I left my heart in Kentucky. It sounds like the verse of a bad country song, doesn't it?! While not totally true, I think a piece of me is still there and maybe always will be. A week and a half ago I was in Kentucky and I met some of my family for the first time. I went with all of my preconceived ideas and they shot them right out of the water much like they shoot other things down South! I came home with memories I will treasure and a more accurate sense of where my Grandparents came from. I also came home with a greater appreciation for family.
Great Aunt Mary has lived in Kentucky all of her life. She is my Grandmother's sister. She is the only one out of her eleven other siblings that is still living. She's been through a lot in her eighty four years on this earth. When we first stood face to face, she took me by the shoulders and said, " I'm the only one left. The only one left of Mommy and Daddy's kids." I saw the sadness and the loneliness in her eyes and acknowledged that this was a very difficult place for her to be in, the last one living.
During our time together I received long spontaneous hugs. No one has squeezed me that tight since Grammy was living. Great Aunt Mary doesn't say much but when she speaks it's worth listening to. One conversation began with her saying, " One year Daddy died and the next nine of us kids stood in the same cemetary and buried Mommy. We left with no where to go." A day later I would stand in that same spot in front of my Great Grandparent's grave and feel the weight of those words. They took me back in time and gave me an appreciation for the women Great Aunt Mary and Grammy would become. She also spoke of a brother long gone who had done some unspeakable things to his siblings. He was the same brother who badly beat my Grandmother. Great Aunt Mary's words were, "I forgave him. I just hope he came to know the good Lord before he passed. I'd like to see him someday." Wow.
Great Aunt Mary isn't entirely alone. Her daughter lives with her. She also has two nephews that travel to visit her from far away, several times a year. Charlie and Bob claim that she was always like a second mother to them. Her response to that," Well, I lived right by them. They was always over my place. My kids and my brother's kids always played together. We shared everythin'. What one of us had the other one had."
"What one of us had the other one had." Those words have stuck with me for a few reasons. First, because this is backwoods Kentucky. These people are poor but instead of holding tightly to what they have they share it. Second, because my Grammy always said those same words when she was about to share with one of us. Finally, because I can't help but think that this is what the family of God should be like.
It's this final thought that has really grabbed a hold of me lately. There is no reason for anyone to be in need if we all share what God has given us. If I have food then you should have food even if that means I give you some of mine. The truth is it really wasn't mine to begin with...it came from God. He provides for me. It's this way with family relationships too. There is no need for anyone to be lonely. If God has poured out His love in our hearts and made us a a part of His family, then we need to let it spill out into the lives of others. Family doesn't just have to be the word we use to describe the people who are biologically related to us. God makes other kinds of families too. The Bible says He sets the lonely in families. (Psalm 68:6) God has certainly set some precious people in my life throughout the years. He has enlarged my family and by doing so enlarged my heart.
I'll leave you with these final thoughts. It doesn't matter to God whether we have little to share or an abundance. What matters is that we share it because it was never really ours to begin with. It all belongs to Him. Sharing isn't always about material things. God wants us to share the love He's given us. God may want to make your family bigger. For some of us this can be a scary thought because sharing life with others makes us vulnerable. As one who used to be afraid, I can tell you it's worth it. There is no greater joy than loving someone like they are your own flesh and blood, simply because God brought them to you and placed them in your family. Look around you. Who can you share with? Who is it that God keeps bringing to your door? Could it be that He wants you to be their family?