Ellison was the first to head back to college this summer. Yes, I cried. He was home for only a few days because his summer job was at a camp in NC. As his arrival home neared, we all got excited because this meant our family would be together. Every time our family reunites, we all look forward to it. What fascinates me is our journey to get to this amazing place. For me, it began with a belief that God wants families to be close.
“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11.1)
We don’t want to rely only on what we see for guidance. I can remember too many times over the years when at least one child did not want to hang out ‘as a family’ or go do something ‘as a family’. Terrell or I would say something like, “This afternoon, we’re all going to the park.” And then the complaining would begin. “I want to stay home. I want to get together with a friend…” Each of them went through a phase whereby they implied they couldn’t imagine what we could all do together that might be fun or interesting.
Another idea that often generated a wave of discouragement was when we’d declare one of the weekend nights a Family Night…”I don’t like that game. We always play that game. No other families do this. That’s a girl movie (which of course led to)…Well, its’ better than the ones you (boys) like.”
More than a few times, Terrell or I would second guess our plan, coming close to giving in and letting them have their way. Instead, we’d commit to pray and hope for the best. Some of our family times were hits. The children would actually admit they had fun (even if we had to prompt them). Other times were NOT fun. One child would make sure we knew he was unhappy throughout the family time, or there would be ongoing squabbling among them. Exhausted and discouraged, I would wonder, “Was that worth it?”
Would I do it all over again? ABSOLUTELY YES! Hopefully, I’d handle some things (namely myself) better! The children were being, well, children.
Spending time as a family, engaging with each other, sharing experiences – and even working through squabbles in the midst of them – gives each of us practice and understanding for what family can be. Sharing time, we grow together; God gives this growth. Prayer is key: “Lord, show us activities to do. Give me grace! Lead our conversations. Change their hearts. Help them be open. Grow our relationships…” Our faith is in God and what He can do.
It’s not because our family has ‘changed for the better’ or ‘grown up’ that we look forward to time together now. We cherish time together because of a deep love, respect, and value that God has grown among us – through lots of shared time, plenty of trials, facing conflict and dealing with it, tons of forgiveness, and countless prayers.