It wasn’t the weekend we had planned. Months ago we set up a time to go tour Gettysburg with my parents, taking them camping in Merlin, our RV upgrade. As day after day of rain poured down in May, we wondered if we should reschedule, wait for better weather. What to do? Then, a break in the forecast, 74 on Friday, possible showers on Saturday, then warmth again Sunday. Let’s do this!
I picked up the children early from school, garnering their escape from the yearly jog-a-thon (an activity which none of them enjoys) and we met Gran and Grandy at my house. “We have a problem,” Bri wiped sweat from his face in the afternoon sun. The part he needed for our tow bar is only in Winchester. So we packed everything, including Coopy-Doo, up in the RV and Mom and I jumped in my car to follow behind to Winchester for the missing part. What was a problem was a gift. Mom and I talked for over an hour straight, shared hearts, true struggles, questions on theology, awe in creation’s beauty, thankfulness for husbands who love us, laughter over children and grandchildren who fill us.
We arrived at Camping World, got the part set-up, the Pilot towed and all climbed in the RV for the remainder of the drive. It was fun to watch Mom and Daddy snuggle up next to each other at the table, tossing popcorn to Coop, who snuggled on the couch with Bear. Ash curled with his pile of books in the back and Bella chattered away next to her brother. We were all together and it was so right, so good.
After our arrival at the Gettysburg campground, the kiddos went exploring while we set up for dinner, grilling burgers and opening Gram’s homemade potato salad (the best in all the land!). I turned on our diffuser and set up the vase of flowers left for me on my last day of work. We settled in as the night started to darken to fill our bellies and our hearts with the quiet life.
We all climbed into our various beds (don’t worry, y’all, we gave Gram and Grandy the good bed in the back). I woke at 2:00 a.m. to the drumming sound of rain on the roof of Merlin. It was soothing and yet all I could think about was our plan for Saturday. Gettysburg holds so many memories for my mom, trips from her youth with her own family, and I longed to give that gift to her. We woke late in the morning and discussed how we should probably check out when our “tour” was. Yes, this was one of those, “stay free and we try to sell you a membership to our campgrounds on the east coast” monstrosities. Bri grabbed our packet. “They told me noon on the phone.” The packet said 8:45. It was 8:40. We groaned, threw off our covers, threw on some jeans and hats and barely got out the door before a golf cart pulled up to whisk us away for what we thought would be an hour or so. It was 50 degrees and pouring rain.
Two hours later I texted my mom to feed the kids something to tide them over before our big breakfast plans… After three hours of the guy talking non-stop I widened my eyes at Brian hoping he’d understand me saying, “Just tell him no so we can get the heck out of here!” Telling these guys “no” is clearly never easy, but my stars, y’all…three and a half hours later he finally took us back to our campsite! It was still 50 degrees and raining.
When we arrived back at Merlin, my dad and Bri started cooking breakfast for us and Ash finally climbed down from his bunk. One touch of his skin and I knew. He was burning up with fever. Coughing, stuffy, miserable. This boy was going nowhere. But were any of us? We ate our breakfast, er, rather brunch and decided to wait a bit to see if the weather slowed. The kids did homework and we adults talked and shared some more. Finally, when they were starting to get antsy, we pulled out snacks and a movie. We played Apples to Apples and chuckled at Grandy’s dry wit and Gram’s magical laugh.
Finally Bri could stand being cooped up in Merlin no more. He gathered my parents and the two youngest and they did a drive through Gettysburg, stopping to walk a bit when the rain allowed. I stayed behind with my feverish boy and we curled up with books and the dog and soothing sound of drizzle on the roof. The rest of the family returned with coffees for all and we gathered warm and safe together again.
As much as I love our outings. As much as I love going places and seeing new things and soaking up new things to learn, it’s the being together that warms me the most.
Another delicious meal. A Saturday night dinner and Harry Potter movie-fest. We fell asleep to another night of rain on the roof and gave thanks for Brian’s grandpa’s and parents’ kindness that allows for us to have our Merlin and our wandering life.
Sunday rolled in sunny and warm, so we packed up Merlin, stuffed ourselves into our car and did the drive through tour of the battlefield, trying to fathom what it must have been like and making plans to return so we could walk and learn and remember with my parents.
We left mid-day and Grandy led us in family worship, sitting around the couch and table in Merlin, Cooper snuggled on his lap, walking through the faithfulness of God to us in Psalm 103, hearing the hearts of children learning and grasping how far the east is from the west, and our voices singing together, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”
Yes, the grace that saved a wretch like me is sweetest, but the grace that allows us to be together and live is salvation, too.
It wasn’t at all what we had planned, but it was still a perfect weekend.
What happens matters.
I am here.
I am with them.
It’s grace abundant.