Thursday, May 7, 2015

My Messy Family


I remember family vacations, heading off to the New Jersey Shore with my mother, brother and sister to visit my grandmother.  It was basically the only vacation that my mother could afford because she worked hard as a single mom to make ends meet.  So she would pack us up once or twice a year and we would make the 4 hour trek to my grandmother's house.

While I loved my days on the beach, collecting shells, swimming and looking for sand crabs, most of my memories of these vacations are not the most pleasant.  My mother's and grandmother's relationship was rocky and more often than not, angry voices signaled the close of the vacation time.  Many times we left before we were supposed to because of the arguing.  I remember that knot in my stomach feeling as a child when I heard the raised voices.

As I grew up, went to college and into full-time ministry I never was able to get down to see my grandmother much and the few times I went it was very tense.  "Don't track sand into the house."  "Don't sit on that bed."  "Don't make too much noise."  "Find something to do."  "Don't do that!" 

So I find it interesting that at the end of her life, I am spending 11 days with her, caring for her.  It's a surreal experience to administer medication, remind her to drink all her milk, wipe her and bath her.  After the initial squeamishness of the situation wore off, I'm finding it's a matter of fact thing to do.  And anyone that knows my personality knows that I'm cracking a few jokes along the way and making her laugh.  Mom-mom doesn't talk much and when she does it's usually a repeat of the things she has already said or things from the past. 

However, the one thing I am thankful for is a book I gave her.  It's called "The Life and Times of Grandma" and it is a journal, prompted by questions.  My mother has been having her write one page a day in it.  I feel like it's a little window into the woman my grandmother was and what made her tick.  I had to laugh at the part about how she met my grandfather and their dating, engagement and marriage history.  He was an abusive man and every time she writes about him, she calls him a few choice names.  ;-)

My family history is messy.  It doesn't bring back warm and fuzzy memories.  It doesn't make me feel happy.  And to be honest, at times, it's still a dysfunctional mess.  BUT, it is my family.  I do love them.  I am thankful that my mom came to know the Lord when I was twelve.  She worked hard to raise three children on her own.  And I am also thankful that as I sit and type this my grandmother, who never wanted anything to do with God, is reading her Bible.  As I was fixing something at the kitchen counter this morning, I glanced over and saw her praying for her meal.

My family reminds me of the church.  The church is full of messy people with baggage and histories that would make some cry.  Yet, the church is called the family of God.   We don't always choose who we have in our family, but we love them, we grow with them and hopefully, the end result will be sweet.

Love your family - both the one you were born into and your chosen church family.  You never know how God will work through our messiness.