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What love! part 1

July 17, 2018

There doesn’t seem to be a word in the English language that describes the way I define family.  Please don’t get me wrong, I love our genetically and by marriage connected family members, but God has shown me that the heart which once doubted how it could love a second child as much as it did the first is infinitely expandable.  I often get a lot of odd looks from people who don’t understand my concept of family.  When I speak of my “adopted” sons or my “grandchildren”, the perplexed eyebrows raise and the “What you talking about Willis?” faces emerge.  Although I would LOVE to formally adopt other children, to date I have never done so and none of my biological children have had babies either. Thus, my adoptions are God-ordained if not sanctioned by the state.

There have been many opportunities in my life to informally adopt new family members from sons to aunts and uncles and from grandbabies all the way up to grandparents.  This intertwining of hearts concept was all started way back in junior high when my family moved from Georgia to North Dakota.  After learning that one of the major disconcerting things about a cross-county move was the lack of grandparents, one of my dad’s basketball player’s grandmother took us under her wings and adopted us as her own.  She loved, cared for, and supported us all her days.  My biological grandmothers adored her and never felt like they were being replaced. In fact, one of them sat proudly next to her at our wedding in the pew reserved for grandparents.

Although I often write about the hardships and sadness of grief, I also have many opportunities to share openly about the power of hope and joy multiplied.  Just recently one of those precious moments revealed itself as I was bracing for one of my adopted son’s weddings.  Not long after the proposal, Damien and his sweet Cheyanne stopped by, asking our permission for Reed to be one of the groomsmen in the wedding.  How could we say no, especially not when the bride-to-be asked if they could have a copy of Reed’s picture when he caught a loose goat?  What is not to love about a girl who truly gets Reed’s love of animals?  No was never an option because Reed adored his friend and now brother.

reed and goat[867]

As the day approached, there was nothing but elation for the young couple, but there was a tinge of sadness knowing that while I believe he would be there in spirit, Reed’s viewing spot would be from heaven.  Being able to walk that delicate tightrope of grief and joy is something that we are becoming accustomed to doing, and for that weekend, we let love be our banner.

The rehearsal went smoothly, although I did shed tears when I tried to sit down to watch the practice and was summoned to the back of the church because you are being escorted in as one of my mom’s. I tried vehemently to protest, but both groom and his mom squashed my thoughts immediately. What love! Throughout the night, we felt cherished, honored and beloved as other extended family members would make sure that we were included in the festivities and conversations. We consider both sides of the groom’s family ours and that night we began to form bonds with the bride’s family as well.  The visiting and the food embodied what I feel heaven really is like, a gathering place for loved ones.

Every family has their issues, but on that night all of those issues were sat aside as we all gathered, celebrating that two hearts fell in love.  Yet, for me I walked away knowing that my family just grew larger because two boys became like brothers. Like I wrote in Reed’s birthday letter, God orchestrated not one, but two sons to fill some of the void his absence left behind. I can see that my definition of family might be confusing to others, and like my kids used to do when they were really little, I might have to invent a word to describe it.  For us, this created family is as real as our genetic ones. I really could give two figs if our novel way of approaching family is weird to others, because frankly, I think it makes Jesus smile.

And on that night as we drove home to rest up for the BIG DAY, all I could think was What love!

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