What is important to me

This is an excerpt from the book
Cold Tangerines
by Shauna Niequiest
I am reading this book for the second time 
and this chapter just screams to me.
It is what I want for my family.
It is what I pray for.
And reading this chapter again reminds me
that it is worth the hard work to fight for.
It’s a little long, even though I didn’t write out the whole chapter,
but it’s worth it.
 
Island
(bits and pieces from this chapter)

For more than ten years, our family has been going to a tiny little island for our family vacations…
We love it there, and there are a million reasons why.
It’s the jumble of the waves and the sand and the goats tied to stakes in people’s yards
and the shimmering green-blue of the water and the smell of conch fritters dipped in their mysterious sauce…It’s the deafening wind, and the chill in the air at night, and the bands and shop owners and fisherman that we see every year, and the way the clouded sky on the bay looks at sunset, and the mangroves and the stars that are clear and shining like marbles on the road to the club at night.
It’s all those things, and something else, the something that our family becomes when we are there.  We’re the best version of our family there, relaxed and connected and without agenda or schedule.  We have conversations that unfold lazily and resolve over days instead of minutes.  We tell stories that everyone’s already heard and it doesn’t bother us, because we have nothing else to do and nowhere else to be.  We’re irresponsible, and we make up plans as we go…
When my brother and I were very small, there was a family from the church that acted sort of like grandparents to us.  The family encouraged my parents to begin taking family vacations.  My parents had very little time and even less money when we were small, but at the urging of that family, we began a tradition of family vacations…
When the husband and father of the family who first urged us toward vacations died far too young, we sat with his family at his funeral and watched clip after clip of family vacation videos.  There were hundreds of photographs and bits of video, funny things and sweet things.  You could see the texture of their family through those photographs, and what those images revealed was intimacy and deep love,  between a husband and a wife, between parents and children, between grandparents and grandchildren.
When the funeral service was finished, our family stood off to one side for a few minutes before greeting the extended family and friends.  My dad had cried a little bit as he spoke at the service, eulogizing his dear friend, but as we stood together, he began to cry in earnest, the chokes and coughs of a man who seldom finds himself so overcome by tears and unable to stop them.  He pulled us into a circle, stretching his arms around us.  “We’ve got to be like that,” he choked.  “We’ve got to be like them.  We’ve got to take the time right now because there’s nothing more important that this.”  He bent his head and cried.  “We’ve got to be like that.”
We’ve invested that small island with as many memories as we can make, crammed it full of love and conversations and stories and long walks and meals and boat rides, because there will be a day when memories are all we have, and I want to know that we have more than we need to last us the rest of our lives.  I want to sock away memories like gold coins because I’m going to need them someday to get me through the years.
Vacations are more than vacations, and that island is more than an island.  Vacations are the act of grabbing minutes and hours and days with both hands, stealing against the inevitability of time.  There will be a day when our family as we know it will no longer exist, and I want to know in that moment that I wasn’t at the office or doing the dishes *(or on my laptop or my phone) when I could have been walking on the dock with my dad, when I could have been drinking tea and eating ginger cookies on the porch with my mom.  I don’t want to be building my bank account or my abs or my dream house when I could be dancing with Aaron at the beach bar on New Year’s Eve, when I could be making crackers and cheese for dinner because we were on the boat till way after the shops closed, sunburnt and sandy and windblown, and happier there and together than anywhere else with anyone else.
*my own input
Dearest Jesus, 
whether it is a family vacation or the day by day act of living,
may I not take one minute for granted. 
There are things to do, a house to keep, chores and responsibilities I can’t ignore,
but may I never put them before the gift of time and relationships that you have blessed my life with.  Remind me and challenge me to stop “doing” all the time and enjoy “being”.
Amen.

Learn more about Shauna Niequist and her books at

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