My life is extremely busy-I travel extensively and am always up against deadlines. But, whenever possible, I make time in my schedule to go to the ball games, piano recitals, and other special events of my friends' children. I look for opportunities to jot a note of encouragement on birthdays, anniversaries, or special occasions. When I need to run an errand, I will often call a couple to see if I can pick up something at the store for them, or if one of their children would like to go along for the ride. I make the extra effort to keep up with the needs, burdens, concerns, and joys of the families that God has brought into my life.

 

As a result of years of conscious effort and investment, I have been blessed with "adopted" children, brothers, sisters, and parents in various places where I have lived and served. On the whole, my richest, most lasting relationships over the years have been with families. What a joy it has been to encourage and nurture many of my friends' children in their faith, and then to watch these "little ones" grow into mature men and women of God with families of their own.

 

Of course, the most important family that God has brought into my life is my biological family. I have been blessed to be part of a large (and growing) "clan" that currently includes six brothers and sisters, two sisters-in-law, a brother-in-law, and ten nieces and nephews under the age of 12.

 

Though geographically scattered and far from perfect, this extended family is a source of great joy and blessing-I love hearing a little voice on the other end of the phone saying, "Hey, Aunt Nancy!" Holidays are enriched by the laughter, chatter, and endless activity of those little ones that I affectionately call "the munchkins." 

 

In the midst of writing this section, within a 24-hour time frame, two of my sisters and my mother called on the phone.  As we updated each other on what is going on in our lives, I was reminded that my life is not a solitary one, that my story is part of a much bigger story, and that we are not complete without each other.   

 

My life has been made fuller by the history that we share as a family-a history that includes both seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow; birthdays, weddings, and funerals; heated discussions and tender exchanges; smiles and tears.

 

Being a member of a family is a blessing; it is also a lot of work. As our lives take different courses, more effort is required to keep in touch. At times it can be difficult to stay engaged with certain family members, for those we love the most can also hurt us the most. We may be tempted to retreat and avoid communication, but I have found that the rewards of nurturing and persevering in those relationships far outweigh the cost of doing so.

 

Being a part of a family is also a tremendous responsibility. It requires a commitment to live the kind of lives that make our families thirsty for Jesus.  Sometimes it means sacrificing our own schedule and agenda in order to be available to meet the needs of another. It requires a willingness to bear the burdens of others. Yet the greater the investment we are willing to make on behalf of our family, the greater will be the fruit that results.