Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Strong Extended Family Relationships

Being a part of my extended family has always been a joy.  While other sometimes barely know their cousins, I was raised to see us as a tight unit.  We grew up together, spent holidays together, went to school together, even spent vacations together.  Cousins were instant playmates, sometimes rivals.  Aunts and Uncles were like an extra set of parents.  Everyone worked together as a team.

Even today, I consider my extended family to be the most reliable part of my life.  Time and jobs have moved us farther apart, but commitment and dedication have kept us close.  Though we don't always see eye to eye and issues come and go, family remains the place where I can fully be me.

Fast forward to the present, My cousins and I are scattered over about a three hour distance, with Aunts and Uncles living in their original homes.  Easter and Christmas are still held at Grandma's along with a few cousins still gathering for Thanksgiving.  My in-laws are six hours away, but my husband's sister and brother are only three hours away.  We bounce back and forth, alternating holidays between the two sides.  And I realize, anew, just how hard it is to build strong family relationships.  It is work!

In today's society, it's much easier to jell as a family in your own home.  In fact, I hear many families say that: "We just need time to be a family."  And while that's important, especially after a wedding or a new baby, strong extended family relationships should and can be an abundant blessing.

Much of the hard work in these relationships is laying aside our own stuff.  Extended relationships require commitment, communication, forgiveness, a listening heart, and time.

*Commitment-  I desire to have a strong relationship with family 'cause they know me like no one else does.  There's a rich, deep history there that can't be repeated.  They've seen me triumph and they've seen me mourn.  But it takes me being committed to making that relationship work despite the distance and despite the time between visits.  Commitment requires me to make those relationships a priority.

*Communication- Despite being raised very closely, we've lived much of our adult lives very far apart.  Some of us are even living very different lives from each other.  When we're together, I desire to have DEEP time.  Our time is short.  We don't have the luxury of being unintentional.  And sometimes that can cause misunderstandings as well.  Communication is key.

*Forgiveness- Sometimes communication fails and we just have to forgive.  Sometimes people let us down and we just have to let go.  Often times I stick my foot in my mouth and humility has to step in to ask for forgiveness.

*A Listening Heart- Beyond a listening ear, a listening heart really focuses on the humanity of family.  99% of the time, they aren't trying to hurt.  They just come from a different perspective or haven't found the right words to say.  A listening heart focuses on the person and not their words.

*Time- No matter how far apart we are, we have to find time.  Relationships take time.  So whether it's an email, a phone call, or a card, we have to find time to connect.  And face to face time will always pay off 10x more than anything other avenue.  It's just that important.  Where you put your time will show what you value.  Are you valuing these relationships?

Trust me when I say that the time and commitment you put into building strong family relationships will reward you far beyond your own expectations.  Extended family relationships give us and our children a legacy, a history, and a deep sense of community.  And if you don't have the relationships you desire, the change can begin today.  The change can start with you.  You can catch the vision for a stronger family relationships and reap a blessing like you've never known.

How do you build strong extended family relationships?
*Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading

1 comment:

nbrandusa said...

What an amazing post, every single word hit right at home! The older I get the more I realize how important my extended family is to me, and how much I appreciate them :)

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