Years ago, when I was a very young attorney, on days when there was a little “lag” time in the office, my boss – as he hurried by my office – would call to me to head out the door with him to whatever meeting he was scurrying to get to. I would grab a legal pad and my purse and scurry out with him.
One day we headed out to the country (we were in a fairly urban area in New Jersey) to visit an older client. She lived in a grand old house in the, then, more rural part of the state. The house, he explained, was almost 200 years old. Yet, despite the home’s age, each of its walls remained “square.” There were no cracks in the plaster, gaps in the windows, doors that wouldn’t close properly or sags in the ceiling. Though it had stood for two centuries, the house had been built so very well it still stood – “square” and strong and firm.
Over the years, as a first-time homeowner of our own “very old house” and even now in our “not as old” house, I’ve thought about that afternoon visit. Our home in New Jersey was built in the 1920s and its plaster walls looked like spider webs when we stripped off the old wallpaper. In the termite inspection conducted before we purchased it, some damage had been found in the seal plate. The house was jacked up to replace the damaged board prior to our purchase. Whether because of the passage of time or the movement, or a combination of both – our walls and doors and windows remained a challenge thereafter.
Our current, newer, home shows signs of wear and tear from time to time. A few cracks have appeared, but in general it has withstood its years rather well – even with afternoon blasts and shakes from the quarry not so far away. Now here’s the thing – our current home was virtually destroyed in 1974 when a tornado ravaged our area. The roof was gone, walls caved in, windows blown out – the place was devastated. Yet, the then-owners had simply rebuilt their house using the original, still-existing foundation. Our rebuilt home today looks pretty much exactly as it did pre-tornado.
What does all of this have to do with a pondering mom? Just like these age-old homes, the foundations we lay for our families – for our children – are what will keep them firm and stable in years to come. Try as we might, if we merely “put up walls” as we seek to protect them from whatever the world and life throw at them, the walls will crack and sag, become out of square and possibly even fall, if we have not laid the firmest foundation possible. You see that 200-year-old house wasn’t still perfectly square because the builder was incredible in framing it as he built it. It was still perfectly square because its foundation was straight and firm, strong and secure from its inception. The same with our tornado ravaged and rebuilt home. Foundations matter – walls may be damaged, moved, cracked or even destroyed – but a solid, well-built foundation has the best chance of remaining firm.
What are some of the strong, foundational cornerstones and footers for our families? There are any number of important components – so I’ll just suggest a few – in no particular order – to ponder as you prepare, build and maintain your own foundation.
Integrity, Authenticity, Honesty
These three go hand in hand. They are important – both individually and collectively. Chinks in any of the three will cause cracks in the others.
When inspecting the safety and strength of a home, commercial building or even a bridge, the inspecting engineer will test the “integrity” of the structure. A structural engineer will inspect a building’s foundation to “ensure its structural integrity is intact.” ¹ Likewise, a bridge inspector tests to make sure there is no cable corrosion which “can be devastating to the integrity of the bridge over time.” ²
In building and maintaining the foundations of our homes and families, integrity matters!
The foundational aspect of developing and maintaining integrity, authenticity and honesty is an absolute commitment to truth. Not perceived truth, or presented truth, expected truth, partial truth or “my” truth. An all-out dedication to the facts, veracity and genuineness of everyone and everything, circumstances and personalities, conditions and challenges, helps establish a firm footing of truth.
Integrity is the below ground-level, out of eyesight, portion of our character. Integrity is the most basic ingredient in how we establish and exhibit our “truth.” It reflects what we stand for, how we conduct ourselves and what we ultimately say, think and believe. If our integrity is not sound – anything built upon it will be shaky, vulnerable and dispensable.
Simply being “who we are,” and not what we wish we could be, or the persona others want or believe us to be, provides an authenticity to our very heart and character. Trying to fit into a picture created by expectations, worldly standards, social media or pride, will mask our authenticity. Attempting to fit into and keep up any pretense is exhausting, and ultimately, damaging – especially to those young ones looking to us for direction, guidance and their own determination of their own true self.
Our honesty is a matter of our heart. We must first be honest with ourselves, and thereafter honesty will flow to others. Sometimes being honest, while always preferred, is not always simple. While assessing a situation, person or condition, honesty must be tempered with love, kindness, thought and purpose. Honesty brings light, dishonesty – darkness. Strive to be honest, even if it is difficult or brings consequences and responses that loom large in the instant. Honesty truly is – the very best policy.
Home and lives can crumble if built on tenuous foundations not shored with the strength of integrity, authenticity and honesty.
Anyone and everyone currently living, working, going to school, shopping or just hanging out in our busy, rushing world can use a large dose of kindness. Kindness needs to be woven into the structure of our homes and families. It needs to be tightly woven – tied with strong and secure sutures – into our core foundation. Why? Because unless it becomes an integral part of our daily interactions, it will easily be left way behind as we speed along to our next endeavor.
Kindness matters! Many relationships will rise and fall on the existence of kindness – or the lack thereof. Friendships, marriages, sister and brotherhoods – the strains of unkindness can create deep chasms that will wreck any foundation.
I know I’ve uttered many a thoughtless, unkind word while trying to accomplish a task, deal with a stressful situation, meet a deadline or a thousand other “non” reasons. Often, I’m unaware of my words, or my tone, or my look – I’m just moving forward to the next “thing.”
Kindness requires thought. It requires self-control. Kindness requires the consideration of others – their feelings, circumstances, understanding and place in our lives. Sometimes it is easier to be kind to the cashier at the store than the ones living under our own roof.
Kindness is listed as a Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. It is not part of our nature’s toolbox. Kindness needs to first be planted, nurtured, tended and guarded in order to reap its sweet benefits.
