The day before Thanksgiving, our family assembled with our two college girls and two youngest sons to enjoy dinner together for the first time in a while.
As I cleared dishes and disappeared into the kitchen, I paused momentarily. Leaning against the counter, I basked in the warm bantering of our youngest four and their father, their voices of laughter and chiding blending into a chorus of love.
Yes, I’ve become that sappy mother whose heart dances in the rare moments our family fluffs its feathers in the same landing spot, birdies chirping in tandem from the sanctuary of the nest.
Each time another underling leaves home, the force these homecomings have on my heart grows in strength.
Knowing the reunion would extend into the next day with our full brood, not so uncharacteristically, I set about texting everyone that our Thanksgiving would include a quick family-photo session.
Our clan has come to know that with food and family comes “film.” And so they agreed, mostly compliantly, to find appropriate attire for a somewhat blended scheme.
I won’t say it happened without a hitch; we had two dogs to accommodate as well. But in the end, I got my picture. Not perfect in every way, but good enough.
The next day, looking at the photo again the morning of our 27th wedding anniversary, my heart swelled. Nothing could have meant more to me just then than holding the visual of us with our five children; eternal beings whose lives sprang forth from God’s hand, from our marriage nearly three decades earlier.
Glancing again at the seven of us aligned on a bench – my husband and I in the middle, flanked by our two oldest on one side and three youngest on the other – the many challenges we’ve experienced through the years seemed to me as nothing. The sleepless nights, the strain and stress, faded into this manifestation of love.
Love, not as in the short-lived, Western-romantic type, but enduring, true love which wills the good of the other.
Most of the time, we haven’t had a clue what we’re doing. Our selfish tendencies, left unchecked and unchanged, could well have prevented this Thanksgiving snapshot on a back-yard deck from ever becoming. Yet, here it is.
Only God’s grace can explain it – the abundant, beautiful grace that held us together against the odds, and holds us together every moment still. In this visual, I see not just this one instance, but a multitude of small successes that have defeated despair.
It’s a glimpse into the eternal plan of God, made possible by God alone.
Someday, after I’m gone, perhaps our kids will look at this photo, which demanded a little something of them, and understand why their mother risked creating a moment or two of tension, all because her heart wished to hold them close to savor a moment of love.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Dec. 1, 2018.]