Last December, in that pretty normal year called 2019, our daughter Karina Franklin and her family flew up from California to join Nanci and me along with our daughter Angela Stump and her family. Because of this weird season of COVID that began less than three months later, that was the last time our whole family was together.
Nanci and I were thrilled to have everyone in the same place and to eat and talk and laugh and have fun together. That time and all the others are even more precious given Nanci’s three-year battle with cancer and the challenges to gathering together because of the threat of COVID, especially to Nanci with her increased vulnerability due to her lung surgeries. Like many of you, we are cherishing family more than ever. My mind is still at that Christmas gathering, and I wish we could have another this year and for that matter, every month!
It seems impossible that our daughters are now are 39 and 41 and that four of our five grandsons are teenagers. The oldest two, Jake and Matt, just turned 16. One has his driver’s license and the other likely will by the time this blog is posted. Grandson Ty will be 15 in March, Jack is 13 and David will soon turn 9.
While Karina and the Franklins were visiting us, our friend and EPM staff member Stephanie Anderson took photos of our family. (Stephanie is excellent at nearly everything she does, including being a wife and mom, and editing my books and blogs and directing our social media; on top of all that she has a terrific photography business too; our thanks for her wonderful photos. And thanks too for Nanci’s and my home church, Good Shepherd Community Church, for allowing us to gather on the church property.)
God is sovereign over all, sovereign over Nanci’s health and mine, sovereign over COVID and the results of elections, sovereign over every personal hurt, struggle, and loss. Sovereign over when we can and can’t get together with all the family we love. “The lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him… The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:17, 19).
One of the most beautiful aspects of His sovereignty is how He puts us in certain times and places (Acts 17:26-27) and brings us together as married couples with children and grandchildren. Right now as I’m typing, as I think about and pray for each member of our family, my eyes are full of grateful tears. “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).
There are dozens of great family photos I just looked through again, but I love most the informal ones, with smiling and laughing and eye contact with each other, so I’ve selected a number of them. Stephanie did a great job encouraging us to enjoy the moments together, and I treasure those happy family memories and many more, past and present and future, that they represent. I hope and pray you will find yourself with family and friends over this year’s holidays. I know it can be a difficult time of the year for some since families are far from perfect. If this is true for you, I hope you will connect with fellow members of God’s family and experience fun and laughter and happiness and encouragement as you celebrate the grace of our Lord Jesus.
Jake, Angela, Dan, and Ty Stump:
David, Dan, Karina, Jack, and Matt Franklin:
(In the slideshow below with more photos, I made one small contribution. At the photo-shoot I asked Stephanie to take a photo with my grandsons pointing up to the sky. Later I tinkered with the sky in the photo to make it into a sci-fi scene. Since my grandsons and I both love that sort of thing, I thought the final product was fun.)