The Gift of Family

I’m going to be very open and admit something here… For a long time, especially the last year or so leading up to our move to Zambia, I never made an effort or even had a desire to spend quality time with my family.

I’m not saying I didn’t love or enjoy them. I did! But all my effort was put into spending time with other people. When I was away for a night or two, or if I was gone for a week (a rare occasion, but it happened now and then) I missed my family; but not so much it ached inside me or so much I was ready to get home just to hear Alex’s puns, Jackson’s witty remarks, Andy’s incredible noises, Cam’s serious expressions, Mom’s willingness to help me with/talk about anything and her servant’s heart, or Dad’s goofy faces and steadfast diligence to spend time with us all even though he works a full time job.

Those things weren’t on my mind and I didn’t appreciate or recognize those things about my family members like I should’ve.

In the last (almost) year, Mom was gone for a month (during which time I learned to appreciate her in ways I never had before); but personally I have only spent two nights away from my family.

The first night I spent away from them was shortly after we moved here and I was only gone for around 15 hours. So in 9 months I hadn’t spent one night away from my family. We’d woken up and gone to bed all in the same house every day (besides my mom for that month).

I realized after a while that I had grown closer to my family and enjoyed being around them more than I ever had before. I wasn’t spending a majority of my day in my room or constantly wishing I was off with friends like I used to (*Note: I still ask about and enjoy friend time immensely and no less than I used to; I’m just learning to enjoy my family more than before.) However, I didn’t realize just how much I had grown to love my family until I spent the second night away from them just this past weekend…

I had a wonderful time at a sleepover with 3 fellow missionary sisters. It was an incredibly girly weekend (something I’m not used to but was a welcome change) and it was the first time I’d stayed up later than 1 a.m. in months!

On the topic of it being incredibly girly, after only being there a short time and seeing 3 sisters interact with no brothers around (they have an older brother who is out of the house), it was so fun and funny to me I just sat down on a bed and laughed so hard I nearly cried. I realized nearly all the girls I used to hang out with in Missouri either had only brothers or had a brother or two who hung out with us; and having only brothers myself I recognized this was a very rare and new occasion for me to be around girls who had a house all to themselves! It was such a fun and memorable overnight!

At the same time, I was thinking constantly about my family and how much I missed each one of them…I was having a blast and enjoyed every single minute; but after only 28 hours I was ready to be home and see my family. Again, I had such a fun time!! There was even talk of staying another night which I would’ve enjoyed just as much I’m sure; but I was also happy to come home and see my brothers and parents.

I walked in our front door and felt like I hadn’t seen my family in an eternity. My family sat down at the dinner table to eat and I sat with them even though I had already eaten.

I told them how much fun I had, shared an overview of what we did, and showed them a few pictures. Then, I told them how much I had missed each one of them and how I would’ve enjoyed staying with my friends longer, but was thrilled to be home again with my family at the same time.

My brother Jackson, the witty one, proved his wit again by slowly turning a stunned expression in my direction and saying in a voice of surprise, “You…you…missed us?” I couldn’t help but laugh…nor could the rest of my family; but his shock at my statement really made me think: he’s surprised that I missed him. Why should he have to be surprised? Why haven’t I missed them so much in the past? Why didn’t I recognize how wonderful and fun my family is until recently?

So while his question, tone, and expression were rather funny, it still made me sad to think about how low of a priority my family used to be to me and how I wasn’t the only one who recognized that. On the other hand, it was also uplifting and exciting to see the shock on all of their faces and know just how much they meant to me now and for me to know I can change and have made a good start.

I’m not perfect. I still become easily annoyed by my brothers and have a harsh tone with them often. I still argue with my parents and make smart-mouth remarks I shouldn’t. I have a long way to go…a VERY long way.

I may not have recognized it until recently. And I may have even surprised myself by how much I missed my family after such a short time, but I now recognize how much I have bonded with each of them and how much I truly do love, want, and need each one of them.