The Family That Plays Together
by Rachel Thompson
A Memorable Family
When I was growing up as a missionary kid in a bustling West African city, our home saw lots of activity. In my memory, we seemed to have guests more often than not. Sometimes they dropped by for a meal, but many times they came to spend the night – or the week. There were short-term missionaries needing a bed, single missionaries longing for fellowship, and lots of neighbors dropping by for counsel, food, or medicine. Personally, I found the revolving front door a thrill. I got to know people from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe.
Then there were the Tuesday afternoons that my dad would leave the hospital earlier than normal so we could do something special as a family. It didn’t matter once when we drove 45 minutes to one of the few area swimming pools, only to find it had been drained for maintenance. Nor were my sisters and I too disappointed the Saturday afternoon we headed off to play tennis with our dad, and we never actually made it to the courts, instead ending up as police witnesses because of a situation we had come across on the road. Hey, the fun part was just being together!
Then, there were the times we would travel to America for a summer of furlough. Since we usually had connecting flights in Europe, my parents would arrange to stop over for a few days and stay with some of the many European friends who had graced our table. These visits didn’t create a lot of extra expense, but they allowed us to store up many treasured moments as a family.
A New Family
Now that I’m all grown up with kids of my own, I often smile at the familiar feeling of the revolving front door. Whether it be an old African friend here to visit, a neighbor and her kids dropping by, or a young couple from church here for mentoring, I feel blessed by the worn-down rug at our front door. Just as I have fond memories of visitors when I was a kid, I delight to see my children light up when company comes.
I’m also thankful for a husband who has taken the lead in making sure that, as our family serves together, we also have regular, intentional times of withdrawing together. These days, that not only means withdrawing from people, but also withdrawing from the many forms of technology that can keep us “connected” to the outside world nonstop (Can anyone say “e-mail” and “cell phone”?).
On my husband’s day off we try to do as much as we can to “come away” as a family. We generally stay off the computer, let the machine pick up most of the calls, and really try to concentrate on being together. The kids eat it up – having Dad and Mom all to themselves for those hours! We often start with a family breakfast where each family member gets to say three things they’d like to do together that day and then we decide which ones we can do. Having four kids ages 8 and under, we also plan “down time” where everyone can go off and do their own thing. For the little ones – and sometimes the adults – that means sleep! Even then, there is still a sense of being home “together.”
A Special Family
I know that for many families, school schedules and other commitments make it next to impossible to have so many hours to “come away” each week. That’s okay. Fortunately, it doesn’t require an entire day to make times special as a family. We often find that even in the hours between dinner and bedtime, a few nights a week, a whole lot of fun can be had!
Because of the nature of pastoral ministry, there have been many weeks when my husband has had regular hours in the office, several weeknight commitments, and nearly all-day church activities on Saturday and Sunday. Yet, because of our intentional times of family togetherness, the kids and I often have our “family tanks” full enough to endure the days with longer hours.
As a mom, I also find that my own attitude when Daddy has to be gone longer than usual makes a big difference. If I try to set a tone of joy and “special ness” when he’s not around, we can create great memories together.
When the time finally comes for our kids to leave the nest, I want them to have caught a passionate love for God and a desire to spend themselves serving others in His name. I want this grace to be imparted against the backdrop of their feeling delighted in, treasured, and loved. I want them to feel as is they have been an intricate part of a family that serves together, prays together, and plays together.