On our last night at the beach house, we gathered for a shrimp-a-roo. Since this was to celebrate my birthday, Chris brought tablecloths. Fresh flowers showed up, along with some twinkling lights hung from rafters. Matt’s specialty.
Soon the feast appeared: boiled shrimp, fresh corn on the cob, and Lily’s orzo/Feta/spinach salad. Then came sweet tea, fresh lemon slices and the strong urge to dig in. But none of us did. Heather looked across at my brother and said, “Uncle Ralph, will you pray for us.” And he did but not until he reached out and took hold of my hand and everyone connected hand to hand.
There’s more than one issue we’d disagree on but not enough to break that circle. And not enough to stop loving each other. After Ralph said, “In Jesus name, Amen” I didn’t want to let loose of his hand. They’re the big, calloused, work-worn hands of a woodworker and skilled carver. And a reminder that some prodigals come home. So I held on a little longer and said, “Thanks.” I needed his hand holding mine and his prayer for us.
However, grace is more than a prayer before mealtime. It’s also a way of seeing others, living out our faith. One look around that table and I saw grace at work. Generations of God’s grace to us and sometimes through us. And I felt like weeping from joy and gratitude. And I might have, if I didn’t feel a greater need to grab some shrimp before my cousin, Steve, ate it all.
So we feasted and shouted over each other to pass this and that. And just when we couldn’t swallow another bite, Kristina and Heather started collecting plates and reminding us to keep our forks. Well, we knew that was code for dessert’s coming. And before I could lick my fork clean, in came a blazing coconut cake. A beauty made by my niece, Elise. Sparklers lit up the cake and for the 3rd time that week we sang Happy Birthday. First for Matt (July 29), then for Lily (August 4) and tonight for me. It was the perfect finale to our week of southern celebrations.
Chris, Ralph and I headed to “our” rockers, while younger ones cleaned up the kitchen. Kristina led the crew. Then, little by little the porch filled with family and friends, like Hillary, her daughters and Elise’s friend, Kerry. Soon rockers, beach chairs, the hammock and laps were peopled. And in a place where the sun and moon frame time, not clocks, we sensed it was time to sing something besides Happy Birthday.
Luke grabbed a guitar, Chad his banjo, and soon Lily, Maggie, Bazy and Luke formed a quartet. Poco and the rest joined in. I didn’t know the lyrics to most of their songs. But I loved listening. After a while Heather said, “Mom, what would you like to sing?” While I puzzled, Heather said, “How about Amazing Grace?” And I choked out a “Yes.”
They all knew the first verse and last. But when it came to one of the middle ones, I pretty much sang a solo.
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
This grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.”
As the eldest, I have the longest history with Grace. So I silently prayed for God’s mercy to keep them safe and for “grace to lead us HOME.”
Oh, and I prayed to return to The Beach House, a sacred space, where sandy feet, shrimp, sweet tea and Grace link generations.
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