this coming monday is my in-laws (or in-loves, as my mom would say) 30th wedding anniversary. and we’ve just come back from a ‘surprise’ party that deborah put together for them. it ended up not being that much of a surprise since she told them about it, and those who were invited didn’t keep secrets very well. but the 50+ people that came to celebrate were all glad that it happened.
anyways, the idea came to her about a month and a half or so ago when she was reading through proverbs and got to the verse about her “children rising up and calling her blessed” and was wondering if that would ever happen. as i remember it, she was having a particularly ‘trying’ day with the kids and didn’t know if that verse would ever come true. * and then the thought suddenly struck her — BAM — that means that it’s ’bout time she rose up and called her mother/parents blessed! what was she going to do to fulfill scripture in her parents lives.
so she realized that this ‘just happened’ to be the year that her parents were celebrating their 30th anniversary. so for the past month or so she’s been making phone calls, writing emails, sending invitations, holding secret meetings, setting up lodging (for some), getting volunteers, setting a meeting place, etc., etc., etc. and she pulled it off. everyone that came had a grand time. they thanked her ad nauseam for putting together everything and how grateful they were to have a chance to get together.
now there’s something you must know about deborah and her parents. deborah’s parents met and were married at a commune called “the Christian House”. (in fact they were married 2 WEEKS after going on their first date!) and then a year later deborah was born into this commune. and even though deborah was only 3 years old when the group split up, those people are some of the strongest bonds and ‘family’ that she has. the group looks for excuses to get together as often as they can. for many many years they would annually get together every ‘day after thanksgiving’ for a time to share thanksgiving again with their ‘other’ family.**
now i have a somewhat ‘bitter-sweet’ relationship with all these people. when we were first married and i was ‘practically dragged’ to this ‘after thanksgiving’ ritual i knew that i wasn’t going to look forward to this day. to me they were living in the past, wishing for better days, and basically stuck in 1980 something. i resigned myself to pretending to put on a smile, feigning interest in any kind of conversation, eating casseroles and potato salad, and doing my best not to fall asleep in the name of “making my wife happy”.
in contrast, in my family, i never grew up with that close knit network of friends and extended family. both my father and mother’s side of the family lived in southern california and we in washington state. we’d visit them once a year around christmas time, and some of them we didn’t get to see, if they weren’t home at the time we went to their house. i remember longing to be like the “valnes clan”. they would talk about having family reunions on both sides of the family just about every year. and would come back telling of all the fun they’d had.***
and ‘now’ . . . i’m the ‘associate pastor’ at our church. and one of my main responsibilities is to spearhead our church’s ‘small group’ ministry. this is something that i’ve read, studied, seen glimpses of, and know is a vital part of our church’s future. in fact i think it’s crucial for anybody to live a successful life to not be isolated to themselves. anyways, another soapbox for another time.
so i’ve been struggling with the methods and strategies of how to get people into ‘authentic and meaningful’ relationships – “living life together” if you will. but i don’t want it to seem forced, ritualistic, or worse seem like just another ‘gimmick’ to make a big hoopla in church; that ends up being a ‘clanging cymbal’.
and so then i come to another of these “Christian House” get togethers and suddenly realize, “THIS IS IT!, THIS IS WHAT I WANT OUR SMALL GROUPS TO BE!!!” but how in the world do you get this kind of ‘community’ without having people live together in an old hotel for years at a time? how do you get people to love each other so much that they’re willing to drive miles and hours away? (some even trying to arrange air travel from california to come to a 30th anniversary. i mean, its not even their 50th) how do you get 3 year olds to grow up and love getting together with her parent’s best friends after decades of not being together on a constant basis?
and then how do you prevent it from becoming something that ‘said 3 year olds’ future husbands don’t loathe? how do you prevent it from becoming a group of old foggies living in the past, wishing for better days, singing the old songs, and basically stuck in 2007 something?
or then again . . . maybe they’re not?? maybe i’m just jealous? maybe they aren’t stuck? maybe their love isn’t bound by time, they simply resume where they left off? maybe they actually are all that i long to be? in fact if i were to honest with you, i would tell you that even while writing this post in the midst of all of them, my eyes have teared up more than once seeing the rich joy and deep bonds of friendship they share.
so deborah, i’m sorry for being a grumpy old fart. i’m sorry to everyone else who knows me that’s had to put up with or make excuses for my anti-social behavior. and i’m sorry to everyone at “Christian House” that i’ve been too quick to judge before taking the ‘plank out of my own eye’.
i started this post at 10.00 pm and now after clean up as we drive back home at 11.43 pm, my wife is happy.
today i’m thankful for //
2. my ‘ill’ math skills
3. people i know
4. positive life radio;
5. having kids who know their cousins
* like i said, it’s as i remember the story. so deb if you read this and say it’s not so, just remember it makes for a better story with my version.
** i think they became so important to deborah not because she remembers that much from 3 years old and younger (even though she says she does) but more so from these, and other, ann
ual get togethers. where they would reminisce, sing the ‘old songs’, and basically catch up on life. i think she would hear their stories and what they told she used to be like and adopted their memories as her own.
*** tell me if i’m wrong, but i think mag that they are one of the reasons you’re (and we’re) so grateful to have our kids growing up so close to their cousins. and one of the main reasons i’m so excited to have “COUSIN CAMP”!