What is home? My favorite definition is “a safe place,” a place where one is free from attack, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It’s a place where people share and understand each other. Its relationships are nurturing. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable. ~ Gladys M. Hunt
Ohio was not a place I had ever dreamed or imagined we would make our home, even temporarily. I barely knew where to find it on a map. But a promising job presented itself, and in that season of life, promising jobs were enough to make us do crazy things, like packing up five kids and moving to an area of the country about which we knew nothing. Ohio, as it turned out, was not a great fit for us either, but I will forever be grateful to it, as it gave us one of the greatest gifts we have ever been given: our family.
We were a family already, of course: me, Dan, Daniel, Jack, Sophia, Lucy, and Zelie. But until Ohio, it was as if Dan and I had each been holding on to either end of a bungee cord, neither of us willing or wanting to disconnect from each other yet determined to walk in opposite directions, creating tension. In Ohio, we turned and sprung back toward each other, and this time we stuck.
It took a while to get to the point where I could look around the dining room table and see this new and unrepeatable thing God had made for what it was, because for a long time I possessed two problematic personality traits: I was impressionable, and I was afraid of hurting people’s feelings. Being open to other people’s opinions and availing yourself of their wisdom are not bad things. But when you take that receptivity and twist it a bit, you find yourself blindly following anyone who has given you the slightest reason to trust or admire them — sometimes into utter disaster. Being empathetic is a beautiful thing too. And a heart shuttered against the suffering of others is a dead thing. But I let my empathy for others, especially those I loved, turn into a fear of ever doing anything that might cause them pain, and the fruits of that were not good.
Parents might be called over and over again to make decisions that may not be to the liking of your loved ones. Those loved ones may express displeasure at your decisions, and that can be a difficult thing to endure, loving them as you do. But when you are desperately trying to create a new family, with its own unique identity, being far too easily led and even more terrified of inflicting hurt upon them is poison. Or maybe it’s more like a virus. The sickness didn’t just damage me; it tried to weaken and destroy everything Dan and I were building.
In Alabama there was his family, and in Texas there was mine. When we got to Ohio, we discovered that what we desperately needed was room for our family to grow and breathe and stand on its own. We needed to try on different traditions for size — some his, some mine, some entirely new to us — to see which fit our family best. We needed to set our daily life to a new rhythm, one that could only be tapped into by listening to the song God was singing to us. And we needed to see one another through lenses not obscured by the identities our extended family members cast upon us.
Ohio gave us those things.
We didn’t stay long — just nine short months. And of all the states we’ve lived in, Ohio is the only one that did not see me give birth to a baby. But I now think of it as the place where our family was born. We set off for Charleston, South Carolina, as a new family. A family that was established, healed, and strengthened. A family that was eager to discover what God would have us do and become.
Courage is contagious. It is a virtue I very much want my children to possess when they one day leave home. I pray that they never lack the bravery and daringness required to surrender to God’s curious movements and follow Him wherever he may lead them. And I hope the fact that Dan and I don’t seem to be able to resist doing weird, crazy, unusual things for the same reason will aid them in this endeavor. Because one day God will knock on their doors and say, “Boy howdy, do I have an adventure for you!” And after hearing God’s insane plan, I hope they will pause for a moment and think, Well, this isn’t any crazier than what my parents did that one time, so, why not?
Establishing your family culture, discovering what God would have you do and become, requires courage. Because there is a lot of pressure out there, both societal and familial, to keep up with the Joneses, to make sure you’re checking off all the boxes that a “normal” family should be checking off. There’s pressure to let your kids do what all their friends are doing, and to honor your family’s heritage because Aunt Nellie will be very upset if she comes to your house for Thanksgiving dinner and beholds a buffet that contains different food from the variety she was served as a child. And also, if you could not be “too weird” about everything, that would be great.
We are failing at this last part in a super big way.
But I am okay with being a little different because I don’t really have a choice in the matter, and it sends a message to my children that it’s okay to be the unique, wonderful creatures God meant for them to be.
