We have found that one of the best ways to understand the Intentional Family Process is to hear the stories of families who are on the journey. The following excerpt is from one of the books in our IF Library, Belonging and Becoming (p. 11-13). In this book, Mark and Lisa Scandrette share their story of becoming an intentional family and the values that shaped their decisions:
“Our work with children and parents sensitized us to the dynamics present in healthy families that are often absent in families that fail to thrive. On wooded paths along Minnesota lakes, we went for long walked and talked about the kind of family we hoped to create together. We imagined a household of laughter, fun and deep connections. We wanted an awareness of divine purpose and presence to permeate or lives and shape our decisions. We envisioned doing meaningful work together, using our gifts to serve. We hoped to open our lives to others, especially to those who struggle and suffer. And we desired to live gratefully, creatively and sustainably.
Envisioning the kind of family we wanted to be was a start, but it would take a lifetime to enact. In the early years of our marriage, we thought we were getting traction on the life we’d imagined, but as our three children, Hailey, Noah and Isaiah, came along—one after the other over three years—life became more complicated. We didn’t get an uninterrupted night of sleep for five years. That time was a blur of diaper changes, feedings, teething, earaches and laundry.
Before kids, we felt supremely confident about our skills for relating; we’d even done our university studies in family counseling and early childhood education. But living out those skills day to day proved to be much harder. With kids, we felt more pressure about money and career, and the competing demands of work and home revealed our unhealthy patterns for dealing with stress. We became conscious of the gap between the family we wanted to be and the family we actually were. With so many more decisions to make together, it was sometimes difficult to come to an agreement. It began to felt like our hopes, dreams and ideals for family life were slipping away.
We became conscious of the gap between the family we wanted to be and the family we actually were.
Conventional wisdom told us that we should put our deepest dreams on hold in order to provide our kids with the American dream: a safe neighborhood, good schools and upward mobility. Just before our son Noah was born, we bought our first house. Mark took a job as minister to families at a local church and started graduate school. During those years, Lisa stayed home to care for our children while Mark commuted to work each day. We had a home in the country, a minivan in the garage and a busy schedule of activities. Life for our growing family was good and stable, but it felt fragmented. We were succeeding in one of two areas but found it challenging to make all the parts of life work together. We’d always imagined our family being at the center of life of share service and adventure, not segmented like it was.
One of the best things we did at the time was stop and reflect. Had we settled for less? Did we like where we were going? Was normal working? What were we teaching our kids by our choices? The ache of these questions put us on a search for a more integrated path for family life.
We took the time to explore new possibilities. We considered what we appreciated about our families of origin. Lisa grew up on a farm, the youngest of six children, and her parents provided foster care to more than one hundred children over the years, eventually adding three more brothers to the family through adoption. We admired their family culture of care and hospitality. Mark grew up in the city with three sisters, in a military family that was very close. We appreciated their family culture of honesty, clear communication and intentionality.
Inspired by what we saw, read and experienced, we resolved to take new life-giving steps toward creating a thriving family culture.
We also read books about creating healthy family culture, and we paid careful attention to the habits and rhythms of families we knew that seemed to be thriving:
Inspired by what we saw, read and experienced, we resolved to take new life-giving steps toward creating a thriving family culture. We’ve spent the past twenty-five years chasing after the whole and integrated life we were created for as a family.”
The Scandrette’s story is an important reminder for families embarking on the Intentional Family Process journey that we can choose to do family life differently at any point along the way. It is never too late to start living the family life you long to have.