‘Family was His idea from the start’

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By Nancy Kennedy

I’m sitting on a couch in Hershey, Penn., with my sister, my daughter and my granddaughter, watching the Food Network and thinking, “How weird is this?”

We’re here on a partial family vacation since only part of our family is here. My sister flew in from California and my daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law drove up from Virginia. My husband and I flew up from Florida...

We’ve been planning this family vacation for nearly a year, which means we’ve had nearly a year to create expectations.

Expectations rarely match reality, and so far this vacation is no exception — it’s better than we dreamed it could be. That means no one has had a meltdown, including me.

Six people in one condo for a week with no drama or arguments or tears is a testament to the mercy of God.

Here’s some things I’m learning so far on our family vacation:

Who needs entertainment when you have a 7-year-old in the house? She just informed us that “hot is the new cute.” So funny!

Another thing I’ve learned — the air in Hershey smells like cocoa. And central Pennsylvania is loaded with cornfields.

The day we went to Lancaster County we drove through what’s called Amish country. We saw Amish teenagers doing field chores — and Amish laundry! Real Amish laundry hanging on Amish clotheslines outside of Amish houses.

We almost got killed on U.S. 322, but not by Amish. A truck without brake lights stopped in front of us and we had to swerve to avoid hitting it.

God is merciful to me and my family.

Also on our vacation we earned a master’s degree in chocolate tasting at Hershey University and became official pretzel twisters at the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, Penn.

In between Hersheytown and Amish country and shopping at the outlets and eating Pennsylvania Dutch food — and chocolate — we got to know each other.

I know. We’re family and we should know each other, but when you’re separated by months and miles you lose touch. You experience life and think thoughts and feel feelings, and if you’re not with each other to share these things the distance makes you strangers.

Sometimes even when you live in the same house you’re strangers.

Being a family takes effort.

My sister reminded me that we had once gone nine years without seeing each other. We’re trying to stay connected now. So, here we are, sitting together on a couch in Hershey, Penn., remembering our childhood...

We talked about our parents and their end of life wishes — hard stuff to talk about, but family stuff is often hard stuff.

As I sit on the couch with these people, I’m struck with the weirdness, the oddness of it all, how we can go so long without seeing each other yet pick up right where we left off. There’s something both strange and comfortable about that, as if there’s a dimension that’s peculiar and particular to families.

The psalmist said, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). Although we make choices, ultimately God’s the one who puts families together for better or for worse, and he uses the better as well as the worse to refine and define us.

Family was his idea from the start. So, if you’ve got complaints about yours, talk to him about it.

As for me, for the most part I like mine and so far we’re all getting along on our vacation.

Chocolate definitely helps.