My grandparents are celebrating 65 years of marriage this summer. Many family and friends gathered in Spokane over Memorial Day weekend to celebrate.
We didn’t celebrate my Pake and Beppe “toughing it out” for 65 years and we didn’t celebrate the delirious happiness of two soul mates, although their marriage may have moments of both. We celebrated God’s faithfulness. We celebrated a couple that chose to serve the Lord. They aren’t perfect, yet God has used them to establish something big.
My Pake was a bright student from the Netherlands and my Beppe was a tall blonde farm girl from Washington State.
They were college sweethearts determined to share Jesus with the world. They worked as missionaries in Nigeria, they pastored multiple congregations, served as Air Force chaplain, established a non-profit for business professionals, and created a safe home and training for homeless women and children in the Seattle area.
Yet what I saw at their 65th Anniversary party was not a list of accomplishments or reasons to be proud. I witnessed a couple joyful and steadfast, even amidst trials and pain. I witnessed four generations gathering to celebrate a legacy of faith.
My grandparents had eight children.
Those eight children had forty-five children. Here are a few of us in '94. (I only wish you could see that I'm wearing a "No Fear" shirt with my keds.)
Here are the cousins that made it last weekend. (A little over half. It might look like plenty but each one creates an un-fillable hole when they aren't there. We missed the other half!)
It might look like a relaxed, fun crowd but really we are driven over achievers...we've already produced 75 great-grandchildren in the past 11 years. (A little over 50 of them pictured):
The week after the reunion, one cousin had a baby and another announced her pregnancy. It's not looking to slow down any time soon!
I used to see my family as pretty amazing. We can stand and testify to stories of adoptions, of spiritual and physical healing, of strong ministries, non-profits, businesses, and schools we've impacted. We have family members that are hilarious, creative, musical, and way too many preachers.
This year my perspective was different. I saw a lot of cracked pots (myself included). I saw broken relationships, insecurities, failures, and exhaustion. I saw the effects of rheumatoid arthritis and other physical pains. We're a group just like any other group. Some of us struggle with alcohol, some of us are anxious, depressed, adulterers, materialistic, self-centered, failed. Some of us have surrendered to Jesus and some of us are resisting while He pursues us. Instead of seeing strong, remarkable, put-together people I saw a strong, unfailing, miracle-working God.
After laughing our way through taking pictures, we piled in the barn to celebrate God's faithfulness to Pake and Beppe. There were entertaining skits and cleverly written songs. All of the great grand-children gathered around Pake and Beppe and sang Jesus Loves Me. Three generations took turns praying over Pake and Beppe. (Thank you Adam VanDyke for the pics)
Then, the worship. Over 100 family members pausing to praise God for His character and work in the last 65 years.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Oh, the relief. We might be a mixed bag, but this thread that weaves us all together, pulling together individual stories into a bigger Tadema story, is a bigger story still–a story of God's redemption, forgiveness, and sanctification that keeps working itself out in this life.
I've experienced a sweetness with my family who have walked with me through the hard things. I've given plenty of reasons to need forgiveness, and they've extended it. I'm able to share the highs and lows without shame. I've been scooped up, prayed for, squeezed tight, and reminded that the Lord is faithful when my knees are skinned.
We are entering a new phase in the Tadema family. It's my children in the front row, hearing the stories of God's work. It's my kids surrounded by family of all colors, backgrounds, and histories pulled together by one Lord. My kids are having their turn learning how God transforms. This God is One who takes two passionate, headstrong college kids and turns it into this:
Just throwing myself out there a bit...