A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity.
Psalm 68:5-6

I grew up with 4 siblings. We weren’t close, and we were close; we were typical siblings. We fought together; we played together; we loved each other; we hated each other.

I’ll never forget coming home from college one weekend for an extended break and having my sister tell me she wished I would just go back to college and stay there.

I’ll never forget sitting next to one of my sister’s during her first break-up, trying to console and encourage her through the tears and pain.

I’ll never forget one of my sisters regularly including me in on movie nights with her husband during my long years of singleness.

I’ll never forget the bedroom “basketball” games (I had a little basketball hoop hanging over my bedroom door!) with my brother. Or when he turned from bully to defender.

I went through a season of time where I preferred not to be with my family. I don’t know why. Did I feel like I didn’t belong? We’ve all been there. Did I feel like my singleness was always sticking out like a sore thumb in a family where everyone else was married or always dating? Possibly. I will admit it helped to move out of my parent’s house. Beyond that, I guess I just simply grew up. In my maturity, the realization that nothing replaces or beats family finally dawned on me. Friends come and go; family sticks. There’s a truthfulness and realness with family that exists with no other.

My family is just as delinquent as any other. We aren’t perfect. We do stupid things, and we do stupid things to each other. We are opinionated and strong willed. We argue and disagree with each other. We talk over and interrupt one another. We are brutally honest with each other. We cry and laugh together. We spend time with each other (and actually like to for the most part!). We watch sports and movies together; eat dinner together and take care of each other’s kids. (That there is a game changer: nieces and nephews. Life is better with nieces and nephews!) But we also take care of each other. When one is in a bind, we help. If the situation calls for it, we fight for them. If anything, I know my siblings have my back and for that I am grateful.

I’m also grateful for my in-laws. My husband’s family is very different from my family. Very different. They are almost night and day different. As I was sitting around the dinner table with them on New Year’s Day, I had this overwhelming sense of gratitude. It was gratitude for how they have accepted me into their family. Gratitude for how they have loved me as their own. It was simply overwhelming and inspiring. From Jimmy’s siblings and their spouses, to his parents and grandparents, his aunts and uncles, plus niece and nephew; I’m family; I’m a Bolton. I belong.

Maybe that’s what is so great about family. A sense of belonging. We all have a need for it. Whether you are fortunate to have that in your own family or not, Jesus extends belonging to each and every one of us. You are a child of God; a son or daughter of the King; you belong. What a feeling that is! Despite my imperfections, big mouth, insecurities, lack of cooking skills and OCD (just spend time with me, I’m quite particular and peculiar!), I belong. I belong to the Crowley’s. I belong to the Bolton’s. And I belong to Jesus.

I think that’s what I love best about the church. The church is called to be a family; we are the family of God. And just like the family isn’t complete without grandparents, parents, siblings, kids, aunts and uncles, cousins….the family of God isn’t complete without this beautiful mix of age and personality. (Come on now, crazy grannies and weird uncles make a family a family!). Everyone has something to offer, and we can glean so much from each other. We benefit from each other. I benefit because of you; you benefit because of me. You belong; I belong; we all belong.

I’m thankful for the family that God has placed me in, both natural and spiritual. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you otherwise. You do belong, quirks and all! You belong; I belong; we all belong. We belong to Jesus. We’re in His family. The family might not be perfect, but the family loves and looks out for each other. It’s what family does.