The Nieces and Nephews Grow Up

With my nephew Brennan, prior to his wedding

I know people think it is easy to be a niece or nephew of mine, but let’s face it….I quite often say what I think when I think it, and sometimes that can be quite annoying. I really try not to harp on such things, however, and I hope the adoration comes through stronger than any criticism. My hope is that they grow up understanding a bit about agape love, and in my bumbling and imperfect way I am one of their teachers. For those of you that aren’t familiar with agape, that’s the kind of love God shows. My personal translation for it is “I love you even though I know you.” I’m not pretending that I know all of the facets of each of these interesting creatures who are my nieces and nephews, or that I always like all of the aspects that I do know, but still….I love them purely and devotedly.

My niece Maggie and nephews Brennan and John

As their aunt I have prayed their whole lives that they would grow up to be happy, kind, productive people who make good choices for themselves and build a good life. I cringe when they make poor decisions and I pray harder. Then I sit back and trust that God will continue to pursue them and they will listen to His voice. I will watch and see them changed. In the meantime, I love them completely as they are now.

My nieces Addison and Taylor

It’s really not difficult. Each, for the balance, has always treated me with much love and respect. While at times I am certainly an indulgent aunt, I have demanded that respect over the years. The great thing about being an aunt is that I don’t have to hang out with bratty children. OK, at times when I would babysit, it would not be an option to return them because of my commitment to their parents, but in Aunt Kim’s world, fun and respect go hand in hand. It was my job to get that point across to them early….and they have all learned that lesson well.

When they hit a milestone in life, it excites me. I love seeing their lives progress. We saw a great milestone this weekend… nephew Brennan got married.

My sister Deryn, MOG

Brennan is the son of my beloved sister Deryn and my amazing brother-in-law Darrell. I’ve loved watching them raise their children. It was with a lot of love, firm discipline, and a ton of involvement from both of them. They partnered on the raising. Both were very hands on. My sister inherited our mother’s eyes in the back of her head, but I think she took it to new levels. Spenser (their daughter) and Brennan couldn’t do much that she didn’t know about. Sometimes she told  them what she knew, sometimes she and Darrell would keep it to themselves and just watch for a while. Stealth parenting. It worked. Spenser and Brennan are productive citizens, capable of supporting themselves. They are kind and giving. I remember Deryn making me promise not to pay them for doing chores for me as they were growing up. “They need to learn that money is not tied to every job,” she said “and you need to help your family.” I don’t think it is an accident that they are both hard workers, who are willing to help others.

BIL Darrell and his babies

Yesterday my nephew Brennan married Laura Sharpe. There was a display of pictures of the at the reception, showing them each growing up. They had many common experiences. They both come from similar types of families. Libby, Laura’s mom, has raised Laura with many of the same values with which Brennan was raised. As Laura fit in with our family, Libby and her family did, too. It was a good melding.

Laura and two of her best role models

I love that Brennan picked a woman that is not only beautiful and sweet, but also spunky, smart, and self-confident. I think they will encourage each other to good things and they will change the world together better than they could on their own.

Laura and her grandmother in “their” wedding dress (center).

The wedding was beautiful and a true mix of tradition and a few modern twists. For example, Laura wore her grandmother’s wedding dress, that she loved from the time she was a little girl. Her grandmother (an amazing seamstress), altered it for her, adding a few twists (like a flash of Laura’s signature pink) that made it her own. Laura added her own hot pink stilettos. Her engagement ring was made from a diamond Laura’s late daddy gave her mom, along with the pink sapphires from a pair of earrings Brennan had given Laura. Her something blue was a blue opal necklace, which had belonged to her paternal grandmother and was worn by Laura’s mom Libby on her wedding day. Her something borrowed was a bracelet from my mom, Brennan’s Nana. The sixpence in her shoe also was a nod to my mom’s Welsh heritage.

My nephew Cross, the MOG’s escort

Brennan carried a handkerchief carried by his dad on his wedding day, wore a tie pin from my dad (Grandpa McKinney) and carried Laura’s dad’s pocket watch.

The surviving grandparents (both are the maternal ones) represent over one hundred years of marriage. In a twist on the old ceremony, instead of giving away the bride, the pastor asked the grandparents’ blessing on the marriage. This was the “we do” part of the wedding, and my 9-year old nephew Cross (who escorted in the mother-of-the-groom), joined the grandparents with a re-sounding “we do.” I think perhaps he represented the other grandparents that were no longer with us, especially Brennan’s much loved grandmother Novella Cass. It just didn’t seem right that she was not around to share the day, but I suspect all of the loved ones were watching from the heavenly realms and joining in the blessings. (I had threatened to stand up at that point of the ceremony and lead another congregational blessing, tossing pink glitter everywhere. I didn’t though….no time to get the glitter.)

As the bride comes down the aisle

And so vows were said, and the rain completely held off so that the reception could go on outside at Libby’s house, and the atmosphere was relaxed and fun. Joy was in abundance. Somehow in Brennan’s life I did not impart one lesson well…..I was a bit shocked and horrified (yeah, that is what you call “a gross exaggeration”!) they chose to delay a honeymoon and they will both be at work Monday morning at Lake Norman Pool & Spa. Because it is pool season, and they have responsibilities. They said “Later on, maybe we will go to the beach.” Yep….one if those things Aunt Kim does not understand. But I love them even though they don’t do it the way I would do it! And perhaps there is something to be said when a young couple starts marriage more excited about being together in the real day-to-day world, rather than prolonging the fantasy.

With my new niece

Since I didn’t get to do my pink glitter blessing in the church, I will instead do it here. “Brennan and Laura, I pray that you will not only love each other, but that you will cherish each other. I pray that you will continue to hold dear family and tradition, but yet add your own twists along the way. I pray that you will be a joy to each other and to the world. I pray that you will be willing to do the hard things when they are the right things, that you will be willing to work hard for what you have, and that who you are when no one is looking is the same person as you are when visible to all. And through it all, may you see the hand of God extended, and not be afraid to grab it and hang on.”

Niece Sara and husband Brian

Niece Rachel and husband Kevin

I wish the same for you, my other nieces and nephews…. and my godchildren, family, and friends (and any strangers who may read this.) May your relationships all be the kind that make you better than you would be by yourself. You are precious gifts, fearfully and wonderfully made. Don’t ever forget what love really is…..and settle for less. Remember if these qualities are not in abundance and growing, it is not really love, but merely a cheap imitation. Learn to discern the difference. Work for agape love. Know it doesn’t usually come naturally. It really requires going against our selfish natures. If you’re noticing what your partner or spouse or friend or family member is doing wrong, more than you are noticing your own behavior in that relationship, you’re probably not doing it well. But if you are willing to do the work, in the end, it is worth it. The result is a world of pink glitter floating down to cover you. Metaphorically speaking.

Love is patient,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(I)”> love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(J)”> It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(K)”> it is not easily angered,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(L)”> it keeps no record of wrongs.<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(M)”> Love does not delight in evil<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(N)”> but rejoices with the truth.<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(O)”> It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13: 4-7
But it took a lot of work!

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