Fantastic Families: 6 Proven Steps to Building a Strong Family

Overview

Learn from 14,000 strong families how to have a fantastic family. With the help of this groundbreaking book, you can take the guesswork out of parenting and be assured that you are building not only a strong family -- but a fantastic family.

Based on the largest study ever done on strong families -- 14,000 families studied over twenty-five years -- this book reveals six simple, yet profound, steps to building a fantastic family that will thrive...

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Overview

Learn from 14,000 strong families how to have a fantastic family. With the help of this groundbreaking book, you can take the guesswork out of parenting and be assured that you are building not only a strong family -- but a fantastic family.

Based on the largest study ever done on strong families -- 14,000 families studied over twenty-five years -- this book reveals six simple, yet profound, steps to building a fantastic family that will thrive for generations to come.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439153970
  • Publisher: Howard Books
  • Publication date: 12/15/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 886,643
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Joe Beam is an internationally known inspirational speaker and author. He founded Beam Research Center and serves as its chairman. He has spoken to millions of people worldwide in personal appearances as well as appearances on TV and radio, including ABC’s Good Morning America, Focus on the Family, the Montel Williams Show, NBC's Today Show, The Dave Ramsey Show, The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, and magazines such as People and Better Homes and Gardens.

After earning his bachelor's degree (Magna Cum Laude) from Southern Christian University, Joe did graduate studies in clinical psychology at the University of Evansville. He is currently involved in research to complete his PhD in biomedical science at the University of Sydney, consistently rated one of the top fifty universities in the world. The emphasis of his research is in sexology.

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Read an Excerpt

Fantastic Families

6 Proven Steps to Building a Strong Family
By Joe Beam

Howard Books

Copyright © 1999 Joe Beam
All right reserved.



Chapter One

Step One:

Commit to Your Family

What can I do to make it right? How can we ever function as a family again? I've tried everything I know to do. I take Cindy out on a date at least once a week. We don't miss a counseling session with our therapist. I'm at every game the boys play and spend nearly every Saturday afternoon throwing the ball around the backyard with them. But it still doesn't seem right. It's like they can't forgive me completely. Like they're holding back somehow. 

"Do I have to wait years for them to trust me again, or is there some magic wand you can wave to help me now?"

Joe Beam sat listening to Jeffrey, waiting patiently for a chance to respond to his continuing lamentation. Jeffrey was a wanderer returned to his family. Nearly nine months earlier, Jeffrey had left Cindy, his wife of twelve years, to move in with a woman he'd met in a chat room on the Internet. The romance started as a mindless flirtation but escalated in whirlwind fashion until it held so much power over Jeffrey that he was willing to sacrifice everything he held holy -- including his family -- to be immersed in the intoxication of his new love. The day he left his family, his two sons -- ages six and nine -- had shamelessly begged him not to go, not caring that the neighbors saw them crying and shouting at their father as they followed himto his Blazer while he hauled yet another armload of clothes from his house. Jeffrey was so infatuated with his lover that he'd convinced himself that the boys would be better off without him. After all, he reasoned, children do better in a happy home than a troubled one. 

It wasn't easy for Jeffrey to believe that lie as he tried to shut his sons' plaintive pleading from his consciousness.

But he did.

He left them standing there. As he slammed the car door and started his engine, he watched Cindy come from the house to wrap her arms around her sons and pull their faces to hers as she attempted to console them. Jeffrey didn't watch long. He couldn't. He gritted his teeth, shook the sight from his eyes, and rammed his car into reverse. Clearing his driveway, he turned the wheel hard, dropped the gearshift into drive, and floored the gas, screeching his tires as he fled his failure. He refused to look back at his wife or children as he drove out of their lives. 

And into his dream. 

It took only a few months to realize that his dream was actually a nightmare. The intoxication fizzled in the light of reality, and he found that his new love wasn't the woman he'd fantasized during their on-line romance. 

