We’re all family.

By Rebecca Gamble

And so it goes…

This past weekend, between Friday and Monday, I had my both family (Father, Mother, and younger sister, all of who recently moved to Montana and who we get to see about once a year) AND my in-laws in town (who live in Colorado and I also see only about once a year). And yes, all of them stayed with us: the Gambles from Friday-Sunday, and the Mehls from Sunday-Wed, with my sister remaining with us several weeks more). My husband, Chris, and I purchased our home this past fall and our air conditioning hadn’t been turned on prior to this weekend, since weather hadn’t required it, but we quickly discovered it clearly wasn’t working when we did turn it on… This sent me reeling with worry, knowing that my sister’s health requires near-arctic temperatures to help keep her symptoms at bay and she would be staying with us for some time. This same weekend, there was a wedding on Saturday, as well as the new Shepherd’s Path Community Garden Dedication and Presiding at Worship to prepare for and lead on Sunday… Also, did I mention our house is essentially just one big collage of home projects, all in different stages? Of course! Of course it is… Ha! Oh, my life! I’m sure you’ve got your own stories to top this one, but it sure felt like a lot at the time.

Nevertheless, despite the bustle, having family in town was a huge gift. 

 

There was lots of laughter, super low-pressure to “perform” or entertain anyone, lack of expectations placed upon us for hosting, and lots of experienced, helping hands offered in our garden, for fixing the sprinkler system, and most importantly, for fixing the oddly-spliced wires of the air conditioning! Alleluia!

Sometimes I get anxious about hosting, even when it’s family, or maybe precisely because it is family, and precisely because we live so far apart and rarely get to see each other “in person”. I start thinking I need to EARN their approval and love. I get worried because I feel like I’ve barely got it all together in my daily life, and wonder how in the world they’ll fit into that schedule, or how it can be worked around them. I’m worried they’ll judge the busyness of our lives, or just the mess – I mean, c’mon, we don’t even have kids to care for yet, and still there’s a line-up of a hundred things waiting to be attended to at any given time?!  Yes, there are! And mostly, I worry about if or how our families will be most comfortable, and how to ensure everyone will get along and enjoy themselves together.

I worry about these things, and MAKING it perfect so I can earn their approval and love. And then time and time again, the experience is beautiful! It’s just what it needs to be. And love is always extended before I can even TRY to earn it! These visits are never perfect:  My sister completely broke the wooden, roll-up appliance garage in our built-in kitchen cabinets. And BOTH our sets of parents defiantly fed our dog all their table scraps, despite Chris and I specifically informing them that Doswell doesn’t get to eat “people food”. But still, in some ways, these imperfect visits are even better than the “perfect”/according to plan ones – they’re real, and they’re full of giving and receiving grace. Especially as we figure out how to be family in the same physical space, which somehow seems to require a lot more maneuvering than the purely emotional/relational space we normally share! In the end, it all becomes less and less about MY worries and THEIR expectations, and more and more about the experiences, and time, and love we share TOGETHER. And once that realization happens (and yes, I have to relearn this every time!), then we can all relax, and we get to just bask in that grace, and the blessing of having each other together (quirks and all), because of the love we choose to share.

 First and foremost we keep choosing love, and necessarily, grace. And that’s what makes it feel like family! Belonging comes first.

And so it is with the family of God – that we are offered grace before we can earn our way into anything at all – easing our fears and anxieties, enabling us to forgive, and inviting us to bask in what it means to live together as family; simply giving and receiving the grace of God.

We make it all conditional - about earning and achieving, and all about “us”, but we’re freed by the realization that it doesn’t have to be! There is so much more depth of family and freedom to be found when we relax into the reality that our foundation is grace.

For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.
Ephesians 2:8-9

This summer, Relax. We’re all family. And grace comes first.