As our family held hands in a circle of love, the smells of turkey, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yeast rolls, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie made our mouths water. One by one, members gave thanks to God for their many blessings, while squirming little ones hungrily waited for the big amen. That’s when the unexpected happened. Right there in front of the simmering stove, my sister began to pray, “Lord, we thank You for allowing us all to be together and for how good You have been to us, even though our family puts the “d” in dysfunctional.” That’s when we all lost it… Needless to say, it took a while for the roar of laughter to die down and the praying to resume.
Would I trade our family, with the generations of divorce going back to our grandparents, the alcoholism, the adultery, the sexual abuse, the step fathers, step mothers, and step siblings, the domestic violence, the break ups and make ups, the laughing to keep from crying, the running from God and running back to God, and all the other sordid details? Absolutely not! We KNOW what real love is, and what grace is, and how blessed we are to not be locked up in some rubber room somewhere. Our God has brought us through hell on earth and seated us in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He has delivered us from the claws of the enemy so many times. Of course, there were times we would have rather had a Cleaver family existence, but it’s amazing to see how God uses abandonment, rejection, abuse, and rebellion to bring us to the foot of the cross. He redeems everything we give Him, even the worst family situations you can imagine.
It’s doubtful many other families would spend their Thanksgiving mornings dancing in a Soul Train and singing to the top of our lungs to some fabulous seventies funk music. We had so many people in our three-bedroom house that year (almost 20), my brother had to bring an RV for his family, and there were plenty of people on blow-up beds everywhere in the house. Oh, and that was our favorite year of Black Friday shopping ever. We had a comp night at a fancy casino hotel and my mother on a blow-up mattress to boot. Someone gave us their comp points in the restaurant and our dinner was free. Bell men helped my sister and sister-in-law cart up our discounted treasures when the trunk was full the next morning. Priceless memories were made seeing those two sisters strap purchases on the roof for the trip home. We still laugh until we cry (or wet our pants) when we remember that Thanksgiving weekend. And, true to our family, the quote from my sister’s prayer is repeated often.
What is family? To me, it’s where you are loved no matter what. You laugh, cry, pray, sing, dance, eat, and shop together. You trust that God makes all things work together for good, which leaves little need to be wishing you were in someone else’s family. Though we don’t all get together often, when we do, it’s a pretty amazing experience. I thank God for my dysfunctional family, because God has made it one that is truly delightful.