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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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Twelve Principles for Binding Broken Family Ties

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Many family historians happen upon situations in genealogy research where we face strained family relationships that were either brought about before our time or that we witnessed personally. I truly believe through our labors of love we have the power to mend broken fences and bind our loved ones to us.  This post includes 12 principles that help to mend family ties, but I want to set the stage which inspired me to share what I have learned.


The more our desires and words we speak in faith are in line with what is truly best for us the sooner we see them made manifest in our lives.  The night before Thanksgiving, I was so tired and stressed as I worked unto the early morning preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  I had been sick several days and was still trying to recover.  At 3 AM I remember saying to myself, "I am NOT doing this for Christmas."

I did not mention this to anyone, but Someone was listening.  Everything fell into place like clockwork the next day after my brother asked us to come up.  My daughter was able to take the week of Christmas off from two jobs. That in itself was a miracle.

We used to all get together at Christmas at my house up to the time we moved away to South Carolina in 2005.  Our whole family had not been together on Christmas since 2004.  It was hard to miss out on visiting my close friends this time, but I knew it was more important to spend time with my family.  I love them all so much.

I was inspired after listening to our Christmas Devotional about giving a gifts of eternal value.  It was hard to resist the desire to purchase and wrap gifts to give, but I found my brother wanting to teach the same lesson.  As it turned out, none of us focused on purchasing gifts.  We all gave away our time to each other for almost a full week.  My brother did this even though he had to get up to leave his house at 4:30 AM on some days, and  he and my sister cooked all the meals that we ate at his house.

Gifts Eternal in Nature

My heart was overwhelmed as I watched a Christmas miracle unfold.  My brother inviting us up to spend Christmas with him in Chicago opened the door to something that I wanted to see happen in my lifetime.  I grew up in a household with a father and mother, and my heart goes out to children who grow up without that. I feel their pain.  That is why life has not seemed complete for me knowing that my husband had children that grew up without him.

My job has not been to be the judge and jury but to do my part to make sure I was not standing in the way of a reconciliation that needed to take place.  We are all imperfect people, and we need people in our lives to help us progress.  My husband has never neglected to point out ways that I can improve, and I have appreciated that.

What Grace

What can I give Him,
  Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart.
By Christina Rossetti
 from The Real Joy of Christmas

I know there are people in this world that never seize the opportunity to forgive or repent leaving and even dying and never mending the rifts in the family.  I have watched television shows where a mediator reintroduces family members and they reconnect, but I can tell you that even though much work probably still lies ahead, the reunion of my husband and the children who were able to make it to see him last week after more than 20 years could not have been more loving and gracious.

They needed no outside help.  They brought some of my extended family to tears.  They literally wept as we witnessed my daughter forcefully embrace her older siblings for the first time.  This was one of the most sacred events I have witnessed.  I could not help but think that they were together long ago in their pre-earth life and somehow could not come down to the same parents in this life. I had watched my daughter for years as she searched them out and connected with them online as if her life depended on it. Words cannot describe the moment her efforts to meet them in person finally paid off.  I know she has fulfilled one of the great purposes of her life. I cannot help but to be proud that she has applied great skill and has had the greatest genealogical find.

This story of reconnecting will be told, but it will not be told by me.  If you want to learn the details and see video footage, you will need to subscribe to the Kathy McClure Show on YouTube.

I know many of us have erased the terms, "step," and "in law" from our vocabulary. I for one love each of the children whose DNA courses through the veins of my daughter and husband.   They are only an extension of those whom I hold dear.  These are the emotions inspired by my genealogy journey.  After all, what worth would all my efforts be if I did not apply the true purpose:  To identify family and bind them to us?

Twelve Principles for Binding Broken Family Ties

"Amazing grace!
How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see."

"Amazing Grace is one of the most recognizable Christian hymns in the English-speaking world. The text by English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725–1807) was first published in 1779. The words describe in first person the move of a "wretch" from a "lost" to a "found" state by a merciful act of God." See Amazing Grace.

I am hoping anyone who has a rift or division in their family will be inspired to move further down the path toward unity and love above all else.  For African American families, we spent centuries being separated by forces beyond our control.  Will we now not do all within our power to seek out and reconnect to the living?  I myself have been inspired to share some of the principles that brought our family together:

Twelve Principles for Binding Broken Family Ties

  1. Work to feel forgiveness always.  Do not take offense.  Do not hold a grudge.  
  2. No one in your family is perfect, not even you.  Search for the good in them. Treat them according to the potential they have for good; Then, they may surprise you.
  3. Follow true principles. Be positive.  Do not expose your family to things that will harm them spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Do not encourage wrongdoing. Lovingly take a stand.
  4. If you have family members that you do not communicate with, bury your hatchet and decide that you will find a way to reach out to them consistently in a loving and sincere way. Never give up on them.
  5. Spending time is more valuable than spending money. Always put your family before friends or outside activities. 
  6. Block out more than one evening for family gatherings allowing family members who work to have a chance to see everyone.  Make sure no one is left out. Provide ample time for family members to sit and visit, but be mindful of the younger ones who may want a recreational activity. Wherever possible, plan to include each side of the family.
  7. Do not participate in gossip about any family member, direct your conversation toward ways you can help them.  Never take sides. 
  8. Do not show favoritism among family members. 
  9. Find out the best way to communicate and keep in touch (post mail, e-mail, telephone, social media).
  10. Give family members even time to talk about themselves, what they are up to, and the things they like to do.
  11. Say you are sorry, and really mean it. Work hard to make amends if possible.  Remember forgiveness might take time. Be prayerful.
  12.  Search for meaningful ways that you can help a family member realize a goal or personal pursuit.  Support and encourage them by listening attentively.
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