Winding through hillsides and sporadic homes is a tucked-away winery. Sitting on the edge of the earth with my dearest people, I let out a sigh. It was a rare evening where I got to sip on sangria, tear clumps of salty bread, and be with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law — a double date with family members and our beloved friends. We paused. We held each other in a sacred gaze, and we were held by the expansive beauty swooping under and all around us. For the past several years, my sister and her family have lived overseas, making moments like this one abundantly special.
With the sun still ablaze, we casually shared our drinks and scanned the sloping hillside. Overlooking a patchwork valley of fields and farms, we let our eyes ease our souls into the peace we had all been craving. Without formality, we passed around curious questions for each other like we passed the single menu. Safe people are easy to be with. There isn’t the temptation to fill in the silence with sarcasm or analyze pop culture. Instead, one by one, we shared our stories. Stories from adventures abroad. Stories of stress that toppled us over into a storm of tears. Stories about loneliness in a foreign world. Nibbling on slender crackers slathered with blue cheese, we listened to each other share pain, wrestle with the unknown, and live with residual regret still burrowed on our backs.
“What is it like to move into this next season with your kids all in school?” the question came to me. How do I sum my life drastically shifting in a few coherent sentences? But I tried. I rambled on and on about my youngest starting preschool and my oldest hurling his football bag over his shoulder as I watched him walk through the gates of his high school. I talked about the loss of a few things but the gain of so much more. I told them how I cried after school drop off, not because I was sad, but, oddly, I was proud. The last fifteen years have been hard. Growing babies, weaning babies, changing babies, disciplining toddlers, managing schedules, and years without sleep have been in one word — challenging. It was extremely exhausting, and I didn’t give up. I was there for the post-nap snuggles, lightning speed questions, and barrage of daily demands. I was there for the morning tea parties and afternoon forts. I was there. I did it. I got my kids to school alive and (mostly) dressed appropriately. I was proud of myself.
Then, one by one, they started clapping for me. For some, this might be the moment they turn inward, blushing with embarrassment. But, for me, I teared up.
Sometimes we forget to celebrate with each other. We forget to stop and say, “Well done.”
Even at that moment, I knew this accomplishment wasn’t mine alone. It was the work of God in me. Who I was fifteen years ago is so different from who I am today. God raised me as I raised my children. Then in the middle of the restaurant, they gave me a standing ovation. With people staring and smiling in our direction, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the ways God changed me, helped me, and grew me. I didn’t stand and take a bow, but I did cry and laugh a little too.
I’m not sure how often we stop and cheer each other on. We are quick to move into the next season without acknowledging what God has done in the past. It’s important to stop, look around, and take in the masterpiece God has painted in the world and each other.
As the evening came to a close, we snapped a few photos in front of the majestic backdrop. I let my soul soak in the creamy light floating just above the landscape. My heart was fully alive and abundantly content. Remembering God’s goodness, giving thanks for His faithfulness, and enjoying the friendships around me made my heart clap. Savoring this moment, hope welled up inside my chest. Looking out into eternity, I was wordless. I think this was my standing ovation for God’s work in my life. When God does incredible things in our lives and the lives of others, how can we not holler in praise or let the holy miracle move us into silent awe?