I love the line from the new LDS primary song “The Family is of God” that says, “God gave us families to help us become what he wants us to be.” I saw that this week, over and over again. My heart was touched and spirit recharged. Let me explain.
The sun comes up. The grass is wet from the night dew. Family has come from all over to enjoy a week together. It’s been five years since this has happened. The kids anxiously wait to get to “the lodge” where everyone meets for flag ceremony, morning family prayers, door prizes and a yummy breakfast. Hugs and butt slaps are given as we gather around the flag pole. A simple, but powerful devotional is shared and we are ready to start a crazy, fun, busy, dirty Wilkins Family Reunion. Has it really already been five years? Where has the time gone? What has changed? How have I changed? How does it feel like we were all together just yesterday? Day 1: Service in Nature.
Paint. Mud. Caves. Nature. Sea Shells. Memories. Slip-N-Slides. This day, Tuesday was FULL of fun outdoor activities. The little kids painted birdhouses and went on a “nature scavenger hunt” to find the many things Heavenly Father has blessed us with in nature. Frogs were caught, leaves were trampled and flowers were picked as they hurriedly put them into their little brown paper sacks and showed them to all of the other cousins.
This big bunch of “kids” went caving. It’s always a family favorites during the reunion. You go in nice and clean, come out COVERED head to toe in mud…and probably lots of bat poop. Sea Shells. Before my Grandpa passed away, He and my Grandma had the opportunity to serve a mission together for the LDS church in the West Indies. There Grandpa picked sea shells on the beach to bring home to all of his grandchildren. During the reunion these sea shells were shared and necklaces were made in memory of Grandpa. There’s lots of love hanging around our necks. We love and miss our Grandpa so much. If there’s one thing us Wilkins are good at, it’s laughing. We are always laughing! This game, right here explains us well. 🙂 All it is is a dozen raw OR boiled eggs…you don’t know when you pick one out of the carton. You crack it over your head, or someone else’s head and hope you picked a boiled one. Uncle Benny was lucky in the picture above, Aunt Linda however…not so much. Haha. It’s super gross and super hilarious.
Day Two: Service for our Country.
After breakfast we were all able to hear testimonies from both my brother in law Taylor, and a cousin Raleigh who have both served in the military. They are amazing men with so much love and devotion to our country, freedom, and religion. It’s so easy to take for granted all of the freedoms and rights we have from living in this country. It’s always been that way for me. It’s hard to think of anything different. But, as they spoke I realized, or rather, remembered how blessed I am to be where I am today, and live where I live. I’m blessed to have the ability and opportunity to worship, serve, work and live how I wish. We really are blessed to be a “nation under God.”
Wedneday was family picture day. It was supposed to rain all day. Well, it rained in the morning during our devotional, stopped raining during picture time and rained a little bit more after pictures. That was it! It was such a blessing for the weather to turn out so nicely. We ended up going to the park and pool that afternoon and it was perfect! Oh the green, the grass, the fields, the air, the trees. I love everything about this.
Sometimes I think we think life has to be more complicated than it really is. It’s so simple. Life is simple. Be good, be happy. Every time I come home to the farm I’m reminded of this. Life shouldn’t be bombarded with unimportant tasks and challenges. It should be full of simple, sweet joys like family, laughter, messy faces, muddy boots from playing in the rain, and chocolate covered faces from the candy you weren’t supposed to have. It’s the simple things that bring great happiness. You see those people standing right underneath that tractor? Yep, that’s my Grandma with her 12 kids my Grandpa and Grandma gave to us to call Aunt and Uncle, Mom and Dad. They are all so different and all so similar it’s scary! Their laugh, the same, their sarcasm, the same, their faith, same, their personalities, sort of different, but very similar. How is it possible to raise such good righteous posterity who always look to the Lord for guidance, who always support doing good, and who always place their family first? Honestly, the only answer I can come up with is have good examples to look to. So, thank you Grandma and Grandpa. You two are amazing and have forever changed and raised generations of Christ followers. I am so grateful for my heritage and the faith and strength they provide without even knowing it. May your legacy live on in me and my children.
After all the craziness from family pictures (getting nearly 200 people to take one picture is um…a little hard.), we all went back to the lodge and did some fun fourth of July activities: nail painting, hat making, softball, and some cute bead work for the kids. We also all got to paint our hand print on the wall. Every family was a different color.
Wednesday night was all about picnics at the park and a party at the pool. Everyone jumped in and played, played, played.
Day Three: Service in the Church
Thursday was the day our family was in charge of the meals and activities. We had it at the church building near by. We first started with a little devotional, prayer and door prizes of course, then served some breakfast before we broke off into separate groups according to age. My husband, Logan and I were in charge of teaching the youth. We taught them about sharing the gospel through social media. There is so much we can do to share what we know is true! All it takes is a little time to sit down and do it. As we taught, we realized that WE need to do better. We feel so blessed to have the knowledge that we have of a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior Jesus Christ who want the very best for us. Why wouldn’t I want to share that with the rest of the world?! It was a good reminder for me of how much I can improve.