Finally, in penitence and shame, he'd come to his senses and begged Cindy to take him back. She agreed, after much prayer and godly counsel, but insisted that as a condition of Jeffrey's return, they immediately enter intensive marriage therapy. Almost overnight, Jeffrey became a model husband and father. It was sixty days into his reunion with his family that he sat at the restaurant with Joe.

"So tell me, please. You're in the marriage and family business. Will my wife and children ever let me be as close to them as I once was? Are they gonna punish me the rest of my life?"

Joe leveled his gaze at Jeffrey and calmly replied, "They aren't punishing you. They're afraid of you."

"Afraid! Are you nuts? They've never had anything to fear from me. Even when I was totally crazy in sin, I never did anything that would harm Cindy or the boys or anybody else. Man, what're you talkin' about? They're not afraid of me!"

"Oh, yes they are." Joe continued. "But their fear isn't that you're going to hurt them physically. They're afraid that you're going to hurt them emotionally. You left once. What's keeping you from leaving again? That's what's happening under the surface for them. They're slightly withdrawn from you as a protection for themselves -- just in case you leave them again."

Jeffrey sat in stunned silence for a few moments, turning the possibility over in his mind, and finally muttered, "But I thought they understood that by coming back I was proving that I'll never leave again. I figured that was just understood.

"I mean, it should be, shouldn't it?"

"Look, Jeffrey, whether it should or shouldn't be isn't the issue here. The issue is that your family will be unable to feel fully committed in their relationship with you until they are completely convinced of your total commitment to them. I have no doubt they want to be close and loving with you -- just as you do -- but you need to realize that any person, even your own child, finds it difficult to give unadulterated affection when he or she fears it won't be reciprocal. You came back, but you need to do more than just come back. You need to convince your wife and sons that from this day on you are committed to them until the day you die. 

"You can't tell them too many times that you're committed. You can't do too much to prove it to them. As many times as it takes, you need to say to Cindy, to each boy, and sometimes to all three of them together, 'I'm here for good. Every day when I walk out that door, you can know that I'm coming back through it. I'm coming back when things are good. I'm coming back when things are bad. On happy days, sad days, frustrated days, or mad days. The only thing that can ever keep me from coming back through that door every day is for me to be dead. As long as I live, I'm committed to each one of you. No one and no thing will ever come between us again. This is the truth and always will be the truth from this moment on.'"

Jeffrey's eyes widened slightly as the awareness hit him. Cindy and his sons couldn't have the relationship with him that he and they wanted as long as they had to protect themselves in fear that he might leave again. He realized that the flaw wasn't in them and that he shouldn't feel anger or resentment toward them for being afraid; he'd created this scenario, and only he could fix it. 

The good news is that he did fix it. It took awhile, but armed with awareness and determination, he rebuilt his family's happiness by starting at the right place. He rebuilt it by laying well and true the foundation of commitment.

The Foundation Firm

In a 1994 meeting with Nick Stinnett, Joe pressed, "C'mon, Nick. I know you say that all six characteristics are important for family strength, but I'm a trainer by trade, and trainers always want to know where to start. If I could only help a couple learn to do one thing, which of the six would it be? What's the most important secret for having a strong family?"

Nick smiled in reply, "Joe, you know how reluctant I am to pinpoint just one characteristic, because all six are of such vital importance. But since you keep asking, I will tell you. There is one that we consider to be the foundation on which the other five are built. 

"It's commitment."

Nick went on to explain that the dictionary might describe commitment as a pledge or obligation. In his research he'd discovered that strong families understand commitment to mean that the family comes first. He's heard strong families say this in many ways:

My wife and kids are the most important part of my life.

I'm convincing my husband that we should take the children and fly back East to visit his father for Thanksgiving. I know it's expensive and this is a busy work time for us, but Pop is eighty-three years old, and I want the children to know their grandfather. That's what family is all about. 

I look forward to growing old with my wife. Sometimes I can visualize us sitting on the front porch together in our retirement, holding hands, rocking in unison, and benignly gossiping about our neighbors as we wave to them on the sidewalk.

