tried and true...

family dinner by bob dornberg

i can remember the day that i met matthew's family fairly clearly, even though it was an entire lifetime ago. we had been dating for about 5 months. he had finally kissed me for the first time, and we were in love. we both knew it was forever. i doubted if his parents even knew we were dating. matthew is very private. they were coming to visit matthew and patrick, and i knew i would spend some time with them. i was so excited to meet them, and seriously sick to my stomach.

who isn't nervous about meeting their boyfriends parents? who wouldn't be scared to meet their future in laws? the only person who would be unbothered by it is someone who has never watched tv, movies, read a book, talked to any married person, or had not lived. everywhere you turn there are pictures drawn, horrendous pictures, of relationships with in laws. you can't watch a tv show, or movie without seeing in law conflict. you can't read a book without in law conflict being ingrained into you head. you can't walk down the aisle in the grocery store without hearing about conflicts with in laws. ad campaigns are built around it, psychologists specialize in it, marriages are ruined by it. these tempestuous relationships ruin lives. who isn't scared to encounter that?

i was mortified. i was physically ill. i had been friends with patrick and matthew for several years. i already frequented miz boo's blog, i already adored her... who wouldn't? still i was drenched in sweat, and my intestines were in knots by the time they walked in the door to my apartment. i instantly noticed the three dust mites i missed in my hours of cleaning and prepping, the candles i had been burning all day didn't seem to be masking the awkward smell of my tiny apartment, and i felt like a cow, an elephant, a whale, a planet. new situations always make me feel fat. my issue, not yours.

i was hiding in my bedroom... i couldn't force my feet to step. i think they met my roommate before they met me. i heard matthew's encouraging voice over my roommates awkward giggles. "melinda, are you going to come meet my family?" it took everything in my to urge my legs to movement... slowly they started to bend and shake, and i thought i might be sick, or have to change my pants. by the time i made it to the living room patrick had already turned the tv on, and sr. and jr were engrossed in some unimportant sporting event. my mother in law's warm smile eased my stomach a little, and my father in law didn't look near as intimidating as i expected him to be. miz boo grabbed my neck and gave me a sweet hug, while katie (my sister in law who is 15 years matthew's junior) walked circles around our legs. my mother in law had knitted me a pair of socks, and i was just thrilled. what a thoughtful gesture.

"melinda, do you have a brush emma and i can borrow? we have been sitting out in the wind for 3 hours." her sweet voice asked innocently. my stomach dropped. i don't brush my hair. never. i hate to. i don't know why. i do it like twice a year. "the boys laughed when said i needed to borrow your brush. they said you wouldn't have one" an awkward laugh escaped my lips. "yah, i don't really brush my hair." more awkward giggles. "i can find you a brush in the bathroom" oh Lord, please let me find a brush quickly. we walked into the bathroom and i rummaged int eh bathroom closet until i found a brush. it was dusty and filled with hair, all the hair i had lost and not cleaned out in the last 5 years. i could feel my face flush. i quickly cleaned it out and handed it over. small talk, small talk. "oh, oh my goodness..." my mother in laws panicky voice startled me. she was pointing to the corner of the bathroom counter. oh. my. lord. you must be kidding me. the great smelling candles that i just had to burn, and were now hardly masking the smells of my ghetto apartment, would be the death of me. one of the candles had burned almost empty, and the flame was dancing wildly, dancing wildly against the back splash, burning. yes burning the formica top. i nearly set my bathroom on fire and killed my future mother and sister in law. i blew on it nervously until the flames went out. the most awkward of all awkwardness giggles filled the room. they were not just from me.

