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by Phil Ware

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    I am my own cousin.

    Yep, you heard me right about that.

    Nope, I’m not from the hills of ____ (place the name of your own least-liked state in the blank). How I got to be my own cousin is a tale of grace about a special kind of romance.

    After a ten-year struggle with declining health, my father passed away over 22 years ago. It was hard for my two brothers and me. It was an unbelievably hard road for my mother. She had to watch her husband slowly die while taking on the huge responsibility of shepherding three boys through their teenage years with little or no help. About two years after my dad’s death, the sparkle began to come back into my mother’s eyes. She hadn’t gone looking for it, but because our lives have always been centered in faith and in our spiritual family, God brought a man into our lives. Not just any man, God brought us Grady — godly, servant-hearted, a man of prayer and action. Grady had lost his wife Nell to cancer. God had found a way to get Grady and my mom, Margaret, together.

    We had known Grady and his four kids for many years. While we hadn’t been especially close, we had strong ties to the Jolly clan that went back nearly twenty years. We had gone to church together. In fact, my dad and Grady’s oldest son had taught my 8th grade Bible class many years earlier. When we were in college, my wife Donna worked with Grady in the bus ministry at church. One of Grady’s sons, Don, had been a friend of mine since middle school. So twenty years ago on February 12, we had a Valentine wedding. Margaret Phillips Ware married Grady B. Jolly. All of their children, along with their children’s spouses and their grandchildren, stood up front as wedding attendants. I’m sure anyone watching us closely got seasick because of the unceasing motion of our little ones.

    Nearly everyone was thrilled for Margaret and Grady. We were thrilled that our children would be blessed with two sets of godly grandparents. Since that day, our lives have been intertwined with the Jolly “Farm” just outside of Abilene, Texas and the love that emanated from that special place. Our kids have been there every summer to stay with MiMi and Grandfather. Many of the grandkids still come by “hang out” there with their grandparents on Sunday now that they are in college.

    Not everyone, however, was immediately thrilled with this arrangement. My dad’s mom and dad took losing their son very hard. It was especially hard for my dad’s mom, whom we called Granny. Granny’s husband died shortly after my father did. Likewise, Grady’s father-in-law, who we called Pap-paw, was not exactly thrilled about the arrangement at first either, especially since he had lost his wife to death as well. It wasn’t long, however, till we had another wedding on our hands. Pap-paw and Granny started “dating” and ended up getting married. Yep, you got that right, my grandmother on my father’s side ended up marrying my stepfather’s father. This little twist in the family tree thus made all of us our own cousins — although I’m not sure there really is an adequate term for the relationship!

    Now why go to all this trouble to drag you down a confusing path in our genealogy? Well, two reasons, really.

We thank God for them and for bringing them together.
    First, I want to wish Margaret and Grady a happy 20th anniversary. While they won’t make their golden anniversary without some special extraordinary and humorous twist of grace, their marriage is golden. Their marriage has been a blessing to all of us in the family. They are people of faith who have reinforced our values to our children. They have brought incredible gifts into the lives of all of our children. They have loved all of us with an undying and sacrificial love. We thank God for them and for bringing them together.

    Second, I want to remind us all of a different kind of romance. This is the romance of grace that God wants to share with us. This romance is really the foundation for any other true romance. The love that Margaret and Grady share, the love that has been poured into our families, is a gift of God’s grace. The blessings of cousins and of a big family have been ours because of our romance with the Lord, his people, and his character. I am my own cousin, not because of some crazy quirk in the family tree, but because of the love and faithfulness of a Father who has poured his grace out on us in ways we don’t deserve and never could have imagined. Each year, Valentine’s Day is so special because it is that yearly reminder of the Father’s love that has given us such a wonderful family.

    This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that special person you love. No matter how you feel about the holiday, your loved one needs to know how special they are to you. At the same time, it is even more important that you don’t neglect the special kind of romance that God longs to share with you. Let’s this secular holiday remind you of his undying and unquenchable love for you and renew your commitment to show your love for him in return.

This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:10)

 
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      Title: ""
      Author: Phil Ware
      Publication Date: February 14, 2003


 
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