We packed up the kids and headed south a week ago for my husband's annual family homecoming in south Georgia. The trip was a long one for us (14+ hrs, one way) and the camping (not my favorite passtime) was, well, chilly and often sleepless. But the trip, as a whole, was a good one and well worth our time. The kids had a great time camping and getting to meet extended, extended family; and I know J enjoyed catching up with his relations and connecting with those southern roots of his. And even my little introverted, high-strung self left Georgia having gained some important insight. You can learn a lot at a famiy gathering.
I learned that there are two major factors that are keeping us from even wanting to ever move south again: 1) gnats and 2) heat. Sorry, Georgia, we love you and your peaches, but it is just not right to have to go around with a black cloud around you like Pigpen, and there is something fundamentally wrong with sweating outside in the middle of an October day. However, in spite of these irritants, you just couldn't beat the life-giving quality of the smiles both young and old -- I learned that a good smile will warm the heart.
I learned on this trip how to stay warm in the tent at night -- two pairs of socks, cozy pants, a long-sleeved tee under a thick hooded sweatshirt (with the hood up) in a warm sleeping bag on your own cot. I also learned that, when forced to freeze your back and hang half-off your cot and pillow all night because your three year old insists on sleeping with you and no one else, great comfort can be found in looking at his little, peaceful, moonlit face nuzzled up against you through those sleepless hours.
I learned that there is no story like an old story. They create a sense of unity and acceptance.
These were the easy lessons. I also learned that prejudices are most often rooted in insecurities. It is easy to look at those who are different from us, those we fear might even be better than us in some way, as wierd or wrong or crazy. I also learned that alcohol can truly be destructive both in the midst of the fun carousing and the morning after. And I learned that being vulnerable with people can sometimes come back around to bite you in the rear end, but that is not necessarily any reason to put up protective walls.
I learned that walking away to calm down when you are angry doesn't always pan out, so you should always have a plan B.
I learned some valuable lessons as a wife and mother through my own personal experiences and by observing and talking with others. I learned that the grass is greener on my side of the fence. There are a lot of reasons to be grateful for the husband I have, and I'm a fool when I don't acknowledge those things to him or myself. And I learned that every sibling bickers, it is a common and expected occurance that few people even look ascance at and most often brings about humerous memories for people. It even carries into adulthood. But sibling rivalry becomes dangerous when unforgiveness and hatred begin to fester.
I learned that, as a mother, it is imperitive to be at peace with your season in life. When you have small children, raise them, and don't let yourself feel guilty for not contributing more to the events and functions at which you gather. You will give when the kids are grown. Most people understand this and expect nothing more from you, and those who think you are lazy are probably not worth worrying about anyway. I also learned that the best way to train children is with stern, short reprimands followed immediately with a confirmation of your love and acceptance of the child who was reprimanded.
But the most important lesson I learned had to do with my relationship with a dependence on God. I've had conversations with my own mother before about the importance of spending time reading and meditating on Scripture and talking and listening to God daily. Without God we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5) and our strength, as Christians, comes exclusively from Him (2 Cor. 12:9-10). It is easy to go to Him to fill up and be strengthened when Bible reading and prayer fits nicely into a routine day, but one must put forth the effort to fit it into those out-of-the-ordinary days that so often throw us off-track. Time with God needs to be prioritized every day because we are to be ready in season and out of season for anything and everything that might come our way (2 Tim. 4:2). It often happens that, just when you least expect it, just when you think you are okay putting God off until tomorrow, something happens that requires all your strength and fortitude, and you find yourself empty and unable to cope as God would have you to. I learned to make time to be filled and refreshed and built up by God *every* day.