How do you describe the ‘texture’ of a thing? Think of your favourite woolly jumper, or that new scarf, or the blanket you bought for that new baby… you’re going to start to talk about how it feels when you put it on, when you hold it, when you touch it. And we’ve all heard of someone who has ‘texture issues’ with certain foods. Maybe risotto is too ‘mushy’, or casseroles are too ‘sloppy’, or lasagne is too much like ‘pasta cake’ (my brother in law! True story!). They just don’t like the feel of it when they try it out. So what is the texture of your extended family? Let’s tap into what God’s design for extended family is all about: “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5) We are adopted into HIS extended family!! So when we gather with our church family, or our Oikos (extended, unrelated) family, what does it feel like when you put it on? When you try it out, taste it, experience it – what is it like? Some observations we have made after a few years of this texture developing in our own Oikos family… The generations are valued, encouraged and supported. There’s always a few spare arms to cuddle a baby – there’s no need for them to juggle things on their own. There are extra eyes and ears on a toddler who likes to run off. And there’s a reassuring hand to hold for the pre-schooler who isn’t sure what to do. Teens are championed. Parents are reassured. Conversations are enjoyed between all manner of ‘unlikely’ groups of people. Our daughters have grown up around not just their own age, or even just around other people our age as their parents. They are quite happy to sit and chat football, school and studying, their future, fashion, books, current affairs, real estate, politics… all with people who might be 10 to 20 years older than them. And then they’ll play with their young children (or their dog!) as well, as they engage with the next generation themselves. It’s not uncommon for them to remark “I really like talking with [insert name of any number of 20 and 30-something year old men and women].” What a gift to be surrounded by people who can see beyond their own stage of life and make time to engage with another generation. There’s a sense of sharing that happens. Meals turn into feasts, where everyone is a contributor. Kitchen cupboards become familiar to those who don’t live with them (“I’m just making a salad dressing with some things I found in your fridge!” is not uncommon to hear!). Moving days become a convoy of cars, vans and willing hands that are noticed by the neighbours! An imminent real estate listing becomes an opportunity for a working bee or a ‘backyard blitz’. A new baby results in a freezer full of home cooked meals to sustain a weary family. A newcomer to the extended family is introduced by one, but welcomed and embraced by many. A new life stage, or a move, or a call to ‘go’ prompts a time of prayer, release and a shared celebration. Unlike a meal or an item of clothing, the texture within an extended family evolves over time. But know this – every single person makes the difference. What part do you play in your extended family? How can you be a contributor? What generation can you impart into? There’s something to be said for one of our favourite phrases ‘Start as you wish to continue’, and for being intentional. But you can’t manufacture the bonds that develop, the shared experiences, and the God moments along the way. You just have to commit to the long haul, make the investment of time and prayer, and enjoy the journey!