Mom had sounded the alert last week: my Aunt Jeannine and Uncle Bob would be coming through North Dakota from Texas in the coming days.
When it comes to extended family, in my mind, everything gets set aside. The older I get, the more precious family becomes. And since losing our father, my sister and I have become more endeared than ever to the pieces of him we find through his siblings, cousins and others who have played a role in his life.
So I was thrilled to learn Jeannine, his baby sister, youngest of the nine siblings, would be shooting through town with her sweet husband Bob. But the week filled up quickly and I didn’t get in touch until midweek, just a few days before they were to arrive.
“We’re in Great Falls,” Uncle Bob said. By the time I got my aunt on the line, she was wondering if there was a way to arrange a meeting place for whatever family I could gather in a matter of days. “We’ll be there Sunday. Would brunch work?”
With the help of another local relative, I was able to do some quick brainstorming, and by Friday, we had a game plan. We would reserve one of the club rooms of a local hotel and do what we could to reach people last-minute and hope to fill the room with a handful or more relatives.
One call led to another, and soon, we had more prospects than we’d even expected. A wedding in town meant that some of the cousins from as far away as California just happened to be around.
In the end, the club room was bursting at the seams with young old and middles, which seemed something of a miracle to me, given the amount of time we had to pull this off. People are busy, after all, and I just wouldn’t have expected we could get this lucky!
I’m not going to discount the possibility that the Holy Spirit was working overtime to make these connections happen.
Just a day before the event, I was talking by phone to several cousins I’d heard of in name only, and maybe met at some reunion years ago; people my father had known better in another time. Some of them have read my column and kept in touch that way. But I had not been the beneficiary in reverse.
So Sunday morning, my youngest two boys and I joined this group for a breakfast buffet, and I came away feeling warmed to the core over this last-minute opportunity.
I caught up with my aunt, then had some of the loveliest conversations with cousins and cousins-once-removed and other relatives I have not had the pleasure of knowing well. A few of us agreed to stay connected through Facebook.
Once again, God has blown me away. Just when I think I’m settled in the friends who surround me, and in all the beautiful relationships in my life, He surprises me by sending a few more my way recently. Some have been new friendships that hold promise of new life, while others are connections with those who are tied to me by blood and bring me closer to my father.
People matter. Relationships are life. Family love is beautiful.
Thank you, God!
Q4U: How did God surprise you recently?