Okay, so a few blogs back, I alluded to the fact that our Family Christmas in Louisiana was a totally different blog in and of itself...Well, here goes!
After our whirlwind trip to the great and wonderful state of Texas, we loaded up and headed to the family land in Louisiana. My grandmother who is 94, has lived there in that same spot for around 70 years. My granddaddy made his living, and supplied for his family off of the very ground that we explore on ATVs.
It's a tangled tale, the history of our family (maybe another blog for another day) but that land, that old house, that dirt road, those trees and bushes, the rocking chairs, porch swings, and even the sound of the front gate that still bears the name of my grandaddy even though he passed away some 35 years ago, all hold memories that are more precious than gold. I love to sit and listen to my aunts and uncles tell stories of when they were kids, and the things they did. They can still point out where they walked through the woods to church each Sunday. They tell of building playhouses in the woods, of slaughtering hogs for food, and of climbing trees to get away from angry bulls. And it all happened right there where they sit and tell about it.
My parents moved to Houston, TX, before I was born, so I did not grow up on or near the old home place. But I loved to go and visit, and live the carefree life of a kid growing up in the country, even if for just a few short days at a time. Still, I have memories of waking up to the sounds of my grandma, aunts, and mom in the kitchen, and the delicious aromas of bacon, biscuits, and eggs in the air. I remember walking barefooted in the ditches on the side of the dirt road after a good rain, and the feel of that red mud squishing between my toes. I remember big family egg hunts on Easter in my grandma's side yard. I remember sitting on the front porch, packed with relatives talking about the way things used to be. I remember my uncle chasing us down the hall of that old shotgun house. Back then it seemed that that hall was a mile long. I remember playing under the tent made by the quilt in progress that filled the front room. I remember one of my great aunts playing the old out of tune piano like it was a grand piano in Carnigie Hall, and everyone sitting or standing around her singing hymns. All of that, and much, much more...
So, this is the land, the heritage, that we try to go back and visit at least twice a year. At Christmas we all gather in the large garage my brother has built on the land. We visit with family we haven't seen in a year, and catch up on what is happening in each other's lives. We play Dirty Santa, and exchange gifts. We sing carols, and play games. We take pictures, and we eat. We laugh, and we cry. But most of all, we just enjoy one another's company. The company of those who know where they all came from. We can look around and see it, our humble heritage. A couple who didn't have much in the eyes of the world, but who worked hard, and raised their children to love the Lord, and to know right from wrong. A couple whose children went on to teach those things to their children, and so it continues.
I didn't have the privilege to know my grandaddy. He passed away before I was old enough to remember him. And my grandmother is one of the strongest people I know. But at 94, she is struggling with health issues. She came to our party, for a little while, and I can't help but wonder what she thought as she sat there watching all of us in that great big circle. I wonder what my grandaddy would have said, if he could have been there as well. I wonder if in their wildest dreams they would have ever imagined us all going where we've gone, and doing what we've done. I know that this time, in light of the news that Marc is now a pastor, my grandmother couldn't tell me enough how proud she was of Marc and me. If she could only know how much her words meant.
The last day we were there, we went to tell her goodbye. It breaks my heart to leave her, because I just don't know that I'll get to see her again. This time, when I hugged her goodbye, she held on tight, and said, "I don't want you to have to go." If she only knew, that I didn't want me to have to go either.
It is hard living away from my family, but God has called us here, and here is where we will serve Him. And over the years that we have been away, He has given us friends that are as close, and sometimes even closer than our families. So with all of that said, this blog went nowhere near the direction that I had planned for it to go. It was supposed to be funny, not so mushy and sentimental. But maybe I needed a release for some of all of the sentimental I've been feeling lately. At any rate, on this Thankful Thursday, I am extremely thankful for any time I am able to spend with our family, either those physically related to us, or those with whom God has given us a special earthly bond.
Let's not take our families for granted. Tell them you love them, while you still can. Ask some of your older relatives to tell you one of their favorite stories from their childhood. Tell a younger relative one of your favorite childhood stories. Tell someone how proud you are of who they are, and what they have accomplished. And let them know, while you can, that you really wish they didn't have to go.