Saturday, September 21, 2013

Family Forest

 Someone asked our six-year-old recently, "How many brothers and sisters do you have?" A simple question, really. Right?

Not so much.

Our daughter looked a little panic-stricken as she glanced at me and said, "How many, Mom?" I must admit I probably looked a little flustered, too, while I tried to figure it out. I do the same thing when someone asks how many grandchildren we have.

See, we don't have a family tree, we have a family forest! My husband and I are both adult children of divorce. I have a step-family; he doesn't. But he has a half-sister, her children, and their children. Then we have his adult kids (2) and my adult kids (2). Of course, each of them has the other half of their family of origin (our ex-es)...well, except for my older daughter, who went to court to terminate the parental rights of her abusive dad.

Oh, and then each of my adult children has a birth family, since they were adopted as toddlers. My son has no contact with his birth family, but my daughter has a good relationship with her birth mom and her family.

And two of our adult children have children. My husband's adult daughter has two children and an ex-husband. My adult son has five children and five ex-girlfriends. And each of those grandchildren have half-siblings living with them.

Our six-year-old is one of my son's bio-children. Her birth mom has two other children with her husband. They are, of course, our daughter's siblings. They, and the other half-siblings of our grandchildren, aren't quite our grandchildren, but we pray for them as such. We love them and delight in seeing them.

So, how many brothers and sisters does our daughter have? It doesn't matter.

What?! Of course it matters.

No, really, it doesn't. Does God command us to love only our "true" family-members? Does the Bible offer a definition of whom we should "count" as loved by us...or by Him?

                 No! Jesus even goes so far as to say that we should love our enemies! (Luke 6:27)  How much more should we love those who are entwined with our family? We refuse to set up a boundary, saying that we love this one, and not that one. That we are related to these children, but not their siblings.

And so, we have a family forest. With many loved children. We cannot be with them all frequently, but we do try to keep in touch with them all frequently. And I hope we're teaching our youngest daughter that she should love everyone, as Jesus did. And I pray that our family, complex as it is, can be an example of what it means to follow Jesus' commandment to love one another. (John 13:34)

By the way, the cuties (big and small) in the pictures are all our six-year-old's siblings, except for the two being held by their mom (who is our wee one's sister); we call them cousins... because it's easier than birth-
                                     step-cousins or adoptive niece and nephew...

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