Recently, I had a tough conversation with someone whom I care about deeply. They are hurting and I can’t really help. That’s a place I really dislike. Something they said got me thinking about my own family. We have been through some tough things. My husband has a foot problem (20+) years old that limits his mobility. He’s also going blind. We’ve lost a daughter and parents. We live with autism. Shoot – we have 6 living children. Some days it’s awesome and full of blessing . .some days it’s hard. I tend to look at our situation without always seeing the toughness of it. It’s my reality. My normal. I certainly can look around the world, throughout history, even in my own city and quickly realize how very, abundantly blessed I am. Life is hard. God is good. (That’s a Randy Stonehill shirt that my hubby owns)! When I saw that shirt a couple of years ago. . .I knew we needed to own it. What a powerful set of six words. It covers over a multitude of life realities.
Someone was counseling us once. . .we were going through a rough patch. They listened a bit to what was currently going on in our lives. Their response, “That’s overwhelming. It’s too much. No one could handle all that.” They were trying to be encouraging, but it was really discouraging to me. I thought we needed some support, some encouragement. You know, “Life is Hard. God is good,” kinda moment. But somehow those words really discouraged me and kinda made me mad. Like is was hopeless. Nope. You can’t do this. It’s too much. For the record, these are dear friends, and they had the best of intentions! And we are still in great relationship with them to this day!
So, here we are, many years later. Many hard things have come and gone. And yet, we’re doing okay. Our marriage is good. Not perfect, but good. We’ve been married over 16 years and we are still very much in love. And we like each other too! We enjoy our children and have lots of fun with them on a regular basis. So how is it that we have managed to weather the storms of life and come through together and stronger.
Here are a few things that I realized we do that I think are key to maintaining a strong, healthy family.
- Christ is Center – God is truly at the center of our family. We read the Bible together. We pray together. We worship together. We talk about spiritual issues, doctrine and point things back to God’s Word. I won’t discuss frequency here, because that’s very much not the point. But these things are normal, on-going occurrences in our home.
- Mend Fences Often – I don’t think a day goes by when someone isn’t “cleaning up” with someone else. Children admit their mistakes and apologize and ask forgiveness when they’ve hurt another sibling or been unkind. Derek and I often apologize to each other when we realize we’ve hurt the other person. Perhaps most importantly, Derek and I often apologize to the children. When we are harsh, impatient or offend them in some way we go and make things right with them.
- No Sweeping Under – Related to number two. . .but we really don’t allow things to just be forgotten or “swept under the rug!” We stop life. Chores, school, plans, goals. . .whatever may be happening will often halt to discuss and fully resolve an interpersonal conflict. This takes time. Sometimes lots of time. It can even be exhausting sometimes. But the return on that investment of time and effort is truly priceless. We decided early in our family to resolve conflicts fully. Your issues don’t go away or get better with time. . .they tend to simmer and stew and explode or at least cause decay!
- Encouraging Words – Both with our children and with one another we attempt to use our words to build up and not tear one another down. This one is hard. I talk. A lot. When you talk a lot you usually end up saying things you shouldn’t say. The Bible has good examples of this principle! I get in trouble here sometimes. But, when I’m wrong, I go say so and apologize and do better the next time. This is really important for spouses too. I try to speak about the good qualities of my husband to others and sometimes out loud when I know he’s able to hear. I think it’s good for your spouse to hear you singing their praise to someone else! It encourages them and builds trust.
Life is hard. God is good.