I grew up without the benefit of two parents in my home....actually, without any parent(s) in my home. But I grew up with the benefit that many "intact" homes have never experienced: a church family that has loved God, loved me, and shown me what it means to "belong."
I came to Jesus when I was a little more than six years old...this June will make that FORTY-TWO years ago...and my life truly "changed"--big sinner that a six-year old, backwards, awkward, farm boy that I was! I'm eternally thankful that the LORD transferred from the kingdom of darkness to His kingdom of light at such an early age.
From that very day until this day, the "family of God" has always been my family. God's people have always been my mentors, my teachers, and my heroes. It was the family of God that made sure I had "something from Santa" when my destitute, poverty-stricken grandmother had nothing to put under the tree for me. We had an old tree, but nothing to put on it--and certainly nothing to put under it. But God made sure that HIS people always "put something" there.
When I was a teenager, and we finally had moved into a mobile home a little closer to town, it was the family of God again, who made sure that I was able to go to a good local church, and also that I would have decent clothes to wear to school. (My grandmother never knew anything about welfare, or public aid, or any of the other "agency benefits" that so many rely on today). It was the family of God who always told me that I could be just about anything that I wanted to be.
It was the family of God who helped me survive (and thrive) during those turbulent teenage years, and the confusing college years.
It was the family of God who loved me during my ten-year stint in the United States Air Force, regardless of where I was stationed. So many always remembered birthdays, holidays, and other times when the LORD wanted me to remember how much HE cares for me. His (my) family always came through. Even though many, many miles separated us (those I knew the best, anyway), these precious people were always close to my heart. And they proved that I was close to theirs.
My local church family now...The Moody Church (www.moodychurch.org) is just fabulous beyond words. These people love me in a way that I'm not sure I have ever experienced...and it means the world to me. Hardly a day goes by that someone from my "Moody family" hasn't contacted me to just say "we love you and you are precious to us."
I've wept many tears of thanksgiving for these precious saints of God over the last few months. Knowing that I am loved, cared for, cherished, and that I bring "something to the family" means more than I could ever explain or describe. Knowing that I am valuable and valued...no price can be attached to that.
I was sharing (with some of my friends at the church ) my plans to go to nursing school. Some of these people interrupted, "You are not going to leave us, are you? You can't leave us!" And right then and there, I knew that I had no reason to look elsewhere. This is where I belong at this point in my life.
My family. I thank God for them. I love them.