The research conducted by Drs. Stinnett and DeFrain shows that commitment is the bedrock on which every family must be built. When each family member knows that the others are there and always will be there and that the family is above everything else -- work, recreation, other people, crises, or whatever -- that family has the ability to develop the other five characteristics that make them strong and happy. No one in a committed family lives in fear that he or she might be booted out or that some other family member will abandon them. In the atmosphere of trust and security that mutual commitment creates, every family member can survive any bad time or personal failure. They aren't afraid to expose their emotions and vulnerabilities. Neither are they afraid to love and forgive the idiosyncrasies or failures of each other.

Six Characteristics of Commitment

Commitment creates the warm, loving, accepting environment in which families grow. It offers a harbor that shelters family members from the destructive forces of fear, anxiety, rejection, and loneliness.

It's no wonder that commitment serves as the basis for everything else. When family members are committed to the family unit and to each of the individuals in the family, the other key characteristics can be built on that foundation.

What, then, does it mean to be committed? Six characteristics of commitment exist in strong marriages.

characteristic #1 -- commitment to marriage

At the heart of commitment to the family unit is dedication to the marriage relationship. When both husband and wife fulfill their commitment to each other, they set the stage for all other commitments a family should have.

Kathy Simon highlighted this fact when she conducted a study focusing on "great fathers" in their middle years -- experienced dads who felt they were doing a fine job rearing their kids. Nearly four hundred fathers from across the United States participated in Kathy's research, and in her study she made a number of remarkable findings. One of her discoveries underscores our discussion here.

Kathy came to John DeFrain as she was finishing her research and asked, "Do you know what the greatest gift a father can give his children is?" With thousands of cumulative years of experience to back them up, the fathers she studied had shared all kinds of good advice, but one gift was mentioned more frequently than any other. 

"What is it, John? What did these fathers repeatedly say was the greatest gift?" Kathy asked with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. 

In spite of her obviously pending ambush, John took the bait. "I am a trained professional," he thought to himself. "I can figure this out!" 

As the imaginary contest clock ticked off the seconds, he mentally ran through the possibilities and finally blurted out with confidence, "The greatest gift fathers give their children is their time, their love, and their energy so that the children develop optimal self-esteem!"

"Buzzzzzzzz! Wrong!" Kathy laughed. "The greatest gift a father can give his children is a happy marriage."

Many of the men in Kathy's study had experienced a divorce and had seen the pain that marital discord and dissolution caused their children. But whether or not they had been through divorce, the fathers recognized that their children's well-being was intimately related to the strength of their parents' marriage. If the marriage was going poorly, to a great degree, so went the lives of the children.

If you're a single parent, please don't be dismayed or discouraged at these words. Countless single parents are doing a great job and are to be applauded for their extraordinary efforts to nurture their kids. When families are torn by anger, violence, sexual abuse, alcohol, drug-related difficulties, and many other sin-induced problems, divorce sometimes happens. For some, divorce is a safety valve, a last-ditch effort to end the physical and emotional abuse for everyone, including the children. If that describes you, don't despair. This book is about how to have a happy and strong family no matter what your family unit is like right now. 

With that said, let us return again to our point: Families founded upon a strong marriage can be truly wonderful places in which to live, as the fathers in Kathy's study pointed out. 

Some parents focus so much on rearing the children, paying the bills, and keeping the car running that they forget the importance of their marriage. As a result, the marriage degenerates and can even fail. This is a grave mistake. Children do best in homes with happy parents who love each other and demonstrate that love in everyday commitment. 

Kids who see their parents loving each other feel secure in the longevity of the family. There is a sense in which their parents' commitment to each other also shows the parents' commitment to the children and to the family as a whole.

The Commandment of God

God sees the commitment of husband and wife to each other as so crucial to families that he robustly condemned any violation of that marital commitment. In the Old Testament, he said that to violate the marriage covenant is to "break faith" (niv) or "deal treacherously" (kjv, nkjv, asv) with one's spouse. With those words, he makes it clear that marriage is a covenant between husband and wife and that breaking or ending that covenant is to sin -- not just against the mate, but against God himself. Look at how he words it in the book of Malachi:

Another thing you do: You flood the Lord's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

"I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the Lord Almighty. 

