The Behnkes - by Jessica Behnke Kelly
(This picture is not even a year old and it already missing people. Larry, of course, followed by Adeline and Baby #6 for Adam/April... who is (past) due any minute!)
We talk too loud, and too much. We disagree, argue, and agree to disagree. We do not like to be wrong, and, though we would prefer to be proven wrong if we are, we WILL fight until there is, in fact, proof. We can come off as arrogant, long-winded, or just plain annoying. We are educated and smart (because we've chosen to be), and do not apologize for being so. Sometimes we can be grumpy, proud, belligerent, or just have too much to drink and say things that are probably better left unsaid.
Yet, we tell you the truth. You are welcome in our homes at any hour, under any circumstance, where you will be fed and given drink, and even a place to sleep. We will leave your kitchen clean, or clean up after you in ours. We will watch and care for your children, clean your refrigerator, listen to your stories until the sun is up (even if we have to be up in the morning), cook for you, build for you, sing for you, DJ for you, drive long distances for you, plan for you, promote for you, preach for you, teach for you, create for you. We will loan you a car, or give you one if we can. We will keep your secret in confidence, and we will listen, and advise, and pray with you. We will give you money with no expectation of repayment. We will pull your car out of a snow drift, then take you to eat (and drink) and pick up the tab. We will stock your refrigerator, fix your toilet, or bring you a smile at your grandfather's funeral or in the midst of your sibling's divorce. We will volunteer for things that no one else will take on, and we will invest ourselves into causes we know to be noble and righteous. We are not oblivious to the fact that we are sinners; rather, we KNOW we are, and we try to be better. We will plan your entire event, and spend money we do not have to make it special. We will give time and energy until we have none left to give. And then, we will give more. We will pray a novena for you, without your ever knowing. We will put money in your purse without telling you just because we know you need it. We will hire you when we could hire someone else. We go to Mass, every Sunday, where we teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, preach from the altar, prepare to enter ordained ministry, or care for crying children in the back, knowing it is our job to bring them and teach them and raise them to be righteous. We will stay calm when you freak out, listen when you cry, get angry when you need fire, and bring laughter when you've lost your smile.
We are a highly functioning dysfunctional unit. We will fight with each other, pick at each other, gripe at each other, correct each other, and occasionally drive each other absolutely crazy. But we are a unit. In the storm, we will rise, with each other.
My blood, my lifeline... a beautiful story of love, righteousness, strength, forgiveness... a story that begins with a young couple's cross-country mission, leads to a VW bus filled with a singing family of seven, and results in conquering such trials as spina bifida, breast cancer, a back brace, drug addiction, long-distance relationships, child illness, adoption, wrecks, alcoholism, an international move, scrutiny, temptation, child pre-wedlock, hate mail, debt, arrests, divorce, miscarriage, condemnation, death, Dementia, poverty, eviction, heartbreak, thyroid cancer, obesity, unemployment.
We are a family which thrives amidst trials that would break most. We conquer with grace and strength, led by a brilliant, God-fearing man and an angelic, pillar of a woman who have touched and changed the lives of thousands of heartbroken and lost individuals and families, and who have held ours together with a peace that most could never comprehend. And we're just doing the best we can, and trying to do better when we slack. God's grace carries us. And we do our best to invoke His mercy and compassion and strength and guidance.
Laugh at us. Call us names. Pick on our weaknesses and shortcomings. Doubt us. Slander us. Gossip about us.
We've come through worse.
Your words are hurtful, but, in reality, non-consequential. It is not your judgement we fear, but that of a much higher power.
And at the end of the day, you will go home to your families, who perhaps have secrets and grudges and lies and deceit and unforgiveness and affairs and guilt and longing, and talk about how annoying and hypocritical we are (and, often times, you'll do the exact thing you've ridiculed us for doing, but you can get away with it, because your last name is not ours).
And we will sit together, around the table, with our glass of wine, talking and laughing, learning and loving, creating, playing instruments that we've taught ourselves to play, singing songs we've written or taught ourselves to sing, calling those who are not present just to laugh and say hello, cooking, eating, giving, growing. We will love together, and pray together. And no matter what storm life brings, we will come out of it... together.
Just a'travelin' along, singin' a song, side by side.