If left unaddressed, unabated and unchanged, unkindness will create deep fissures in the foundation of our homes and families. Those fissures, if unrepaired, will grow and spread and soon be out of our control.
Seek kindness! It is healing. It is reenforcing. It gives strength. Seek it for yourself and for those you love – those who are being built on the foundation you are laying.
Spread the seeds of kindness whenever and wherever you can. Find the fissures of unkindness as early as possible so they can be repaired and “patched” before their damage is done.
If you want to see a foundation that is so tenuous its walls are doomed to fall from the very start, forget to mix in a great measure of respect.
Respect – both given and received – is a strong component. It is often that “thing” we want, but don’t necessarily make sure we give. Our words, attitudes and actions work together to display respect. They also work together to betray respect.
Respect of persons, places, things, laws, opinions, beliefs, authorities and guidelines needs to be exemplified, taught, expected, corrected and celebrated.
Respect – again, both given and received – builds character, contentment, boundaries, selflessness and strength of belief.
A foundation forged with respect for ourselves and others (yes, self-respect wards off a great many foundational “cracks”) will be able to uphold many storms that may arise against our homes and families.
This “foundational” component may seem so basic that it doesn’t even need mentioning. Yet, how often do doubts about whether we are truly loved for simply “who we are” creep softly into our minds. You can bet it creeps into the minds of those you love as well.
Thus, never let an opportunity to express your love pass quietly by. Whether in a hug, word, text or emoji – express your love! Don’t assume others know how cherished they are to your life and heart.
The silence of love is never “golden.” It must be mixed in every element of our foundations. It is, after all, the center of all earthly relationships – “But the greatest of these is love.” It is the source of our heavenly relationship as well – “For God so loved the world…”
A home and family established with a determination and commitment to expressing love unconditionally will stand strong against foes from both inside and outside our walls.
Communication and Teamwork
Are you and your family on the same page? Do you know? Most of us aren’t very good mind-readers, try as we might!
I’m an avid proponent of asking questions – and asking the follow-up questions – and then the next question.
My children now think I repeat myself continually. And I do! Sometimes it is because I have truly forgotten who I have told what. But often, it is because I want to make double-sure that everyone is in the loop (whatever loop it may be).
In order to know your famiy’s game plan – your goals, beliefs, decisions, challenges, thoughts, achievements and anything else – everyone needs to know the drill.
It is hard for everyone to be on the same page if everyone is off in their own space. If you don’t have family dinner time, a family group text, face to face conversation, family outings – i.e. deliberate talking and sharing (and questioning) time – it is going to be challenging for everyone to know what is going on. It is going to be difficult for you to be working and living and striving together as a team. It will be tricky to build a strong foundation of being on the same page, attaining the same goal, moving in the same direction in life, feeling included and informed and engaged.
None of us like to feel left out. We all like to matter – especially when it comes to our homes and families. Walls of isolation and loneliness can rise up when there isn’t clear and continuous communication.
So don’t forget to work on constructing your foundation of communication. It isn’t always easy or timely to try to keep everyone in the loop. But it is sure worth a great attempt!
The Word and Worship of God – Jesus the Cornerstone
In order to establish the strongest foundation possible for our homes and families with our sights on building a “Christian” home and family, there is no more important focus than to make sure the Word and worship of God is the primary building block upon which all else is placed.
As with all scripture – it is no accident that Jesus is deemed the Cornerstone – of His Church, of our homes, of our lives.
Isaiah 28:16-17 states: “So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trust will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line;. . .’ “
To build our homes and families without this “sure” foundational ingredient, is to invite a less than secure, vulnerable and incomplete “structure.” When the initial “cornerstone” is laid, its strength, placement, integrity and longevity must be uncompromised and uncompromisable. Measurements and plumb lines using a less than perfectly established and structurally firm cornerstone will be askew from the very beginning if the original building block is not perfectly placed.
Jesus is the only perfect “cornerstone.” Only the eternal God and His Word will endure the storms, attacks, disasters, challenges, shifts in the culture, anything that can come against us.
To begin constructing our lives, homes and families on anything less will lead to a foundation that is weak, vulnerable and susceptible to anything and everything that can come against them.
Laying a sure and secure foundation takes time, thought and preparation. In building a home it would be imprudent to not first clear the land, grade the soil, remove the obstacles and make sure there is a perfect place to embed the very first block upon and around which the entire structure will be built.
Establishing the foundation for our homes and families should not be any less planned and constructed. We need to strive for a foundation that, like that 200-year-old house in New Jersey, can stand the test of time, the winds of change and the forces of nature – and life – that will surely come against it.
Thought to Ponder: On what foundation are you constructing your life, your home and your family? Are you ensuring it is the very best, most secure and firm foundation possible? If you are sensing cracks in the foundation, are you willing to repair them and find a firmer footing on which to continue?
There are other important “foundational” building blocks I could have added: Forgiveness, Fun, Fairness, Firm, Focused. The thing is to – yes – “focus” on those basic building blocks before we start putting up the “walls” in our lives and homes.
Coming Next – What are the walls we put up?
1. What is a structural engineer foundation inspection? | Complete Building Solutions (cbsmn.com)
2. Inspection Helps Evaluate Bridge Cable Corrosion to Ensure Safety | For Construction Pros
Here’s a little tidbit – a picture of the only “real” foundation I ever helped build. It was on Grand Cayman Island in the mid 1970’s. My high school youth group helped renovate a building to serve as a church for a rural part of the island. I was “helping” lay the foundation for the septic tank. The best thing – my husband took me back for my 30th birthday – and yes, the “foundation” was still holding up. – even though it was right by the Caribbean Ocean.