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Muddy little legs and feet, a soaring tire swing gliding through the air, an egg tossed with skill into the mouth of a surprised cousin, a town scavenger hunt tempting family members to become rule breakers, oversized chalk drawings etched upon our driveway, and severe storms which interrupted our bonfire plans–these are my treasured Memorial Day memories this year.

Our last weekend’s family bash plan had unfolded since the end of 2018. Over two years had past since our last reunion. This year, we all welcomed new children we had never met, milestones we hadn’t yet celebrated, the long overdue hugs, and filled our fenced yard with all the laughter I could’ve hope for. I’ve missed my family. I’ve missed our sleepovers, the bed heads in the morning, the sleeping bags stretched upon floors, the coffee pots refilling throughout the day, the plethora of family favorite meals, the men’s cigar walks, the giggles of we women sitting around the dining table, and the young ladies and young men–participating in the intricate weaving of new family memories. I’ve missed the men praying over our mealtimes, all of us reminiscing over old photos, the kids’ (and daddy’s) bubble blowing, the tables filled with coloring books and countless crayons, the yard games, the bonding of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings, not to mention the conversations over paper plates filled with burgers, chips, and watermelon spurring on maturity.

   Family life, it’s where His grace pours out upon His sons and daughters like an ocean, if we take the time to truly see and welcome it. It’s where a simple glance from across a dining table can cause choking in laughter over breakfast. It’s a cousin who allows his aunt with hearing aids to drive a truckload of children all around town, in high hopes they’ll win a family town scavenger hunt. It’s within the children who grow up, mature, and take the time to apologize to a younger cousin for being a jerk when they were young. It’s where the glaring looks of cousins in the morning are easily forgiven. It’s where the free spirits tread on the toes of perfectionists and the fearful push themselves to become courageous. Even though the years between family visits made many of us older, more wrinkled, and a bit more set in our ways, by His grace, God taught us many things last weekend. God taught us how to laugh louder, listen longer, slow down, show more kindness, become more flexible, love deeper, judge less, hold our tongues, let things go, serve each other, and more wisely choose where to stand for the family picture! 🙂 All in all, wherever we stand now, we reflect both our earthly and heavenly families and the grace God has poured out upon us all. As my late aunt would say, “We are a mixed bag!” For that, I thank Him for all its wild beauty.

Neither the waves of time nor circumstance can stop the flood of good God intends to unfold within His needy family. Imperfect? No problem, He’s well aware. Impatient? He knows. Angry? His perfect love stands ready to drive out the fear we hold. We are a mixed bag for sure, yet we have His purpose pinned upon each of us. In His love, He’s willing to draw nearer still. He’s willing to become closer than a brother and envelop us all in His grace. As our Father, He’s able to raise each of us out of the things we once thought we couldn’t escape. He will raise us from our bent towards death to a new life in Christ. He wants us as the dirty, broken, and skinned up children we are. In His wisdom, He created and placed us within a family–exposing both our junk and His gracious goodness.

Long ago, our grandparents knew they needed a Savior and responded. Because of them we all came to believe and our family legacy in Christ continues. We watched a slideshow last weekend and something became quite clear, when we took time to reflect together, we witnessed God’s grace-filled hand over every decade. Don’t get me wrong, trusting God and the growth process wasn’t always easy. We all had to learn how to choose to look for God’s grace, even in the painful spots and grieving losses. We all lost much, just like some of you. We all let go of something or someone over the years. The photo slides reminded us of the times we as a family, traded our regrets for His peace, our grief for His joy, our illness for His healing, our lonely seasons for belonging. The overflowing laughter and the bond we now share together, I believe, comes only from living free in Christ.

Within the beauty of family, by His grace, we all may grow stronger together than if we remain alone. Whether we are believers within a physical family and/or a church family, we are grafted into Christ and never have to remain alone again. It’s where support, tending, nourishing, encouragement, and unconditional love should flow. How ever He allows us the gift of family, He means it for our good. He doesn’t make mistakes, even when it feels like it. We as His children are not exempt from hurt or trouble–even in family. Yet, His wonderful promise remains in John 16:33! “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” His promises are still true, even when it seems like times have changed and the generations can’t seem to relate. What may help? Adopting Biblical promises like this together, praying more for our families together, and allowing God to mature us in every season we’re in together. God still holds the plan, the purpose, and the will for our families. Maybe your family will grow larger through birth or adoption. Maybe you won’t see God’s answer to your prayer for your family to grow. Maybe some will pass away sooner than you ever imagined. Maybe conflicts will arise or some family members will move away. We may not see the reasons unfolding, but if we are faithful families pursuing God, asking Him for help, and trustfully following His lead as our Father, something will happen that we won’t have the ability to stop. Ripples, upon ripples of God’s love, truth, and grace will grow ever wider and more impactful to our world. So, let’s enjoy the wonders and thrills of following Him as He recreates our families and maximizes their impact. I assure you, God waits for your childlike faith leap into His open arms! God has a wonderful design already laid out for both you and your family–a unique purpose in His kingdom with a lasting legacy to proclaim. I pray we’ll all seek Him today and every day, to discover it and live it!

Romans 8:28

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”

Psalm 68:5-6

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun scorched-land.”

2 Timothy 1:5

“I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now, I am convinced, is in you also.”