So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

In the New Testament, Jesus made it clear that if it weren't for the hardness of the hearts of humans, divorce wouldn't exist at all. God never wanted it, and humankind shouldn't want it either.

But the goal here isn't just to stay married; it is to be committed to making the marriage all that it can be. God commands that a husband love his wife as Christ loves the church and that he love her as his own body. He even went so far as to make the thought-provoking statement, "He who loves his wife loves himself." God also commands wives to love their husbands and children.

The commitment to be there and not abandon each other, no matter what, is the foundation. But the commitment goes further. It says, "We will do whatever it takes to love each other as we should."

Marriage Commitment Includes Sexual Fidelity

After years of comprehensive sex research, the world's most prominent sex researchers, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, concluded that one of the most important factors contributing to satisfaction in a sexual relationship is the presence of commitment. Strong families have known this all along. Read what a few of them have said on the subject:

I know it seems like everybody is having affairs -- if you can believe gossip -- but we are old-fashioned and faithful. I can only imagine bad things from an affair: hurt, deceit, family break-up. Being true to each other reinforces our bond.

Being faithful to each other sexually is just a part of being honest with each other.

For us, sexual faithfulness is essential. There is a security, a special feeling of knowing you are the only one with whom your spouse chooses to have sex. I think most people -- no matter what they say -- can't handle affairs. When one partner has an affair, it does bad things to the self-esteem of the other. An affair sends too many devastating messages: "You are not special; you are replaceable" or, "You are not satisfying me sexually."

The husbands or wives who wrote those comments believe strongly in the sanctity of marriage and hold themselves to a commitment of sexual fidelity. That standard is not only wise; it is biblical. Under the Old Testament law, those who committed adultery were executed. The New Testament has this to say: "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."

But does all of this mean that if a marriage has suffered infidelity it cannot ever be strong again?

If the Promise Is Broken

Commitment and sexual fidelity are so closely linked in most people's minds that an extramarital sexual affair is regarded as the ultimate threat to a marriage. No other enemy seems as dangerous as the "other" man or woman. No hurt seems as deep as betrayal by a husband or wife.

Because an extramarital affair poses such a potent threat, it is important that we briefly consider the extent of extramarital sex, the dynamics involved, and more importantly, how strong families deal with such issues.

It's difficult to say with certainty how widespread extramarital sex is in this country. For obvious reasons, the Census Bureau has not added a question about it on its ever-expanding questionnaire. Furthermore, the dynamics of affairs are difficult to sort out. Each affair is unique. For example, some married people become involved with a stranger; others with a friend -- maybe even a person who is a best friend to the couple or spouse. Some strayers have only one affair; others are chronic philanderers. Extramarital liaisons differ in duration too -- from one-night stands to long-term relationships. 

One wife we interviewed was aware of the complexities. 

I don't know what I'd do if Chuck had a fling with someone else. I guess it would depend on lots of things. If he got drunk at a convention and had a one-night romance, it would be easier to accept than if I found out he'd had a three-year affair with his secretary. Although both involve sex outside of marriage and both would crush my heart, they don't seem exactly the same.

While few spouses are as analytical as the wife quoted above, her statement corresponds to what appears to be an instinctive awareness within hurt spouses. There is a difference in the kind of hurt felt by those whose spouses were involved in relationship affairs and the kind of hurt felt by those whose spouses were involved in short-lived affairs. Either affair creates tremendous hurt, but greater damage was almost always experienced by those whose spouses had longer, more-involved relationship affairs.

Another dynamic also comes into play. While any adultery is devastating, repeated instances of adultery are so ruinous that they create a scenario where it's almost impossible to salvage the marriage. In contrast, one-time affairs typically can be overcome if each partner is willing to do the work to get past the affair.

