Rebekah – my awesome wife – is the middle child of five siblings.
- Roy – the firstborn – lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lynda, an accomplished church music director.
- Next comes Rachel, a high-school English teacher who has been moored at Virginia Beach for three decades with her Navy commander (retired but still doing Navy stuff) husband, Tom. They have three children in their 20’s.
- Rebekah came along as #3. Her parents prayed that “This one will be the preacher in the family” and had “John Calvin Alexander” picked out for a name. They said, “Never mind” when the baby was born a girl. I’m guessing God got a big chuckle out of that one.
- After Rebekah, along came Joe. Joe – the original “Joe the plumber” – lives in Orlando with his wife, Cheryl, and their teenaged daughter.
- Eventually, Rebekah’s parents finally figured things out and came up with Jesse. Jesse, another Presbyterian pastor, lives in the Jacksonville area with his wife, Heather. Jesse and Heather have four kids, 8-16.
It’s nearly impossible to get all five together at one time (we’re making a run at it in July), but we do manage to pull off a “three-fer” with the Florida sibs at “Joe’s Pool and Grill” in Orlando several times a year. So having Andrew home around Memorial Day served up the perfect excuse to throw some chicken on the barbie, sit in the screened porch and watch the younger children splash around while the rest of us shared what’s going on in our hearts and minds.
What came through loud and clear for me this time (and it’s an especially poignant observation in the context of “the life-charged life”) is the fact that life is difficult, challenging, overwhelming at times, full with various struggles and quite often a heavy load to bear…
…But, and this is a critically important point, life is – at the same time – beautiful and good.
I wish it were different, sometimes, I really do. I wish that people didn’t have to deal with chronic, debilitating disease. I wish that everyone enjoyed fun jobs with supportive work environments. I wish that leaders in all churches treated their pastors and music directors with Christlike grace. I wish that life was always one continuous Irish blessing for all the people we love… You know: May the road rise to meet you; may the wind blow at your back; may the sun shine warm on your face. May the rain fall soft upon your fields….
But, rich and full though life is, a great deal of our day-to-day experience simply won’t fit in the vision of Shangri–La. And that’s where the balance of the Irish blessing comes in… And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand….
Which is why I said that life is, at the same time, beautiful and good. Because there is always such a rich sense of God’s faithfulness at these family gatherings. We know we are loved, and that we love one another; but we also know most profoundly how securely we rest in the palm of God’s hand.
It’s like John DeBevoise said when he preached our big 50th church anniversary party last week – and he was quoting Rebekah’s dad, Bob, when he said it. “It’s critically important that we know who we are, and that we know whose we are.”
And we are blessed children of God, bottom line. And none of us doubt that great truth for a heartbeat. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
Alexanders know they belong to God. True for the Mauls too. Great is thy faithfulness, O God our father. Morning by morning new mercies we see. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
I’m thinking maybe it’s time already for another cook out – DEREK
Check this slideshow to see a few of the blessings…
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.