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About ten years ago I worked as a church administrator. One of the pastors in the office had a theory about marriage that always stuck with me. The idea is that every relationship has coins. When a spouse does something nice or says something nice, coins are deposited into the partner’s love bank. When a partner says something wrong, breaks a promise, or otherwise hurts their spouse, there is a withdrawal from the same account. Whether a marriage makes it or fails is dependent upon whether deposits outweigh withdrawals. After all, you can’t stay overdrawn and expect there to be no consequences.

Life has been such a challenge for my family lately that I’ve felt like I was taking withdrawals from my accounts with my kids and my husband almost every day. I have a really hard time balancing my personal health issues, my writing career, my kids’ day-to-day lives, the sudden overflow of ER visits, my husband’s growing responsibilities at work, and keeping up with daily chores. I’ve found myself short-fused.

When I’m running on empty like this, I rely on a handful of fall-back plans that includes any combination of:

  • Camping (i.e. electronic-free family time)
  • Personal Bible study
  • Increased exercise
  • More sleep
  • Date time with my husband

Usually when I blend a few of these ingredients together, I can rejuvenate my personal outlook and reinvest in the love accounts of each of my family members. To try to get back on track, we are planning our first camping adventure of the season for this weekend. A campfire, trees, hiking, and down time is exactly what we need to remind us of how important we are to each other.

The truth is that parenting is hard. It is overwhelming and exhausting. My kids don’t always like me, and quite honestly, I’m not always real fond of their choices, actions, or attitude either. But family is about more than liking a person 24/7. Being part of a family means loving each other through the hard times. Family is about bonding together, fighting the world together, and knowing that you are never alone.

No matter how many stitches, X-rays, ER visits, self-cut hair nightmares, painted couches, ruined shirts, screaming fights, and “I never want to talk to you again” threats that are tossed around–family is forever. They wear me out, stress me out, make me cry, make me fight, and sometimes even make my hair fall out, but they are God’s gift to me. And like any gift, it is to be cherished.

So many parents act like they have it all together, but I’m not ashamed to admit that we don’t. We argue, disagree, fuss, and even scream sometimes, but when it is all said and done, we still love each other. We still celebrate each other’ successes, turn off electronics to eat dinner, and sing random songs to cheer each other up.

After all, isn’t that what family is all about?

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