In the fall of 2019, we started planning a 2020 family event to celebrate our fifty years of marriage. We had two main challenges for all our family to be together at one time. The first was to find a place that we could fly or preferably drive to that would be feasible to accommodate eight adults and eight grandchildren. The second and bigger issue, however, was to find a 5-day window that all the families with their hectic schedules could agree to. After many phone sessions and calendar marking, we settled on a large ranch property in the northern part of our state that we could all drive to that could handle our big family group. Unbelievably, they had an open date for a time frame that would not interfere with travel ball, Little League, ballet, and summer camps already on the schedule. When we firmed up the plans and made our deposit in the middle of 2019, there was no way we could have foreseen the havoc that the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 would wreak on the lives of all our families. All the events that had once completely filled the summer schedule of our children’s families were now canceled. No air travel, no baseball, no summer camps, no ballet recitals, nothing was open or available. Also, because of travel concerns, had we chosen anywhere but the place we did, we would have had to cancel the whole celebration. In the midst of the crisis all around us, God had graciously decided in 2019, to orchestrate a place and a window of time in the summer of 2020 that we could all get to and leave all the scary things in the world behind us. After sheltering in place for most of the spring and summer, everyone was more than ready to embark on an adventure. Despite a few complications, the trip was still on!
We had rented a large lodge that had eight bedrooms that would exactly fit our family, which contained our three grown children and their spouses, and eight grandchildren ranging in age from 3-12. Five cars of us pulled into the lodge parking lot and everyone bailed out to survey the accommodations and the beautiful high country surroundings. We quickly made decisions as to which couples and which children would sleep in each bedroom. The view from the lodge was spectacular. A beautiful meadow with a high mountain lake could be seen from the large stone patio out the glass doors. An expansive great room had plenty of seating to accommodate our large group and plenty of tables to play board games. Thankfully, there was no TV or cell phone service to pull our attention away from the rest of the family.
Our favorite room, however, was the large dining room. The staff had put together four big tables to allow all sixteen of us to be seated around one huge table. I quickly counted the chairs, sixteen: exactly what we needed. For four straight days, we ate every breakfast and every dinner together with the whole family. Each day started off with a hearty breakfast of pancakes, waffles, or cinnamon rolls, eggs, bacon, sausage, all more than we could eat. Then we would be off to tackle various excursions, such as fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. The days were full of laughter and a constant buzz of activity. When evening came, we once again would gather together around the table for a marvelous dinner of local fare. During mealtime, we would noisily share the stories of the adventures of the day. We held hands and prayed before every meal and had a ”wave” love hand squeeze around the table after each prayer was finished.
What a wonderful week! It was all we could have ever hoped for and more. We made so many wonderful memories and loved every minute of it. Like our fifty years of marriage, it all went by way too quickly. Soon, it came time for the last evening meal and our final time to soak up the last of the wonderful memories. The table was so important to my wife and me because God gave us the realization that because of our love and commitment to each other over these past fifty years, every one of these sixteen people had a seat at our family table with us. What a blessing we had been given! What a heritage we had! Both our parents had also reached the fifty-year mark in their marriage, so we had some broad shoulders to stand on.
But, the picture of all our family at the table was the crowning moment for this special occasion. Tears flowed from all the adults as I explained to the grandchildren that because” Poppy” and “Gammy” had fallen in love and said, “I do” all those years ago, they were all here today. Our couple of two was now a family of sixteen, all sitting at the same table. My wife and I could plainly see in front of us that our family was the greatest testimony of our love. Through halting words I thanked God for how he had blessed, guided and sustained us through the good times and the difficult ones, to bring us to this place and to show us this wonderful picture of just what family looks like here on earth and also in heaven. If we are his children, we also will have a seat at His table with Him in heaven. What a memorable event and what a mental picture for us to take with us in these last years. God, we can’t thank you enough for the future generations that will come out of our act of love so many years ago. Thank you for showing us the wonderful picture of everyone having a seat at the table.