What I've Learned from My Family

We were on a porch at the rented condo and the breeze was blowing just right. We were sitting around the small balcony table sipping coffee, watching an island that hadn’t quite woken up yet. My mom got on a tangent about the importance of family, and I was half-listening, watching her passion instead of listening to the words because I already knew its importance.

My family is a misfit band of rebels and righteous, of country and city, of tattoos and rednecks, poets and prophets, teachers and leaders and preachers. We are a mix of sweet and sassy and Spirit-filled and radicals bathed in redemption. We get together on holidays and summer vacations and loudly discuss politics and jobs and Jesus. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes there is so much laughter that my face hurts from smiling too long; we look around the room and wipe our watery eyes and try to stop the waves of laughter for the sake of our aching bellies filled with too much food.

I am fortunate enough to still have all of my grandparents, and to know and love each of them uniquely. I got my blue eyes and love of learning and literature from them. They are some of the most encouraging, thoughtful, and strongest people I know. They are stubborn and sincere, teaching mercy and grace with each step. Above all, they are the hands and feet of Jesus, loving and serving and proclaiming the gospel with their lives.

My mom is this crazy, kickboxing, smart-mouthing, small-stature of a woman who knows what she wants and goes and does it. She gave me her freckles, her style, and her sweet tooth. She instilled in me a passion for creating, for loving without borders or agendas, for authenticity in a world of plastic. She taught me that if you play it right, your husband can do all the cooking and that things get better with age.

My dad is usually talking, making jokes full of wit and sarcasm and cleverness. He gave me his big, dark eyebrows and his confident sense of right and wrong. He serves well and works hard and plays racquetball every day. He taught me the importance of putting others before yourself, to never make excuses, and how to shoot a gun.

For seven years I was an only child and then I became a big sister. Isabelle was the baby on both sides and everyone’s favorite, but I didn’t mind so much because she was my favorite too. I thought she was cute and cuddly and mischievous and I didn’t know I could love a little babbling person so much. She would twist her tiny finger around her dark strands of hair until her head was full of knots, hair wild and untamed just like her spirit. Now she is this beautiful, confident girl, with my dad’s sense of humor and stubbornness and my mom’s determination, about to graduate high school and make big, life-changing decisions. Even though in my mind she’s still that little girl with the wild, knotty hair.  

My husband is this loud, loving, kind-hearted person who loves Jesus and me and football, most likely in that order. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and can put me in a better mood just by walking into a room. He sends me photos of adorable puppies on a regular basis and is generally more thoughtful than I will ever be; he challenges me and takes care of me. Plus he’s totally cute. Living life with him is more fun.

When I got married, I gained this whole other family. They are much different than my own, but just as loving. They are kind and sacrificial and they treated me as one of their own from the very start. Now I have all of these families and I complain about splitting time on holidays and vacations and jumping from one Thanksgiving meal to the next, but to be honest I am just blessed with all of these people God has placed in my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

These are my people. These crazy people are my home.

When things start to get serious, I imagine us as our own little war tribe painting our faces for battle. And I know that throughout the states we are breaths of prayer rising up, each going to the throne for mercy, for healing, for His glory to be made known through the trials. Across state lines and across streets, we are inextricably linked, forever banding together in our own peculiar ways. And isn’t that all we ever need to ask from our tribe?

I know that I am one of the lucky ones here, that not everyone has a loving, caring family surrounding them, and my heart breaks at the thought. Lord knows that my family isn’t perfect, that we have infinite issues and problems. But I hate that disagreements and mistakes and sin start to chip away at that rock that is family. I hate that the divorce rate goes up every day and families are being torn apart and tossed aside like an old pair of boots you had in the closet but never wore.

In an ever-changing, fast-paced, disposable world, I think there’s something to say about those that stick together. I think there’s something to say about the cultivation and protection of marriage, about forgiveness and the leaving behind of bitterness, about the kindling of relationships amidst the growing and transforming year after year.  

I think we should notice the way our family members love one another or hurt one another or how they just keep showing up despite busy schedules and fighting traffic and fitful toddlers.  I think we should notice the efforts made and efforts ignored, so that we can follow suit or set a precedent for change.

And this is not a call of guilt but of action, not to dwell on the past but to look to the future. May we find restoration, may we find a place of protecting and defending our families, for all of the ones now and all of the generations to come. May we fight for our tribes full of heart, with grit and determination and love.  

I know I could do better, fight harder, love deeper.