That weekend I went on a women's retreat and returned to my family rested and inspired. Yet, in spite of everything, we sort of spiraled this past week... and not in the upward direction I had hoped. Though, in the midst of it all there's a sense that "remember, there's a time for everything and everything has its season." Mine and Isaiah's chest and head colds went from 'whatever' status to bad and then worse. LeRoy came home from work early on Friday and went straight to bed. By later that evening he had all the symptoms, plus some, listed on the front of the Nyquil bottle. So, in the midst of coughing spells where I fear a lung might come up, medication cocktails that have me whispering a prayer that I'm not mixing up something akin to bleach and pneumonia, along with the old-fashioned salt gargle and many cups of hot soothing chamomile tea, our family is... well... peaceful.
Several weeks ago, I finished reading "What Is A Family?" by one of my life mentors and heroines, Edith Schaeffer. In the last couple of pages she sums up family life and it's so good that I thought it should be shared with everyone! (It's a bit long, but well worth the read.)
A family -- for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health! Dirty diapers, chicken pox, measles, mumps, broken dishes, scratched furniture, balls thrown through the windows, fights, croup in the night, arguments, misunderstandings, inconsistencies, lack of logic, unreasonableness, anger, fever, flu, depressions, carelessness, toothpaste tops left off, dishes in the sink, windows open too far, windows closed tight, too many covers, too few covers, always late, always too early, frustration, economies, extravagance, discouragement, fatigue, exhaustion, noise, disappointment, weeping, fears, sorrows, darkness, fog, chaos, clamoring -- families!
A family -- for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health! Softness, hugs, children on your lap, someone to come home to, someone to bring news to, a telephone that might ring, a letter in the post, someone at the ariport or station, excitement in meeting, coming home from the hospital with a new person to add, someone to understand intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, happy shrieks of greeting in which you are involved, beloved old people, welcomed babies, increasing togetherness, blending ideas of interior decoration, blending musical taste, growing interests, fun, satisfaction, enjoyment, clean washing, ironed clothing, tulips up, flowers arranged, rugs vacuumed, beauty, dogs, cats, candlelight, firelight, sunlight, moonlight, fields with someone to walk with, woods with someone to picnic, sharing food, imaginative cooking, exchanging ideas, stimulating each other -- families!
A family is a mobile strung together with invisible threads -- delicate, easily broken at first, growing stronger through the years, in danger of being worn thin at times, but strengthened again with special care. A family -- blended, balanced, growing, changing, never static, moving with a breath of wind -- babies, children, young people, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles -- held in a balanced framework by the invisible threads of love, memories, trust, loyalty, compassion, kindness, in honor preferring each other, depending on each other, looking to each other for help, giving each other help, picking each other up, suffering long with each other's faults, understanding each other more and more, hoping all things, enduring all things, never failing! Continuity! Thin, invisible threads turning into thin, invisible metal which holds great weights but gives freedom of movement -- a family! Knowing always that if a thread wears thin and sags, there is help to be had from the Expert -- the Father -- "Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."
We had an amazing summer! One full of memories, laughter, stresses, misunderstandings, clarity -- a deepening of relationships! But the one thing that stands out most to our family in particular is that we really, really like each other! I know, that sounds weird, because of course we think we like each other but then we spent a bjillion hours in the car together, took on challenging moments, communicated and prayed through highly stressful occasions, made decisions -- sometimes based only on opinions and theories, we fought, yelled, cried some, made sacrifices, apologies, restitution, attempted to "prefer one another in honor," and through it all, or maybe at the end of it all, we looked at one another and realized how very much we like one another!
Another friend and mentor, Michael H., wisely told us in a marriage seminar once that it's important to have far more good memories than stressful memories so that the marriage can more easily endure the stressful times. I think that definitely transfers over to family dynamics, too. And I can say with joy that we definitely deposited a plethora of great moments in the memory bank this summer!
Love always wins the day!! God's overwhelming love is always bigger than any pettiness I can come up with! I know families that are barely hanging on by a thread... If you're feeling strengthened by God's love today, perhaps you can reach out a hand and help hold them up until they get their bearings. Pray for them. Or if you're the one barely holding on... ask people to pray you through this season... til you come out the other side, "strengthened again with special care."
"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3