I take a step back and observe the life unfolding in my kitchen. Grown kids sauntering into the already lively surroundings. Sometimes with friends in tow, sometimes alone. But, always making their way home.
A myriad of conversations has ensued within these walls. Laughter, friendly teasing, an occasional clash of personalities. Always lots of noise. Always lots of love.
As usual, paper plates are placed at the end of the island. Food situated in the center, buffet style. One after another, we make our way around until our plates are filled. One by one, we choose our seats. Some crowd around the dining room table while others remain at the bar. The last few stragglers squeeze in wherever they can find a spot.
Though we’re not all seated together – we outgrew our table years ago – we are still together. Conversations drift from one sitting area to the other, along with a half-empty bottle of ketchup.
I often find myself lingering behind, making sure everyone has what they need. Napkins. Drinks. And, in time, dessert. I listen quietly to the chatter. It is music to my ears and a salve to my heart. I smile to myself. Sometimes, I can’t help but laugh out loud.
The husband of my youth sits nearby. I am grateful for him. I remember a time not so long ago when we were younger than our oldest children are now. I recall mealtimes with little ones underfoot. Family game nights. Bedtime stories. Nightly prayers. I watch him interact with the big kids who were once the little ones sitting in his lap. And now they have little ones sitting in theirs.
My, how the times change.
I don’t share all of this to paint the picture of a seemingly perfect family. We are far from it. There are many things we wish we had done differently as parents. Even today, after twenty-eight years of active parenting, we continue to make mistakes. Even today, after thirty-three years of marriage, we mess up. But, we refuse to allow the hard parts of life to rob us of the best parts.
We need the love of our closest people. I cannot imagine a life void of such relationships. But even more than that, we need to experience the love of our God. Without Him, we are not capable of extending the love, forgiveness, mercy and grace needed to enjoy harmony with others.
So as I ponder the scene before me, my heart is filled with joy over this imperfect group of people choosing to gather in my home. They could be anywhere else, but they choose to be here. In this imperfect home. Surrounded by other imperfect people. Doing the ups and downs of life together.
This is family.
I am grateful God allows me to call them my own.
Friend, who are those special people who bring joy and thankfulness into your life? Are they biological family or others who’ve become family? Whatever the case, may you enjoy time spent with them. And if you’re unable to gather together, may precious memories of times past and the beautiful hope of times to come carry you through until you gather again.