Family: Beyond Definition

Rebecca King

devozine Open Book FTR TSP 154252627“OK, class, define the word family.” I remember the phrase as if it were uttered yesterday rather than ten years ago in elementary school. Hmmm, how do I define family? And which family are we talking about—birth parents, adoptive parents, relatives by marriage, cousins I’ve never seen, half siblings? What about my church family? What about God my Father and Jesus my brother?


I admit that those are some pretty heavy thoughts for a ten-year-old, but I have always thought outside the box and questioned things most kids my age never even considered. You see, my beginnings weren’t like your average kid’s.


My Story

I was born to a young mom, who had already given birth three times. She was a severe drug addict and alcoholic who had no clue how to be a mom. At sixteen, she gave birth to twins. Next, she had Misty, my third oldest sister, and then Lanie, who was only eighteen months old when I was born.

My birth mom was strung out most of the time, so I was only fed, changed, and held when she remembered. When the state threatened to step in and take away her kids, she knew she had to do something. The twins had been given to a family member long ago. Misty was given to one of my birth mom’s siblings, and Lanie was shipped off to Texas to live with relatives she had never met. That left me, a sickly three-month-old whom no one wanted.

A drug buddy of my birth mom actually introduced her to the woman who would adopt me. Basically, my birth mom told her that the state was coming in and that she needed to get rid of me. This woman, the only mom I’ve ever known, offered to take me; and that evening, she and her husband began the process to adopt me. Later that week, my adoptive parents took me to the hospital and discovered that I had heart problems, growth issues, terrible diaper rash, and overall poor health. The doctor determined that my birth mother had used drugs late into her pregnancy, and he warned my new parents that I would need a lot of care.

My parents didn’t think once about the risk, the pain, and the financial issues that might arise from adopting me, but selflessly devoted their lives to caring for me. So I grew up with my adoptive parents rather than my birth parents. But there is more to my family.


Family Continues

My adoptive father had children from his first marriage, so I have half siblings. Even though they lived with their mom and I didn’t see them often, they are still my family. Some of my friends have become like family to me. I have led several of them to Christ; and though we have long since parted ways, they are still family to me because they are family to God. God is my heavenly Father and thus a part of my family, just as Jesus is my brother. I have birth siblings whom I don’t know, but they are still my family. And although I want nothing to do with my birth parents, they are still related to me by blood.

devozine Extended Family TSP 200280711-001

And what about my church family, the people who comfort, love, and nurture me? My church family is a part of my family. As a matter of fact, anyone who is a part of God’s family is a part of my family too. That includes you!

So how would I define family? For me, family is beyond definition. Family is the sum of all its parts, no matter how big or small, no matter how close or far away.



Think about Rebecca’s amazing story. How do you define family? Grab a pen and paper, and write down the people you include in your family. Pray for each person in the days to come, and pray that your family might reflect God’s love for all people.

Rebecca King , 21, is a novice writer from Trenton, Georgia.

—from devozine (November/December 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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