Ever since I can remember, our family has been much larger than what our family tree portrays. My parents were always “adopting” various people into our family for Sunday dinners & holiday gatherings. An older widow or a young couple would join us even for family reunions, because, well, they were like family to us. In these cases blood wasn’t thicker than water, and all were welcome in our home.
Perhaps it was their act of adopting me that opened their hearts and home to a stranger who became like a brother, or a widow who became another grandparent to us. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Adoption is a special way of acquiring family who don’t bear the same name, but they share memories, love, & dreams with you. I think my parents’ influence paved the way for my heart to “adopt” various sorts of family throughout my life.
The summer before my freshman year of college, I was working with CEF and we partnered with a church to minister in the Dunkirk Projects. I met a beautiful, energetic Children’s Director named Lisa Leavitt who had a heart for the poor and overflowed with great compassion. I so admired her strength & leadership. Little did I know then, that Lisa would become one of my greatest mentors and dear friend. The following year, I transferred to Fredonia, where her daughter Lindsey was studying vocal performance, & I accompanied her on piano.
Lisa welcomed me with open arms to Harvest Chapel, and helped me get plugged into the church community. It wasn’t long before I was teaching Sunday School, and eating dinners at the Leavitts’ home. We continued to partner each summer in the Courtney Street projects, and savored late night talks about our faith, & our lives.
Upon graduation, I joined Lisa at Harvest Chapel as an intern, and learned so much from her as both my boss and friend. Her diligence & discipline in the workplace inspired me to work hard. Even upon leaving Fredonia, she continued to influence me with her creativity and heart for children & families. This past summer marked the 10th anniversary of the ministry she pioneered & the summers we’ve partnered together.
It’s hard to say who adopted who first, but I will always treasure Lisa & her family. Recently, we got together and I had the joy of photographing her with her daughters and granddaughter. I am so proud to call them family.