I always end my day in the same way. And it is always a highlight. I go to the beds of my sleeping children, make sure they are warm enough, snuggle my face into their sleeping necks, breath in the beautiful scent of them, kiss their soft cheeks and whisper goodnight. I think most moms love the sight of their sleeping children. When the chaos of the day is over and they are finally still. For me it is a chance to just take in the goodness of them, thank God for his goodness to me and have a quiet moment of reflection as my love for family overwhelms me again. I purposefully make this part of my nighttime routine because there is not much time for quiet or reflection during the daylight hours. Like most kids, mine are loud, busy, funny, challenging, boisterous, vibrant, curious, demanding, animated, mostly happy, sometimes a little wild, periodically grumpy and basically full of life. Parenting them has been the greatest challenge and the deepest joy of my life. When I was pregnant with my first-born, Emily, I was given a book called Spiritual Parenting – how raising children shapes your soul. At the time it was merely a good read, but I have come to realise that it contains profound truth. Being a mother is just as much about my growth as the growth of my children. Being their mom has caused me to face my own shortcomings, dig deep when I feel like I have nothing left, put others before myself, sacrifice and lay aside my dreams for a season. It has taught me that I can grow in patience, that I need far less sleep than I thought and that I am capable of far more than I imagined. These, and a myriad of other things, I have learned by being in family. And I know that the same is true of my husband and each of our children. We would not be the people we are today and would not be growing and maturing daily if it were not for the deep, unconditional love, the demand, the reality, the vibrance, the complications and the in-your-face, 24/7 richness of family. And I have come to realize that this is a picture of the church. Over and over again in the bible, God speaks of his people (believers) as a family. He speaks about us as sons and fathers, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters. We are not just people who believe in the same God. In ways even deeper than blood, we are family. God says he sets the lonely in family. We are not built to be alone. We are meant to be surrounded by like-minded believers who encourage us, spur us on, sometimes grate us, test our patience, force us to dig deep, celebrate our finest moments and love us at our ugliest. And the way this outworked is in the local church. It is a beautiful thing. But it is not perfect. I once heard it said that the church would be a perfect place if it weren’t for all the people. The only problem with that is that the church is the people: a whole bunch of imperfect people trying to figure out life and faith. The reality is that there will be times we disagree, there will be times we irritate each other, there may even be times we hurt each other. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are family. We love each other deeply. We have each other’s backs. We want the best for each other and are committed to doing life together. Most of all we love Jesus and want to see his plans and purposes unfold in each of our lives. We sacrifice for one another and blow wind in each other’s sails. We are growing and learning. Becoming more like Christ. Yes, life may be simpler without family. But the truth is that we are way better when we are together.