It was a beautiful fall Saturday, one of those perfect days that drew us irresistibly out the door for a hike in the mountains. The cool air was invigorating, and the changing colors intoxicating with leafy splashes of red, gold and brown over the face of our mountain. Our family jaunt was followed that afternoon by a Scottish tea for us girls, a creation workshop for dad and the boys, and all of us converging on a favorite restaurant for dinner. After we got back home, parents and children sprawled all around our bedroom to watch an episode of Avonlea. Even though it was still early, I announced to my brood, "Tonight you get to put me to bed," as I sank tiredly into my warm covers and soft pillows.
Undaunted by my withdrawal from familial interaction, someone suggested, "Hey, guys! Let's have a slumber party in the boys' room! We haven't done that in a while!" So, mattresses were pulled into the small room, hot chocolates poured and topped generously with whipped cream, and a story tape put into the cassette player. For the next couple of hours, my children enjoyed giggling and talking together before they, too, went peacefully to sleep.
It is times like these that remind me why I was willing to have as many children as the Lord would bring my way. After all, it was God who said they were His blessings, and if children are a "blessing" from the Lord, then it seems reasonable to conclude that more children will translate into more blessings. It's not hard to see why that is so as I observe the sense of security, love, and joy we all experience from the multiplied relationships within the walls of our home. It simply would not be there without my children.
Our family is like this little elite social club, made up of close, intimate friends who laugh at each other's jokes, enjoy all the same funny foods, admire the same classic books and movies, and appreciate a particular way of life and tradition that is uniquely "Clarkson." We fuss and sin just as much as any family, but there are invisible threads of shared experiences and beliefs that continuously bind our hearts tightly together. It is those relational threads that are the real blessings of children. It is why there is more to family.
I was nonplussed the first time a good friend suggested that I should stop at two children so I could do something "meaningful" with my life. She was a sweet Christian friend, and very seriously convinced that more children would prevent me from having a significant ministry. I've heard it more than once. Now, with both a meaningful ministry and more children, well-meaning friends have turned to questioning our closeness as a family. "Your kids need more friends and more activities outside your home." Or, "Your daughter needs to move away from home now that she has graduated from high school." Or, "It's really unhealthy for you to spend so much time with your children."
My friends' view of family is based on an unbiblical, self-centered notion that "there is more to life than family." They view children as a responsibility, and nurture the idea that something else out there will be more fulfilling and meaningful. Of course, children know when they are not the priority in a parent's life, and they will learn to tell themselves the same message, "There's more to life than family." The parental search for meaning outside of God's most meaning-full gift to His creation, often results in the loss of their greatest source of meaning . . . their children's hearts.
The Bible is clear about the centrality of family, and the blessings of children. Though being a stay-at-home-schooling family is in conflict with our culture, and it is the harder road, it is still clearly a path to richer blessing from God. In faith, I have followed that road, even though it is now the "road less traveled" by most Christians. It is only along that road, though, that I've learned that "there is more to family." The more I have invested my time and my heart in my precious children, the more I have discovered the blessings of God that can come through children. By keeping them home with me so I could spend more time with them, I have discovered shades of God's blessings I would not have otherwise known. And with each new child that God lovingly placed in our midst, there was a whole new stream of blessings flowing into my life.
Our whole family relating together, however many we may be, presents a personal picture to the non-believing world of what Christ and His body is like. As I disciple my children at home, I know that I am preparing godly leaders who will go into their world filled with messages of faith, hope, joy, compassion, love for others, and love for the Savior.
That is the fruit of family. That is the ultimate blessing. That is why there is more to family.