Asking the Lowerys what they most like doing together is to misunderstand them completely. They're gracious and friendly, so they answer the question. They’re possibly even too kind in responding. It’s too easy to overlook the error.
Then 12-year-old Jackie makes it abundantly clear. It’s who they’re with that matters most. "We just like being with each other. It's fun."
The Lowerys – Josh, Valerie, Jackie and baby Benjamin – are family, pure and simple. They love each other and are happiest together, no matter what they're doing. This morning, Josh and Jackie were building a fence to corral Valerie's horse. Valerie took care of Benjamin before preparing lunch.
Near noon, the family gathers. After a heartfelt prayer holding hands, the meal and conversation begin.
"I like sharing my life with people," Josh says. "I like to be able to exchange thoughts with other people. Jackie teaches me to have fun and play, which can be forgotten as you get older and burdened with responsibilities. And Valerie. Well, I love her for a multitude of reasons."
In many ways, the Lowerys live in a distant time and place from others. Some might even call it a better time and place. Josh built the Lowery home by hand toward the back of 40 acres located off a two-lane road off a country road outside Gilmer, Texas. Two dogs, a horse, donkey, guineas, chickens, a goose and a duck typically can be found on the property. They received their only television for Christmas last year.
A spirit of grace and purity permeates the Lowery home. They're ready to share a meal with visitors, talk with people going through hard times or share what they have if it helps someone else. Their 40 acres are a refuge.
Jackie is Opie Taylor without the red hair and freckles. Friendly and outgoing, his fishing lures are his most prized possessions, and he knows which ones are ideal to use in various weather conditions. Fishing is his passion, and he can most often be found at the pond that calls him down a dirt path from his house.
Jackie became a Lowery when he was adopted through Buckner International two weeks before he turned 11. When Josh and Valerie read his profile, they immediately sensed a connection. He loved fishing, hunting and the outdoors. Callie Reneau, the Buckner social worker who helped the Lowerys, said it was like Josh was their biological son. They looked forward to welcoming him to the refuge.
"God gave me that heart to take in those who not everyone is willing to," Valerie says. "It is a joyful thing, something I enjoy."
The couple adopted Jackie shortly before giving birth to Benjamin, changing their world significantly. The parents embraced the role of mother and father, Jackie the role of son and big brother, and Benjamin, the role of making each day a little better.
Life doesn't always run smoothly for the Lowerys. Like any other family, they have bad days. Jackie even admits to "having an attitude" from time to time. They love each other through those times, even growing closer to each other and God during the trials.
Josh and Valerie attempt to live lives that reflect their faith. They've learned a lot about themselves and how God cares about them. They see God's love each day in the family's day-to-day activities.
"What God created us to do is to glorify Him by enjoying Him," Josh says. "I pray for that for myself and every member of our family – that they will find their connection to Him. That He is their real father and was before the foundation of the world."
The importance of the family is fundamental. When working properly, it's a source of strength, compassion and faith. It’s also a picture of so much more, the Lowerys say.
"In the small unit of the family, you see a glimpse of the larger family of God," Valerie says. "You see the role of the father and the mother, the bridegroom and the bride. You see the sacrificial love of parents and a child."
Story and photography by John Hall. Contact John by email at jhall[at]buckner[dot]org.
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