by Kristin Bonham

Family dinners have always been important to me but I have to confess, it can be a battle to find a time that works for everyone.   Busy schedules, band practice, and other commitments constantly pull us away from the table.  Not to mention the times I don’t know what to cook, I forgot to thaw the chicken, someone has an attitude, or they’re just too picky! When I want to give up, I dig in, fight through and remember these truths:

It doesn’t happen unless it’s on the calendar.  As our kids have grown and their schedules become more complicated, we all have to talk about it and choose our family dinner nights.   We’ve eaten as early as 4:30 p.m. and as late as 8:00 p.m. just to have a few meals together each week.  Because everyone is part of the decision, they make more of an effort to be there.

It’s not about the food.  I have gone from cooking for 5 with a few picky eaters to cooking for more than 10 at Sunday lunch.  My worry has changed from “will they eat this” to “will there be enough!”  I won’t deny that food has to be part of the focus.  But both home cooked or take out can bring your family around the table for connection and conversations.

It’s about the relationships.  We have tried to create an atmosphere where friends are welcome but cell phones aren’t.  We call it being “fully present.”  We’re not perfect at it, but putting cell phones away at dinner gives us a better chance at connecting with those in our presence. Sharing highs and lows of the day is a great way to get everyone, youngest to oldest, talking and the memories you make are priceless!

You may need a bigger table. I started making a big Sunday lunch when I realized it was one of the few times we were all available and now it’s become a Bonham tradition.  I admit though, some days I’m tired and I don’t feel like cooking or setting the table.  But when the door opens and one more walks in, I see how my kids welcome their friends and it motivates me to keep going.  I was glad to buy a bigger table… some things are worth the investment!

It’s worth it!  At this point in life, I see my efforts paying off.  Our kids are in their early 20s now and not all living at home, but everyone still looks forward to the connection that happens when we come back to the table. When we are face to face, talking and listening, laughing and fighting it out, family is found. Our relationships are richer because of the meals we have shared together and the people who have sat with us along the way.

So don’t let the excuses of being too busy keep you from connecting.  Talk to your family and friends and decide when you will come to the table.  You won’t regret it!

Kristin Bonham is the women’s ministry director for Grace Family Church.  She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby, and Casey.  She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris to anywhere tropical.  She collects books and reads some of them.  Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table. 

 

by Julie Jaunese

In today’s world I am often asked what it takes to have a marriage that has lasted 41 years.  I can very easily answer that question.  You NEVER say anything bad about your husband to anyone.  If you are mad at your spouse, the only two people that can resolve the dispute are you and your husband.  Your best friend can’t help, the person at the desk next to you can’t help, and your parents can’t help.  Only the two that are married to each other can help each other.  Too simple?  How did I learn that, you ask?  For the first 5 years of our marriage I let my husband know I didn’t need him.  If there was a dispute I told him I could make my own way.  I remember having a friend drop me off at my mother’s house before she got home from work when I was mad at my husband.  I sat in her closet for hours because I didn’t want her to have to lie to him if he called, which he did.  She said she hadn’t seen me, which was the truth.  At a very critical time of our marriage, my husband finally told me that he wasn’t interested in having a second child because he was concerned I would leave and take our child with me.  I did not get married ever thinking I would be divorced.  I thought I was marrying for life. I took a vow before God to marry until death do us part. To be honest, looking back, I was playing a game to gain control.  Sad thing is, he has always has treated me like a princess and didn’t deserve what I was dishing out to him.  When I realized how my words cut him to the quick, I stopped using them for destruction and began using them for good.  I can say that after 41 years of marriage I do not miss a day of telling Mike how much I love him.  We still kiss like we mean it.  He is my best friend. 

Are things always sunshine and lollipops at our house?  Is everything perfect?  NO!  We are not the same person and we aren’t interchangeable.  We have different personalities and habits.  We like different things.  He likes sports but I grew up in a house of 5 girls.  There is one thing we have in common.  We both love the Lord.  When you love the Lord, when you put Him first in your marriage, when you talk to the Lord together daily, you succeed in marriage.

