Ask any of my friends and they will tell you, I am a certified type A personality, tried and true. My blood is even A.  I have loosened up a bit since moving to Nashville last year – being around all these creatives does something to a person. However, I still cling to my morning routine for the sanity it brings to my day. Waking up with time alone to read my Bible and pray is an important part. The topics on my heart may change frequently but there is one prayer always in the line up.

“Father connect my family to each other today. Let each person here find the belonging they deserve here and may our hearts be bound ever tighter together.” I begin the day mindful, not of the inconsequential daily tasks, but of the most important objective in my life. I ask God to back me up and I really expect help from heaven.

Feeling Alone

You see, I grew up lonely; the only daughter and the youngest in my family, but feeling more like I was on my own island. Admittedly, I had a natural inclination towards independence, but there were many other factors involved. Both my parents came from dysfunctional homes, so the path to creating a close-knit family was obscured. The stress of money flow certainly didn’t make the journey any easier.

From a young age, I tried to take care of my own needs as best I could, and this extended far beyond just the practical. To my own detriment, I rarely asked for help. I buried hurts deep inside and constantly struggled with fears that loomed over me. Clueless about how to connect to those who could help me, I simply shut down. I couldn’t begin to articulate the troubles that accumulated inside.

Opening Up

My marriage to Steve, at age 21, was like a ticket – and an agreement – to leave that island of isolation for good. It was hard going at first; I made a commitment to open my life to him but I was much more skilled in my self-sufficiency and ability to hide my true feelings. I don’t find that scenario terribly unique. Fortunately, I married someone faithful, competent, and patient. The safer I felt, the more I opened up. It wasn’t until four years later, when we had our beautiful daughter, that the deepest parts of me began to surface.

Building a Family

To say that mothering Adrienne (and later Addison) was therapeutic is a huge understatement. Steve and I decided not just to have kids, but to actually build a family. If my past has taught me anything, it’s that a healthy family doesn’t just happen; rather, it’s developed daily by each person’s premeditated investments. This family has been a cocoon for me, but it’s also the greatest endeavor of my life. Becoming a mother is like getting a promotion I never earned and then working my tail off to keep it.

Together we dreamed of where our family could be 5, 10, and 20 years down the road. The foundation of our dream was solid relationships. We began to work backwards on building pathways to our goals, partnering with God as stewards of His gifts to us.

What We Contribute

It is paramount that my family knows I listen well, that their stories and ideas carry weight with me.  Their triumphs and troubles are not theirs alone. I understand that their openness with me is their investment. Trust in me is eroded when I treat their vulnerability lightly. I also understand my words themselves are seeds and I choose them ever so carefully. Our family schedule and pace is prioritized to ensure lots of face to face time, such as meals together, game nights and adventures.

Steve’s best contribution is his willingness to drop everything and value us. Although he runs a business, he will work odd hours when necessary, creating time to enjoy his family. When he must travel, he insists we all tag along and finds new escapades for us – like camping, hiking, and surfing. Together, we make memories like stepping stones to a connected future.

Investing Our Best

Our kids are now 7 and 11. Obviously, there is still much for me to learn. Many crucial moments lie ahead; but as I survey our accomplishments so far, I feel our dream is right on track. Our home is filled with joy and we are encouraged by the many successes under our belt. Even as I type this, I hear my kids palling around close by, giggling together in shared camaraderie. This encourages us to invest our best right now, during this season of life. Our little family will never again be this young. We treasure every second. For all my years of loneliness, each day I am in this family is an absolute gift.

Written by Melissa Brendtro