What Family Looks Like

Families are full of broken people. Mine is no exception. To be completely real, I come from a long line of brokenness. Tonight, the Irish melancholy has settled deep into my bones, as I reflect on a single question.

“Which list do you want to read?”

Tim and I were helping with our town’s Memorial Day celebration to honor our local fallen heroes. And, in addition to singing the national anthem and America the Beautiful, we, along with several others, would each read a list of names of the brave men and women who gave their lives to protect our freedom.  Our friend was asking which list I wanted to read.

It was a simple question. But, I can’t shake it. The last names tell much more of a story than a page could hold. And, so did his question. My mother was married three times. I called two of those men “dad”. After the second divorce, I wasn’t calling the third by that name. A trail of broken pieces left me hesitant to let anyone else have that title. I understand with the logical side of my mind that people get married young and things don’t work out sometimes. I understand that dads don’t always know what to do with daughters when there is no wife/mother to come alongside and guide them. I understand that sometimes leaving seems better, when the marriage relationship has turned hostile and the mother wants the father gone. It is hard to write these things, because even now, I worry about hurting the ones that left, the ones that did the best they could, the ones who maybe want to say it wasn’t personal. But, none of that logic mattered to my young heart. I learned quickly that people will leave you. People who are supposed to stay, leave. I still struggle with the leaving, even the good kind.

I couldn’t shake the question “Which list of names do you want to read?”. All day, I thought of it, and my answer. Which came so quickly. And, held within it more than the one word response I gave.

That question really posed another question, “Where do you belong?”

I didn’t give the real answer…that I don’t belong with either list of names. Or that I never really felt like I fully belonged anywhere, growing up. If you saw me being the life of the party, or the getting crowned Homecoming Queen, or riding on some boy’s motorcycle, don’t be fooled. The louder and brighter someone is, the more they’re trying to cover…sometimes. At least I was. I only felt at home on a stage, playing the part of someone else.  Back then. It’s interesting how God has brought me to a place where I still stand on a stage, but I’m required to be the most real, and tell the most sacred stories of my heart. No hiding behind a character. No hiding behind anything. Sometimes I wish I could hide. But, the truth is always more freeing than what we choose to hide behind.

I always wondered what family should look like. My mother was family. She made me crazy, but she was always there. Until she wasn’t. Until cancer took her home. I could relate to my father’s sisters the few times I saw them, and occasionally to my family on my mother’s side. There are similarities that only family can have sometimes. I see those glimpses in my father, too. And, I remember the parts of them they left with me.

But, family that isn’t broken. What does that look like?

I suppose we all wonder that. Because we are all broken in some way, and every family has it’s pieces left behind wondering. A couple weekends ago, I was feeling lonely, missing my mother, realizing as Timothy has grown up and James doesn’t want to hang out with mom so much, the full effect of having the generations so crisply cut off around me. I am a daughter without her mother and mother without her daughters. I have beautiful sons. But, my daughters are not here. I realize this truth starkly each time I have to go somewhere alone. A place that it would be handy to have my mom with me, or my girls. I miss the familiar laughter that once filled her kitchen with an ache that words fail to describe. I miss what was and what would’ve been.

I was missing them so much as I drove to a craft fundraiser some beautiful people were hosting for SGM a couple Saturdays ago. I was reflecting on family and the expectations we place on people, just because we are related. I was hoping some people in my family who lived nearby might come to the fundraiser. There are a couple who support what we’re doing to reach out to families. But, most are busy with other things. I understand. We are busy too.

But, on Sunday of that same weekend, weary from a string of events and standing in front of people and telling the story of our Faith, Grace, and Thomas over and over again, we hosted the SGM Ice Cream Social at our church. It is hard to ask people over and over again to come to events and support SGM. Many of the same people give, again and again. We are always so grateful, and don’t want to be a burden. As we began to serve more than 185 hot dogs and about 9 gallons of ice cream to those who filed in to support SGM, I realized…

This is what family looks like.

ice cream social 1


ice cream social 3


ice cream social 2


Thank you to those of you who serve alongside us in this ministry, in so many different ways, and thank you to our amazing church. You are our family. And we are so grateful for the beautiful ways that our Father provides.


  1. What a beautiful post. I needed it so much today!! Big hugs ro you as you travel this hard . You are doing AMAZING things!!

  2. I love this post Kelly! The look of what a family looks like to me, has also changed drastically. Thank you for this beautiful picture… through pictures and words.

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