There were 20 of us crammed together for parts of three days and two nights at Stanglin Manor over the Christmas weekend. My sister Rhonda and her family from Oklahoma and Arkansas, my sister Sharon and her husband from Dallas, my brother Keith and his family from Austin, and our parents from behind the Pine Curtain all made the trip to Amarillo for everything that makes a Stanglin Christmas special: air mattresses and sleeping bags, egg nog and Pit, Mexican food and Oreo balls, Chipmunks and Chet Atkins, Ping Pong and football, and over-the-top chanting and ranting during the gift exchange.
Friday night we feasted together at Abuelo’s, the adults on one end of the just-long-enough table reminiscing about growing up together in The Grove, laughing until we were crying; the younger adults wondering what was so funny and then doing those unmentionable things with the uneaten food they always do when we’re out together at a restaurant. After dinner we opened gifts — everybody came away with some form of a puffy and/or fuzzy vest — and trained our new nephew-in-law Logan in the finer points of filling all quiet spaces with obnoxious noise. On Saturday we ate and played games and ate and watched football and ate. Then we divided up into four teams and took in the escape rooms at Amarillo Escape and Mystery. My team of Valerie, Sharon, Isaac, and me were in a relatively easy room, but we still struggled to get out with just seven minutes to spare. Sunday we all worshiped together at Central, ate a quick lunch, and everybody headed their separate ways. Except my parents — they stayed through Monday morning to share our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning traditions with the girls.
I thank God for my “only slightly dysfunctional family” as I referred to them during Sunday’s sermon. I’m grateful for all the shared experiences — the good and the bad, the things we laugh about and celebrate as well as the things we regret. I praise him for the love we all have for each other and the great time we have when we’re together. I love the chaos and the uncertainty when we’re all in the same place at the same time. I enjoy the noise and the chatter, the life of the whole thing. I’m thankful for the good kids, the bright futures, and the faithfulness of it all. Faithful to the traditions that hold us together. Faithful to putting other things aside and making the sacrifice to drive to Amarillo. Faithful to love and care for each other’s spouses and children. Faithful to forgive and encourage, to laugh and to cry together.
Today, our family of five heads downstate to Arlington for another parts-of-three-days-and-two-nights with Carrie-Anne’s side of the family. It won’t be as loud or as chaotic, it won’t be as crowded or as messy — I wonder how it can be so much less organized yet so much more calm and certain. Everybody on C-A’s side lives in DFW and they all go home and sleep in their own beds when the family time is over. But, again, the word is faithfulness. There’s a faithfulness to family that I appreciate more and more. The faithfulness to keep coming together. The faithfulness to stick out the tough times and grin through the good times. Faithfulness to take everyone in the family just as God gave them to us and to love and protect and understand each one just the way he wants.