March 19, 2014

Drink in the Beauty of Family Life

Gary Thomas — 
photo: Ryan G. Smith, Creative Commons

photo: Ryan G. Smith, Creative Commons

Many years ago, our then four-year-old daughter belted out of our house on an Easter Sunday, her hair all done up like a little girl’s hair often is, her dress flying behind her, her white tights bunched up around her knees, trying unsuccessfully not to laugh because she knew I was so frustrated. She and my wife (always the last ones to be ready) rushed toward the car while my son and I, and our oldest daughter, waited in the car.

At the time, I was frustrated that we were leaving late; for Kelsey, the rush was a marvelous adventure and its excitement painted a smile on her face that defied the overcast skies of a Sunday morning in Seattle.

In the midst of my frustration that we were way behind schedule, God’s voice broke in and kindly reminded me to drink in the beauty of watching my wife and daughter, something I often took for granted. It did wonders for my soul that morning.

How many family moments of beauty do we miss in our busyness? 

When you bathe that baby, moms and dads, drink in the smell of that fresh, clean skin. Take an extra sniff! When you hear that toddler laugh, close your eyes and try to record it, and then make them laugh again. When you feel a child falling asleep on your chest, their little hands bunched up on your shirt, consider what a gift that moment is, and don’t just rush to pick them up and put them in their own bed or crib.

When your hold your spouse in a passionate embrace, feeling the effects of generous love, open your eyes, your ears, your mind—revel in the ecstasy. It is a holy ecstasy, created and designed by God, glorifying to God within marriage. Embrace it. Give yourself over to it.

So many glimpses I remember: wanting to be a writer and so leaving my house by 5 a.m. so I could work for hours before my “real job” began, pausing to drink in the quiet fulfilling stillness of a house where all members slept safely and securely. That “sound of silence” was so, so beautiful.

Coming home and hearing the rush of excited toddler voices (a very different but equally pleasing sound) and feeling little hands wrapping around my knees, every child clamoring for my attention.  (How I miss those peals of “Daddy’s home!  Daddy’s home!”)

The most common events of normal family life can be moments of wonder and worship:

Sitting in church, and feeling the miracle that we are all together, under God, a family of faith.

Eating a meal, knowing that God is providing for our most basic of needs. Don’t take being able to feed your family for granted.

Taking a walk together, the kids and our golden retriever circling around each other, fighting for limited real estate around mom and dad.

There is beauty all around us in family life, but so often we take it for granted, as if it will never end. Take it from an empty nester—those moments do end. Which is why I’m urging you, today, and from now on, to pause long enough to seize these momentous days. Absorb the joy. Let it carry you away, to a place called worship, gratitude, and contentment.

Family beauty is a God thing, and I wouldn’t want a single one of you to miss a moment of it.

Listen—I like my life as an empty nester. I was able to work 13 “guilt free” hours yesterday and catch up on so much. I wouldn’t have done that as a young dad. Life moves on, kids grow up, we learn to appreciate them in new ways. But here’s the thing: those who learn to seize the beauty of raising kids are the same people who usually learn to appreciate the silence of the empty nest. Life is too short to simply grit our teeth and endure any substantial season of time. I will always miss those years when the kids were young and the days seemed so tiring and full and loud and messy and we felt so poor (financially). Now, I see how rich we truly were.

Please share some of your favorite “beauties” of family life below.


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9 responses to Drink in the Beauty of Family Life

  1. I came inside from working in the front yard this afternoon to find my kids sitting next to each other on the sofa … my 14 year old son teaching his 12 year old sister math concepts in geometry and algebra. Sweetness I do cherish! Thank you, Gary, for this uplifting article.

  2. We are on vacation in FL, escaping a very long Chicago winter. This morning we walked with our four kids 8,5,3,2 down the beach. My eight year old found countless treasures and her questions though exhausting at times help me see the wonder in Gods creation. My 5 year old son chased seagulls most of our walk. One couldn’t help but smile watching him run full of delight and boundless energy. My three year old little girl held my hand and just wanted to walk with mommy and collect special shells. Each one as exciting at her first find. And best of all our two year old son, home 6 months from Haiti, putting his ties in sand for the first time. At first a bit distressed and unsure, frightened to walk forward, demanding each step be assisted and gradually discovering the fun. By the end he was making sand angels, kicking sand, running. The joy of freedom and discovery just filled my heart today…and reminded me why the crazy ordeal of trying to get then all to sleep in the same hotel room is so worth it;)

  3. This article is so good it literally brought tears to my eyes. I remember taking my daughter through a fabric store when she was quite young and she couldn’t seem to resist touching all the different fabrics. She loved the textures and colors. I became aggravated with her because in her efforts to touch the fabrics, from the seat of the shopping cart, many of the rolls fell from the shelves. As I was rebuking her an older lady walked up to me and said, “you’re going to think I am crazy but some day you will miss this.” She was right. Why didn’t I take the time to share the joy of the textures and colors with my daughter. I can’t go back but I can definitely share what I learned as did the older lady who came up to me in fabric store. Love every minute especially the little (so called) aggravating ones

    • Our oldest daughter Ally was that way–she always wanted to touch different kinds of clothes, even when they are on people. Now, we look back and miss that little girl…

  4. Charlotte Skadal March 20, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Spent some time with my two year old granddaughter yesterday and soaked in the joy of watching her throw playing cards from Chic-FilA one by one on the the floor. There was a time when I would have been frustrated with repetitiously teaching “we don’t throw our things on the floor”. She actually was practicing picking them up….one by one….and saying “Thank You” as she handed them back to ME! A close contender for God’s second greatest gift is grandchildren, He gives us a second chance to soak up the beauty of family that we missed out on the first time around!

  5. Nothing makes my heart glad more than watching my three (9, 14, 16) giggle together and just enjoy one another. I love soaking that in.