The Blessings of Extended Family

Did you have the privilege of knowing your grandparents well? I lived over a thousand miles away from my paternal grandparents. But one week out of the summer we packed into the family station wagon and made the long journey to Wisconsin to see my dads’ relatives. My parents drove in shifts to get there in less than 24 hours while we slept. They would be exhausted but we kids were ready to play. (not my family photo but could be)

While we were visiting, we would gather together with all of my dads’ relatives at one of my aunt and uncles’ houses. They had 9 kids themselves and there were 25 grandchildren when we were altogether plus all of my dads’ adult siblings, spouses and his cousins that would come to see us. It was a huge reunion to say the least. Everyone brought some food to share so there was quite a wide variety. Grandpa would ask a blessing on the food and everyone present before we were allowed to eat. My cousins lived near a farm so we kids would play hide and seek in the cornfields which was exciting for a suburban girl. None of my relatives were wealthy but I have great memories spending time with my long distance family where there was lots of love, laughter and story telling.

When my children were young we would go to my inlaws cottage for summer fun. Extended family from all sides would come and bring food to share. All the cousins got to use their imaginations while playing outside with lots of new “friends” and things to do. There were some unwritten boundaries for the adults’ communication as we tried to steer clear of arguments about politics and religion. Big parties are a lot of work in preparation and cleaning up but the memories are priceless.

Psalm 127:3–5 (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)
Don’t you see that children are GOD’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you; you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.

Proverbs 17:6 (ESV)
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.

Ecclesiastes 2:24–25 (ESV) There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

People have gathered to celebrate feasts/ holidays and special ceremonies as an extended family for millenia. The Bible tells us very little about Jesus’ childhood but we know he would have celebrated all of the Jewish feasts with his family and relatives. Today however, two great foes of the modern family are divorce and migration. We no longer live in a continuous circle of life together in the same communities.

How can you encourage family time and extended family time? Some practical suggestions : Relationships can be prickly so boundaries are important. Shoot for quality over quantity because cranky kids are not fun. Choose a general place if you don’t have space (or don’t want to or can’t host) such as a park, zoo, museum etc. Minimize all electronics unless you are watching the Superbowl. There must be some kind of food and drink or the grown-ups will get cranky. Ask for help. I believe creating positive memories is crucial for our general well being.

My husband and I are now the family hosts for a Christmas party and the summer family barbeque. Over the years I have learned that you don’t have to look like a magazine photo to make people feel welcome. Plenty of food, some yard games and chairs in the shade will make everyone comfortable. We always ask a blessing before we eat because we hope to pass on that faith and family are the most important things in life as we gather around for food and fun.

2 thoughts on “The Blessings of Extended Family

  1. With 1200 miles separating us from each of our sons, our daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren, family get-togethers are always a struggle, but they are the memories that we hang on to!


  2. I loved reading this. I, too, had a large family on my father’s side. None are living now out of 10. But the cousins still connect every now and then.


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