we all went to dinner at kobe steakhouse that night. it is one of my favorite places to eat, and such a treat, we don't go there on a regular basis. we all sat around the cook top table and chit chatted and watched the cooking show. i was sitting by my father in law. i don't know how that happened. discussing what we were going to order he says to me, "you don't have to get the chicken, you can get whatever you want." and i remember thinking how polite he was, and how silly i was to be scared of him. katie's wide eyed wonder at the chef entertained us all. there came a moment at dinner i knew was coming, and i was dreading all night. when the chef popped shrimp up in the air directed at every mouth at the table. ideally, you catch it in your mouth. my hand eye coordination is bad enough. now i was supposed to use my eye mouth coordination. my face flushed again. when he made it to my spot at the table i tried to shake my head. he ignored my pleas. shot 1, i didn't even try, i just watched it fall to the ground. shot 2, i nervously bobbed my head and clenched my eyes closed. shot 3... please please please don't go down my shirt. please, i will die if it does. please... smack-right on the apple of my cheek. and it was over. i didn't die. dinner continued without a hitch. i began to feel at ease. we went back to their hotel and talked and laughed and learned about each other. they already began to feel like family. they returned matthew and i to his car so he could take me home. it didn't start. that was the end of the little honda, but we didn't know that yet. we tried for what seemed like hours, both of us growing grumpy and weary. his mom's encouraging voice filling the air. soon we just returned them to their hotel and they let matthew take their car.

when i went to bed that night, i thanked God for bringing them into my life, and prayed that our relationship would be tried and true. they would be my family too.

and now, nearly 4 years later. they are my family without a doubt. not matthew's family, not my in laws, not the other side of the family. they are my family. like before, my family wasn't complete, and now it is a whole. patrick is my brother. he always has been. emma and katie are the only sisters God gave me, and i love them so very much. they are beautiful, and smart and witty, they always put others first. donna and patrick are far more than i could have hoped for. parents who love their children, raised them up in the Lord, and welcomed me as their own.

i love them, and they love me. unconditionally. they don't care if i put on a few extra pounds, or don't brush my hair. they don't care if i talk a little too loud or cry for no reason. when i snap at matthew, they know i don't mean it and that i am just having a bad day. they are always there to encourage me, support me, pray for me, listen to me, cry with me, laugh with me, and love me. there is never pressure to be someone i am not, they accept me as i am.

we can sit for days and do nothing. just talk and dream and fight over what channel to watch. we can entertain ourselves for hours taking pictures of ourselves on the computer, and laughing til i pee. we share interests and hobbies. our hearts are all as one.

i am the most blessed girl in the world to have a family like this. i don't deserve all the blessings they provide me with.

my parents prayed for my future spouse since i was 4 years old, maybe younger...i don't really know. every day they prayed. they prayed that i would find a man who loved me, but who loved God first. they prayed that he would be strong, and care for me, and that he would never ever leave me. they prayed that he would come from a christian home, have a family that loved me, and that i would love. everyday they prayed. i have wonderful parents, who dared to say we want the best for our daughter. i have parents who had the strength and endurance to pray everyday for my future, for my husband, for my family. when i was 4 years old and going to school with pigtails and rotting teeth, they were praying for my future my family. when i was 8 years old and swimming every day, trying to write my own songs, they were praying that my in laws would be nice to me. when i was 12 and my hormones were raging, and they wanted more than anything just to slap my face, they were praying that my husband would choose love over strife, and that his family would support us no matter what. when i was 16 and they were scared to let me take the car out, they were praying that my future family would prove to be tried and true. when i was 20, and they met matthew, when we were only just friends, they were praying that he was the one, and that his family would be as great as they had prayed for all these years. now that i am 25, and living in their house again they thank God for answering their prayers and giving matthew, patrick, donna, patrick, emma, and katie to me.

and i thank God every day for them. for everything they are, and everything they do. and i thank God for answering the fervent prayers of two parents who wanted nothing more.


  1. Oh my gosh...
    this is just so beautiful, melinda...

    I had forgotten about the candle and I didn't know you were so nervous. You carry yourself so well.

    Your parents are wonderful, faithful people.

    I want to be more diligent with those kinds of prayers.

    So lovely.

  2. thank you donna... you all have been on my mind and heart...

  3. Ok Melinda...You have me in tears! What a wonderful testimony to love and the faithfulness of a parents prayers.

    YOU are blessed!

  4. Anita11:32

    This is so sweet. I hope we can be the kind of family to our future daughter that Matthew's family is to you.
    By the way, I love the 'prayer journey' of your parents. They are an inspiration and you have a graceful way with words!

  5. anita, thank you for your encouraging words.

    i think my parents prayer was key. behold the power of prayer.

    i am a very lucky girl.

  6. Anonymous18:37

    that's the kind of mom I want to be. always prayerful, even if I'm a mess in every other way. oh, that I may pray...


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