Obviously, for one's spiritual, emotional, familial, and marital health, extramarital involvements should be avoided at all cost. Commitment to God and to marriage can serve as the fortress that prevents straying. 

But what if it does happen? What then?

The End or a New Beginning

More than a few strong families have dealt with extramarital sexual issues. Remember, strong families are not more pure than other families; they have problems too. And sometimes, strong families have to face infidelity. But it's how strong families deal with their problems -- including adultery -- that distinguishes them from other families. It may surprise you to know that for some couples who now have strong marriages, overcoming an infidelity crisis in their marriage was an important step in their long process of becoming strong. This is certainly not an endorsement of extramarital sex as a way of improving marriage. And none of the strong families in this study recommended anything but sexual exclusivity. On the other hand, an extramarital involvement need not automatically end a marriage. Couples who are committed to each other can overcome such an evil. As they work through the hurt and pain, they can even use the sin as a catalyst for growth in a marriage.

Doubt that?

Consider the following.

Anne and Lionel's Story

Snow fell quietly in South Dakota on that bitter cold January night, but Anne noticed neither the temperature nor the beauty of the blanketed landscape. Newscasters opened their 10 p.m. broadcast with unnerving good cheer, causing Anne to mute her TV before padding quietly into her bathroom. In no hurry, she opened the closet door and almost casually searched through a jumbled basket of unused vitamins and discarded medicine for the sleeping pills she knew were there. It took less than a minute to find them. Drifting mindlessly back to her bedroom, she methodically retrieved from her dresser a tumbler filled with vodka. She stared at it for a moment, as if confused about where it came from, and then she continued to her bed with no apparent concern that she was carrying her death in her left hand and the nectar to wash it down in her right. 

She hesitated only slightly before beginning to swallow them -- first one, then three or four together -- until the bottle was empty. The undiluted vodka should have burned her throat as she sloshed in enough to get each batch of pills down, but she seemed to be past feeling. When she was done, she lay on her bed, arranged the covers just so, and waited without emotion for the welcome oblivion.

Why did Anne do such a thing? Why would anyone take such a deluded path in search of peace? We'll let her husband, Lionel, explain.

Several months prior to that night, I became involved with Sandy. She works with me. 

Before you judge me, at least understand that I didn't mean for it to happen. It started with innocent conversations that came during short breaks in long hours working together. I seemed drawn to her, and the more I got to know her, the more attractive she became to me. I realized I was sexually interested in her when out of the blue I began to fantasize about seducing her. I felt a little guilty thinking things like that, but it seemed so innocent, and I reassured myself that it wouldn't ever lead to anything. Then one day I kidded her about how many men she thought had fantasized about her. 

That was a mistake.

She reacted with some suggestive comments of her own. Low-key, of course, but sexy just the same. It didn't take long for me to realize that she was attracted to me just like I was to her. We played around with that kind of talk for several days, which made for some stimulating sexual tension between us. We made sort of a running game out of it. 

Guess I should've run from what was starting to happen, but I really enjoyed talking with her, and I liked the developing relationship -- not just the sexual innuendoes, you understand, but everything about her. Well, whatever we had going picked up steam, and we started finding many reasons to be together. And then one day -- it seems like a dream now -- we wound up slipping off together and making love. 

I'll never forget how that felt. One minute I was drunk on ecstasy, and the next, when it hit me what I had just done, I was filled with complete and total humiliation. I wanted God to strike me dead right on the spot. Kinda thought he might too. I prayed and cried and begged for mercy. If you had asked me then if I would ever commit adultery again, I would've told you that it could never happen again, that I could never face that kind of guilt and shame -- ever. 

I think it was two weeks before we sneaked off again. Just as soon as the guilt subsided, I started remembering the pleasure, the excitement. Just being alone with Sandy was unbelievable. 

It didn't happen overnight, but within a few weeks we were meeting regularly. I felt as if I were in love for the first time in my life. And the crazy thing is that I still loved Anne. Just in a different way than how I loved Sandy.

