My heart is overwhelmed tonight.  I feel the stretching underneath my chest, the ache, the longing, and this evening I am sure that I’m not alone.  Over the last five days, I have been surrounded by my family, sharing both grief and joy, intensity, and rest with them.  We’ve sat down for meals together, remembering times that were once so simple, and creating new memories that I will forever keep within my heart.  This family that I speak of  is the one that I have shared some of the best memories of my childhood and adult life with.  They are the ones I have grieved with time and again, the roots that keep me grounded even when storms come, the ones that share my history.  They are the roots that surround me- reminding me that I am never alone and that I am loved just as I am.  What began with two in love, following a dream, grew to five.  Plus add in the grafting in of spouses, many births, adoptions, and we have become a strong, fruit-filled branch upon our family tree. 


     There have been too many years that have passed that I’ve taken them for granted.  I suppose I assumed that my family would always be there and never leave.  How wrong I was.  With most of them by my side, I witnessed my sister Sara take her last breath and I watched my aunt Judy pass away. Together, we have celebrated the lives and legacy of our grandparents, and this week, we humbled ourselves before God in worship after my 5 year old cousin Thao entered into his eternal home.  We stand united as witnesses to God’s mercy in midst of our pain.  We’ve seen mercy renewed every morning and can testify that God’s promises are true even when we’ve felt like we’ve been abandoned.

     Some wonder why our family is so different.  They have watched us hug as we greet each other and as we say our long good-byes.  Some may have wondered why we go through the effort to gather together at times like the ones I’ve mentioned.  It’s at these times when we offer  support just by being present and available to be used by God. We have been separated by distance for now, but a few times a year, we choose to gather and affirm our love- even if it’s only for a little while.  We love worshipping together, encouraging one another, celebrating, and laughing with each other until our sides hurt. Holding each other close matters to us, because we know that we are not promised tomorrow and we want to make the most of today- without regrets. We cling to this small glimpse of what heaven may be like, when we will be together- forever.

Family forever

      What kind of a world would this be, if love knit us all together in this same way?  What would it look like? How would this unique, sacrificial, and consistent love change us and those around us?  I believe our world would look so different.  Our families would be closer.  Our friendships would last.  Our churches would feel warmer.  Our countries would reflect what truly matters in this life and make a lasting difference. It begins with us.  It begins with me.  May I continue to become a vessel of God’s love and grace without being bound by hindrance, bitterness, fear, or insecurity.  May I make the most of every moment by erring on the side of loving those around me generously and being grateful for them, even if it makes me look like a fool.  It’s this kind of love that will melt the hardest of hearts, warm the coldest of spirits, and become a salve of healing.  Family by blood, or family by choice- for me, there isn’t a difference.  Whether we are near or apart, we are presented an opportunity daily to show those in our world that God’s people love each other unconditionally and that family matters.

“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.” Psalm 133:1-3 (The Message)

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sin.  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. I John 4:7-12 (NLT)