In a scene in Romeo and Juliet as they are discussing their families Juliet asks of Romeo “what’s in a name?” She was referring to it doesn’t matter of what house you are from, if you are a Montague or not, I still have love for you and I am going to love you no matter what.
Names are funny things. Names denote character. Names, especially those on the “back of the jersey” denote family. But what is family?
We used to sing a song at church when I was small “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I’ve been washed in the fountain cleansed by His blood….” I remember walking around and shaking hands with everyone in the church. It was a time of gladness, a time of love. It was a family.
My family growing up was my dad, my mom, Molly and me (Brother)….well that and Molly’s 100 animals. NOTE: At one time we had a bird, a dog, 4 cats, 2 ducks, and a rat, with most of those living INSIDE the house! But that was my family. Small but mine.
As I got older I saw what a “big family” looks like. I remember I was over at the L’s house one day and Mrs. L got in from the grocery store. I’ll never forget we just finished with an insanely large meal and Mrs. L just walks right in. I was stuffed and for my portly high school self that was saying something. Anyway, all 6 of the L kids were unloading the groceries and when they got to the ice-cream sandwiches, I watched each kid take one out of the box and eat it immediately. I asked “what are y’all doing? Are you not full?” Of course they were, they answered. They knew though that if they didn’t eat it right away they wouldn’t get one. That was my first experience with a big family.
As time passed I hung out with the L’s some more and I saw how awesome a “big family” was. I loved the activity, the chaos, the people (I’m 100% extroverted). I knew from that moment on I wanted a big family.
While all of that was happening with me, in a little corner of Burlington, NC Amy was being exposed to the J’s and felt a deep love for a large family too. Enter a lot of time, more of God’s grace and two worlds/people combine and voila..we have a desire and a calling for a large family.
You all know the story of Madeline, it’s somewhere in the archives of this blog. And how in summary, we longed for a large family but the Lord was delaying getting pregnant. 2 years and many tears and a few demanding prayers later Madeline was here…then 19 months later – Jojo….then 20 months later – Elijah.
After Elijah, since Amy had some physical issues from having (3) monster kids in 39 months, the doctor said “umm…don’t have any more kids.” With that we felt that maybe (3) was a big enough family for us. But there was uneasiness in our hearts. We just couldn’t shake it. I just couldn’t shake that there are more kids for us. Adoption? Perhaps? Something else? Sure but who knows.
Babysitter turned daughter
Several months before we moved, we met Jordin, who at the time was our small group babysitter. In such a short amount of time, she became much much more than that. She started staying later after small group, started to become our family babysitter, started staying after babysitting our kids (sometimes a little too long)…But then Amy and I looked up and Jordin was a part of our family. Of everyone in the US who we were close to before we left, Jordin is the only one that visited us. She is family. She is a daughter in our family…just like Madeline. And this year I am especially honored to officiate her wedding. I actually told her I would be HONORED to do the ceremony but she would have to work with me on my snot-bubble tears because when a daughter gets married, the dad cries!
As Amy and I have been in Belize, we have been praying about a growing family. We want more…we want more kids. We want more activity. We have much more love. We want to care, nurture, shepherd. We want to share more of ourselves with others….even in all of our oddities, weirdness, love and fun.
In 2014 our family grows….more kids
First we start to see Bella and Christopher (neighbors from next door come over). At first our kids have a hard time playing with them. At the time Madeline was 3 1/2 or 4 and Bella was 7. But soon enough and through some growing up on Madeline and Jojo’s part, everyone started playing together. It started as one day a week, then two days…now almost every day. It started as just playing then one day, Amy and I looked up it was homework club. See Bella and Christopher are from Honduras so their family doesn’t speak English. That’s not a big deal except when all the homework from school is in English, they can’t get any help. So now every day around 3:15 Bella and Christopher (and now their younger sister Star) come over for homework and play time. I LOVE getting the knock on my office door to see all of our kids (Bella, Christopher, Madeline, Jojo, Star, and Elijah) waiting just to say hi!
But it didn’t stop with Bella and Christopher. Soon they shared with their friend Evelyn that there’s this family in the white house with the playground that can help with homework. One night at dinner, we hear the dogs going crazy next door and the next thing I know there was a knock at the door. I look out and there is Evelyn standing with her mom and her brother Jose. She had a note that was sent home that she needed me to translate from English to Spanish. And that was that. Our love that God had poured out on us flowed through past Madeline and Jojo and Elijah to Star and Bella and Christopher and Jose and Evelyn. Our kids grew from 3 to 6 and now to 8.
2014 our family grows again…more kids?
In the beginning of 2014, Amy and I resolved (made the decision ahead of time) that we needed to do more to serve our staff serving in Belize. Specifically we wanted to minster to, love and serve those students (kids) that have committed to spend some of their summers in Belize. So our family grows to bring those into the fold. We have staff dinners every Friday night to celebrate all the Lord did in the previous week and we seek God for all that He will do in the coming weeks. It was for myself and Amy (and the kids) the highlight of each week and the highlight of the summer. We cooked “American meals” like grilled cheese and tomato soup, lasagna, and chicken parmesean. We fellowshiped, loved, listened and prayed. We celebrated birthday’s together, addressed conflict together, and just were with each other. We were a family. And our family had grown to fold in these 15 or so adult children.