It’s okay to be a little odd. It’s okay to view the world a little differently than your friends. It’s okay to be quiet or loud or both. It’s okay if your talents and interests are kind of unusual. It’s okay to have different priorities from the rest of the world. And it’s okay to go against the grain or the tide or whatever your family and friends and neighbors and that stranger at the grocery store think you ought to be doing.
It’s better than okay. In fact, it should be cultivated and celebrated.
Dan and I had lots of babies because we love babies, and we sometimes let those babies sleep in our bed because they are yummy. We are not what the world would consider financially responsible, because we like the aforementioned babies more than reliable bank accounts. For the most part, we don’t do team sports or a ton of extracurricular activities, but we create art constantly — music and books and paintings and sketches — and we play that music and read those books to one another and tape that art up all over the walls. We prioritize our faith above all else. And we love dessert. And dance parties. And lazy Sunday afternoons spent in our pajamas.
This is who we are.
Do we do everything perfectly? Nope. Do I worry that I am ruining my children because I can’t give them everything they want? Because I possess a higher number of deficiencies than average? Because sometimes I look at our life and think, We really are crazy, aren’t we? Yes.
But at the end of the day, do I rest in the knowledge that God knew what He was doing when he made me their mother and Dan their father? That He knew what we would and would not be able to give them? And that all those things — both the gifts and the absence of gifts — would be exactly what they need to become the magnificent creatures they are meant to become and live the lives they are called to live?
I really do.
We dream about what our lives and children and relationships might look like. And most of the time it’s just that. Harmless dreaming with no threat of disappointment attached.
But sometimes we do become attached to those dreams. We imagine that our children will share our love of sports or that our spouses will delight in spending hours roaming flea markets for that perfect corner table missing from our living room. We imagine that our spouses will handle and approach things in the same way our beloved parents did. We imagine that our families will go on camping trips every summer or to the symphony on weekends or read aloud together around the fire every winter night or collect a great many domesticated animals and maybe occasionally an odd undomesticated creature or two. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have been dreaming these dreams until we discover, with surprise, that they don’t fit into the actual family and lives God has given us. That they don’t fit the people we love.
That can be a painful realization. Why wouldn’t all the lovely, happy things from our childhoods be in our adult lives? Why wouldn’t our children delight in the same things we did? Why wouldn’t our spouses see how the traditions we grew up with could perfectly carry over into our new families?
God is creating a new thing. And we need to leave room for Him to work.
This is not to say we shouldn’t mourn the loss of things we thought might be or fight for the elements of our hopes and dreams that are most important to us. Rather, my point is that when we overwhelm our lives with unchecked expectations, we choke out all the actual goodness God wants to pour into our families.
If we imagine that our ideal child will possess certain characteristics and passions and preferences and discover that they don’t possess any of them, we blind ourselves to the actual beauty that God has tucked within them, unable to see what God is so eager for us to discover and delight in. If we project an image onto our spouses of what a perfect partner looks like and they come up short, we deny them the opportunity to shine in the singular way that God created them to shine. If we envision that a good life must adhere to certain narrow and specific parameters, we miss out on all the wildness and wonder that is waiting for us.
Here is what we can expect from God: He will tell beautiful stories with our lives and take us on spectacular adventures.
He will heal and transform us, and we will be astonished by our transformations. He will give our families unrepeatable, distinctive, and perfect identities because they were crafted for us and us alone. He will, through these things, overwhelm us with peace and a sense of rootedness. And He will never, not even for a moment, stop loving us.
We can expect these things.
But He doesn’t promise that it is always going to be easy. Or that He will protect us from pain. Or that He will not ask us to bend and change and adapt. Or that our lives will look as we expected them to. Honestly, life never does. Why? Because we don’t dream big enough dreams or desire with big enough passion or yearn with big enough longing.
But God does.
His dreams will astound us because He can see things we cannot. His desires will satisfy us into the depths of our beings because He knows better than we do the nature and root of our hungers. And He yearns to give us all these things simply because He loves us.
So what happens when we say goodbye to our unrealistic expectations and open wide our arms and surrender and accept his gifts and love unreservedly?
Well, that is how a family is made.
Excerpted with permission from Falling Home by Hallie Lord, copyright Hallie Lord.
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God has big plans for your family! They may not be exactly what you expected, but they are wild and wonderful! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily