By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans sat cross-legged on an old quilt on the grass and leaned back against one leg of the lawn chair where Mom rested. Mac sighed. She felt as if she could sit happily in that same spot forever, surrounded by her Kansas kin. (Kin was a new word she’d learned for “family,” and she liked the way it sounded—Kansas kin.) She knew she would remember this family reunion forever! She was absolutely stuffed from all the picnic food she had eaten. She was sunburned from playing croquet in the hot afternoon sun. Her knees still stung from where she had scraped them, falling down playing tag with her cousins, Jessica and Rebecca. But she was very happy.
A few minutes ago, Grandpa had instructed all the aunts, and uncles, and cousins to go get out the musical instruments they had brought to the reunion. It was time for the traditional Evans family sing-a-long!
Mac looked around as several guitars seemed to appear out of nowhere. Aunt Pat came from the house with a silver flute, and Uncle Gary pulled a harmonica out of his shirt pocket and polished it on his jeans. Sounds of tuning and warming up began. Mac counted five guitars, three harmonicas, one banjo, Aunt Pat’s flute, and two violins.
“I wish I had my clarinet!” Mac heard Uncle Mike mutter to himself. “I sure wish I had my clarinet!”
“His clarinet was stolen last year, and he’s never gotten over it,” Aunt Debbie explained as she plopped down on the blanket next to Mac. “I wish he’d just buy a new one to replace it, but he says he hasn’t found one that sounds as good as his old one did!”
Grandpa clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. Then he strummed a chord on his guitar and said, “How about that old favorite, ‘Home On the Range’? How could anyone want to live anywhere else?” he winked at Mac.
Mac grinned back at him, and then she joined in on the words. She wouldn’t want to live on the range, but she had decided the range was an OK place to visit!
Music filled the night air. Mac looked up. The sky was still not quite dark. A star twinkled merrily high above the oak tree, and the sliver of a moon looked like a smile that someone had misplaced.
Mac shut her eyes and let the music wash over her. She especially liked the high, sweet notes of the violins. Some of the songs she knew, but many she didn’t. She wished she could store them all up in her head so she could hear them again when she was back home in Oregon. She wished she could take all her relatives home to Oregon with her, and they could all picnic, and play croquet, and have sing-a-longs on her lawn there.
Finally Grandpa stopped playing his guitar. “I’ve just got a little something I’d like to say,” he began. “This family reunion has been a mighty special time. Especially having the wandering western branch of the family here for a visit. That’s made it extra special! But the thing is,” he went on, “our reunion’s going be over pretty soon. I want us all to plan on being part of that great big family reunion in heaven! That reunion’s never going to end!”
Mac heard soft “amens” from all around her.
“I’ve been doing some reading,” Grandpa continued, “and I’ve discovered how big the New Jerusalem, where we’re going to live someday, really is. Do you realize,” he asked, looking straight at Mac, “that it is probably about 1,500 miles square? That means each of its four sides is about 1,500 miles long. One side of the New Jerusalem will stretch just about from Jacksonville, Oregon, to Kansas! And it will be full of people who love God. It will be full of people who are family.”
Mac’s eyes opened wide. She knew exactly how long it was from Oregon to Kansas! She thought about all the empty land they had driven across to get to Grandpa’s house. All that sagebrush-covered land in Nevada and all those barren, lonely miles through the Great Salt Lake Desert where absolutely nobody lived. She tried to imagine all that empty space as part of one city—God’s great New Jerusalem. She shook her head. It was a mind-boggling thought.
Then Grandpa began to softly play an old hymn, and all the other musicians joined in. “Amazing Grace.” Some of the aunts and uncles sang harmony, and Mac thought they sounded like a choir of angels.
Mac’s heart was very full. It was so full that a tiny tear leaked out of her eye. She was full of sadness and happiness at the same time. She was happy to be part of such a great family. She was sad at the thought of leaving and not seeing them again for a long time. And she was happy to remember that Jesus was coming soon and then there would be no more separations.
Mac opened her mouth and sang. And when she didn’t know the words, she hummed along. She had to be part of the music! And she was quite sure the angels were singing harmony too.