Regal: of notable excellence
Over the past couple of decades, I have done a terrible job of keeping up with my family.
Oh, not my immediate family - I've been positively swimming in my immediate family!
I mean my extended family. My extended family.
Steve and I live right next door to his parents, which makes it easy to stroll over to visit and catch up on news. Two of his three siblings - and, for the most part, their families (our nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews) - live relatively nearby, and we see many of them once a month on Kendall Sunday.
But my family - my siblings and their families, my mom and dad and stepmom, my grandparents (when they were alive - only Grandmother West is still living), my aunts and uncles and cousins - I have done an atrocious job of keeping up with them. Oh, we see each other occasionally at weddings and graduations and funerals, but we rarely see each other in between.
I think several factors have contributed to this neglect on my part.
Sometimes, the difficulty in spending time with my family has been geographical. When Steve and I lived in California, there really was no way we could visit family living back home in the Southeast. We were simply too far away.
Sometimes, the difficulty has been circumstantial. We have rarely owned a vehicle reliable enough to inspire sufficient confidence for a road trip. Besides, when we had seven little children, the thought of "taking this show on the road" absolutely overwhelmed me - I barely had strength and energy to stay on top of life's routine demands at home, never mind on a lengthy road trip!
Sometimes, I am sad to admit, the difficulty was all in my head. Somehow, I got the idea that my family was unusual, odd, peculiar, eccentric. Well, to be honest, they are. But I also fell under the impression that "unusual" was a negative thing. Something to be ashamed of. Something to distance myself from.
I AM SO SORRY I BELIEVED THAT LIE.
A couple of years ago, one of my children put things in a completely different perspective for me. "No, Mom, your family is not weird...they are intense."
Somehow, that word "intense" was in my mind free of the negative connotations associated with "weird," "eccentric," "unusual."
Yes, my daughter was correct. My family is intense. When I consider my parents, my grandparents, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my aunts and uncles and cousins - yes, as a rule, they are intense people. They are (or were, before they died) intensely engaged, intelligent, curious, opinionated, talented, and sensitive. I have known members of my family to be intensely courageous, intensely ferocious, intensely loyal, both intensely proud and intensely humble, and even intensely ridiculous.
My extended family?
Why do I feel compelled to tell you this?
Last week, I spent a day with my mom, my 95-year-old grandmother, my first cousin and her daughter (my second cousin?). On the drive home late that night, I couldn't help thinking, "What remarkable people! And they are my people!"
Not remarkable because they have done great things in the world's eyes - No. Remarkable because of the sweet way they love one another. Remarkable because even though some of them have broken each other's hearts in the past, they still genuinely care about each other. Remarkable because their ordinary conversations - about even silly things like cheese cubes and cookies and gardening and broody chickens - turn so easily and naturally to the Gospel, to the beauty of Christ, to the goodness of God.
After my visit with Grandmother last week, I began considering the very rich heritage that is mine because of my extended family.
To have been raised by two parents whose conversation at home turned frequently to Scripture and prayer, their interest in missions and curiosity about faraway places, their love for the church, their willingness to welcome the alien and the broken into their home, their effort to translate what they believed into a practical living out...
To have grandparents who talked to me as freely about God as about tomato bugs and fishing...
To have siblings who, although I don't always agree with what they believe, I admire because, unlike so many folks today, they are not complacent or passive about their faith, but earnestly desire and labor to know God...
To have aunts and uncles and cousins who light up when they see me, no matter how long I have neglected them, and who make me feel a very welcomed part of...
To all you Stricklins and Cunninghams, Wests and Whitmires, Boyers and Ballards, Walthers and Dunns, Taylors and Turnipseeds, Pritzels and Preuetts and Winterses, and all of you too numerous to list...
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the privilege of being able to stand among Kings and Queens.