Many of you follow Life of the Family because you know us personally, or you share our desire to build a connected family. Over the past year, we’ve shared bits and pieces of our story on this blog. We’ve tried to be so careful, because our goal isn’t to cast blame or cause hurt. In fact, sometimes we stay silent for a while, to rest and process while our story continues to bloom. We only ever write out of a place of joy.

Recently, we were in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where few go to vacation. We spent two weeks exploring all the Mayan ruins and strolling on nearly empty beaches. Each afternoon, the wind and waves are so loud that they drown out all other sound. I found myself on these long walks along the shore, talking to God. I unzipped my whole bag of questions and really opened up my heart to hear Him answer. It ended up being pretty loud and emotional. (Probably a couple Canadian tourists will never forget that one crazy lady.) But it was amazing! There’s something powerful about pouring out your guts, no holds barred, to the One who created it all.

The God Who Shows Up

The last five years have been huge for our family. They’ve been years of beauty, pain, transition and discovery. We started off in Kansas City and are wrapping up in Nashville. Together, we latched on to the God who doesn’t pluck you out of challenges, but shows up like a giant in the middle. Friends, there’s not one thing we would change! Five years of our family’s faith going deeper, our prayer life exploding, and our character being shaped. In everything, God proved his faithfulness to our family like never before.

It all began with witnessing the implosion of more than one family in our Kansas City faith community. It was the total opposite of what we expected. Steve and I have long admired them and were modeling our family after theirs. I personally felt unmoored. This was the same faith community where I was raised alongside my older siblings, both of whom left ASAP. For so long, I avoided truth and used busyness to ignore issues I wasn’t capable of addressing yet. Suddenly, it was time for me to acknowledge buried pain from my own dysfunctional upbringing.

Learning to Count the Cost

Ultimately, we moved. We held onto all the good we learned there, and continue to deconstruct the not so good. Here’s one thing I realized walking on that beach, shouting at the heavens. Staying in that place and valuing it foremost cost many families dearly. It cost many people relationships with their adult children. Often, it cost a better job and and a solid financial position. For others, it was the chance to explore the world or the time to connect with all kinds of people outside that circle.

Steve and I began five whole years ago to ask, “Is this what we want anymore?” No, our season there was up. The problem was, we hadn’t exactly defined what we DID want. So we didn’t truly understand what it had cost us to sit there – hour after hour, every single service every single week, year after year – investing the bulk of our energy into that sliver of the globe. You cannot count the cost if you don’t know what you’re saving up for.

What We Are Saving Up For

We set to work naming our goals and describing specifically what it is we are “saving up for.” 5 years later, it’s pretty obvious what we selected:

  1. a tight web of family relationships that won’t expire
  2. children who join us in simple devotion to God
  3. to start building a financial legacy that can impact even our children’s children
  4. adventure and connections in every corner of the globe

Steve and I gave ourselves permanent permission to put our family first. God’s biggest endowments to us are this marriage and the chance to parent Adrienne and Addison. It’s a treasure we prize above any other circle or opportunity in the world. God has backed us up every step of the way. This family life is our finest work and we aren’t done yet.

The Community of the Wholehearted

I hope every family who reads this will slow down long enough to count the cost. What exactly are you saving up for together? Naming the ultimate goal has helped us avoid so much heartache and filled our journey with joy. We wish that same beauty and strength on you all. Blessings from our wholehearted family to yours!

Written by Melissa Brendtro