Experiencing a little slice of life through their eyes and having the privilege of peeking into family life under someone else’s roof. Our travels often include friends and family, not to mention complete strangers in addition to grandparents, and it has been wonderful. Each family blesses us in a different way. Each family causes me to look at life a little differently; and each family causes me to reflect with a grateful heart on the good gifts I have been given in my own family life.
I was considering these things this morning while we sat in the park, burning the half an hour between the ferry boat docking and the commencement of Sunday services at my parents’ church. Grammy took us to a lovely little park with a bronze statue of two little children playing leap frog. The girl was on top, leaping over her little brother with her pig tails flying in the breeze. Delightful.
The inscription on the plaque next to the statue caught my eye, I cannot remember the exact quote, but the gist of it is as follows: It is not blood that binds the hearts of family members, but the joy they take in one another and sharing life together. How true.
Someone I respect greatly says that what a child needs most is for his parents to simply delight in who he is, that no amount of discipline or instruction will come to more than a hill of beans if the child doesn’t grow in the sunshine of true joy at his mere existence. This quote seems to embody that thought, doesn’t it?
Of course not.
Sure, sometimes we feel joyful, and that is a joy! But even on the days we do not, we can still choose joy.
Every morning when I wake I have two choices:
Choosing joy is not a matter of denying how you feel and hiding behind a facade. It is a matter of focus. I am still tired. I still need my tea. I still need some quiet, but, my children are gifts and blessings, they are people too and they have needs and wants this morning.
Choosing joy this morning means seeing them as a delight and communicating that to them instead of seeing them as an albatross around my selfish neck and communicating that.
As unfair as it may seem, we parents are largely responsible for the climate in our homes. If we purpose to choose joy, then everyone tends to join us. If we are grumpy mean and selfish, the kids are too.
I don’t like it. That’s more responsibility than I want after a sleepless night with barfing boys.
Nonetheless, it is true. Time and again this fact has made itself apparent to me in the most humbling of ways. However, knowing it and acting upon it are two totally different things, aren’t they.
I just don’t.
I love my family. I chose this life, but every time we spend a week at the Four Seasons I secretly wish to stay there forever in unrealistic luxury with smiling men delivering gourmet lunches with orchids on top of the rice.
Don’t we all? Really? Maybe you don’t. It is likely that I’m the most selfish person I know and other parents don’t struggle with this. On the outside, they don’t seem to… but I wonder.
Of this I am sure.
It takes daily effort for me to see the good in people first, to celebrate the diversity within my own family instead of trying to “fix” people. I have to purpose to extend grace to my husband, my children, the driver in front of me in traffic, the bank clerk and the unbearably incompetent staff at the Burger King in Troy, New York.
It has occurred to me, over the years, that joy within a family finds its roots in grace.
This summer cultivating even more joy is one of my projects. I want my children to grow up surrounded by deep, abiding joy. Not the crazy slap happy silliness that some call joy, but the solid unfading joy that comes from loving acceptance, grace extended and the deep satisfaction of pursuing life and our dreams together.