Family -- the love, the arguments, the pride, the closeness, the disagreements, the pressures to honor the family name, the occasional slip where our efforts fall short, the discipline, the rewards, the conflicts, the support -- was God's idea in the first place. I'm sure He saw the coming disintegration of His system, and I'm sure it broke His heart.
My immediate family was a close-knit one that faced the world together. When my dad was excommunicated for having my sister baptized in the protestant religion, his family eventually also gave him the boot. We stood together as Dad made the decision to continue to visit my grandmother periodically throughout the year, even without an invitation. We weren't invited to family outings until my aunt came back from Nepal, where she was a missionary. She insisted we be included and reminded her siblings that my dad was their brother first and foremost. She understood family. I wonder if it was because she was away from hers for so many years.
Being away from family is something I feel deeply. After being married to a Navy man for most of his 23 year career, we found ourselves staying in the town of his last duty station because of our children finishing high school there and one heading to a nearby college. I was also teaching by that time. Unfortunately, it is an eleven-hour drive to go back home to visit, so we don't go often. Notice we still call our birthplace home, even though we haven't lived there in 43 years. Why is it home? It's where our families raised us.
When my own children grew up to not get along with each other, I could feel God's heart for His children and for the family He designed so we could be strong. It's hard for a mother to see her children standing alone, when they need to stand together to experience their greatest potential. It's like trying to build a house with only a few bricks -- a husband, a wife, and any children's pebbles. If you want a palace, it takes the bricks of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
In my book, Frank and his mother go "home" to Grandpa's ranch while Dad is deployed with the military. The boy experiences first-hand the rigors of ranch life, but even more, he learns about the high expectations and the deep love his grandfather has for him. He is held to a higher standard than he has known before, but he comes away wanting more of that relationship and all it offers.
Today we see young families leaving their extended families to seek job opportunities, to live in a new climate or even a different culture, whether in the United States or in another country. My own family is spread across this nation from coast to coast, north to south. Only the phone keeps us close to one another. Although many rely heavily on technology to "see" each other, my family still uses only the phone, and we don't get together nearly often enough.
With our world that is becoming more global every day, and the blatant attacks on family, we are trending toward isolation and away from that structure that once held us strong and supported us. It's probably old fashioned to want the family to remain strong, but the concept of a family might just be the best idea God ever had.
Madeleine Carroll has been married for 42 years and spent 20 of those shuffling around to support her husband's Navy career. She has three sons and two granddaughters. After teaching language arts for many years, she is currently teaching math, but continues to be passionate about her art and writing. Madeleine and her family are very active in their church community.
"The Dead Cattle Ranch Mystery"
By: Madeleine Carroll
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