Years ago I had the opportunity to hear a widow named Marina speak to a large audience of young mothers. She opened her heart about a struggle she'd gone through with one of her four children. To her horror, she realized that after she'd lost her husband, she'd also lost the heart of one of her sons. He was pulling away from what was left of their family, as well as rejecting the values she and her husband had tried to instill in their children. If her son continued on the path he was following, he'd be lost.
This brave single mom fell to her knees and cried out to the Lord for wisdom. At first mystified as to how this could have happened in what she thought was a close-knit family, she was led to the insight that her son viewed "the world" as more attractive than the family. The world was exciting. The word was ever-new. The world was full of social opportunities. The world was anything but mundane.
Having her eyes opened to the attractions available outside their home, Marina battled to make the family home a place her son would wanted to be. She prayed their family members would become the people with whom he would most want to spend time. From that point on, she purposed to plan events that would draw the five of them together. She invested herself in bringing her teens' friends and their families into their home. Fun wasn't the goal in and of itself, but she saw it as a crucial vehicle to her children being receptive to the Saviour for whom she and her husband had shared a deep love.
When Marina spoke to the women in Texas at the homeschooling conference I was attending, several years had passed since the heart-rending time when she saw her beloved teenager slipping away. She had a happy ending to share with those who were listening. As she followed the Lord's leading to make life in their family more attractive than the world, she won her son's heart back again. By the time she spoke to us, all four of her children were followers of Christ who had rejected the charms of the world.
When I returned home and shared Marina's story with Mr. Beaver, we agreed that we too would purpose to make life in our family delightful for our children. At that time we had only three kids. Anna, Lissie and Joe weren't even nine years old yet, but we knew it could never be too soon to make family time a priority. Our quest to become a unit they loved being assoicated with began immediately. Their salvation would be dependent on God's grace. We knew we couldn't cause our beloved children to be saved, but we have purposed for more than a decade to make Christ attractive by making our family a place of faith-encouraging fun.
For us this has meant doing nearly everything together as a family, and we've all come to cherish that togetherness. It's meant setting aside the daily-ness of life to spend time having fun. It's meant setting aside personal agendas to focus on having fun together. Interestingly, Paul's encouragement to set aside selfishness and focus on others (Philipians 2:3.4) actually tends to yield greater personal joy than pursuing our own personal agendas.
Just one example of this committment to faith-ecouraging family fun occurred on our second hike at the North Shore. On this jouney, there would be something for everyone. The wet snow that day was a guy's dream come true. A warm front had passed through the area over night making it perfect to form SNOW BALLS! We'd barely started walking when Aaron formed SNOW BALLS and demonstrated his juggling ability.
While Aaron was basking in the applause of his wife and new in-laws, Alexander took three slightly bigger SNOW BALLS and made a tiny snowman along the path, using part of his lunch for his creation's nose.
While the guys were enjoying the SNOW BALLS, the gals were engaged in one of their favorite pastimes -- chatting.
|Anna (l) and Tatiana|
While Anna was catching up on her sister's life, her husband had left the path for a short cut... straight up!
Soon Joe followed his brother-in-law, and then ...
...a crowd joined the climb.
When some of Oksana's siblings went one direction while her parents and other siblings went another, she was left confused about what to do. We've noticed that when our little one feels insecure, we still get glimpses in her face of what we call her "orphan spirit". It's easy to understand how the severe neglect she endured as a baby followed by years in an orphanage have left her fearful of uncertainty.
Thankfully, as soon as we called this recently adopted child to our side as we ascended the steep hill, her confidence, poise and happy grin returned.
Lissie's enjoyment of the scenery was heightened by seeing the beauty through a camera lens.
I, too, enjoyed seeing the canvas of our Creator through a camera lens.
These itsy-bitsy pine cones, about 1/2 inch long, were my favorite discovery. As we strolled, Mr. Beaver pointed out to me that this branch had all three stages of their growth--tiny buds, tight wrapped cones and the fully opened version.
Before long we came to a bridge stretched over one of the two waterfalls we saw that day. (See photo below.)
I love nine-year-old Amy's approach to making sure she was part of the picture. See her peering through the horizontal bars in the center of the bridge? Oh, the challenges of being the 11th out of 12 children! (Mr. Beaver was lifting up Oksana--12th out of 12)
For a while Alexander was content to merely carry his "baby." Then his testosterone kicked in!
It dawned on him that he could dash his SNOW BALL to dust by hurling it into the ravine through which the Temperance River flows. After this discovery, he rolled large SNOW BALLS with gusto, each time searching for the perfect spot for its destruction. He was one very happy 12-year-old boy!
Meanwhile, the girls carried on with their chatting.
Aaron jumped from rock to rock near the ravine's edge. He, too, was "all boy", taking logs and delightedly tossing them into the ravine, listening then for the big boom they made when they landed.
Unlike Alexander, however, every once in a while he'd take his focus off the available adventure. He'd swoop into the midst of the hikers to snuggle with his bride.
Joe slipped off every once in awhile to take in the beauty of the surroundings. I love my oldest son's meditative look caught in this photo as he peers through the brush, staring at the river where it widens and emerges from its ravine.
Joe's contemplative mood didn't last long as Alexander's excitement over throwing the SNOW BALL bombs into the ravine grew. Soon Joe was running along the trail helping his younger brother to find the perfect spot to launch each new SNOW BALL.
When we reached the bridge on the return trip, the whole group got involved in Alexander's quest to toss a SNOW BALL over its top railing.
Finally, Joe stepped in to give the "umph" that Nathaniel's shorter arms couldn't quite pull off. See the big SNOW BALL being hurled by Joe in the left hand corner -- much to the delight of his brother!
Alexander was quite pleased with the results.
As more SNOW BALLS were thrown to their destruction, the tribe got sillier and sillier, as evidenced by Joe and Aaron's response to my request for a photo of the two friends. Before I could click the shutter a second time, the jokesters had gone from this...
The hike finished with all involved laughing, happy and eagerly looking forward to more family time.
When we finish an event like this hike, there's no way to test whether we've made Christ more attractive to our children. We won't know for years what God's plan is for their lives. However, when we've had a sweet time like this as a family filled with silly antics and plenty of laughter, our hope is that winsomeness might help keep their hearts and their ears open when we tell them about Jesus and His saving work on the cross. Concurrent to family fun, Mr. Beaver and I just keep praying fervently for the Lord's saving grace to be showered on all 12 of our kiddos and all twelve of our future in-laws that they might love God with all their heart and soul and strength. We long for our ever-growing tribe to be an army prepared to glorify God.
How about you, are you carving out time for special family moments? Do you surprise your kids with unexpected adventures. Do you ever cast off what's necessary and, by nature, mundane in maintaining a home to do something you know your children will remember for a long, long time? Do you ever push back the dishes on a warm fall evening to dash to a park to swing and climb just as the last rays of sun drop below the horizon? Family fun with a faith-building purpose is worth the sacrifice and investment!