2014 – 2015….another daughter
But more than that….we met Michelle. She was quiet, off in the background, unassuming, just incredibly loving. At staff dinners, she took time to read to our kids, to really love Madeline, Jojo and Elijah. And she was AWESOME, clearly serving in an area that God has gifted her. Children fall over themselves to get to her and mine were no exception. The kids and I go to visit a team that Michelle was serving with one afternoon in August 2014 and I half jokingly / half-serious ask if she wants to live with us in Belize, to serve on some trips and in general be part of our family. She laughs at the offer, as I learn later she does when something may be too good to be true. I remind her that I was serious and just to let me know. Well some time passed and later that fall I get a message from Michelle asking if I was serious. I tell her yes and in Jan. 2015 we gained a 21 year old daughter, a role model for Madeline, a friend to Amy. Just like when we had Elijah or Jojo and our hearts grew to love them, the second Michelle walked off the plane in January our hearts grew to love her. Michelle is family and we are blessed. To have Michelle here in Belize for community, for help, to shepherd, to have in our family has been one of the biggest blessings for our family ever.
2015 – more adult children
As I sat with our staff (shared this last post about shepherding), the Lord said this is your family….lead them. So Amy and I are excited to grow our family and fold in more of our adult kids this year. While we are transitioning out of Belize to relocate to the States, loving on our summer staff again is a top priority for myself and Amy. We will be direct and intentional. Over lively conversations, lots of tears, and many prayers, we will love some of the same kids from last year and fold in our new ones. Kids we are your family. We have love to share.
Winston-Salem and beyond.
Family isn’t necessarily a name. Family is a feeling, family is a unit. Family is unity. The Lord has called us to love, to unify, to serve, to bless others. We have always wanted a big family and He has so graciously provided. Whether it’s Jordin, Bella and Christopher, Evelyn, and Jose, Star. Where it is Michelle or Kayla or our staff teams over the years, The Lord has grown our family. And Amy and I are so blessed to share God’s love with each and every one of our family. It’s not a name. Family is love.
Now what… Amy and I carry all of our family with us where-ever we go. We may not have A LOT of kids from us but we have the large family the Lord has called us to. We are excited to go to Winston-Salem and see our family grow more. He has given us love to share and we will go out and love all we come into contact with.
- LADIES NIGHT – Amy, Michelle, and Paula had an AWESOME ladies day / night last Saturday. They went and got massages, hair cuts, pedicures and just generally loved the fellowship with one another! It was a breath of fresh air for all!!
- Kayla is here – Kayla, an awesome woman of God who served with us last summer, has returned to serve with us again this summer. She arrived in Belize yesterday to live with us until her first trip mid June. We are so blessed and excited to have Kayla as part of our family now!
- SOLD – Most items from our house are sold. Therefore, now we are transitioning into packing all of the things we are taking back into the suitcases. It’s bittersweet for sure but we are excited to move onto this phase of preparation.
- Community – A couple of weeks ago I lost it praying for community for Amy. And every knows that we have been praying for YEARS for the Lord to answer that prayer. We got an email that Amy can go on a mission trip with some of the ladies from REVO in Winston-Salem, many of the same ladies that she was in bible study with before we moved! It “happens” to be during the same time that I am back in the States before finishing out the summer in Belize! God blew us away with this opportunity and we are so excited for Amy to go and build community.
- Vacation – Amy and I are heading to the Black Rock Lodge again on Monday for about 3 days of vacation just the two of us. Pray that it is a time of rest, relaxation, and enjoying each other’s company. Pray that we aren’t worried about the details of everything (move, work, kids, etc) but instead that we are truly unplugged and focused on The Lord and each other!
- Summer Trips start – Our first trip of the summer starts this Saturday! Pray that this summer our teams, our staff, the local church that we are serving alongside of would experience the Lord in a fresh way. Pray that they would encounter Jesus and HE would be made known.
- Cars – We are wrestling with some frustrating car issues right now in Belize for two of our trucks. Please pray that these are resolved quickly, that we are able to source the parts, and that the cars would just not give us trouble….it’s a HUGE pain to me!
- Community – we are asking for continued prayer for community. Specifically community for myself and Amy when we are back in the States. We know we wont “fit in” We are praying for friends and a church family that will just understand that we will need a lot of time to adjust. Pray specifically for community for me, with the travel that I do or that is this summer’s schedule, I wont really get to plug deeply into community until September. I do fear not having friends. I know it is the enemy but pray for low-hanging fruit in this.
- Leadership – continue to pray for my leadership, specifically that I can shepherd our staff serving in Belize well. I pray that I am KNOWN as someone who truly cares. Pray the Lord gives me the wisdom and ability to communicate that I care deeply about everyone! Pray I can shepherd our team into the fullness of God that is their calling!