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One of the best things that ever happened to me was becoming a part of Carol’s family. At the time, that meant Carol and her three daughters. Her family is loving, inclusive, fun, energetic, accepting and engaging. They love games, food, birthdays, celebrations, holidays, vacations and just getting together for any reason whatsoever. I was captivated by the dynamics of Carol’s relationship with her daughters, and the amount of time they spent together. “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Prov. 31:27) Even to this day, Carol is almost completely available to them.

As the daughters got married and added grandchildren, the circle of family got wider but continued with the same dynamics. In time, it migrated from being Carol’s family to OUR family. Thirty two years later, our immediate family went from five to over twenty depending on the occasion. It has changed my life. It was Carol’s daughters that encouraged us to move from Wallingford to a cabin on Lake Sammamish. It was Carol’s daughters that encouraged us to go to Family Camp at Cascades Camp. The four of them plan our annual family vacation each year to interesting and fun places. It was Carol’s daughters that made me a grandpa who would take the grandkids on “expeditions.”

As with any family, we have sayings and expressions we hold dear. Here are some:

- The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.

- My family is a circus without the tent.

- Remember, as far as anyone knows we’re a nice, normal family.

- I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

- What happens at Grandma’s, stays at Grandma’s.

- Life is not a matter of counting years, but a matter of making years count.

- Raising teenagers is as easy as nailing jello to the wall.

- Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget.

- Sooner or later we all quote our mothers.

- Angels can’t be everywhere, so God made grandmas.

- My greatest blessings call me Mom.

- Family: grateful, thankful, blessed.

And my personal favorite:

- “If I break it, Grandpa will fix it. If he can’t fix it, he’ll buy me a new one.”

A big part of our family dynamics is living on Lake Sammamish. I am fully aware that our waterfront is a grandkid magnet. Even buying the least expensive cabin on the lake at the time was a big stretch for us. And the old cabin was a big step down from what we had in Wallingford. But it was worth it. (We could never have afforded it today.) All our family and especially our grandkids have unforgettable memories of Grandma and Grandpa on the lake. My greatest joy is making this a fun place for them to come. When we first moved to the lake, I remember talking to a friend about boating and a dock. She said, “if you build it, they will come.” So the first thing I did, even before working on the house, was rebuild the docks and install a boat lift. They did come, and I have not looked back. When the grandkids mention how nice it would be to have a certain water toy, I melt. I am such an easy touch. What an amazing time with an amazing family!

But that wasn’t my immediate family growing up. The family I grew up in was quiet, insular, and almost introverted. We almost never had anyone over for a visit or a meal. I remember my parents being critical of others. They did not show much affection to me or to each other. I felt invisible and unworthy. We seldom played games. We did not celebrate birthdays or holidays. I walked on eggshells around my parents. I usually did not feel “good enough” around them. While we did go on vacations as a family, they were often part of a trip to relatives in California or North Carolina.

Any get-togethers we had almost always centered around my grandmother. I loved going to Grandma’s house. It was fun! She loved having the whole family over which included twelve grandchildren. Being with Carol and her (our) family reminds me of how I felt with my grandmother: loved. She taught me unconditional love, the kind we know best in our Lord Jesus.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, not any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
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