Many who know me well have heard me say how blessed and thankful I am to have the family that I have. Last weekend, Rick and I had the opportunity to spend Saturday and Sunday morning with my older brother and sister and their spouses. As an anniversary present for my brother Phillip, my sister-in-law planned a day and evening in Chattanooga for the six of us. We broke bread, drank some wine, played bocce ball, sat around and talked, and just generally enjoyed each other’s company.
This weekend, we once again had the pleasure of spending time with family as we celebrated my father’s 75th birthday. But in addition to my wonderful family, we were blessed to spend the hours with truly wonderful friends as well.
My dad and my step-mother live in Sautee, Georgia, in the mountains near Helen. It was a beautiful afternoon and evening for a gathering. Cool and clear, the early October sunshine was beaming through the trees and warming rocks for the cats to lie on. When we got to my dad’s house, my older brother Phillip was there, my sister Carole, her husband Derek and daughter Kelsey were there, my mother, Susan and her boyfriend, Matthew were there. Good friends were there as well – Cindy and Ray, finally back in the south after living in the Northeast for a few years, and Doug, who drove up from the Atlanta area like we did. Not everyone came from far away though, also lighting up the afternoon were Don and Lila, from just next door.
As the day wore on, friends from near and far turned up to help celebrate with Dad. As I thought about this on the way home today, I am struck by the strength of the friendships Dad and Jeanie have. This is, of course, a testament to the type of friendship they give. Dad and Jeanie are open and loving, welcoming to anyone and everyone, funny and thoughtful, and just a blast to spend time with. And it seems that many people love to spend time with them. Good friends came from all over, and everyone had a great time.
No party at Jeanie’s house is complete without a smorgasbord of great food. Everyone pitches in, and yesterday’s party was no exception. And of course, there were plenty of libations to enjoy as well, but the best thing about a party at Dad and Jeanie’s house is the music… well the laughter AND the music. There are always equal parts laughter and music there. In the carport, and in the house, were groups of people communing over old-time tunes, with fiddles, banjos, guitar and an upright bass that split time between the two groups. People singing, harmonizing and strumming. In the kitchen and on the back porch, others were getting to know new friends, or getting back in touch with old ones, laughing and talking, telling jokes or stories. Looking around, I saw smiling faces and love. I saw God.
Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Even if we didn’t specifically say, “today we are gathered in His name.” we were, and He was there in the midst of us. Because it was a joyous celebration of my father’s life, because it was a celebration of relationship and love, we were gathered in His name, and He was there. Because we could celebrate a crisp, fall day in beautiful North Georgia, we were gathered in His name, and we could see the “invisible God” in the trees and flowers, and feel Him in the breeze.
God gave us each other. For that I am eternally thankful, because the “us” He gave me includes a loving family and friends who care for each other and for me. Today, on the 75th anniversary of your birth, I am especially thankful that He gave me you, Daddy. I love you!