Monday, June 24, 2013

At the Beach

On Friday, June 21, a devotional I wrote was published in The Upper Room devotional guide (click here to read it).  I was also invited to write a post for their blog, which I thought I would also share with you.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will already know most of this information.  But some stories are worth telling more than once!  I am deeply grateful for The Upper Room for printing my writing and for their ministry to people around the world.

As I write this follow up post for the devotion about riding the waves, my family is eagerly awaiting another trip to the beach.  We have gone to the gulf coast in Florida at the same time every year since I was small.  Now my husband and children and I do the same.  Ours is a special trip that connects us to family and the common history that we celebrate.

Every year, our beach trip is meant to coincide with a very special event in the lives of our family.  On the first Sunday of every June, there is a homecoming at a small church in south Alabama called Shady Hill.  Built on an unpaved road among farms and forests, this church has a long history in its community.  It is also a significant part of my family history, and its homecoming has served as a kind of reunion for my kin.  We have been going to it for as long as I can remember.

The homecoming has two particular elements that make it special.  Its main attraction is a Sacred Harp singing.  The shape note hymns are pretty unfamiliar to me, but its tradition is well established in south Alabama.  Though I was grown before I stepped inside the sanctuary to participate in the music, my family named the occasion by this special part of it.  The event was The Singing.

The other special piece to this day is the dinner on the grounds.  Served in covered dish style, much of the meal will have been grown in gardens and farms within a mile of the church.  When I was young, I loved to watch the cement tables fill, little by little, with the mouthwatering, traditional foods.  The meals I eat on this hallowed ground are still some of the best I ever have.

Our attendance at the Singing always comes with the family trip to the beach.  My children love to romp in the surf, my husband likes to snorkel, while I never fail to be amazed at the awe-inspiring beauty of the place.  We adore the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  It has been a part of my grounding since I was small.  So nowadays when my family visits the gulf coast, as we roast in the sun and sink our toes in the sand, as we cook and sing and ride the waves, we remember our deeper connections to all of our kin, and to the One who makes beaches and music and family.

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