Untraditional

Frontlines: I grew up in a “broken” family

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This is my favorite time of year. The cooler temperatures, the turning leaves, a good deer stand, Kansas basketball. What’s not to love, right? Fall and winter also conjure up great memories and feelings of nostalgia. I fell in love with my wife one crisp autumn some 23 years ago, and the holiday season brings the excitement of anticipated traditions. I love Thanksgiving meals, Christmas music and the joy of gathering with loved ones to celebrate God’s goodness.

Growing up, our Thanksgiving and Christmas family celebrations were traditional in most ways. We had the same foods, decorations and activities found in most midwestern Christian homes. However, there was one distinct difference. Our immediate family was made up of my maternal grandparents, my uncle, my mother, sister, brother and myself. We added a few members to the traditional household and had one notable absence, my father.

Before I turned one, my father chose to leave our family in search of fleeting happiness.  My mom returned home to the family farm with her kids, needing healing, belonging and a fresh start. Around the same time, my uncle chose to also return home. He took over the farming responsibilities, began a teaching position at Tabor College and stepped into a new role of helping our young family find some stability.

Our family was unique, but it was ours, and God was at work within it. Because of the atmosphere of my grandparents’ generosity and portrayal of a godly marriage, the fatherly kindness and care of my uncle and my mom’s strength and deep love for the Lord, our family was going to be okay. Our household was far from traditional, but it was filled with God’s grace and abounding love.

Over the years I have heard statistics related to broken homes and single-parent families, and I hurt for those who experience difficult home lives. Yet, I never saw myself as one of those statistics. Why? Because of God’s grace. While far from what one would envision as an ideal family unit, ours was one beyond what I could have deserved.  Jesus was the center of our family, Scripture grounded our thinking and decisions and gratitude permeated our hearts.

What the world labeled as broken God saw as a place to demonstrate his redemptive power. God’s redemption and goodness can be seen all around us, but it stands out the best amid brokenness. 1 John 3:8 tells us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus came to carry our sin and brokenness to the cross, to provide forgiveness and mercy and to redeem that which was broken. Even a broken home can become a place of joy, grace and contentment if Jesus is allowed to redeem it.

This holiday season, many of you may be faced with an untraditional Thanksgiving or Christmas. Perhaps you will walk into the season experiencing the loss of a loved one, unexpected sickness or strained relationships. Whatever it is, know that if Jesus is with you, you can still be thankful, you can still have joy and you can still experience his goodness. Our God specializes in redemption. He can take the untraditional, the unlovely and the broken and turn them into a testimony of his grace.

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