I never felt that I became involved with Sandy because of any deficit in my marriage. All along I would have told you that I loved my wife very much and that our relationship -- including sex -- was great.

I think, for me, the whole reason for getting involved in the affair had something to do with my male ego and desires I didn't know I had. It was mighty flattering to know that a woman found me attractive and wanted me. Sandy always made elaborate preparations for our "dates" -- special meals or wine, candles, soft music. And she always was so erotic and seductive.

Our affair lasted for several months, and we thought we were keeping it secret. Actually, people at the office figured it out early on. I mean, how could they not? Both of us disappearing at the same time for a couple hours. When I realized that they knew, I panicked and became afraid that Anne would find out through gossip. 

So I told her. 

It turned out, she had suspicions about what was going on, though she didn't want to believe it until I confessed it to her. She knows me better than anyone. I tried to console Anne by telling her that I still loved her but that I loved Sandy in a different way. Like a fool, I tried to convince her it wasn't bad for a man to love two women. One day I even brought home some books that said an affair could be a good way to expand a network of loving relationships.

You can imagine how that went over. She didn't subscribe to that idiocy, and I don't guess I truly did, but it was a good rationalization. Anne said she was leaving me, but I convinced her to stay by telling her I'd stop the affair immediately. I even started going to church with her again. But I didn't stop, and it didn't take long for Anne to sense it. As soon as she allowed herself to believe I was involved with Sandy again, Anne contacted a lawyer.

When it finally hit me that she really was going to divorce me, I fell apart. I couldn't take the thought of losing her. I hadn't wanted to hurt Anne, as stupid as that may sound, and I didn't want our relationship destroyed. What I had with Sandy just didn't compensate.

I spent a sleepless night in soul searching. The next day I met Sandy for dinner and told her it was over. It wasn't easy to walk away from what I had with her. But I was relieved, too, you know? Deep within me, I knew I was doing the right thing. I'd pretty well quit thinking about God sometime back after I lost my fear of him punishing me, but when I left Sandy that night, I sort of felt like God was smiling at me, saying something like, "Welcome back, Lionel."

I couldn't wait to get home and convince Anne that it really was over, that I would do anything if she could only forgive me and not leave me. When I let myself in, the house was much too quiet. As I reached the bedroom door, the scene before me was like a surreal dream. By the flickering light of the silent TV, I could see Anne, tucked in bed so nice and neat, and on the nightstand next to our bed was an empty bottle of sleeping pills. I ran to her and froze when I reached the bed. She had no expression on her face. None. She just lay there with her eyes closed, breathing long, uneven breaths that were several seconds apart. 

I can't tell you how long it took the paramedics to get there, but it seemed like forever. I kneeled beside her, holding her hands in mine, and begged God not to let her die for what I had done. I didn't sense his smiling now. I couldn't focus on him at all. All I could do was watch Anne's chest rise sporadically as she drew another breath and beg God over and over to spare her.

She lived. And she forgave me. I brought her home from the hospital, and we immediately started the tough process of rebuilding our marriage. I requested and received a job reassignment where I wouldn't have any contact with Sandy. And I began to court Anne again. We'd meet a couple times a week for lunch, and I always brought flowers or a gift. We also had "dates" at least one or two nights a week during which we worked out a lot of the hurt and bad feelings. I must've told Anne a thousand times that I love her and that I will always be there for her from now on, no matter what. 

It took nearly a year, but we finally got to the point where we felt we needed to renew our marriage vows. We did it on our anniversary. We invited a few close friends to a beautiful little chapel and got married all over again. 

Our marriage is closer and stronger than before. We've survived the worst that can happen to us, and we're together for life.

As you read the story of Anne and Lionel, you may have thought, "Why tell us so much about how it happened and how bad it became?" The reason is simple. It's important that you see how a loving husband (or wife, for that matter) can become so enamored with another person that he could cheat on his wife. No, there's no justification. Adultery is a terrible thing and never has any just cause for happening. But we all need to realize how destructive it is to the spouse who is sinned against. Anne, though absolutely wrong in her effort to kill herself, suffered terribly as a result of her husband's adultery.

