Graber vacation, Part 1.

12:11 PM

   The time spent with my family in October already feels so very, long ago.  But what a wonderful time it was!  I told someone afterward that I think maybe it was one of the best times we have all had together, EVER.  And I truly believe the secret was in getting this house together.  At one point plans were to just get a few motel rooms and spend time together that way, and I don't know about you, but the thought of entertaining two preschoolers and a baby in a motel room/lobby for several days had me in a cold sweat.  But we ended up getting this house in a secluded area out at the coast, and it was PERFECT.

   And I have a ridiculous amount of photos, but no worries, I certainly will not break the internet by putting them all in one post.  And so this will just have to be a 2 or 3-parter.

   My ENTIRE family was out here, and when you're one of seven children with two married, with kids, and living thousands of miles from the rest of them, having us all in one place is a rare and special occurrence indeed.  And once again, I will reiterate that this is the best way to do it because when we all visit Iowa, there are a million other things competing for attention.  People have jobs and social activities and youth group and I have friends to meet for coffee, and it all just pulls you in different directions.   The same is somewhat true when they come out here, as there are so many other things vying for our attention, and even for some of my siblings, who have friends out here of their own now.

   And all of that makes it so hard to just slow down and just BE together.  But when you're in a house at the coast, there is really nothing else to do but be together.  Eat food, make a fire, play games, walk along the beach.  It forced us all to slow down, set aside our busy-ness, and enjoy each other.  And it was just what we needed.

 There are things I absolutely love about being part of a big family and things I don' thing I love, is that there are so many different, unique personalities when we get together and it keeps things  so interesting and fun.  One thing I don't like so much, is that it can be hard to spend a quality amount of time with each and every one because...well, there's just so many of us.  But I think the pros outweigh the cons, although I don't really have anything else to compare it to. :)

I love, love, love this man.

   Even with the moving thousands of miles from home and all that a change like that entails, I will always be grateful for him.  You know that quote, "Home is wherever I'm with you"?  Well cheesy or not, it's the truth.
    I have wept my share of tears over the seeming "injustice" of so many living near all of their family when I cannot.  But when I stop stewing in self-pity I realize that in many ways, it has actually been a benefit.  I hate to admit it, but it's true.  It has forced me to rely on him more than on my family.  It has caused me to turn to him for relationship.  It has reminded me that this world is not my home, I'm just passing through.  And I think a "nomad mentality" is healthy.  We aren't really supposed to get too comfortable here anyway.

   One day we all went down to the docks to do a little crabbing.  We didn't catch anything big enough to keep, but that in no way kept us from having a wonderful time.  My brother made a video of some of our experiences, and so you can check out his youtube channel if you need a laugh or two.  He has an altar ego named Russell Sprouts, an outdoor adventurer who will basically tell you everything you need to know about my brother Shawn.  This one, is a personal fave.

  Highlight of the trip, hands down, was the time we all gathered in the living room to sing songs and share a little about ourselves and what was going on in our lives.  
   I froze up when it was my turn, which was so uncharacteristic of me.  I like to talk.  But when my turn came, I honestly couldn't think of anything to share.  Like, what is even going on in my life?  Having babies?  Cooking and cleaning?  A good deal at Old Navy?

 But then my older sister shared so beautifully and was so open and honest about what God was doing in her life in spite of a very difficult year, that I felt ashamed.  How am I so short-sighted that I cannot see His goodness and His grace and that he is MOVING in my life?  Just because nothing "big" seems to be happening right now? Am I really that shallow?  If she can find meaning and purpose in her days in the midst of trial, then certainly I can find purpose in mine.

   God dished out an extra helping of musical ability to my siblings.  And I love that when we're all together, instruments come out and songs infiltrate the silence as naturally as conversation.  It is such a precious gift, and one I don't take for granted.  Although of course I didn't always feel that way.

   Sunday mornings, about once a month, Mom would DRAG us all to the local nursing home to sing together.  I wanted to go to church and see my friends.  We would still make it in time for the sermon, but we would miss Sunday school (which happened first thing) and that was my favorite part.  I always cringed inside when it was time to go again and we drug our feet and complained something fierce but you know what?  I always ended up having a lot of fun, in spite of myself.  And even though I sang "Blessed Assurance" and "Sweet Hour of Prayer" so many times I thought I would be ok if I never heard them again in my life....those songs are a little extra sweet to me now.  WheneverI sing one of those old hymns I am transported back to that stuffy, too-warm room where we packed in beside each other and I heard the sweet melodies of my family's voices swirling around me.

   Those times spent together in song taught us harmonies.  Gave us an ear for music.  And today, each of my siblings can sing, and usually several parts as well.  And I will never forget what it meant to some of those older people.  I remember their hands most clearly....always soft and shaking, grasping ours with surprising strength and thanking us with tears in their eyes.  I saw them so often I began to feel like I knew some of them personally.  And each time, we left feeling like we were the ones being blessed, rather than the ones doing the blessing.

   My teenage self thought I was doing mom countless favors by stomping into the van and skulking into the nursing home.  And of course it's only now, years later, that it's crystal clear that she was the one doing ME all the favors.

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