It was time to go back to school this week, so I had a chance to reflect on our summer and all the busy-ness and lazy-ness of the weeks behind me. My car accident in May started the summer off with too many tests, too many doctor visits, too many questions about my health, but I tried to set it all aside and let God be mine, because He told me once in Psalm 66 that He would not reject my prayers or withhold His love for me, so I was counting on His promise in every way.
I had a chance to take care of each of my children, as they needed me in various ways, and that is a privilege that I try not to take for granted. I was glad I was able to be with Lauren as she changed offices; I was happy to care for Christi and Ryan's children while they took a much-needed break; it was wonderful to celebrate birthdays with Charlotte, Lauren, and Michelle; and I counted down the days until Carlisle's visit with his family.
I had to go back to work this week, in my new job, with lots of new responsibilities, and was grateful that God allowed for plenty of rest and relaxation beforehand. It made me think of His love, and the way He has taught me how to love. I would say that I don't love perfectly; I'm not sure who does. I am sometimes selfish and self-serving in my love, as I really want to be loved in return. But I hope if I've taught my children anything, it is the idea that love is a resting place. Life beats us up, it demands so much of us, it saps us, surprises us, disappoints us, and brings us both sorrow and joy. If we do not know how to turn to each other, and find rest in each other, we do not truly know how to love, nor do we understand how God loves us.
The whole family gathered at the lake as summer ended. Our friend, Tim Burkhalter (Images of His) joined us to take photos of each family. I love this one of Carlisle and Michelle, Shayleigh and little Carlisle. I look at my little boy now all grown up...and think about my Carlisle and his journey...a boy smack dab in the midst of 4 girls. I used to call him a boy sandwich. He knew some very difficult days as a teenager, and God redeemed every moment. While he had no father as a teenager, he had the loving example of other men in his life, primarily his grandfathers, to show him how a man loves his family. Today, his love is a resting place for his wife, and his beautiful daughter and son. I look into his eyes and see a man who knows what love means, and I am grateful for God's grace and unfailing protection.
I asked Ryan's grandparents to come over to the lake house so we could take their picture, and after over 60 years of marriage, Caroline climbed onto Bob's lap and told our friend Tim to have at it. He captured the sparkle and energy that keeps this couple's love as alive and vibrant as it was so many decades ago. I so admire their commitment and their stamina...they have shown their children and grandchildren that their love is a resting place.
Ryan had the example of his grandparents to guide him in creating a resting place in his home. Like Christi, he had seen the marriage of his parents come apart and they both knew firsthand about the wounds such decisions cause. When they decided to marry, I thought they were both so young, and I wanted them to wait. But they had found love in each other, and I had to let go and let God lead them into the life He'd planned for them. Today, as husband and wife, mother and father, they give each other and their 3 children the safety, security, and stability of a loving home, a resting place in a hectic world.
Last summer when we gathered at the lake, Michelle had just returned from a semester abroad in Spain, and Charlotte was still in San Francisco going to jewelry school, so we didn't have a chance to capture their friendship and sista-hood. I watched Michelle gather her "bees" into her lap at the lake, and admire the strong relationship she's created with her nieces and nephews. She has so much love to give, and always tastes the salt of another person's tears. She has a beautiful heart. So does Charlotte. Someone asked me to give one word to describe Charlotte and I had to use a hyphen: tender-hearted. I ask God every day to guide their path, each step, so they end up with a partner in life who helps them create the joyful resting place they each deserve.
I love the way Tim's photo captures this couple that we've grown to love so much. Mike is Michelle's brother (we call Carlisle's wife, Michelle, Bunny--but that's a secret). Mike and Lorena have spent the past 16 months planting a church in St. Petersburg, Florida. St. Pete is one of the most violent cities in the country. Crime is rampant, people are lost and searching for answers, and Mike has carried a burden for this city for many years. God led him to plant City on a Hill Church, and he will tell you story after story of how God has rescued and redeemed members of his church. 300-400 people gather together every week to listen to this shepherd offer God's love as a resting place for those beaten up by the troubles of their lives. Lorena's father went home to heaven just weeks before our gathering at the lake, and my prayer for her time with all of us was that she would find rest. But in between swimming, capsizing the jet ski, farkling, and cooking, I'm not sure she got much rest. She has many gifts, and shared her heart with us. She also happens to cook like Paula Deen, so we were not afraid to encourage her in the kitchen.
We weren't sure Lauren and her sweetheart, Chris, were going to make it to the lake when Chris tore the tendons apart in his hand but it's not easy to keep a good man down. They led the charge on the water, making sure the boats, rafts, fishing poles, and jet skis were ready for action each day. They are both active people, and are not afraid to be themselves. I admire that about both of them. Sometimes I'm so busy being what other people want or need me to be, that I'm not sure how to just be myself. Lauren and Chris have shared their pasts and are creating a future together, and in the process they're learning how to make it work, how to become a resting place for one another.
So the lake visit ended too soon once again. We would never have had the chance to get together if not for Ryan's aunt and uncle, John and Linda Wilcox. They gave us a gift we will never forget. Got home, unpacked, washed and put away all the gear, and now it is time to go back to school. Gone are the "halcyon days of summer" for another year. Life's pressing in once again. But I can say that as we gathered and departed, Christ was in our midst. He assembled us from Florida, Texas, and points in between and gave us the time and opportunity to share His heart with each other. He showed us once again how He showers us with His love, and blesses us so abundantly. I have to hit my knees all too often to ask for His forgiveness, for taking it all for granted. One of the many promises I cling to is this (and I've changed it so it sounds like it's written for me): When she calls out to Me, I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble; I will rescue her and give her honor; I will satisfy her with a long life and show her My salvation. Ps 91:15-6