Jan and I have four children; three sons and one daughter (Sam, Seth, Elijah and Elysa). In the old photo above the role of Sam is played by dear friend Islay. We raised the kids in a log house on a hilltop in the Blue Ridge Foothills of South Carolina. They were raised with dogs and cats, with trails in the woods, a pool, a trampoline (don’t judge), bicycles and assorted means of entertainment. Yes, yes they had video games as well. Although, fortunately our Internet was terrible. I think that was a blessing.

We had Airsoft guns and archery equipment, plastic swords and wooden shields. There were Barbie houses and American Girl dolls, a staggering number of Legos, and later a clay-thrower so that they could brush up on their shotgunning skills. And the book shelves strained under the weight of the volumes we collected over the years.

But just as important as the location and the accoutrements of rural youth, our home was a place where the kids brought cousins and friends to play.

For years our house was a weekend getaway during the school year and a summer camp during the long, hot South Carolina days when school was no longer in session. When the children were small, they would talk with home-school or church friends and we would go to pick up extra children and bring them home for the weekend, or week. Later, as all of them grew up and grew older, they drove to our house where the driveway resembled the parking lot of a country bar, cars parked in all directions, careful to leave room for the bonfire pile. There was little need for social media in those delightful times. There was social life, person to person, voice to voice, with all the jokes and teasing, torment and support that humans are supposed to give one another…in person.

Jan would always stock the house with food and drink, cook lavish Southern breakfasts in the morning which filled the house with the scent of bacon and send me for pizza at night. She and I would smile as they all swam, or played, wrestled or gamed the days and nights away. She always kept extra blankets and pillows which would be cast upon the floor and by morning would be wrapped around kids lying an all directions, sound asleep on the large, open floor-plan of the house.

Sundays we would typically pack up friends and cousins and take them to church, our extended clan usually filling an entire Baptist pew. This was followed by lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant where we were constant fixtures. (They always brought Jan an unsweet tea when she arrived.) It was tough, but sometimes we even beat the Methodists to lunch! Dave Ramsey might say we weren’t financially responsible, but money spent there was an investment in laughter and connection that brought exponential dividends.



Over time, friends continued to stay but romantic partners began to arrive. The tentative, sweet girlfriends and boyfriends became just as much a part of the Leap commune as everyone else. They became dear to us, just as all of the rest. It is a difficult thing, to watch young love come and go. Those young men and women managed to make us love them too; and we fed them, talked to them, encouraged them and when breakups came, with tears or anger, the house felt a little empty each time. Honestly, we still miss them. We still find ourselves praying for them.

I thought about these times when I heard this song:


“If I bring you home to mama
I guess I’d better warn ya
She falls in love a little faster than I do”

That line reminds me of the love Jan always lavished on these kids when they were with us. And with us they were, whether in the log house, at the beach or a concert or elsewhere.

All of those kids, cousins, friends, past and present loves, are part of our collective memory. Part of our stories. All of them remain dear to us, whether they are across town, downstate or around the world.

Time has rolled on. Our children, their friends and cousins are all working or in school. They still circle around our homeplace. They are adults with adult friends and relationships.

But to this day, when we see those friends after a time of absence, there are hugs and laughter and stories. And they tell us how much they loved the place, and the times there when life was simpler and the muggy summer nights or cold winter days were times of innocence and exploration.

And I will say this, and I know that I speak for Jan as well. Once you’re part of our clan, you’re always part of our clan. And dear children, however old you may be, wherever life may take you, you can always come back to us. We’ll find you a bed or just a couch. You may wake up with a dog-nose in your face. But I promise we’ll feed you, listen to you and help you however we can.

You never know what life will bring. You never know what challenges you will face or what gifts God will cast your way.

But I can say with absolute confidence that the gift of so many children who were not ours, but are always ours, was one of the greatest things we ever experienced.

And we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.




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