Family

My son quickly swipes at tears as the book comes to a close . . .

The faces of all three of my boys are intent and their ears are open as I read the hopeful words of the final chapter. It is a story of loss and redemption and it hits close to home for my oldest son who is attempting to keep fragile tears at bay.

It was not until I started reading the book to my children that I discovered the main characters are two siblings, orphaned and homeless on the streets of London. The author vividly portrays the desperate situation of the children as they lick every last bit of a too-small meal from their fingers. They are hungry, scared, and without the comfort and safety of family.

Tears sting my own eyes and my voice cracks as I look up from the book and see the deep and empathetic sadness in my oldest son’s eyes. The depth of the hunger and the longing for family in the story is something he understands all-to-well. He keenly remembers.

I will never forget our first visit to the orphanage where our boys lived for over two years. We sat in the courtyard, getting to know our soon-to-be sons. A mosaic of colored stones lay beneath our feet and a large tree covered us from the midday sweltering heat.

When we looked up from our place on an old metal bench, we saw little faces peering down from behind louvered windows, two stories above us. They were watching the family interactions of a mommy and daddy and their two new sons.

The little eyes gazing down on us held a huantingly deep and sad longing to be loved and to belong to family.

Because this oldest son of mine remembers well the void of not having a family and not having enough food and because the Father in heaven has given him a sensitive and gentle heart, he has expressed his gratitude many times for the food and family that he now delights in. It is something my husband and I did not expect and each time he expresses his joyful gratefulness, we are amazed.

One very special moment in which my son shared his thankfulness stands out to me above all the rest . . .

We were going through the bedtime routine as I rubbed lotion into his dry feet. He cheerfully told me that earlier in the day when I had been helping the other children with school, he had been swinging in the backyard and praying to Jesus. I asked him what he had been praying about.

He then extended his arms wide from left to right and with a sweet and joyful smile, he said he was thanking Jesus for mommy and daddy and this new world and this new house where Jesus brought him!

I was overcome with emotion and I bowed my head in tears of praise to the King of kings —the gracious and loving Father in heaven—who had brought this boy into the safety and comfort of family.

We sit around our dining table most evenings—eight in all—and I can’t help but notice the full satisfaction on my oldest son’s face as he fills his tummy with food and then looks around the table at each of his family members, almost as if he is in awe that his dream of family has come true. His little Haitian brother is next to him, equally enjoying the pleasures of family and food, but the memories of what was before have faded in his young mind. He is less able to articulate and process all that has happened. And yet, this little guy understands the important things—he knows he is now safe, loved, and fed.

Sometimes this younger brother will tell me he misses his Haitian mother who loved him. One day as he told me this, I knelt down in front of him to listen and then I asked him, “Do you remember what she looked like?” He looked off in the distance as he searched his memory and then his dark eyes rested back on my face—me, with my light skin and brown hair—and he said, “She looks like you.” This sweet Haitian mama who gave birth to a boy with skin the color of dark chocolate “looks like” me.

“Love” looks the same to this little boy.

~~~

Big sisters glide through the room, planting kisses on the fuzzy head of their littlest Haitian brother as they pass.

~~~

Three brothers giggle as they playfully wrestle on the trampoline out back. Fighting is intermingled with playing throughout the day, but most of it is happy playing.

~~~

My youngest daughter carries on a Saturday morning tradition as she cooks and then serves fluffy pancakes on a table set with plates, forks on carefully folded napkins, and syrup in the middle. Her three younger brothers happily dig in!

~~~

Taking little sips of his treasured cocoa, my son—who looks like his father—carefully saves his special drink so that he can share it with his brothers when he arrives home.

I have been in awe many times over at the way this son has opened his home and heart to new brothers and welcomed them into our family.

He willingly shares his mom and dad, his toys, his space, his life . . . and somehow he makes it look easy. He is a testimony to me and I have often asked the Father to help me to love and share like this son.

~~~

Family—a place where needs are met, tears are wiped away, and the deep longing to be loved and to belong is filled. It is far from perfect because it is filled with imperfect people, but family is the place God has established for children to be loved and cared for in the best possible way.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him – his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families . . .

 – Psalm 68:4-6

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