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Famiy and Religious Heritage

Updated on February 23, 2015

My immediate family is something of a mixed bag. On one hand there is my father’s side which is full of horse thieves and rum runners scattered about the Midwest, particularly in Kansas wreaking Wyatt Earp style havoc for decades. Then there is my mother’s side which is filled with well groomed, vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists who reside mostly in California and enjoy activities like knitting and classical piano. Granted, there are some serious generalizations here but between the two families I come from the variance is astronomical.

To describe my dad’s family as exciting would be a gross understatement. I remember sitting around the dining room table of my Aunt Robbie’s house in Topeka, Kansas at the one family reunion we attended listening to exploits of previous generations. They were colorful to say the least, though I’m sure some of them were along the lines of exaggerated fishing tales. To get an accurate feel for my dad’s family you should watch the movie “Honkey Tonk Man.” Any confusion you have will be immediately cleared up by Clint Eastwood’s character.

Religiously speaking, my dad’s family is relatively traditional. My grandparents were not Christians until my dad had already moved out at the age of fifteen. Though my dad and his parents are all currently believers, they came to know the Lord separately. They are regular church attendees and Bible readers, but for them religion was meant to be practical. God can be found in the hayfield or the fishing hole. In regards to social standing my dad comes from a long line of honest, hard-working Americans (with a few notable exceptions) who are deeply committed to family. Being very traditional they were never particularly big on emotional expression and I have never seen my father yell or cry. My dad’s family is also very intelligent. My grandfather was dedicated to learning new skills and he passed this on to my dad who would go on wild rampages through the public library reading every book on say, geology or the famous painters of the nineteenth century. The number of presidential biographies my father once owned (and read all of) easily reached two hundred. Education for the Carlyles is more of a do it yourself thing.

My mom’s family is of a different sort entirely. Though perhaps less flamboyant than my father’s family, my mother’s is still fairly eccentric and by no means boring. However where the Carlyle’s tend to proudly display their eccentricities, the Porter’s prefer to acknowledge them with a quiet smile. The family reunions I recall attending with her side of the family usually involved all of us sitting around the piano eating pie and singing hymns. To my mother’s family, church was everything. My mom attended “Sabbath School” (think Sunday School for Adventists) and knew the Bible well from an early age.

My mom’s family also valued education greatly and both my parents are two of the smartest most well educated people I know. My mom left home at seventeen and spent about a year living in Spain with several of her college friends from Rio Lindo. She graduated as an elementary school teacher and spent several years teaching in Christian schools where she was known for the great understanding her students had of the concepts that she taught them. She is also a published author with about a dozen children’s books in print.

When she married my dad they lived in northern California for a while where my dad lead Pathfinders (Boy Scouts for Adventists). Though very different my mother and father really do complement each other well. One example of the way these differences manifest themselves, religiously speaking, was when I was very young. We were currently, as a family, attending two churches simultaneously; an Adventist church on Saturdays and a Calvary Chapel on Sundays. My dad would learn the lesson from the Calvary Chapel service and then teach it to the Pathfinder group he was leading the following week. Of course when the eldership of the Adventist church found out about this it was the end of Adventism for our family!

Of course the one glaring similarity between these diverse families is traditionalism. Though of different brands my parents are both very much tied to their heritage through tradition. We still “keep the Sabbath” by not watching certain TV shows or doing laundry until the sun sets, but we also attend a fairly casual Calvary Chapel on Sunday mornings. Our family relates to each other in a very close way and the family culture I was raised in is very conscious of the need for one’s education. I was homeschooled, so there was a certain amount of self-reliance taught to me by both parents at an early age. Their philosophy has always been something along the lines of “the world is your school and God is your teacher.” They worked very hard to make sure I had a solid understanding of traditional academics as well as politics and current events. The values I was raised with were fairly traditional as well- patriotism, self-reliance and hard work and their parenting style was more strict than that of some families I am associated with.

Another family that has greatly influenced me is that of my husband. His family culture is very much like my own and he was homeschooled as well. At this point where we are actively working towards marriage, yet not quite engaged I have found a lot of comfort in the fact that the bringing our two families together will not be too difficult because they are so similar. Like my father’s family they are really big on hunting and fishing and being outdoors and share our feelings on politics and religion. I have known them well for about five years now and their honesty and kindness have been very big influences in my life.

As I have now entered college and am somewhat on my own I’m realizing more and more about myself. Part of this comes from being able to see my own personal set of values contrasted with that of my housemates. Though I’m more huggy and apt to say, “I love you,” I also value hard work very much and that has been reflected in the effort I put into my school work. There is very much I have retained and very little that I have rejected of my parent’s families. I truly am a product of my heritage however colorful and eccentric it may be.


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