Beth has been out of town the past week and a half (and will be until the end of the week) as part of a class she's taking (hoping it'll lead to a job or a position in the doctoral program). My parents have been asking for their week with the boys on the farm, so it seemed like a good time to do it (I stayed hoping to get some time to write, which didn't really happen, of course). We headed down last Sunday night. They love the country--as do I. We had a lot of rain, so there were plenty of puddles to splash and jump around in. Starry skies and lightning bugs make it difficult to get to bed at night.
We went camping one night. We were going to go for two, but came home early for fear of storms--which was a good move as it rained and thundered a lot that night. But we got in some swimming in the lake, some hiking and some time around the campfire.
We were also able to get to a family reunion in Illinois as my sister and her boyfriend were willing to ride with us so I didn't have to do the drive alone. It's my mom's dad's side of the family. We haven't gotten there since Anders was a year old. But it's a place we would go to every year if we could. Others don't understand when we talk about going to our family reunion. It's really an event. Family comes from all over: New Jersey, Michigan, Arizona, etc.
The reunion is held at the house my grandfather grew up in. No one lives there anymore, but they keep it for the sole purpose of the reunion. It's been going on for 64 years now, I believe. We got in on Friday night. Many people had arrived already. It was like we had hung out with them the weekend before. Sure, there's dysfunction, but it's a place I want to be at. I'm accepted, I'm included, I'm known.
My boys loved it, too. Their cousins (they're distant as far as cousins go, but they're as close as cousins) played with them constantly. On Sunday they have a big potluck lunch with very delicious food in vast quantities. Afterward the kids (and a few of the adults) have a big water fight (squirt guns and water balloons), followed by a bean fight (shooting beans through straws). The back yard is a labyrinth of bushes, trees and flowers. There's a sack swing in one of the trees. And rail road tracks which are great for putting pennies on--but you didn't hear that from me. Plus there's a Dairy Queen across the street that my great-uncle initially opened.
I'm lucky, I now. We all need family like that and a place to belong. Really, my family reunion is what church should be like. Once in a while we find a church that is like that--a place where you're accepted, included and known. A place of fun, fellowship and feasting. A place you want to be at and want to keep returning to again and again.
Here's the thing: Sometimes a family and a church like that just happen--they contain the right mix of people. But the majority of the time we have to make it happen. We need to be intentional about making others feel welcome, wanted and accepted. We need to think of others' desires and needs. We need to fight well--not holding grudges, harboring bitterness or putting our own agendas before the betterment of relationships. We need to have fun and celebrate together. We need to love each other: take care of each other, encourage one another and shoulder each others' burdens. When we work at it, then we can have a family and a church like I find at the Trumper homestead in Pana, Illinois.