Although we have always spent a lot of time together as a family, we didn't start having designated Family Nights until December 2009.
For us, Family Nights were not born out of vision, but out of a deep need Bill and I had to relax with our kids and connect. Family Nights were born out of challenge.
On November 18, 2009, Katya and I arrived at Dulles Airport. After nine hours in two middle rows, watching Up the entire time, Katya fell asleep while we circled above Washington, D.C. She was not excited to wake up. However, I was over the moon at being reunited with the rest of the family.
Katya had been with us for four weeks during the summer of 2008 through a hosting program that connects Ukrainian orphans with families. When we hosted Katya, we didn't know we were going to adopt. We only knew that God was opening an amazing door enabling us to welcome one of the "least of these" into our home for several weeks. When we picked her up at the airport that first time, I felt like I was receiving an angel.
Though I felt like I was receiving an angel, in reality Katya was far from an angel. Those four weeks were so very hard. But, at the same time, so very right. In November of that year, Bill and I began the long road to welcome her into our family, not just as a guest for the summer, but as our daughter.
The adoption process was hard, and it was costly.
Sure there was a financial cost, but the greater challenges were intangible.
- Adoption was challenging for our marriage.
Stress and strain and the struggle to have faith in the midst of so much unknown was hard. Finding time for each other, and finding the energy to make time for each other was hard.
- Adoption was challenging for our children.
The "six" were used to life as it was. They all so wanted to adopt, but the reality of it meant changing roommates, and rooms, and saying "Good-bye" to mom and dad for many weeks. For them, as well as for Bill and me, it meant stepping into the unknown.
- Adoption was challenging for our church.
When the pastor is gone for an indeterminate amount of time, it's hard. Although we had amazing elders and a body who was supportive and excited, it's hard on a church when the pastor is across an ocean.
- Adoption was challenging for our friends.
Four families welcomed our six into theirs. They loved them, and home-schooled them, and became family for them as well as Bill and me. They saw Sara Maria off to her first homecoming dance and nurtured Piper through a nasty burn. They collaborated with each other and simply took care of our children. The beauty of their care for us still brings tears to my eyes.
And then there were the many, many friends who provided the financial support that enabled us to adopt. In one night, at a James 1:27 Dinner, 73 friends and friends of friends gathered to hear Katya's story and the connection between Eastern European orphans and human trafficking and provided the financial resources that enabled us to welcome Katya into our home.
- Adoption was challenging for me.
I think that's the first time I've actually written that. But, it's true. I knew adopting Katya was right, and it was good. But it was so hard. So very hard.
So, when Katya and I landed at Dulles late on November 18th, I was jubilant, victorious even, but I was also weary and unsure of what life would look like. "Normal" was gone. And Bill and I both knew that we were going to have to find a "new normal." It took a long time.
But in this season Friday Night Family Nights were born.
More than anything in this "new normal," we needed to connect as a family. So, that winter we just started cozying up at home on Friday nights for a kid-friendly dinner, a fun dessert, and some type of activity. Family Night! Three years later Friday Night is still Family Night.
And I've learned that there's always a "new normal." We moved away from those dear friends, and our beautiful home, and our mountains. We're missing out two college girls. And the kids don't wear footie pajamas anymore. Our home-schooling days are behind us. And I am juggling marriage, and motherhood, marketplace, and ministry.
But that's okay. Actually it's more than okay. It's good. It's right. It's life as it should be.
So, tonight, with sleet and snow making the roads slick, we'll fix Banana Boats and watch Downton Abbey. And we'll laugh, and cozy up, and connect.
And just in case you're in a "new normal," or you just want to join us in fixing Banana Boats, here's how you do it:
Ingredients per person:
1/2 Hershey bar
~ 16 mini-marshmallows
- Slice the skin of the banana like this and stuff it with Hershey bar squares and mini-marshmallows.
- You could add in peanut butter chips, or coconut, or whatever else you'd like. We keep it pretty simple.
- Then wrap it up with tin foil. We write our names on the tin foil with a Sharpie because the kids get pretty territorial about their Banana Boats.
- Carefully put the Banana Boats in the hot coals.
- After sitting for awhile, they will be warm and gooey and delicious.
- Carefully remove the Banana Boats from the coals, unwrap, and eat with a spoon.
Family Nights became part of the rhythm of our family life when we experienced something hard. When you glance back at your life, at a challenging time, what is something good, and beautiful, and right that came out of that trial? I'd love to hear from you and celebrate. You're always welcome to leave a comment, but you can also connect with me on Facebook, or write me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.