I am THE first born kid in all families.
And I mean THE firstborn. I came into the world at 8:00pm on April 21, 1986. Mom said I was the easiest labor among my siblings. She laughs that she practically sneezed and I popped out...and they almost didn't make it to the hospital before I wanted to enter the world. Sounds a lot like me - when my mind is made up, there's no stopping me!
Mom and Dad had me at a young age. Dad was finishing his last few months as a senior at Thunderbird High School and was pictured bringing me home wearing his high school football jersey! I didn't have any other cousins around so I was the highlight of everyone's attention and affection.
There were no "kid" tables for me to dine, no children for me to play with. I sat amongst adults with adoring eyes fascinated by my every move and coo. Maybe this is what has helped me become comfortable with attention, perhaps this conditioning was purposeful as God has designed me to be an influencer and communicator.
I have had MANY wonderful Influences
Adults were my influences. I have a big, loving family who are all unique in their own way. Under their influences, I have come to understand many different schools of thought and ways of life. For this, I’m thankful. It’s helped me become relatively well-rounded. I can understand and value many points of view.
I've never thought like most people my own age and at times have struggled connecting with my peers. I remember going to daycare when I was young and didn't adapt well at first. I remember just wanting to hang out with the adults during nap time so the teacher would bring me into the office and have me "help" by stuffing envelopes or stapling papers. I remember feeling more comfortable around older people than my peers.
I enjoy the company and conversation of people that can hold deep, meaningful conversation about things that are actually important. I’m not good with surface talk and often struggle with an overactive mind which makes it difficult to shut down, relax or sleep. I'm not sure where my overly analytical mind came from...perhaps it's a trait learned or maybe it's just how God wired my brain!
I'm sure that explains a lot about me, eh?! Growing up with Italian influence means we're wildly passionate, loud and obnoxious, talk with our hands, enjoy food, wine, and laughter. We argue relentlessly and yet are fiercely loyal. My family is wonderfully loving and forgiving and never leaves arguments holding grudges. We genuinely enjoy being together and often find excuses for something to celebrate so we can enjoy the company of our family. I've grown up in an environment where confrontation and conflict is healthy and acceptable BECAUSE above all else, our relationships matter most. The other side of my family couldn't be more different - the Czechoslovakian side is more distant, hard to understand and be close to, there's more left unsaid than what is said, and it's common to dance around issues to avoid conflict because the norm is to harbor offenses and hurt feelings. It's just been what's been permissible. Both sides of the family have taught me so much!
My parents divorced before I have memory of them being together. Thankfully they committed to being cordial with each other and never said a coarse word about the other. I was still very much involved with both mom and dad's sides of the family. If there were ever any drama between them, they didn't allow me to see or hear it, and for this, I'm so thankful! They split amicably and understandably. They were so young and really one of their only things in common was me. I've never felt wounded by their divorce. Everyone treated each other kindly in my eyes. And I'm blessed because...
The Family Expands
My mom remarried when I was 5 and has been married to my awesome stepdad for the past 26 years! He's been one of the greatest blessings in my life. He cared for me as his own since day one. He's protected me, provided for me, encouraged me, challenged me, modeled a hard work ethic, sacrifice, bravery in entrepreneurship, and has been exemplary in modeling the importance of strong family values.
I was 7 years old when my little sister was born, and 9 when my baby brother came along. This big gap in our ages proved to be a big help to my mom. I was a responsible, dependable aid and babysitter. It's hard to believe my little sister just turned 25 and my little brother (nearly 23) is married with two babies of his own now!
My Nana is one of the greatest influences in my life. I could truly write a book about her...actually I'm not sure I could condense my words in one book to contain the bond we have, the love we share, my appreciation and admiration for her. I was the first girl born in all families since she was born. She has nurtured me, prayed for me, cared for me and been the matriarch of our Italian family. Her love is fierce, her food is delicious, and she's the most gracious hostess I've ever known as I wrote about in "Preparing the Table." Our bond is sacred, special and eternal.
I thank GOD for the family I have been blessed with! I appreciate the uniqueness, complexity, differences, and personalities of them all. We're by no means a "perfect" family...because there's no such thing...after all, even Jesus experienced family drama! But it's mine and I love every one of them and I wouldn't change a thing for the world. Every grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, parent, and sibling adds TREMENDOUS value to my life! They all have helped to mold and shape me into who I am today. I'm blessed to have so much love.
Most of my family don't understand my relationship with Jesus. Some are even freaked out by it! I didn't grow up with a lineage of pastors or ministry leaders. No one in my family (past or present) are ministry active. I was not taught the Bible as a child, but I did grow up with an understanding that God is real and Jesus is the Savior of the world and my family brought me up with Biblical values (even though they don't really know it).
More on this to come! Stay tuned for "Get to Know Me: Faith Journey" releasing next Tuesday February 27. 2018!
Upon reflection of your family background, tell me, who has been your greatest influence?