As I have mentioned before - my family has always been open to accepting more members than the ones we are biologically related to. Some people call them "extended family". I lovingly refer to them as "strays".
Two of my all-time favorite strays are Belva and Melva Shelor (alphabetical...there is no hidden meaning in the order of listing!). They came into our lives through church...Belva is a member of Centenary, Melva hangs out with the good folks at Bedford's Main Street UMC. It is hard to remember a time that they weren't part of our lives, but I think I've known them for about 10 years.
They are twins - and even though I know that there are SOME people who mix them up...they are not hard to tell apart. Especially once you get to know them.
I will not get into the ways that they are different...because if I say that one is relaxed and easygoing - it implies that the other is not. And although that is true...I'm not going to spell it out! But rather, I will tell you a little about the wonderful traits that they share.
Each has a giving heart. They would give you the shirt off their back and offer you their pants and shoes to boot. Mind you, I would refuse such an offer - because it would mean having them stand around nekkid. But if they see someone in need and have a way to help, they want to. Each of them has put years into the JIFF program. For the past few years Belva has been the leader of the K-2 group. I lovingly call them "the anklebiters". I do NOT want her job. But she has a wonderful sweet spirit where children are concerned - and many of the children adore her.
Melva drives 30 miles each week from Bedford to teach Bible Study to the 3rd-8th grade groups. And since I held that post for a few years...I know the challenges!! To prepare a lesson that fits into 20 minutes, tweaked for each age/maturity level, and spend half the time teaching and half the time telling the JIFFers to settle down. Well, maybe she doesn't have trouble with misbehavior...but probably she does. I always wanted so badly for them to listen and learn a little bit. It isn't that we are trying to make Bible scholars out of elementary and junior high kids...just offer a little wisdom with a scriptural base. And sometimes - you actually get to see the light turn on! Sometimes you meet up with one of the students years later and they tell you something that they learned...and you didn't even think they were listening. It takes a lot of patience and faith. And Melva has the gift.
Both of the Elvas (melva...belva...elva...you get it. right?) have loving souls. I've seen that over the years in the way that they interact with their "nephews and niece". They have joined in celebrating Jack, Jacob, Braeden and Taylor's accomplishments. Whether the karate belt graduation, basketball game, baseball game, school plays...whenever they could be there - they were. And I know that when Jack crosses the stage next year at his high school graduation - his aunts will ALL be there to cheer him on.
Today the Elvas celebrate their birthday. And as their adopted sister - I want them both to know that I admire them, adore them and thank God that he brought them into my life. Loving strays is the best thing my Mom and Dad taught me.