A friend posted a question on Facebook today about family... I think the question was, "Do you know your family?"
The branches of my family tree are pretty split and fractured. It goes way back. I was adopted by my step father, my birth father was adopted by his step father and my birth father's birth father was adopted by neighbors when his parents gave him away. By my count, that is four generations of estrangement and abandonment. Sadly, that is only a small part of the brokenness in my family.
Today, if I'm defining family by DNA relations, my family is pretty small. I even have a brother that I have never met; in fact, he probably does not even know I exist (he's my birth father's younger child, whom my birth father left on the child's 5th birthday).
After all these years, my heart aches as I write this. How can parents leave their kids so easily? Although I have been left repeatedly, I cannot answer that. As a mom, I cannot fathom it.
There has been substantial loss in my life, but the blessings are so great that I sometimes forget about the losses. Bryan and the boys give me more than I could ever have asked for or imagined. Through my relationships with them, so many wounds have been healed. The Shrader family as a whole has been very good to me, which has also been life-giving. As Bryan and I began to get more connected in our church, we discovered a body of Christ that soon became like family to us. And as I developed meaningful friendships inside and outside of the church, I found myself surrounded by even more dear "family" members.
I think family is what you make of it... More accurately, I think family is what God gives us, if only we would recognize and cherish it. It was never his design or plan for things to happen in my birth family the way that they did, but everyday was marked before it happened, so He knew what lie ahead for each of us. He planted people in my life (and no doubt the lives of my parents and other family members) who would love me and become like family, but it was up to me to recognize it, hold on to it, and nurture it.
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families." Psalm 68:5-6a
For many years I was very, very lonely. Without my knowledge or consent, God placed me in a family with Bryan. Our union was different from any other that I'd ever experienced. I knew it was family. Forever. As I embraced my forever with Bryan, it became easier to embrace a meaningful relationship with Christ. Out of that faith - in my marriage, in humanity and in Christ - our family grew by leaps and bounds!
I am not estranged from my entire family. I am in touch with a few cousins, all of my aunts and my dear brother. It's just that the loss of my parents (mom, birth father, adopted father), grandparents (birth father's side), and my younger sister have left a hole in me that I thought could never be filled; a pain that I thought could never even be lessened, let alone healed. Bryan and the kids, my in-laws and our amazing friends are not replacements for those that I have lost.... But these loved ones absolutely bless me and provide a happiness and contentment that I never knew was possible. I am generally not short on words, but they fail me when I try to express my gratitude to the Lord for this provision. He is a father to the fatherless. He sets the lonely in families. How great is our God.