Sam, Jenae’ and our Atypical Family

I cried in church today, more than I usually do, and for the first time in a long time they were joyful, thankful, beautiful tears.  And I wasn’t alone, there were few dry eyes around me.

This is Sam, could he be any more handsome? (your answer is no, he could not) Photo thanks to LA Reflections photography

Today my sweet friend Jenae’ stood with her family, friends and our life group to dedicate her beautiful son Samuel to God.  I got to stand near Jenae’ and her gorgeous baby son as we all committed our hands and hearts to his journey.  I loved being privileged to have a part of that circle surrounding her and Sam.  Last week at group she asked us if we would be wiling to stand with her as she dedicated Sam because we had played a special role in her pregnancy and his birth.  We were all instantly delighted and made a special point to be in today’s service together.

So often we fail to accept support or acknowledge our need for what I call “atypical family” to support us on our journey.  Atypical family are the people who love as as if we shared blood.  They support in our greatest need, laugh with us on a random Tuesday and consider themselves officially on the journey with us.  Not because blood says they have to, but because their heart says they were meant to.    I’m only here today because there are people who stepped into my life in place of the family I lost.  I’m crazy tempted to make an “I <3 my Atypical Family” t-shirt because I daily lift my heart to shout thanks to God for my village, my tribe, my peeps, I love you peeps.

This week I read a blog by Sarah Bessey and she talked about a moment with her son at the Library where she briefly referenced parenting as a “village mentality.”  And although I’d heard that lingo before something about her story of gently correcting the children of strangers struck me freshly.  This idea hit me again as I was at the Library with my children Friday morning.  Our library is a bilevel and my son Caedmon loves nothing more than to climb stairs.  So as our librarian read about toothbrushes he continually attempted to break through the mom circle to climb the stairs with a delirious giggle.  The other Moms chuckled at me as I got up time and again to retrieve him from the staircase and bring him back to story time.  Finally after retrieval 8 or 9 I kindly asked them if they would help turn him around when he attempted to break out, because I simply couldn’t block every hole.

When it comes to preschoolers it certainly takes multiple moms to keep them in the circle, stranger hands to keep them safe at the playground, hand me downs to keep them in clothes and play dates to keep us all sane.  Parenting successfully  involves a village of “aunts” “uncles” and “grandparents” who all step in to love and guide a child.  Children should be so well loved that they have a long list of people to thank Jesus for when their heads hit the pillow.  And as we find ourselves wanting this kind of support I hope we in the same breathe wonder how we can be that village for those that God brings us.

Just as Jenae’ asked us all to support her and to speak the love of Jesus into Sam’s life, I hope we all have hearts that are open, tender and willing to ask for and offer this essential, village minded “atypical family” to each other.

The sweetness of one another is one of the gifts God intended us to enjoy deeply.   My heart is heaviest for those who journey valleys without hope, may we all find perfect light through the hands of our villages this week.

Do you have a village story?  Villages can be found around so many corners these days.  Blogging is it’s own crazy village in my opinion.

Do you need to tell your village how much they mean?

  • Sarah Bessey (@sarahbessey)

    Such a beautiful post, Leanna! I love how you put it -you really captured my heart when I used the phrase.

    • leannepenny

      Thank you and thanks for the retweet, I’m blessed to be a part of your blog community, your writing gets into my heart.

  • Lisa K

    I have often felt this way being far from my family. You capture it well and there is nothing better than atypical family. Sometimes you’re able to open up to them even more because they don’t remember your silly teenager phases. Thank you and Kel for being part of my family!

  • Hannah

    Love you, Leanne!