I love the Fourth of July. Some people love Christmas. Some people love Thanksgiving. Some people love Easter. But, I love the 4th. Every holiday has special memories and special meanings. But, the Fourth of July is filled with precious memories of my childhood and sweet reminders of my pride in this country.
I grew up spending every Fourth of July on the lake. My parents were in a water ski club that leased a tract of land on Lake Rhodhiss, a small lake on the Catawba River between Caldwell and Burke Counties. Every Fourth of July, all the families of the club spent the entire week living in our campers, skiing on the lake all day, building campfires and eating smore's at night. And, we made homemade ice cream. Every family owned a homemade ice cream freezer, and there was always a competition as to who had the most exotic and fabulous flavor. I can still smell the pecans roasting in butter over the fire for the homemade butter pecan ice cream. That was always my favorite.
On the night of the 4th, every family chipped in and bought a few sparkles, smoke bombs and cheap fireworks, and we would spend hours watching the colors explode over the water. In what other the country in the world do you blow things up on its birthday?
Precious, priceless memories!
Over the last couple of years, we have tried to recreate that experience for our kids. We spend the 4th of July at our "Redneck Viilla" on Lake Hickory. (It is a glorified double-wide trailer we purchased a few years back and rehabilitated to its current state.) We invite all of the extended family over. We cook out, we play cornhole, we go for pontoon rides, and, of course, we indulge in an abundance of that homemade ice cream. My mother has perfected that homemade butter pecan ice cream. It's a fight to see who gets the last cup!
This past Tuesday, we upped the game in celebrating the 4th of July. My husband made the mistake of taking all 4 of my kids to the "real" fireworks store, so we had "extra" special explosives! And, we added mood music. It's amazing what a Bluetooth speaker and Amazon Prime can do so set the patriotic mood. We had over 40 people lakeside standing to sing the national anthem, eating ice cream, telling old family stories and watching colors illuminate the water. Totally awesome!
And, I was thankful. I was thankful to have my family all around me -- my parents, my sister and her family, our dear friends and their kids. Joe's family had four generations of stories, laughter and love celebrating with us.
I looked around and saw three men who had served in the Armed Forces to give us the protection and freedom we had to celebrate this 4th. I thought about their sacrifices and their service to give me the opportunity to be living this scene of pure Americana. My mind wandered to the young man I had met at water ski camp just a few weeks before. For half the week, I watched him in wonder as he aggressively skied the full slalom course with only one leg. A few days into the week, I learned that he was from Afghanistan. When asked about his leg, he simply stated he had been "affected by the war." He was 15 1/2 years old and lost his leg three years before. His story was heart-wrenching. He had been "adopted" by our service brethren after his injury. He had been brought to the United States for medical care and now lives with a family in North Carolina. When asked if he would ever return to Afghanistan, he said that he desperately missed his family (of 9 siblings) but would not compromise the opportunity to stay in this country. He said he was not safe back home.
I was thankful to be safe. (Well, relatively safe minus the explosives bursting in front of me . . . ) And, I was thankful to be an American. Before we ate our meal as a family that night, one of my kids blessed food. Without prompting, she thanked God for this amazing country and this time to spend with friends and family. She nailed it. The young man at water ski camp may have been enjoying the same type of scene with his family when he was "affected by war." I did not have that threat sitting on the water's edge with my family.
I felt the need to pray for my country and thank God that I have this opportunity to celebrate with my family. Indeed, this last year, or the last several years for that matter, have not been the most pride-inducing as an American. (Election seasons bring out the worst in us!) But, we need to pray for our country and our leaders if we hope to maintain our peaceful home:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 1:2-3)
We have been incredibly blessed in this country to know peace. And, I pray that we as Christians can encourage others to place our hope in the God of the universe.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. 13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— 15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:12-22)
Take this time to thank a serviceman. Look hard at that grand old flag. Hug your kids and your family. Rejoice that you live in America. And, remember that your true home is not here.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ
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