Our daughter, Holly, talks about her high school years. Her friend asked who she would live with if her parents got divorced.  She told her friend her parents wouldn’t get a divorce.  Of course the friend countered with, “you don’t know what might happen.”   Holly told her friend that there was no doubt her parents would always be together.  How do you give your children that feeling of security?  You never disagree in front of them.  Even today, with our girls ages 34 and 37, my husband and I still take disagreements to the bedroom, even if our house is empty and we are only ones home.  We sit on the bed and talk it out.  Sometimes it takes more than a few minutes.  Sometimes we have to leave the disagreement and agree to disagree.  It isn’t always about winning or losing.  You are in a marriage for life so if you want to win in the “big picture,” the little things do not matter.

When your spouse asked you marry them, you said, “I will.”  Then at the wedding, the two of you made the choice to say, “I do.”  Now the choice is yours daily.  You can walk with the Lord as part of your marriage, you can say nice things to each other, you can DO nice things FOR each other, you can kiss like you mean it, you can understand that building each other up is more important than tearing each other down.  Marriage is a bunch of choices and they all start with YOU.   Begin each day saying “I CHOOSE.”

Mike and Julie Jaunese celebrated their 41st Wedding Anniversary on May 14.  They have two daughters and two grandsons and are expecting their first granddaughter this summer.  Julie writes her own blog at http://juliejaun.blogspot.com and leads Fabulous Fems and the Yada book club at Grace Family Church.  She also works full time at Moffitt Cancer Center.

 

by Paige Eavenson

Have you ever felt like you are just not getting through to your child no matter what you say or try to do for them? You spend your hard earned money and precious time taking them to some expensive attraction and all you want to get is a picture of them at the attraction and all they want to do is grumble and pout, or better yet pitch a fit because you said, “smile.” I have recently discovered one possible solution to many of the battles we parents face in regards to our children. It’s quite simple and requires just a little bit of effort on your part. All we have to do is learn to speak their love language.

In their book, The Five Love Languages of Children, authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell say, “Every child (like every adult) expresses and receives love best through one of five communications styles.” These are called “love languages” and they fall into one of five categories.

  • Quality time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

The Five Love Languages of Children will introduce you to all five love languages and help you determine the primary language in which your child hears your love. Author Gary Chapman says, “When you learn to speak your child’s love language, you will then be able to meet his or her deep emotional need for love. In other words you’ll be filling their “love tank” when you speak their love language. When their “love tank” is full, they are better equipped to act like the blessing God intended children to be.”

Through reading this book I discovered when I filled up my 7-year-old son’s love tank by demonstrating his love language of quality time, he was much easier to get along with and cooperate when I asked him to do something. My middle daughter, who is 6, is always hugging and leaning on me in some way. I personally like “my space” and I’m usually shooing her off, but by speaking her language of physical touch, just by painting our fingernails together, she left happy with a full tank of love. As for my 2-year-old, I’m not sure yet what her love language is, but after reading this book it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure it out.

So whether your kids are 4 or 40, everyone has a love language and it is definitely worth the investment to learn their love languages and fill up the love tanks of the kids in your life.

Paige Eavenson and her family have been part of Grace Family Church for 13 years and she currently serves on staff as a women’s small group coach. A homeschool mom of three, Paige is an avid reader who loves collecting new friends and helping people get connected into small groups. You can learn more about Paige on her blog, www.sincerelypaige.com.

by Debbie Altman

When I was three years old, my parents and I got on an airplane and flew from Buffalo, NY where we lived, to Prince Edward Island, Canada. We checked into a hotel and shortly thereafter, a woman came to the hotel with an 8 month old baby boy.  She left the baby with us and my parents told me that I now had a baby brother.  For many years, I assumed that was how everyone got babies!

Not long afterwards, my mother explained to me that my brother and I were “adopted.”  She explained, “God knew there would be babies in the world that needed mommies and daddies, so He allowed there to be parents who didn’t have babies, and He put them together to be families.”  This made sense to me!  Growing up, I never felt deprived or angry about being adopted, but actually felt unique and special.   I mean, anyone could come into a family the normal way, but my parents had picked me!   I was adopted and proud of it! 

