The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:8
Watching my children and their spouses line up to present their anniversary gift to us evoked a deep sense of gratitude, but also excitement over the unexpected trip to San Francisco we would take the next morning. The evening had already been special with a new dress to wear for the surprise party they had thrown for us. I was stunned as Erin stood up to explain that for years they had each been putting aside a small monthly sum in order to send us on this special 40th anniversary trip. Holding Glen’s hand, I stood there gazing proudly at all six of them and marveled at who they had become:
- Erin, our faithful oldest daughter with a deep servant’s heart, who looks out for the needs of everyone in our family, and who motivated me to co-author Free To Parent with her
- Cameron, her husband, whose calm, unruffled disposition brings balance to his vibrant wife and children, as well as tranquility to all of us
- Troy, our son, whose diligence and steadfastness are evident not only in his role as a father and husband, but also as a school administrator serving over us at Veritas Academy
- Stevi, his beautiful wife, who sees the good in everyone and whose sweet, kind disposition radiates from within, bringing joy to all of us
- Alisa, our youngest daughter, who is consistently thoughtful, sincere and kind, and always a good listener which makes her easy to turn to in times of need
- Peter, her husband and now our dynamic pastor, whose enthusiasm and infectious love for Jesus brings vibrancy both to our family and to our church
There they stood all six of them: honoring and respectful as our children, united and supportive of one another as siblings, visionary and faithful as parents. That evening, I saw the fulfillment of so many dreams standing there right in front of us.
Things did not always seem so.
We, like every family, have had our share of trials and struggles to work through, seasons when our marriage and family life would have more aptly been described by dissension and strife than by peace and joy. I remember times when I nearly gave up hope in the dreams I had first envisioned for our marriage and for our kids. But over the years, God is slowly having His way in each of our hearts. Conflict still occurs, but we have grown better at working through the conflict without devouring each other.
Forty years ago, we went to the Pacific coast in Lincoln City, Oregon for our honeymoon. The weather that weekend was exceptionally stormy, and Glen lay ill in bed with salmonella poisoning for much of the time. It was not exactly the start I had envisioned for our marriage. Forty years later, we returned to the Pacific coast only this time to San Francisco where we enjoyed both unseasonably beautiful weather and health, as we walked around the breathtaking bay area.
As we strolled around Golden Gate Park, I reflected on all that has transpired between that stormy trip to the coast forty years ago to the sunny trip this past weekend. I remembered the hopes and dreams we envisioned back in 1974 and considered how they have spanned over the years to today – threads of hope stretching through both stormy and sunny times.
What are the threads that have linked these two milestones together, that have kept our hopes alive in-between? These threads are made up of what the Lord has accomplished within each of our hearts along the way, as well as what of true value we have managed to pass along to our children and grandchildren. These unbroken golden threads, which at times were invisible to the natural eye, are made up of His sanctifying work, the fulfillment of His purposes on our behalf.
We are asked at times, what is the secret to keeping our marriage alive and our family united?
The simple answer to that complicated question is JESUS. Certainly we have a role to play however, so here are my five favorite tidbits of advice:
- Purpose to delight in each other and in your children. Do more delighting and less criticizing. Strive to look beyond the dirt you see in your children’s faces to find the specks of gold buried beneath the surface. Earnestly peer through lens of gratitude and put aside the lens that grow dim by a grumbly perspective.
- Refuse to grow anxious over troubles. Rest assured, if you don’t have any now, you will have them within your marriage and your family. The troubles we must work through, will be the very things that serve to make us stronger, not only as an individual but also together, as you overcome them.
- Normalize discomfort. It is a part of being alive and living life together with others. Conflict may not be comfortable but it’s OK. As individuals with different temperaments and perspectives, and different strengths and weaknesses, we will bump up against each other. This is especially true as we live and grow together under one roof. That’s how the rough spots and dirty places get rubbed off each of us.
- Make forgiveness and reconciliation a normal cycle of daily life. Purpose daily to let go of offense and seek authentic reconciliation instead.
- Finally, learn to pause before you open you mouth. Pray before you react. It’s in the pause that self control occurs and anger subsides. It’s in the pause that you will learn to hear the Lord’s voice and respond as He would have you.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6