I just returned from spending several days with family. We gathered for the exciting occasion of seeing our oldest son graduate from university. Being missionary parents from 3000 miles away is not easy or fun – we were NOT going to miss out on graduation! Not all of the extended family could come so far away, but several aunts and uncles and cousins, grandmothers, a
great grandmother, sisters and brothers were present.
I have to be honest –generally, the days leading up to these gatherings are brutal for me. I really want to see everyone, but the anticipation of the family dynamics and relationships set me on edge. I am really an
introvert who puts on an extrovert face when out in public. The truth is that one-on-one conversations or small gatherings are much more my style. So the idea of a big family gathering is usually a little unnerving. In the words of my mother, “just the thought makes my neck itch”. I just want everything to go well and for everyone to get along.
As usual, things went great. That’s how it usually happens… I get all stressed and worked up about it, in anticipation of the ‘what ifs’ and the possible scenarios that generally don’t come to pass. Actually, I really enjoyed the time together.
I had a great time catching up on family things that I have missed while out of the country. Spending time sitting and chatting with siblings, watching the cousins hang out together, hearing news about others in the family who couldn’t make it, and
reconnecting. It was great! We were even privileged to meet several of our son’s friends and get to know them a little better – they have become his family, of sorts, and so they are important to us, too.
On the last morning of our visit, the whole gang headed to the IHOP for a farewell breakfast. As we sat there and enjoyed our last moments together for a while, I was ever so tuned in to the variety in the family conversation. Families have a way of talking all over the place and somehow it all connects. During this morning’s conversation, we shared old stories – about the time when Billy broke his ankle jumping out of a friend’s jeep, how that event and the broken ankle later caused our boys to need to crawl under the house and extract the very dead opossum, somehow that story warped into a discussion on a specialized type of amphibian worm-thing that lives underground which was then shown around the table via smart phone internet photos, a discussion on snakes and organ growth, remembering the time that Granny put a live boa in her purse to go into a restaurant because it was too hot to stay in the car, remembering the meteor shower that always occurred during our annual family trip to the farm, recalling the times when they boys blew up various and assorting things in the backyard, etc. Throw into this conversation a couple of sidebars on syrup flavors, remembering when we used to pick strawberries and blueberries and make homemade jellies, a retelling of the story of the squirrel that was kept as a pet and the subsequent other random pets that we all remember, a small side conversation that was an obvious attempt at stirring up family controversy (failed attempt, thank goodness), and a discussion about the beach trip from the day before and the ‘shark sighting’that
turned out to be a plastic whale toy.
I was participating in the conversation, but at the same time, was keenly aware of the diversity and randomness of it all. And the fact that we had a newcomer at the table made me even more aware – Was she thinking that we are all crazy?
How is she viewing this conversation? I had a deep respect for the family ‘culture shock’ that she must be experiencing
during this loco breakfast conversation! I finally decided that if she could live through a weekend family gathering like this, she can do anything!
The weekend finally came to a close and we had to say our goodbyes until our next trip to the USA. I left feeling so blessed to have this family, to have spent these special days together, and to have experienced yet another foray into the art of family conversations. So much
history and relationship was expressed during these days.
Once again, we left our family and friends behind as we headed back to
our mission field of service.
Months, sometimes years, go by between these fun times together. Our hearts hurt deeply as we realized
how much we miss them and long for those crazy, random conversations that say so
much about who we all are.
Can’t wait till Christmas!
What will we talk about then?!
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!