While I never resented being adopted there were things I wondered about such as, did I look like my birth mom, was I like her, did she ever think about me?

My adoptive mother died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was 28, and the years afterward were filled with ministry, work, children, marriage and personal healing.  But at 38, I finally felt a release to try to find my birthmother.

My adoption was a “closed” adoption and information was not freely available.  I had no idea where to start.  I remember praying a prayer….”Lord, I don’t have a lot of time, and I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m certainly not looking for more pain in my life!  But, if it is your will, I would like to find my mom, and I need you to help me!” The Lord opened doors and gave me direction, and after a relatively short time, I obtained the name and address of a woman that I believed to be my mother.  I wrote her a letter (snail mail!) and explained why I felt she could be my mom, that I was not mad at her, that I had a good family, and I sent her a picture of myself with Craig and our two children.  I asked her to call me either way, and let me know if I was correct.  The next few days were the longest of my life!  I was excited but also nervous and fearful.  I thought of the most terrible scenarios.  What if she had a really messy life?   What if she didn’t want anything to do with me? 

After three long days, I received a phone call from the woman I had written to, and she sounded very nervous.  Yes, she was my mother!  We talked for over an hour, and she shared her story.  I went to visit her a few months later and we were amazed at how much we looked alike.  Even more amazing to me, was how much I acted like her.  I told my husband I now knew who he could blame for his wife’s spunky, sometimes stubborn personality!  Along with a new mother, who I have a wonderful relationship with, I also gained 3 half-sisters who had not known that I existed, but who opened their arms to me.  (That is a story in itself, as you can imagine….)  

After meeting my mother and sisters, I began to have a new train of thought I had never considered when originally looking for them.   What if finding them was not about me at all, but about them?  What if God had plans for them that he was now going to use me to help fulfill?  If I had not been adopted, would I be a Christian today?  Did the Lord need a woman in Tampa that would lead Craig to Christ and be his helpmeet, to later go on and found and pastor Grace Family Church? 

I believe, as in the life of Joseph, the Lord sometimes uses a circuitous path to get us where He needs us to be, to weave His great plans and purposes.  I am so grateful to both of my mothers; they have each given me so much.  And I am grateful to Jesus Christ who is trustworthy and good; whose ways are perfect; and who has chosen and adopted me!

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.

 

by Misty Umholtz

I just had one of “those” days. It was our fourth day without air conditioning, which in Florida is never good, and the reason it wasn’t fixed is a whole other marriage article for another day. My son had pooped six times that day, even though I had taken him completely off of fruit and fruit juice for the past two days. He woke up 20 minutes into his nap with another dirty diaper and never went back down, so that meant no rest or break for the weary mama.  I had a lot to do that day. Besides looking after my 23-month old son and a 3-and-a-half year old daughter, I was cleaning the house for company coming over the next day and trying to cook dinner for my family before I left for my greatly anticipated monthly small group that night.

I was quite a sight to behold when my husband walked through the door – a sweaty, tired, irritated mess.  It was 85 degrees in the house with all of the windows open and fans on. I had cooked dinner over the stove, bathed the kids, fed the kids and got them ready for bed. They were hot and bothered, and literally melting down in front of me. So, I did what most desperate mothers do in a last attempt for peace and quiet. I turned on the TV and it worked like a charm.  I had 10 minutes to pull myself together so I could leave the house. There was steam coming out of my ears as I drove in the car recounting my day.

I still had not calmed down by the time I got to my small group. After I talked through my day with all the empathetic ears, I told them another story that I remembered happening that same day. I had taken my daughter out earlier in the morning for a little alone time. While we were together I asked her, “Who is your favorite friend to hang out with?” Her response was priceless, “Mama.”

Dear Lord, Please help me to cherish these precious moments that are passing ever so quickly.

Misty Umholtz loves being a wife and mom of two small children. She enjoys ministry and she also likes football, which should win her an award for “dream wife.” But on the other hand, her love for shopping might disqualify her from that possibility. You can read more about Misty on her blog, Finding Meaning in the Mayhem.