We are, in our family of 5, spinning lately between our kids spring sports and events, church events, commitments to friends and family. These are all things we love, and the pace has just amped up! There is a metronome in the back of my mind, slowly ticking as we edge toward summer. But not just, “another summer,” but the last summer before my daughter graduates from high school… (Can you hear the excitement, overwhelm and perhaps a little shock in these words of mine?)

I’ve also been thinking about the many facets of family, even as I try to keep up with our schedule: in my counseling practice, the lives of friends and our family, as our daughter stands on the brink of college decisions and all that lies ahead.

During counseling sessions throughout the week, I can safely say that some of the struggles of family show up in some way, each and every session: beautiful, haunting, wounded, and abusive; broken, connected, healthy and hopeful. The constellations of family have changed in a multitude of amazing ways over the course of my career, and yet, the themes seem to remain the same: the hope to belong, be accepted and loved unconditionally. And truly, wanting our families to provide these values to each other in ALL the ways.

As we grow, I believe we also all have the hope and desire to provide these same values to families of our own. Some may call me idealistic, but my experience and my belief in the inherent good that God created us with, says that every parent WANTS DESPERATELY to provide to and receive love from every child ever born. And sadly, it is not always there or possible in some family situations….

If we turn on the news, drive down the road, scroll through social media, listen to kids after school, overhear conversation at work or perhaps all of the above, we know there is an excruciating amount of pain in families around the world at this very moment. Whether it is financial hardship, emotional instability, food insecurity, physical or sexual abuse or a myriad of other reasons, individuals ARE struggling, hurting, while also yearning for love and acceptance. While those may be some of the extremes, there are layers of pain, levels of longing for all of us, for connection with family.

Not only do I hear from the brave clients who tell me, but I can also tell from the increasing numbers of individuals searching for meaning, for the moments of connection and even perfection in families of our own….

I am an AVID Disney fan, have loved Mickey since our first family trip many, many years ago. A few years ago, my husband and I were ready to take our kids to the “happiest place on earth.” This was the very first trip for us and our babes, then 8, 6 and 3. Enough people had warned us to not “buy into the hype,” so we tried to lower our expectations. We knew there would be tantrums, possible tears instead of delight upon seeing Mickey and Minnie, sore feet and tired legs, arguments about souvenirs and much more. We hoped for beautiful memories, moments of pure delight and family fun. There were absolutely all of this and then some on that first trip. Unforgettable memories, even the hard ones.

A particular memory wasn’t really even about our family, but has stuck with me for many reasons. One morning as we hurried to get a spot for our son in the “Jedi Training Academy.” We hadn’t gotten up before dawn, (suggested if we REALLY wanted a spot for him,) but we did go to The Star Wars part of the park, first thing. We asked the cast member standing near us and were told the “Academy was full.” We explained this to our son, who was disappointed, but still happy to be at Disney. Just then, we heard a dad behind us screaming at the cast member we had just talked to. He yelled and belittled, “you are going to ruin the trip for our son, the trip that we saved for over a year to make happen!”

My husband leaned over, shaking his head and whispered in my ear, “the happiest place on earth…” The irony was glaring as we stood among parents and kids. I felt simultaneously so sad and tremendous pity for both the cast member, the family involved and anger at the way this dad had acted. The thought struck me even then, how families were banking on these experiences to find that elusive “family joy,” for themselves and their kids.

It is a billion dollar per year industry that Disney has mastered. The costs are currently rising and analysts continue to discuss how “it doesn’t really change because people continue to pay for it.” Why? Because the Disney Imagineers and marketing division tap flawlessly into that root of hope in all of us: the desire for connection, memories, joy and family.

There are more than Disney, however, who know that pathway. It is written on literal signs in many gift shops, quotes about family, wall art and jewelry; Hallmark movies with plot-lines of love, family and the proverbial happy ending. I AM NOT criticizing ANY of those, not even a little. I have simply talked with many people about the the many ways humans cope with the longing we all feel to have meaningful connection with family.

I am finding myself wrestling with that very connection while engaging in this next stage with our daughter. I know her drivers’ license says she is nearly an adult in the last days of her junior year in high school. But when I look at her, I sometimes remember her childhood before I see her as an adult. We go on college visits, have many discussions about her future. And my mama heart is at the same time squeezed with pain that we’ve somehow arrived HERE, where she goes forward without me in her day to day. AND, I am so very proud and excited for and WITH her. BOTH. AND…I want desperately to support, stand beside her in her next chapter, and, I want to hold her tight and never let go. We have spent years, protecting, knowing, caring, teaching, giving, crying and loving our kids completely then, in a blink, we are faced with finding a way to release them…

It is both foreign to me and if I am honest, a bit unfathomable, and, it is also healthy, normal and right. I know both inside my mind and my heart, truly. I am just really not sure HOW to do it, for her or me….I also know it will all unfold as it should, somehow…

These are the truths about family that I’ve been pondering in these both/and days…

I am grieving with you if you have been abused or hurt in any way. Please don’t hesitate to seek help, find support and love for yourself. Your life, efforts and pain are not invisible to the God of Heaven. I cannot explain or even understand the life experiences on this Earth. There is so much I want to talk with my Jesus about, in his time. But in the meantime, I can only offer hope and the belief that everyone is important and deserving of love, connection and adoration. I pray that you are able to keep believing, trying and hoping.

Brene Brown writes, “We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggles and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.”

However family is for you, I pray you are connected and brave in the beautiful and the hard, this side of Eden. I pray for the courage and authenticity, to grieve and cry with one another, to be real and seen, enjoy laughter and hope. I pray we can establish boundaries as needed, trust ourselves in the joy and the pain, and I pray that as life continues to change, in phases and seasons, that we can love like Jesus. I have hope in being real and calling out perfectionism (kindly) within ourselves. And I don’t want to miss a moment of all of it, the moments when I or they are at the end of ourselves, unable to use words, or the moments that feel almost perfect and nearly every moment in between. In the loving always and the letting go, the searching and the finding, without a doubt, God seeks, holds and calls you his own. He is love, light, belonging and so much hope. Family…the one we all seek and the one we need. 


Psalm 13

2 replies
  1. Jodi
    Jodi says:

    Soooo good!!! Thank you for sharing this.
    I remember hearing a pastor explain that God created man because He wanted a family. No matter how messy these human ones are… we also can claim our spot in the best one. Can’t wait for the next Both/And!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *