By Joey and Carla Link
August 3, 2022
We would tell our kids when they weren’t getting along that your family are the only people that will be with you from the beginning to the end of your life. Carla and I are feeling that. We are of the age where the generation above us – our parents, aunts and uncles are getter fewer and fewer every year. Whether you actively sought it out or not, they were a layer of protection above you, full of love and devotion, supporting you in whatever way they could whenever they could. Their presence is greatly missed.
We lived hundreds if not thousands of miles from most of both our families, so we made sure our kids knew their grandparents. My (Joey’s) mom has been gone for 3 decades, but if you mentioned Joey’s dad’s name to each of our kids you would definitely get a smile on their faces. Carla’s mom’s commitment to being a long-distance yet close in spirit part of our kids’ lives was a big deal to our family. Our daughter Amy passed that love and commitment she learned from my dad and Carla’s mom to Carla’s dad who came back to the relationship he had with God after our car accident. We live in IA and he lived in Northern CA so she rarely saw him growing up, yet Amy set up a digital “date night” with him every Thursday night for a few years before his death.
When he was put in hospice, we could not go see him because Carla was hospitalized at Mayo Clinic and couldn’t be released. Amy went, and was told that he had not been responsive so she shouldn’t expect much. We were joyful when we were told he lit up when he heard her voice and grabbed her hand. A blessed reward for her. Our son went to CA and joined Amy for his service not long after, standing in our stead. When my dad unexpectedly left this earth, all our kids went to CA for his services and when Carla’s mom unexpectedly left us 5 weeks later, our son and his wife cut a trip to Europe short to come back to the US for her service.
So, I ask you, what did you learn about our family from reading the above? Do you think the things you came up with make our family unique?
“Family” is a group of people who have special meaning in our lives. They are the backbone of support, our personal cheerleaders, teachers, counselors, and anything else we might need at any given time. Do you know the divorce rate in the church now almost equals the rate for non-believers? Just think how many children are growing up in two homes and perhaps more if their parents re-marry. As they wander from home to home, what identifies them as a family? Something needs to. Being part of a family connects you to others, in what should be an unshakable bond.
Pastor Greg Laurie says it this way:
“The fact is, God starts with the family because He created it. Our very existence as a society is contingent on the success of the family. And that also explains why Satan hates it so and has declared war on it. It has been said, ‘A family can survive without a nation, but a nation cannot survive without the family.’ ”
Why does your family need to be unique? By that we don’t mean in a quirky or unusual way, we mean what about it makes it special to those who are a part of it? What identifies your family to you and your kids and to others? “Identity” means being the same, being united towards a goal.
How do you build unity into your family? One way is to build spiritual unity by praying together as a family and serving God together. Here are a couple ways you can do this.
- Have a ‘key verse’ your family uses to base its actions on. This can change over the years as the needs and age of your children/family change. In our home the key verse was Mark 12:29-31.
“The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
- Have family devotions. Parents all too often see family devotions as one more thing to fit into an already busy schedule. We carry family devotion books for children of all ages in the Parenting Made Practical bookstore. You will find you can read the Bible passage and devotional thought plus ask the questions at the end of the devotional and be done in 10 – 15 minutes. If you have never had family devotions before, start with one day a week and read the devotional right after dinner while everyone is still sitting at the table. Make doing it that day non-negotiable.
- Another way to build unity into your family is through emotional support, which a family needs for its members to be intertwined with each other. Emotional support includes being there for each other and lifting each other up.
- Be encouragers (I Thessalonians 5:11) To encourage is to “give courage to.” We love that. When someone in the family is faltering or nervous about trying something, there is nothing like your family standing behind you giving you the courage to take the first step and offering to come alongside you when you falter.
- Be positive. Being positive starts with our tongues. Sarcasm, harsh tones, and the like spread like wildfire in a family and soon everyone is focused on the negative instead of the positive. When he was in elementary school, our son would come home from school full of negative stories. I (Carla) told him he had to tell me 3 good things for every bad thing he reported on. This helped him think of the positive about his day and he would actually look for good things to share.
- Take family vacations. Vacations shouldn’t be about the destination but rather about having fun together. Make memories that can last forever.
Start the trend in your home. At the dinner table tonight, start a discussion with “We’re going around the table and everyone gets to share one good thing that happened in your day today!”
After being in youth and family ministry for over three decades, we can tell you when a teen is strong in his personal convictions and moral value system, when he knows he can count on his parents for support and encouragement, when home is a place of stability and security, when he knows he can count on his family for fun – he is less likely to look for any of this anyplace else. This will keep him strong in his faith, and make him less vulnerable to temptations that other teens face.
What about your family? What would your children say is special about being a part of your family?
“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing;
he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”