You and I are at Panera.
I get the Pick 2 with a Frontega Chicken Panini, tomato soup, and chips, and you get the Broccoli Cheddar Soup in a bread bowl. I eat and you start sharing about your family, your family relationships, and how you feel.
You talk about how much you love them and how it’s so natural to sacrifice and work hard for them. You describe how you try to create a supportive, loving atmosphere. You try to put their needs before yours. You love them, and you just want everybody to get along and to root for each other.
But no matter how much you do or how much you sacrifice, you’re frustrated with some important pieces of your family relationships.
No matter how good some pieces are, some other pieces always drag things down. Sometimes you sense a growing wall in your marriage, but other times you think it’s great. You’re pretty sure you feel a cold distance every time you’re around the in-laws, “but maybe it’s just me?” Then whenever you’re feeling good about your marriage and in-laws, the older kids act like they hate each other and it’s breaking your heart.
Maybe things are great as long as your family is just you guys in the house, but whenever a holiday or vacation comes, you get sick to your stomach knowing the tension and misunderstandings that are coming from the rest of the family.
Maybe you and the grown kids continually butt heads about how they live and decisions they make.
You’re frustrated with how some of your family relates to each other, and you’re frustrated with how some of those relationships relate to you.
The tension between your estranged brother and sister is really none of your business, is it? But because you love them, it hurts you when they’re so hateful to each other.
You hardly talk about it, and you hate to admit it, but sometimes you feel misunderstood, underappreciated, and even rejected by some. You’ll never bring that up though, because it’s not about you.
You want everyone to get along, you know they want to get along, and you know it would be best for everyone. But you don’t know what to do to make it happen. You’ve been doing everything you know how, and it’s not enough.
Your soup’s getting cold.
You’ve always felt if just a few things change it might make a big difference.
But, you haven’t known exactly which things or how to do it. You’ve even been willing to take it all on yourself and just change your attitude and expectations, if only you knew the attitude and expectations that would help.
You’re telling yourself that things are going okay, and they are, but you really wish some of these relational holes could get filled-in. And you’re afraid some of those holes might be getting deeper.
You pause. You scan my face for signs of discouragement or even shock. You kick yourself a little inside for saying so much.
I smile and you think maybe I’m laughing at you, then you realize the whole time you were holding your spoon halfway between your mouth and your bread bowl, never taking a bite. Now it’s your turn to eat and I start talking.
“Your family can become more and more a source of satisfaction and fulfillment, and less and less a source of disappointment and discouragement.”
Your shoulders relax a bit.
“You can make a difference in how your family treats each other, and you can feel better about how they treat you. You can contribute to a growing closeness and appreciate your family more for who they are now and for who you know they can be.”
Your soup seems to have warmed up. I lean forward a bit to make sure you hear this.
“You can know what to expect from your family, and know exactly how to help everyone get closer and get along better. You can even become the wise family version of a Jedi Master, knowing what to accept and what to try to change, respected for being the example of the things that deep down they all know are best.”
You never really got that Star Wars stuff, but the idea of being a master in your family sounds good.
“You’ll pay a price, but Jedi Masters always pay the price, and it will be worth it, because years from now you will rest in the peace that you have deeply affected your family legacy.
“You’ll look back and know you didn’t just survive, you didn’t just provide nurturing and direction, but you deeply influenced the people God created them to be.”
“And in doing that, you influenced all the people they influence, now and later. You will have dented the world with grace. All because of your family.”
You feel your heart smiling. “Really? So how can this happen?” you say. “How can we get there?”
The rest of the conversation is this blog, and the emails you get when you subscribe.
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This is when you begin wooing their hearts, one drop of grace at a time.