The holidays are inching closer by the day. I love Thanksgiving the most because there is no pressure. I begin making Christmas lists in October and I drive myself crazy with the lists. I was the mom that made sure each child had either the same amount of gifts or the same amount of money spent on said gifts and I can easily wear Joseph out with my lists. Because both our family and financial situations have changed over the past few years, with gaining custody of two little ones and retiring from full-time employment, I try to be careful when it comes to spending during Christmas.
With that groundwork laid, I will say that I believe that if you are lucky enough to have a best friend, that one person that you can turn to no matter what; the one that knows all of your secrets; and, who loves you enough to be honest with you throughout your life, you are a lucky person. I have that person in my world. I’ll be honest, I’m not a real people person . . . I don’t let many people in, other than close family members, but Meshea and I have been best friends since we were seventeen years old. One of the things I love the most about her is that she can find a bargain or deal unlike anyone I’ve ever known. She has always had the ability to shove me out of my comfort zone and I have always (most of the time) gone along willingly when it comes to her ideas.
Having family pictures made of my little family was one of her latest great ideas. Thankfully it also helps that her beautiful daughter-in-law is a talented photographer amongst other things. So Meshea coordinated a day for us to get together so that we could have family pictures made, which will be Christmas gifts for family. We were all in! It meant a quick day trip, but our two love their Aunt Meshea and Mike better than good so everyone was excited.
As is normally the case, we began our journey running a bit behind. Anyone with multiple people to get dressed, in the car and on the road knows how difficult it can be to get anywhere on time. On the way there, we decided to make a quick stop so that we could feed the kids lunch. Once that little jaunt was complete, we were on the road again and I made the comment that Aunt ‘Shea would be wondering where we are. The Bear quickly reminded me that everyone will wait for us, because they are waiting on Aunt Brandi and her family as well. When I asked the Bear why Aunt ‘Shea would be waiting for Aunt Brandi, she looked at me like I had a third eye-ball and reminded me that if we are having family pictures made, our Zebra would have to be there and in them as well. Baby brother. He’s part of our family, right?
That led to a discussion about families and how different they can look. You see, out of respect to my youngest sister, I haven’t really talked much about my middle grandson, my daughter’s third biological child, who I will continue to call our Zebra. Now he’s not referred to as a Zebra because he has black and white stripes . . . but because just this past summer he was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder which makes him literally a 1 in 10 million kind of kid. As sweet as the older two kids are, I’ve always said he may be the sweetest. Oh my goodness that child. Although he is a half-brother to the Bear and Dozer, my daughter in a moment of clarity, terminated her parental rights to our Zebra and allowed her Aunt and Uncle to adopt him. She knew in that moment that she could not give him the life he deserved, and although she was battling drug addiction, she loved him enough to choose to give him the life God intended – a life with a family that could love and nurture him. I could have never chosen better parents for my grandchild than my sister and her husband. I am not going to divulge the lengthy story of how this adoption came to be today, but I would encourage you to visit my sister’s blog: thebarefoothomeschooler.com to read the stories that she has included, this month, especially, in honor of National Adoption Month.
So when the Bear reminded me that brother should be there as well if we are having family pictures made, it gave me a bit of pause as to how to explain to her that our “family” picture for this trip was just for the family members that live in our home. That leads to comments such as: well if they adopted him, then we are his cousins and you are his aunt. Uh no . . . no Bear girl you will always be his sister and I will always be his MaMaw . . . which again leads to a discussion about how different families can look. But I have to be honest, the whole time we were having our pictures taken, I was thinking about Zebra. I was thinking about how the definition of family has truly changed shape in my life. I was thinking about how blessed I am, regardless of my daughter’s incarceration or my son’s continued drug abuse or my sweet grandchild’s diagnosis.
But explaining those nuances to a seven-year old can be treacherous. I want her to understand the dynamics of family regardless of whose home someone may live in. I want her to understand unconditional love that should exist in families and that so often is exhibited first and foremost by our parents when we are children. I want all three of these children to recognize that their mother showed that unconditional, sacrificial love when she chose to allow one’s adoption and when she blessed our raising the other two, although it has not been without pain.
My hope is that my grandchildren will always know that family supports, strengthens, holds accountable, and unconditionally loves one another. My bible study this morning talked about our foundation . . . on Christ the solid rock I stand . . . and I pray that if nothing else, I can teach them that regardless of who is in the family picture, God created our families and our soul knows who our family is. For that I am eternally grateful.
Kaylen Kor Woodall . . . and Beau Michael . . . you captured the true essence of our little tribe in this photo and I am so grateful you did. Meshea . . . what would I ever do in my life without you and your love and ideas?! And to my family . . . as crazy and different and messy as we are . . . how could I ever pick anyone better to share my life with? God is pretty cool.
Isaiah 28:16 . . . Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.