Family. 15 years ago I would have given you one definition; a husband and a wife loving their kids with the support of their parents. 10 years ago I would have given you another definition as I prayed for a step family that would merely take care of my boys when they had to be with them. Today, I have yet another definition and it exceeds any prayer I have ever prayed.
When Richard and I joined families we navigated the muddy waters of a blended family. Neither of us grew up from a blended family and certainly had no plans of raising our children in a blended family, but here we are. As the years have gone by the days get easier, but what we have found is that it wasn't just he and I in this blended family dynamic. We saw his late wife's parents join in on loving my boys and both Richard's parents and my parents take all 5 kids in as their own. Then my ex-husband remarried and we watched his new wife become part of our family and her own family started to integrate with us and now, they too claim us all as their own.
As I started looking at our family and how the Lord was creating something so different and special I felt like He said to capture it in a picture. I love photography and my home is filled with prints, so this didn't strike me as odd, but I heard Him say to make the picture a visual representation of unity. No family unit pods, like I've seen in some large group photos, but rather everyone intermingled, so that no lines could be drawn for separation. As I look back over the images I see a group of people all with one common goal; loving others well. We all have been adopted into the family of Christ and our earthly family is such a wonderful depiction of that. Each one in this picture has adopted another in this picture without reservation; whether it be a parent/child relationship or grandparent/grandchild or brother/sister or aunt and uncle/niece and nephew or the in-law dynamic. We all have opened our hearts and let the Lord do something that we could not have created on our own.
From time to time I'm tempted to grieve the family I never got to experience from my prayers 15 years ago, but then I look at what I have and can't help but to think that what I have now is so much richer than anything I thought I wanted so long ago. Going through the fire really does refine everything into something so precious that I would not trade for the world! At any point in all of our stories, we could have let bitterness overtake us or have thrown up walls to one another or let anger win, but we didn't. All 27 of us...we didn't! It truly is a work of God and I pray that if you are in a hard season that you will know and take comfort in the fact that God will make it all good for His glory if we posture our hearts correctly. So take courage and be expectant for something that just might surpass your wildest dreams!