family is everything

In my life, I am fortunate to have lots of families. I have my biological family. I have my Messiah family. I have a Costa Rican family. I have my ASC family. I have an Australian (technically Kiwi) family. For some reason wherever I go, God sees fit to place me in a perfect system of love and support. One of the greatest gifts life can give is family, and no matter where I go, I seem to have family there.

My biological family is wonderful. I was brought up in a loving Christian home in South Central Pennsyltucky (oops sorry, I meant Pennsylvania) with my mom Michelle, my father Leo, and my younger brother Garrett. I lived in my small town my whole life, and I was deeply loved and supported all through that time. The rest of my extended biological family was always right around the corner as well, so I was fortunate enough to be brought up with a whole network of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents to love on and be loved by. I know not everyone can boast of this, which I am realizing even more from being in Australia, so I am entirely grateful for the times I’ve had with them. God’s been good to me.

When I was a senior in high school (or in year twelve, as they would say here) I had the incredible opportunity to travel to another country for the very first time. To be able to travel, to experience the world, has been my lifelong dream. At the time I didn’t think that I would have the opportunity to go abroad until college, or until I was much older and more established so that I could afford it.

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mi familia tica, 2014

My family, however, worked tirelessly to help me achieve my dream of traveling for the very first time, and I got to go to Costa Rica. In their selfless and supportive way, my own family stepped back so that I could be loved by another family, and there I met mi familia tica. It was an amazing new experience to live in someone else’s home and experience hospitality in such a personal way. As I was learning Spanish at the time, there was always a bit of a communication barrier when I was speaking to them; misunderstandings and misspoken phrases were a norm, but you could never mistake the warmth and acceptance that my host mother Lobelly or my host sister Marjorie brought. They were family.

And then I went to college (or uni 😉 ) at Messiah College, an hour away from home. I clicked instantly with my new roommate Alyssa and the friend that she had made in FYS, Michaela. From there I met Alyssa from across the hall, Katie and Amanda, Andie and my newest roommate Natalie. These girls became the closest friends I’ve ever had. We became sisters. We became family. And the family doesn’t stop there, because I have so many other wonderful friends, mentors, and coworkers across Messiah’s campus who I consider family too. God’s been good to me.

And now here I am, in Australia, miles and miles from home. Not only did the whole group of ASCers really bond, but I also gained a new Australian system of support. My host family, the Jeffersons, have been the loveliest people. There is Linda my host mom, Tony my host dad, and Katie my host sister. Not only did they make me feel right at home in this new place, they also endeavored to really connect me to the community here. They take me along to barbecues at friends’ houses, take me to the movies, introduce me to friends at church, play Sequence with me (quite an addicting board game), take me out to eat, and just hang out with me. They are some of the most giving people I’ve met, and their hospitality has transformed this experience of living in a new country. Katie has quickly become one of my closest friends here, and we always joke that we actually are sisters because we are so alike. They have become family.

Now I am living with yet another host family, just temporarily for the week. While I miss the Jeffersons greatly while they are on holiday, once again I am blessed with such phenomenal people in my life. They have shown me nothing but kindness, and I can’t help wishing to one day have the type of home that these families have fostered for themselves; a haven that so many people can call their own.

I am so glad that family is one of those things that can transcend blood ties, and I am lucky to have a biological family that is willing to share me with others so that I can grow and have the amazing experiences that I have had. I have so much room in my heart to love on others, and I am SO privileged to continually extend that to my many families. I know that some of the bonds that I have formed will be lifelong relationships.

Kind of a sappy, contemplative post, I know. I do that sometimes.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo, Riss

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