The evening breeze blew balmy and soft. The day had been perfect. All was well. Copious fireworks had been detonated the previous day, and our bellies were full of burritos, fresh fruits, and veggies. Now we soaked in the hot tub.

Sitting around me, our two adolescent grandchildren and our two twenty-something children bantered. Our youngest two kids became an aunt and an uncle at the ripe old ages of five and nine. As I watched them all, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of what God had done.

I had always wanted a large family, but I had grown up in a quiet family of four. Therefore, in the beginning, large family dynamics eluded me and adjusting brought surprises and challenges. Juggling the needs of so many people stretched me. I didn’t always stretch graciously. There was always so much noise!

In the beginning I couldn’t see to the end of the week, let alone to the results the years would produce. There were beautiful consequences to having six children spread out over sixteen years that I had not foreseen. Sometimes I’m clueless.

The older children always loved, doted on, and counseled the younger children in our family. I always appreciated and admired the affection they showered on their younger siblings. Each of the younger ones was blessed with not only parents who adored them, but a whole crowd of loving older siblings.

And now, in turn, all the children love, dote on, and counsel the grandchildren. The familial affection carries across the generations. The most beautiful parts of our large family are these relationships.

Who knew? I could have called on my own experience as an oldest grandchild with doting young aunts and uncles. But it never occurred to me. Duh.

Rub-a-dub-dubCreative Commons License Steve Jurvetson via Compfight

So there sat two-generations of my progeny. I was practically invisible as they engaged in conversation and laughter. They have been friends since the birth of each grandchild. Now the teen grandchildren look to and admire their aunt and uncle. They are especially close.

Family is a beautiful thing. This generational effect took me by surprise.

Of course, it didn’t surprise Jesus.

“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest'” (Luke 9:46-49 NIV).

Welcoming and raising children, for us, has been a learning process of gradually ridding ourselves of ourselves. As teen-aged parents, we started out wanting to be the greatest. Bit by bit, year by year, the dynamics shifted. Decades of mistakes and God’s refining still do their work.

2013 Alberta Indoor Games Sangudo via Compfight

Thirty-seven years later, we want merely to love and to serve. Christlikeness grows. We want all of them to surpass us. We learn to be selfless. We bask now in the results of faltering but constant investment in our kids and in the hard work we’ve done to grow spiritually and personally. We pass the baton.

There are no perfect parents. And we definitely are not! That’s for sure! So on that warm summer night as we all enjoyed a hot-tub evening, I felt especially grateful for what God has done.

The affection between our kids and grandkids will remain. It’s all God’s grace. He seems to have trumped our many blunders with his abundant love. They move forward. When we’re gone, they’ll be fine.

The handoff has been successful.