Maybe it’s because we are from a small town, or maybe it’s that we are the second American-born generation in our family, but the Erkkilas do love the Fourth of July. In our book, it ranks right up there with Christmas.

As a matter of fact, July 4th is the one time each year we all gather. Like salmon swimming upstream to their birthplace, my family points their cars north and makes their way home in early July. In all of my sixty-two years I have only missed being home for two Fourths – they hold the record for being the two dumbest days of my life.

My father’s parents emigrated from Finland and settled in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My father spoke only Finnish when he entered Kindergarten. He and my uncle left school after the eighth grade to help my grandfather in his commercial fishing business. He worked six days a week most of his life – up before dawn to steer their boat through the icy waters of Lake Superior in search of the Lake Trout and Whitefish that put bread and butter on our table. Dad was adamant that his four daughters get an education so they could achieve the American dream his parents crossed the Atlantic Ocean to find.

My mother’s parents emigrated from Cornwall, England. She was half English, and half Scotch-Irish. My sisters and I are a blend of ethnic heritages typical of second-generation Americans. We are now the matriarchs of our clan. We enjoy the parades and fireworks through the eyes of our grandchildren. Our hope is that we can pass on not just our family’s love of  the Fourth of July, but an appreciation for this great country that opened its arms to our grandparents as they stepped foot on Ellis Island.

My uncle’s IGA store has been closed for two decades, but our family still gathers on its sidewalk for the parade, as we have for over sixty years. We clap for the hometown’s marching band and cheer the VFW contingent as they go by.  The older grandchildren mentor the younger ones in the art of gathering candy tossed by passing floats. Moms shush startled babies as fire engine sirens blare.

Later we’ll gather for a barbeque and catch up with cousins we haven’t seen in a year. Family friends will stop by and be invited to partake of the veritable feast of hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans and watermelon. We’ll fight over the last piece of my sister’s Pistachio Pudding Dessert.

We will reminisce about family members who are no longer with us. As we divide up leftovers and head our separate ways, there will be an understanding that we will meet at the same time, same place next year. We are the Erkkila family. We are the second American-born generation. We love this country, and we love the Fourth of July!

Scripture says that God “determined the times for (me) and the exact places where (I) should live. God did this so that (I) would seek him and perhaps reach out for him…” (Acts 17:26, 27 NIV, paraphrase mine).  It was no mistake that I was placed into the family and in the small town I was raised in. It was not by chance that Mennonite missionaries moved to that town and had a children’s ministry that planted the seeds of the Gospel in my heart. And so it is with you.

God knew what life circumstances would give each of us the best chance to seek Him out and call on Him for salvation and for help in this life. This Fourth of July, take a moment to reflect on God’s love for you as demonstrated in the care He took to give you every opportunity to know Him. Think of the privilege of religious freedom we enjoy in our country. Then thank Him and ask His blessing.

God bless our families…and God bless America!





1 Comment

  1. marianne
    Jul 3, 2012

    Beautiful! Thank you for the reminder that God is in control and causes/allows all things.

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