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About seven years ago, Jaeden came to live with our family of seven children, two parents. She was a precious girl from a painful family situation. Jaeden and one of our daughters had been good friends. It’s a long story, but essentially, this troubled little girl came for dinner and wanted to stay. She did.

All of this threw our family completely. We were so out of our league with knowing how to help, what to do. So we spent a lot of time doing what we always did, taking comfort in routine. Jaeden was watching.

One typical Saturday morning the kitchen was its usual noisy. We were making/eating/spilling all the pancake things. The scent of sizzling bacon wafted through the air. Frank Sinatra’s voice, smooth as butter, was in the background. There was a lot of “Please pass the syrup!” and “Seriously?” as stories and quips were exchanged. There were occasional annoyances. There was random singing. There was laughter and chatter. It was a convention of morning larks chirping away. Attire favored fleece pajamas. Not a single hair was brushed. No make-up, no shaving. We were a silly, scruffy bunch.

About four bites of pancakes in, Jaeden beckoned me to move into the living room. She wanted to speak to me alone. I didn’t want to go, but her imploring look persuaded me. I leaned down a little to adjust to her height. I didn’t have to lean far. She was tall for her age. “What do you need?” I asked.

“I just want to tell you something,” she said. “It feels….”

She looked down. Was she wondering if she should say it?

“This house … here … it just …well… it feels like … heaven.” Her eyes were round and deep. She was serious. I glanced from her to the kitchen, where pancake batter had dribbled from the pouring style mixing bowl onto the stove that needed repair. The sink was filled with breakfast ware. I took stock of our messy kids, our sometimes messy lives.

I looked back at her with a skeptical raised eyebrow. But now there were tears in those big round eyes. Realization spread over me. Jaeden saw us in a different way. She had never been able to count on safety before. She had never known the warmth of consistent light in her life. The shadows had been cold and they had been overwhelming her. We thought of ourselves as ordinary. But to her, a secure home was extraordinary.

Through her eyes, I saw our family differently. We weren’t Pinterest material. But did it matter? Wasn’t this child, these feelings, this family, this love…wasn’t this what mattered? I hugged her with all the protective love I could muster.

She slipped her hand in mine and we went back to the kitchen. Morning light was pouring in through the windows, illuminating dust on the wood floors, and warming us to to the core.

It was all good.