Been working on and mulling over this post for a while...trying to get it to come together. Usually, when God lays something on my heart, it's a jumbled mess as I try to work through it and figure out the lessons He wants me to learn. I don't have all the answers...or any answers, really. Just some observations, because we are only just starting out in this stage...tripping up, stumbling, navigating our way.
I always wanted a large family, and while most people would agree that 4 children is MORE THAN ENOUGH...I wanted two more.
But God always knows what He's doing, and after my terrifying and traumatic experience with Clark...and the fact that my brain cells and my patience rapidly decreased with each birth, it was probably a blessing that things worked out the way they did.
But even when our 4 children were really young, I was already dreaming of the days when they would marry and start their families...and our home would be filled with lots of love and laughter. It never occurred to me that there would be friction...even tho sometimes, even in families, there is friction. Sometimes lots of it.
We have been very blessed in both of our families to have very little stress involved when we get together with everyone, but I would be lying if I said there wasn't ANY. And doesn't it always seem like there's just that one person...?
This week in Sunday School, aspects of the "family gatherings" seemed to be the top topic of conversation. Even in our small, little class...I was surprised at the number of people who were going into this holiday holding their breaths...hoping that SHE wouldn't be there, or that HE wouldn't bring HER, or trying to figure out how they can go for just the meal and not have to stay the night. One girl commented, "if I wanted to see my family more...I would see my family more."
How sad is that?
As our family grows...adding new members by marriage, we have to stretch and adapt and, when we do, there is growth. It doesn't mean things are perfect...but love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), and love is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:14). While we have been blessed with the choices our children have made (and are making) in their choice of mates so far, even the best fit for them might bring stress to your family. Because anytime you add a person (or take one away), it changes things. If you have more than one child, you can see this even when your kids are young. When one child is at a sleep-over, or at the grandparents or at camp...your family is changed. You might do different activities. You might talk more. You might talk less. You see things differently because of the child who is away...or because of the child who is at home.
The same type of thing happens when one of your children marries. The assumption is that because they have chosen this person as their mate...they will automatically fit perfectly into your family. I'm here to say that even the most perfect person will require an adjustment by everyone because the family dynamics will change. Your daughter is now someone's wife. Your son is now someone's husband. They have their own lives, own views, own ways of thinking...and it may not be the way you taught them or even the way you wish things would be. Doesn't mean you can't get along.
Now, I'm not Dr. Phil, but I will agree with him that just because you're family doesn't mean you have to like each other...doesn't even mean you have to allow those people into your lives. Some people have endured unspeakable abuse from the hands of their families, and of course you want to break free from anything even resembling that. And, maybe you adopt the philosophy that's written on the plaque that my BFF Stacy gave me: "Friends are the family you choose for yourself."
She gave that to me because I've never lived close to my family...so I've made my friends my family. That's just something some of us have to do.
And I want to be clear...I have a great family! They just all live in different states.
I want my home to be open and welcoming to the new people we bring into our family. And just like we would go out of our way to welcome a STRANGER, we need to go out of our way to welcome the new family members and make them feel comfortable. If you know anything about them, what they like, then you can try to engage them in conversation...but you have to be careful. You don't want them to feel like they're in a game of 20 questions with no way out. AWK!
My parents liked Jim from the beginning, but how my Dad ever agreed to our marriage in the first place, I will never know. We married between our sophomore and junior years in college and didn't have two cents to our names. My Mom loved Jim. She would send him funny jokes and emails at work, and she loved shopping for him. Jim's parents welcomed me into their family as well. I had ten glorious years when I was the only daughter-in-law!
I call those "The Happy Years."
I'M JUST KIDDING.
Then, Jim's two brothers married in the same month, and all of a sudden there were TWO OTHER GIRLS horning in on my good thing. Ha! My mother-in-law has done a GREAT job of bringing us all together and keeping us all together. I'm sure it is exhausting for her, but she works really hard to keep the harmony between everyone in the family. I'm just now getting a taste of the time she spends planning (and praying) before each family event.
Because it IS stressful...or it CAN be. Anytime you bring a lot of people with a lot of personalities into one place...you run the risk that there could be problems. Some jockey for their place...some sit quietly and feel unaccepted. I can't stand that. I never want anyone to feel that way in our home.
Like I said in the beginning, I don't have any answers. I just have awareness...and sensitivity...and a desire to live together with love and respect between each member of our family. Not that anyone should be a doormat; not that we shouldn't expect for everyone in our home to treat each other with basic civility, at the very least.
But just like each part of the body has a different function and place, each member of a family has a different function and place...and all are necessary.
"Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8