As I zoomed eastward across the farmland of central Iowa, laughter filled the car. My passengers were my mom, two of her sisters and one of her cousins. Another aunt of mine and cousin were somewhere behind us and we were headed to meet yet another aunt, her daughter and two granddaughters.
Family. It can stir up so many unpleasant memories/feelings for so many people. I did not ever really know any of my dad's family. His mom died at 14, his father died a few months before my parents were married and his only sibling, a brother nine years his senior, I did not meet until I was 15 years old. I only saw him a few times before his death. My dad passed away when I was 16 as well. So no, while I have made some connections with a couple of his cousins and knew one of his aunts a little bit as well as a couple of aunts by marriage, I really do not know the people with whom I ironically... look like. LOL!
My mom's family was a different story. Though nearly everyone lived at least 200 miles away from me, I know most of them extremely well. When I think of family, these are the people I think of.
My grandmother was the eldest of five girls who were born over a period of 10 years. Their father died when she was 12. Her mother became ill when my grandma was 14 and from that time on, they never all lived beneath one roof. Perhaps that is part of the reason "family" became so critically important.
They moved to the property which had been homesteaded by my great-great grandparents when they arrived from Denmark in 1869. The farm had been divided amongst their children who build their homes within close proximity of one another and farmed the land together. It was here my ailing great-grandmother brought her girls. She could no longer live alone so the family was "divided up" amongst her siblings. Not under one roof but still very, very close to one another.
My grandma and her sisters instilled a strong sense of family in their children. I cannot help but think it was due in part to their some what fractured immediate family. A bit separated, my great-grandmother made sure she still kept her girls "together" in spirit.
My mother is one of eight. Growing up during the depression years, her family often faced the threat of separation. While many had no choice but to "farm out" their children, my grandmother struggled to keep her family intact. Yes, as was the custom, the boys did live and work on other farms in the area as teenagers but... it was in the area and they always were home on days off and during the winter months. "Home" was always home.
When I am surrounded by my mom's family, I have a deep sense of "belonging". It's a place where love and laughter live. It is a place where I am accepted and loved... regardless of my faults, mistakes, etc. It is a place where people embrace me, pray for me, laugh with me, cry with me and teach me. It is a place where God is ever present as well... for though two children wandered away from God... it was not the way they were raised. Although not all of my cousins serve God... it was not the way they were raised.
Yes, in the car yesterday, our talk, as is the norm, turned to God and we prayed together. I'm sitting in the study of one of my aunts at the moment and I am acutely aware, as I glance around the room that God is welcome here.
Perhaps you do not have a family such as this in the natural. However, we do have the privilege of being a part of God's family! I am thinking right now of my spiritual "family". My brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I laugh and cry with. The people whom I pray with and the people with whom I do life with as we all do life with God. A family... God's family. It is a place where love lives and I know I am blessed... and so are you!