Grace within the family involves giving of ourselves. Time, energy, and attentiveness represent the currency of the gift of self. As we give our time, energy, and attentiveness to our family members, we show them grace. My friend told me a wonderful story of grace shown from a mother to her adult daughter. The adult daughter was very stressed about temporary changes at her workplace that had added to her workload and disrupted her work routine. As a result, she had to work extra hours to get all the work done. In addition, her husband had to travel out of the country for work, often into dangerous areas. Unfortunately, while the adult daughter was stressed with the increased workload and disrupted work routines, her husband had to travel out of the country for an extended period of time. As a result, she was overworked and without the usual support from her husband. She came home exhausted from work to an empty house. She was worried about her husband, stressed about her job, and feeling overwhelmed. All of this contributed to her housework falling behind.
The adult daughter and her husband had planned on taking a long weekend vacation following his travels. However, the adult daughter now felt too stressed and tired to go away. She was torn between using the weekend to clean the house and get caught up with work or going away with her husband. With encouragement, she decided to go on the vacation and spend time with her husband.
While they were gone, the adult daughter’s mother became a grace dispenser. Because she had given attention to her daughter, the mother was able to anticipate what would help releive her daughter’s stress. So, she went to her daughter’s home and began to clean. She not only cleaned the house, she did the laundry and anything else that she knew would help her daughter feel relaxed. As you can imagine, when her daughter returned home, she was blown away. She was so surprised when she entered a clean house that she texted her mother to say “Thank you.” A few minutes later, she saw another area of her home cleaned and texted to say “Thank you” again. Then she saw the laundry done and texted to say “Thank you” again. She texted a new “thank you” each time she found another thing her mother had done.
This mother had acted in grace. She had given of herself. First, she gave enough of her attention to know that cleaning her daughter’s home would help relieve her daughter’s stress and fill her with joy. She gave of her time and energy to actually go to her daughter’s house and clean. She completed this act of grace with no expectation of return. She gave of her self simply to show her daughter love. She showed the grace of buckets, brooms, and mops.
Napoleon once remarked that “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” Indeed, words are powerful. I always wondered who said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Whoever they were, they were wrong. Words may not break bones, but they can break someone’s spirit. Of course, they can lift someone’s spirit as well. Words have the power to arouse strong emotions in us–emotions of joy or sorrow, anger or mercy, love or hate. Just adding a single word to a sentence can change the meaning and consequence of that sentence. Take “but” for example. When a loved one tells us “I love you” we are filled with joy. However, “I love you, but…” leaves us fearful and worried about the security of our relationship with them. When a friend says, “I like your shirt” we feel good, maybe even more confident. However, if they say “I like your shirt, but…” we suddenly become self-conscious and worried, not only about our shirt but our overall appearance. And, we all hate to hear someone respond to our world changing idea by saying “Yeah, but…”
Yes, words are powerful. Our words can honor or dishonor those who hear us. They can heal the spirit or crush the spirit. Honoring words build others up. Dishonoring words tear others down. “Honey, I really appreciate all your work around the house” honors; “Honey, it’s about time you did something around here” does not. Telling our children “You didn’t put your clothes away yet-when do you plan to do it” honors them. Telling them “You are such a slob; you never put your clothes away” dishonors them with name-calling and character assassination. Constructive criticism given in love honors; harsh criticism shouted in anger dishonors. Encouraging words honor. Compliments honor. Polite words, like “thank you,” “please,” or “your welcome,” honor. Rude words dishonor.
Tim Hawkins’ satirical song, “Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife,” (click on picture) humorously describes many dishonoring statements a man might say to his wife. It’s a funny song. Have a good laugh as you listen. But, when the music ends, consider…do your words honor or dishonor your family?
My aunt completed her journey on earth and crossed the finish line to heaven this week. She had been a missionary for near thirty years. She left for the mission field when I was in my late teens. Two memories stand out when I think of my aunt. The first “stand-out memory” occurred when my family and I moved from PA to TX. I was in high school and upset about the move. On our way to TX, we stopped at my aunt’s house. I remember her coming into my room, sitting on the bed next to me, and talking. She attempted to comfort me, understand me, and help me see beyond my sorrow. I don’t remember what she said; but, I remember she loved me enough to take the time to talk with me and comfort me. She was available to me. Isn’t that what family is all about–loving one another enough to remain available, even during the times of sorrow? To comfort one another as the need arises? Sometimes it is not so much what we say as it is our mere presence that signifies love in family. My uncle kept us updated about my aunt on his blog. As I read his blogs, I realized that my aunt’s love extended well beyond her biological family. She loved everyone enough to take the time to be with them. She extended her family beyond mere biology to include friends everywhere she went. Her church family grew large and loving in response to her gracious love and availability.
Second, I remember the excitement in my aunt’s voice when she shared her passion–ministry in Papua New Guinea. She spoke with excitement and intensity about the people she loved in New Guinea. They became like family. No, not like family…in Christ, they are family. I am sure that my aunt is in heaven sharing her passion with angels right now. I look forward to the day when we all get to heaven and I can watch as my aunt is surrounded by her biological family and the extended family she created through her gracious love and availability.
Volkswagen sponsors a site called funtheory.com (click on images). The “site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” They have some great videos, like how to encourage people to walk up stairs rather than ride an escalator, how to encourage recycling, or how to encourage obeying the speed limit by making fun the reward. Amazingly, it works. People’s behavior changes when fun is the reward. In fact, just watching the video entices me to participate because…well, it looks like so much fun!
Imagine if you could make your home- and family-life fun. Think of it…family members coming to meals because it’s fun, bedrooms cleaned up because it’s fun,
everyone clearing the table because it’s fun.
Well, alright, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. Family can’t be all fun. We do have boring times and times when we disagree. But, I love fun. It’s just so much…fun.
In Fighting for Your Marriage, the authors state that “fun plays a vital role in the health of family relations.” They go further to state “good relationships become great relationships” when family members consistently share fun times together. Imagine what our families might be like if we could just add a little more fun into our family life. It’s not hard to do–eat dinner backwards, share a joke a day, tell some funny stories about your life right before bed, or see who can clean their room in the most unique and creative way.
Another fun way to create more fun is to brainstorm fun ideas with your family. Give each family member 10-12 index cards and have them write one fun idea on each card. Mix them up and pick three cards each day. As a family, choose the one activity card you can carry out for fun today. Go ahead, test the fun theory. Be creative and…have fun!