Et Tu, Jen? is sponsoring a group writing project on the topic "What are three things your parents did right?" My entry is below, but you should definitely check out her blog for some other great entries and some thoughtful writing and questions on other topics as well.
What are three things my parents did right? I really had a pretty wonderful upbringing in a strong Christian family, so there are a lot of things I could say. My parents did a good job of parenting my brother and I, if they were a little too lenient sometimes. But as I thought about the three things that were most important in their parenting, I realized those things had little to do with their direct parenting and a lot to do with their faithful commitment to three values.
My parents were committed to marriage. My father was a doctor, and any wife of a doctor will tell you that that makes for a difficult marriage. While I am sure that they had struggles, my parents stayed together and were visibly committed in way that made my brother and I never fear a divorce. They regularly went away for weekends in the mountains, and I believe they loved one another more by the time my father died than they had on their wedding day. Through living in poverty during med school, struggles with depression, long work hours, raising teenagers, and enduring cancer treatments, my parents remained committed to one another. This faithfulness to marriage has been foundational in both mine and my brother's marriages.
My mom and dad were committed to the church. Though my mother's faith is definitely more robust than my father's was, there was rarely a Sunday that they weren't in church together. I tried really hard to remember a time when one or the other or both skipped church. If we were home on Sunday, being in church was a given. The only exception was when my father was too ill from treatments to go. We were never forced to go to church, and while my brother did leave church when he was a teenager, he came back fifteen years later. I am sure that my parents' faithfulness to the church body drew him back. I have moved many times in the past few years, and finding a church community has always been a main priority when I settle somewhere new.
Finally, my parents were faithful to give generously and to offer hospitality to strangers (or to strange teenagers). I have memories from a very early age of my father sitting down to balance the checkbook (what's that?) and to write a tithe check and checks to ministries he supported. We had frequent interaction with missionaries, and though they never went overseas, my parents made sure we knew of and supported God's work around the world.
But doing His work of hospitality in our own home was also a priority. I remember my mother picking up a young woman and her child who were walking on the road one day. This began a long period of helping this single mom to feed and clothe herself and her baby and to get the help she needed. In the end, we were taken advantage of, but that didn't matter. What mattered to my mom was that we did the right thing in offering hospitality to a stranger.
Then there were the strange teenagers, also known as our friends. On of my brother's friends, who was not a believer, lived in our basement for several months, and my parents loaned him a good deal of money. Several years later, he became a Christian and went to work here. He came back to thank my parents for being instrumental in his journey. He wasn't the only one who spent weeks, nights, afternoons in our home. My friends loved to visit my house because my mom always welcomed them unconditionally. This atmosphere of generosity and hospitality has influenced my home and my calling in more ways than I can count.
There are many things that my parents did right, and some they did wrong. But more than anything, their faithfulness, to one another, to the church, and to those in need, have shaped the woman, wife, mother and Christian that I am.