“Overall you will be strong,” the messenger would have told us. “The family as a whole will only be successful because you work together in maintaining effective family life.
Who Would Have Ever Imagined?
A lot can happen in twenty-six years if you keep effective family life in your sights. A week ago Amy and I stood and looked at the Christmas light display in the same place that I had proposed to her during the same time of year in 1987. I smiled as I imagined what our reactions would have been on that fateful night had a messenger appeared and provided us with a glimpse of our future.
If effective family life is your focus, it will all be worth it.
“Like any couple,” he might have said, “you’ll have ups and downs. But if you stick with it; if you stick with each other and treat each other with respect, if effective family life is your focus, it will all be worth it.” The messenger would have started with the bad news because I always take the bad news first. We would have seen ourselves standing at the graveside of my little brother, with me wondering if I would ever recover from blaming myself for his death. I almost didn’t.
We would have known about the challenges that mental illness would bring to our family. We would have seen meetings with psychologists and psychiatrists. We’d have seen lists of goals and bottles of prescriptions that would help our family members with everything from depression to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But in effective family life, mental illness is just like any other illness.
Effective family life helps to carry you through the pain.
Of course the messenger would have shown us financial difficulties involving tax liens and near bankruptcy while he told us that generous hospital benefactors would forgive every cent of the debt that we incurred with the open-heart surgery of our adopted infant son who had Down syndrome. We would have learned, beforehand, the stress that came with running a family-owned international business that served an industry notorious for its unbelievable growth periods and ferocious downturns that few small businesses survived.
I’m sure that we would have been surprised as we came to understand the friends that we would lose due to situations that often cause friendships to fail. And then we would have cried to see those that death would take away long before old age would make the loss acceptable. An effective family life, though, helps to carry you through the pain.
We’d have seen stressful things like multiple transcontinental moves and heavy travel schedules for work. There’d have been visions of a few difficulties in communities and with schools that our children attended, that almost all parents who stress effective family life encounter.
I’m sure that after the bad news, my new fiancée and I would have hugged each other and made promises to help each other along through the bad times, no matter what. We’d have reinforced our determination to remember the importance of effective family life. And then we would have gotten the good news.
“In twenty-six years,” the messenger would have said, “you will stand in this very place with some of your children and your first grandchild. On that night, you will be accompanied by friends from Russia and several of your children that will also come from that land.” Upon seeing the shock on our faces, he might have smiled and said, “Oh, that’s right… you are not yet aware. The Soviet Union will crumble. You will see and experience the remnants of that empire and it will play a huge part in your lives, in several areas and from multiple aspects.”
“You will count nine children as your own; some by birth and others by adoption. You will choose to use your life’s challenges to share with others so that their navigations might be easier as they focus on their own effective family life. And while that will cause you to lose a certain amount of privacy, the thanks you receive from those who need your words of advice, experience, support and understanding will be worth far more to you than any loss you might experience.”
The family as a whole will only be successful because you work together in maintaining effective family life.
“Overall you will be strong,” the messenger would have told us. “The family as a whole will only be successful because you work together in maintaining effective family life. All of you will have strengths. All will have weaknesses. And because of the diversity of your family, there will always be strengths and weaknesses in every circumstance. Because your family will work together, there will always be more than enough strength to overcome any challenge, though each triumph will vary with those who lead and conquer.”
“You’ll be busy as far as families go, but as you look back over twenty-six years, I think you’ll be pleased. And then, the next night, with the turn of the year, you will sing Auld Lang Syne with a bit more feeling than you ever have, because you will know that within days, you will sell the company that your family built for enough money to fulfill the dreams that you had for serving orphans.”
That would have been quite a vision. But I need to tell you… It was even better experiencing it. Living an effective family life always is. This morning, I hugged my wife and said: “We’ll be older this time. Our health won’t be as good. The children won’t be ours. But we’ll be wiser this time. Let’s do it all over again.” Though neither of us are quite sure what that means, yet, she smiled, kissed me and said that she was all in.
Often, readers receive as much help from other readers in the comments section as they do from the blog article, itself. Please be generous with your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. There are lots of people who need what you have to share. This is your chance to help them. Your comments matter.
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