Look at these future missionaries gettin’ all cleaned up and freshly shaven. 🙂 At the end of the class period all the youth and children came walking in to where their parents were sitting and sang “Called to Serve”. It was really cute. This is them practicing the song. My sister Taylor is currently a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is serving in Nevada and is LOVING it! While at the church we were able to send each one of the 4 missionaries serving from our family a little note. These were some of the things they said we could do to be better “member missionaries.” I loved their advice and 100% believe it.
Be both humble and courageous.
Let your light shine forth and beautify the whole earth.
Know that God is in charge of this work.
Get to know your neighbors.
Members are KEY in the conversion process.
See others as Heavenly Father sees them. We should pray night and day for this kind of love.
Don’t just believe IN Christ, BELIEVE Christ.
Day Four: Service in the family/Importance of Work
This is another thing I’d say our family is really good at…working. It hasn’t always been my favorite but it’s definitely shaped me into the person I am today. I remember waking up at what I thought was WAYYYY too early for a Saturday morning to my Dad’s voice yelling down the stairs, “Girls, let’s go!” Which meant, “hurry up and get dressed we’ve got a lot of work to do and only one full day to do it.” Yeah, I hated that. BUT I’m so grateful those days happened. I learned so much working with my Dad. He taught me not only how to work, but how important it was TO work, to get things done, to not be idol, and to make things happen even when I really didn’t think they could or want them to really. Work, work is good.
What are those flesh looking things they are holding and chopping you ask? Yep, those are chickens. One of the planned activities was to wake up and butcher chickens. That’s a normal family reunion activity right?! 😉 Welcome to the Wilkins family! The teenagers butchered the chickens, then the adults prepped and cooked them for dinner that night. That’s the way we roll people, and I’m proud to say it. We also had the opportunity to do some community service work in our small little farm town. We were able to pick up trash along the road, go visit with some of the Senior Citizens, and paint the school’s swing sets. It was kind of fun to take a trip down memory lane and remember finding my best friend on those very swings. “Do you like pizza? Me too. Do you like peas? Me either. Let’s be friends.” Haha…that was literally our conversation. If only we could base our friendships off of pizza and peas these days. It would make life a lot more simple. There was still lots of water slide time, games and family memories made that night. We were able to participate in a “Super Farmer” Contest. It was a relay race that consisted of dressing a goat, milking a goat, cattapulting an egg, pounding a fence post, rolling a bale of hay, sitting in a wheel barrel, and sliding down the water slide. It was hilarious to watch all the teams run around like crazy. AND…guess who won. Our team!!! Yep, we are Super Farmers!The kids were also able to do a relay race. It was so fun…and MESSY!Swimsuits and snow boots makes about as much sense as chasing a pig with a sucker taped to it’s back with neon bandaids.
These are the current cousins who are expecting right now. Well, actually the two on the left have now had their babies. One boy, one girl. And this is them showing their true colors. 🙂 Honestly, I don’t know how we EVER get a normal photo in this family. By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted, spent, tired, ready for bed. We worked hard and we played hard. It must run in the family…
As the reunion comes to an end, the sun sets, eyes close, teddy’s are tucked in, mommies fall asleep next to their toddlers and the dew settles on the freshly cut green grass. I can’t believe it’s over. That went by so fast! Where did the time go? Why does it have to end so soon?
As I reflected on the week I was amazed and overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for the family I am a part of. This entire week was dedicated to teaching us how we can serve others and bless others lives. Isn’t that why we’re here? To help others reach their full potential and in the meantime reach ours? We are blessed to live in a nation that gives us this opportunity. We are blessed to be in and raise families that treasure this knowledge and strive to teach it to future generations. We are blessed to be raised with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, grandparents and great grandparents who love to work, serve, give, play and laugh. My spirit, my soul has been rejuvenated this week and for that I am deeply grateful. This is what unity brings. This is why we reunite every 5 years, to remember.
Celebrating our freedom, our family, our faith, and our eternal ties was one heck of a week to say the least. We have so much to be grateful for, and so much to give back. So, back to my original question, “how does it feel like we were all together just yesterday”? Well, it’s because we have shared so many fun, scary, sad, happy, hilarious, mischevious, and crazy memories. Even those who didn’t grow up around “the farm” feel this same connection, this family bond or tie as we hug, spank, kiss, punch, and laugh with each other every five years. Five years has got nothin’ on this bunch. We’re together forever.
I absolutely loved reading this! I couldn’t quit smiling as I looked at the pics. I loved your closing comment. Five years has nothing on us, we’re together forever!
I’m just grateful we all feel the same way. 🙂