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A Golden Weekend: A Family Gathering to Remember for Generations

By Dennis Rainey

I just walked into Barbara’s office and asked, “How in the world do I summarize our 50th golden anniversary celebration that had over 35 people attend a four-day event over Labor Day, a photographer that took over 3,000 photographs, and a family gathering that exceeded our expectations??”

Her answer: “NOT EASILY!”

As a result, I’m going to share a few pictures and some highlights:

· The setting: Barbara’s family’s farmhouse on 160 acres of land two miles south of Sparkman, Arkansas. (The property was a land grant from President Grant in 1857)

· Our adult children oversaw everything! How do you say “HALLELUJAH?” All we were expected to do was enjoy our family and the celebration … and we did!

· What Barbara and I wanted to see happen was nearly all of our family reconnecting with one another for the first time since 2015 ... and we wanted to give our children and their spouses and all of our grandchildren a 100 page published book we created just for them called Our Story

We realized that a good number of our younger grandchildren would really never get to know us, and so we created a book to pass on our spiritual values and our “story” ... the story of how both of us grew up, came to faith in Christ, how we met and dated, were engaged (now that quite a story in and of itself!), married and spent our lives together sharing Christ and his plan for marriages and families globally. Plus “50 Lessons from 50 Years of Marriage and Family.” (Perhaps they’ll need to read that someday!)

· During our celebration we lined up and numbered nearly all of the 27 grandkids, #1 all the way to #27 (which was Laura, because she is pregnant with #27), asked them to hold out their hands and close their eyes … and gave them our book.

· All weekend our children led us in playing the games and activities that we had enjoyed with them as they grew up, which included:

Barbara’s Famous Vacation Books ... Barbara attempted to lead all our children in writing down memories while we were on vacation. And then she catalogued and kept them. The kids made us one of our own vacation books to write in. We laughed until we had tears in our eyes!

Opening our vacation books

The “Oldie Weds Game.” About five years ago we lead our newlyweds in this game and had a blast. This time it was just for Barbara and me and we pretty much nailed it!!

Family Olympics that we created for our kids on family nights as they were growing up ... Push the bean with your nose past the finish line ... Wrapping my body in toilet paper—we lost to two three-year-olds … their bodies are a little smaller than mine!

And then there was the hilarious “Pudgy Bunny Game,” where I had to stuff my mouth full of two to three thousand marshmallows and say “Pudgy Bunny” three times. I lost!

· There were nine holes of disc golf, crafts for the younger kids, rides on the tractor, a fun side-by-side, two four-wheelers, and the ancient family Gator (see the pic).

Disc golf competitors

The Craft Artists

A bucket of fun with Zeke and William

2 brothers in a side-by-side

The Gator Ride with Josh and Papa

· Hide and Seek in the Hay Barn that we had harvested and filled with hay back over the 4th of July weekend.

· Matchbox Car/Truck Ramp, where the littles played for hours, sliding 25-30 cars down the ramp and creating massive traffic jams!

Laura overseeing a traffic wreck

· The kids at the “mud hole” playing with antique toys … diggers, cars, trucks, and tractors.

Annie and Zeke (they don't have mud holes in Boulder!)

· Our son Samuel brought a Slip and Slide and set it up on a small hill, with a tractor bucket full of water that he would dump on the kids below as they slid down the hill.

Aunt Ashley and Annie

Honeymooners Hillyn and James

The Cousins

A granddaughter named Rainey!

Hey, it wasn’t Disney World, but many of the kids and adults were talking about how we could do this again … a family reunion! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

And of course there was a vow renewal service and reception for Barbara and me, led by our adult children at Sardis Methodist Church, established over in 1895. It’s the same church that Robert and Jean Peterson, Barbara’s parents, were married in nearly 75 years ago.

Note my bride's cowgirl boots

Barbara and I are still smiling, reflecting on the satisfaction of seeing our children and grandchildren enjoying one another.

I’m reminded of what we’ve said about the family for decades:

“The family is the birthplace of divine image bearers. The origin of God’s fingerprints as He created eternal human beings. As imperfect as a family may be, it is still God’s first choice for the nurturing, shaping and directing of a human soul.

The family models accountability and calls for it in return from its offspring. It’s a generational connector and protector. A harbor in the storm. A people to belong to. A place to go home to. The most powerful force for good and training broken people how to love one another. It’s the conduit that God uses to pass on the truth about Him, about life and eternal life to those who seek Him.”

As my friend Chuck Swindoll says, “It is at home among family members that life makes up its mind.” (italics mine)

The costs of a family are indeed great, but the rewards are far greater.

We have lived a life of NO REGRETS … now onward to the 60th ... the Diamond Anniversary!

Dennis Rainey

Psalm 112:1-2

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