Families

Before I write this note about other people’s moms, let me first say of my own- She was not the perfect mom.  But I am not either.  And there is grace and forgiveness for both of us.  And there is not a scale to measure whether one of us needs it more or less than the other.  There is grace and forgiveness and there is redemption and that is more than enough.  Also something I am only just gaining some perspective on- she is not solely responsible for every awful thing that happened to me in my childhood.  And neither am I.  And her bad decisions were not made as a result of my unworthiness as a daughter.  And my bad decisions are not her responsibility. 

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All that being said, my childhood was sort of riddled with neglect and abuse of all kinds.  It could have been worse sure, but it wasn’t pretty.  One of the (many, many) coping mechanisms I used to make it through was to count down the years, months, weeks and days until my eighteenth birthday.  Freedom.  I remember thinking when I was about ten years old, how insanely far off my eighteenth birthday seemed.  And then I only made it to fifteen. 

(This is why I am the “Phoebe Buffay” of my Friends.)  My mom’s crazy boyfriend had kicked us out again and we landed on a mattress in her dealer’s garage.  No kidding.  I won’t go into details about it, suffice it to say, it was beyond terrible.  Fast forward a few weeks and we’re unpacking our backpacks in a homeless shelter.  And then I was totally done.  I moved in with a friend and then I kind of moved from one house to another, staying wherever I could with whoever would have me.  The miracle- someone always had me. 

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For about three years I was taken in by one family after another.  And that’s such an incredible thing to me.  I sat at so many different dinner tables.  Not one night did my head go without a pillow to rest on.  Amazing.  I know from experience, fifteen year old girls are not the most pleasant people in the world, especially fifteen year old girls with very messy lives.  But so many times open arms welcomed me, bought me new toothbrushes and socks, gave me a list of chores, asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and hugged my sad little angst filled self. 

I know now that my mom’s mothering was not a reflection of my worthiness, but when I was fifteen I honestly thought she didn’t love me because I wasn’t lovable.  But God stepped in.  He put people in my life.  His hand is all over that whole period of my childhood.  Over and over with words, and smiles, and gifts, and time, and really just a place to sleep, I was shown love.  I thought I was just a screwed up, homeless, teenage girl who just had the misfortune of being born unlovable and time after time, people stepped in and disputed that lie, offered hope and brought redemption, big and small to my bruised and tattered soul.  

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The holidays are such a good reminder for me of how God brought me through that time.  His Love shines so bright in the faces of families who welcome me.  This Thanksgiving, like every one before it all the way back to when I was fifteen, was spent with a so-much-more-than-sweet family who invited me to their home.  This Thanksgiving, like many before it, was filled with gratefulness for the spectacularly amazing group of people that God has surrounded me with.  To sit at a table with somebody else’s aunts and uncles, to pass the salt to somebody’s dad, to hold the new nephew, to be a part of the laughter and love that families share this time of year, not because I was born into the family, but because I was welcomed into a family, that is truly, truly, the best gift ever. 

And so, to the Falcones, the Sittlers, the Kelleys, to Janie, the Blinns, the Harbaughs, the Thomases, the Tedescos, the Fosters, the Houstons and every other person or family that has offered anywhere from a hug to a home- you have no idea what it means to me. Thank you, a thousand thank yous, with every bit of me, from the toes up- thank you.  Be blessed, you are all lights, keep shining.     

Love, love.  

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