But even in a case so bad that it nearly causes the death of a spouse, there can be healing and hope. When both parties in a marriage decide to commit themselves to each other with a commitment that surpasses their attraction or attention to any other person or thing, they can develop a healthy, loving marriage and a healthy, loving family. Even if the commitment in a relationship has been violated, it can be restored, and when it is, the relationship can heal and become strong!

characteristic #2 -- commitment to each individual

Commitment isn't only to the family as a unit or between husband and wife; in strong families, it is also to each individual in the family. As one Florida mother commented, 

Each person forms a part of the family, and each part is precious. 

This kind of commitment helps everyone in the family feel worthwhile and secure. An Illinois wife provides insight into this: 

About ten years ago, after a brief physical illness and a change of jobs, something happened to me -- to my mind and my emotions. I guess I became mentally sick. I lost control of my life and became so depressed that I could not function. Needless to say, I was not enjoyable to be around.

Probably no one will ever know all of the causes for that bad period in my life, but I can tell you that my family didn't give up on me. My husband searched until he found an excellent team of physicians to treat my medical problems. With their help, he located a counselor for me. He had to do all this for me, because a depressed person has no energy or initiative.

My daughter rearranged her schedule in order to drive me the forty miles to Springfield for my weekly counseling sessions. She always planned something special for our trips to the city -- some shopping, a nice lunch, or a museum -- that would boost my spirit.

My sister came by the house two or three times a week. She'd say she came for coffee or to talk, but she'd manage to tidy up the kitchen, do some laundry, weed a flower bed, or vacuum while she was there.

After a few weeks of the deepest depression, I began to feel a bit better. My complete recovery took nearly a year. 

I am eternally grateful to a few close friends and to my church for helping in my recovery. But most especially, I am grateful to my family. As sick as I was, I was always aware of their support and patience.

Members of strong families express their commitment to one another -- not just in words, but through investments of time and energy. Their commitment is active and obvious.

The story of another strong family illustrates this. Mary and Rob have been married for twenty-eight years and have three children. Their middle child, Erin, now twenty-four, is mentally retarded. From the time she was born, they united as a family to help Erin become all she could be, just as they did for each other family member. Mary devoted countless hours to an intensive home-therapy program when Erin was young. Older brother Kit and his wife include Erin in their vacation each year and plan special activities of interest to her. Younger sister Judy helped Erin find a job and worked with her until she could handle it alone. The entire family has been active in advocacy for persons with special needs. Mary speaks of their commitment to each other when she says, 

We are a team; family is the heart and center of our thoughts. We pitch in to help because if one of us is in pain, we all hurt. Each of us is important, sort of like the Three Musketeers -- "one for all and all for one!"

This concept of commitment is as valid today as it was in Bible times. In the early church it was understood that families took care of each member -- even widowed mothers or aunts -- so that the church could concentrate on helping those who had no family. Strong families take care of their own. Each and every one.



Continues...


Excerpted from Fantastic Families by Joe Beam Copyright © 1999 by Joe Beam. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Contents


Preface Some Things You Need to Know
Introduction What Makes a Family Strong, Healthy, and Happy?
Chapter 1 Step One - Commit to Your Family
Chapter 2 Step Two - Express Appreciation and Affection
Chapter 3 Step Three - Share Positive Communication
Chapter 4 Step Four - Spend Time Together
Chapter 5 Step Five - Nurture Spiritual Well-Being
Chapter 6 Step Six - Learn to Cope with Stress and Crises
Chapter 7 Becoming a Fantastic Family
Appendix A Assessing Your Family's Strengths
Appendix B Resources to Help Your Family Become Fantastic
Appendix C What You, Your Church, YourBusiness, and Your Community Can Do for Families
Appendix D More about the Family-Strengths Research
Notes
Bibliography
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