Last night it was midnight as I drove through Grand Haven, headed south, completing a drive I have made countless times in the last 5 years. Maybe it was because it was so late (after a long week) or maybe it was because my nearly 7 year old was slumped over, out cold, exhausted from another unbelievable summer week, but I began to reflect on our summer. Each time I enter this space I end up breathless - overwhelmed - with a heart overflowing.
I know that we are fortunate - fortunate to have my generous parents who let us live in with them all summer. I know that we are blessed - blessed to have the opportunity to be "residents" at a place like Maranatha. I know that I am lucky - lucky to have so many choices for my littles to do and be engaged with at our fingertips. But the climbing wall, the zipline, the beach, the pool, the tennis courts, the mini golf, the playgrounds, the walking trails ... none of things come to mind each time I reflect.
Instead, I see the precise way my tiny toddler's golden ringlets fall across the expanse of pink rain jacket as she snuggles her tired head against Julie's shoulder. In that moment I'm reminded of all that relationship means to Maddie - of how she's learning from Julie to be joyful in every situation, of how she's learning that rules and discipline and structure have a place in life - of how she knows that even when she makes mistakes people will forgive, and restore a relationship and love you just as much (if not more) for your growth.
I see my little boy's face - the way it lights up with excitement - when he sees Jack, Zac, Noah and Caleb - how through them his big blue eyes take in REAL boys ... boys who love sports, who love SPEED, who love playing in the water and having fun. They embody all he wants to be someday - but they also take time to stop their play (EVERY.BLESSED.TIME) to accept his hugs, to hear his stories, to chase him around the grounds and who, in so doing, teach him how to show Jesus's love to small children - even if you're a "cool boy."
I see my oldest - my contemplative, calculated, firstborn child - with mouth wide, face purpled from lack of oxygen, singing with her soul wide and heart abandoned. She's eager to please her teachers - (all of them, but maybe one more than the rest) - and because she truly believes the words she's belting (more than a little off key), "Hand on my heart this much is true. There's no life apart from you. Lay me down, lay me down..." she sings with everything in her spirit. She's learning that knowing OF Jesus is different than KNOWING Jesus. She's watching the way her teachers live that life and modeling it as best her little body can.
These images - and so many more - permanently affix themselves to the soundtrack of our summer. They've ingrained themselves into my heart each time I drive US31. I see these - and thousands of others in my minds eye - and each time I praise God that we have this place. I'm thankful for the spiritual renewal we feel each summer. I'm thankful for refreshment the grounds provide ... but I'm also thankful for the legacy of faith grown here.
I pray that someday - some young Mom exhausted from the work-life balance of every day life is driving through Grand Haven thinking about the way that Miss Kayleigh taught the Bible lesson to her daughter. I hope that someday I see a preschool boy run and jump into Mr. Benjamin's arms for his daily hug - and I dream that someday there's a tiny infant in the nursery who sees my curly haired Miss Maddie and is comforted and soothed while her Mommy takes a breath, a quiet prayer walk and sips her coffee on the beach in solitude.
Thank you, God, for the blessing of a heart overflowing, for the legacy of Maranatha, and for the hope it gives me for our family as we navigate this world.