries, and updates on health improvements, and pleas for more prayers requests, and thank-yous for those long-standing requests as well. Community. Powerful. And I listened to a tender shepherd, one who led this timid little sheep to her Heavenly Father’s lap, gently and wisely lead his sheep with honor, grace, and humor into the arms of the next shepherd to come. And he talked about a God Of Love and Faithfulness (GOLF, something his plans on filling his days doing), and I thought about the impact of those words. He mentioned Christians gathering around the world and celebrated the diversity of church heritage represented today. And I thought about my Lutheran baptism, and my Methodist confirmation, and my Nazarene high school youth group, and my Catholic high school years, and I praised my loving, faithful God for all of it.
And I listened to Pastor Barry honor his heritage in gratitude to his Mother and father, and he honored his beautiful wife with a kiss and with gratitude for a lifetime of teamwork, and he honored his church family that has supported and encouraged them along the way, and we sang four verses of “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”, and my heart could barely contain the waterworks. Tis so sweet…
And with that, we sang the doxology and I lifted my head to my audience of One…
Praise God from whom all blessing flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye Heavenly Hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
And in the hall, I met some some new faces. The sweet servant who serves in children church was so delighted to meet my girls, and in the course of a short exchange, she shared how her adult son has wandered from the Lord and that her husband is not a believer. I made a commitment to join with this precious lady in prayer and I silently thanked Him for the blessing of His unwavering promises.
And I met some familiar faces – my childhood friend’s brother and his family, my former middle school English teacher, a former youth retreat buddy, and a family deeply rooted in the Methodist church to this day. We keep in touch over facebook (which is how I knew about this event), and we celebrated in a few moments of our shared heritage together.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.