My mother mailed me this photograph the other day. I grew up in a house with two parents and five siblings. When I was young our family of eight was the “perfect” family. Perfection looks different, depending on what you’re looking at. This is part of my American family:
Front: Mitchell, Whitney, Avalon
Back: Jonathan, Alaska, Phil, Cheryl, Richard
My mother (Cheryl) is divorced from my father. My sister (Whitney) is a single mom. My nephew (Mitchell) doesn’t have a dad. My brother (Phil) is a widower. His four children (Richard, Alaska, Jon, and Avalon) only have the memories of their mother. These three different parts of my family have all become one family. My brother is off to work at 4:00 in the morning. He’d prefer to just stay in bed and pull the covers over his head, but he gets up every day, and does what needs to be done for his family. My sister Whitney is off to work next. She has dreams that are on hold. My mom gets all the kids fed and monitors their homeschooling. My mom would love to be enjoying her golden years doing what she wants to do, and just being a grandma, but instead she does what her family needs her to do, willingly and with joy. Mitchell is too young for regular school, but wants to learn so much, that she includes him in the other kids’ studies, teaching him basic things. He is learning his letters. She does all the things a stay-at-home mom would do. She’s tired most of the time, but takes care of things day after day. Phil gets home from work midday and goes over the homeschooling work with the kids. Alaska and Richard take weekly turns tutoring Jonathan and Avalon. They all eat dinner together at a big table, just like my “perfect” family used to do. Before heading to bed, Phil puts together the kids’ lessons for the next day. My mom lives in a studio apartment behind the big house. After his wife died, Phil invited Whitney and her son to live with him and his four children. The house is full. Mitchell calls Phil’s four children his kids. (When separated from them for any period of time, he wants to know where they are….”Where are my kids. I miss my kids”). Phil has bunk beds in his room. He shares his space with his sons. Whitney and Mitchell share a room, and the girls share a room. Surprisingly, there is harmony most of the time. And lots of laughter.
It’s an American family, this new family of eight. My American family. I am so proud of all of them. Life has given them a few too many lemons. But they are busy making lemonade. They aren’t just surviving, they are thriving.
God has blessed my family. And through them, He blesses me.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.