Our Family Code

Jan 27, 2016

Beth Guckenberger

I am the mother of ten children and in leadership at an international orphan care ministry. Those two hats alone bring into my day plenty of email, other children, a staff team and a ridiculous to do list. Where does all that fit (and my relationship with Jesus and a marriage to anchor the whole thing)?

It’s a tall order for 24 hours.

How, in the midst of ministering to orphans and the guests that come to serve with us, do I make sure that Aidan has practiced his spelling words, and Joshua got to football, Emma has felt heard, and Evan ate enough for his growing teenage body?

First of all, in the name of authenticity, the boat doesn’t float every day. Some days it tips and water fills up and everyone starts bailing. That confession is just so lightening doesn’t strike or my nose doesn’t grow.

But on my best days, here is how we wake up:

Bullseye This is my husband’s term, he draws it with our staff and tells them he wants us to spend the majority of our day doing what we love most, and putting that in the center of the target. The other concentric circles are important responsibilities and have made their way on our target, but aren’t the highest point value. I pray that my children feel themselves in my bullseye. For sure, they know what the names of the other circles are, they know I write books, and love fatherless children, and find myself in front of microphones, but they also know, the bulk of my day and the bulk of my point value is scored with them.

Feast or Famine There are four seasons in a year, but in a family, there are many seasons, even weekdays feel different than weekends. We talk about feast and famine in our home. We talk about days and moments that feel like we are belly up to the table called family and we eat until we are stuffed of each other’s company. Those moments sustain us when emergencies arise, or company is in town, or exam week hits, or mom is traveling. That real relationships are stronger than their last interaction and time together can be stored like belly fat when we know responsibilities demand more of us ahead.

Benefits vs Costs Just the other day, I came home from a trip and I could tell the kids were not amused. They were feeling my two day absence. I sat them down and took the opportunity to tell them about an upcoming trip to another country we had just bought tickets for us to experience as a family. Their eyes lit up and I told them, this isn’t a bribe, I am not trying to get myself off the hook from where I have been, I am just telling you honestly that what mom does sometimes costs us as a family and sometimes benefits us. And that’s how most of life will be.

We use these little buzz words, our own family code, that strengthens our family identity and gives us a common language when I need to apologize or they need to ask for help. It helps open lines of communications and provides a platform for those conversations of substance that we all long for as parents.

Do I think it all lines up every day perfectly? Absolutely not. But I do believe that if we are connected, bridged, and communicating, then the dart has hit the bullseye.

Beth is an author, speaker and mom. She and her husband, Todd, serve as Co-Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries. Beth frequently travels and speaks at conferences drawing on her vast experiences with adoption, foster care, spiritual care, and non-profit leadership, serving and living internationally for over 15 years. Between biological, foster, and adopted children, Beth and Todd have raised ten children.

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