Mercy from our Families

My grandfather taught me how to signal across the room, a sign that all was well and that he loved me. A grin accompanied with a longer blink, subtle and yet clear as day. I doubt anyone else would have seen it. We had a family whistle, too, a way to find each other in a crowded place. My grandpa could whistle the three notes exquisitely loud, which came in handy in crowded places, like Knott’s Berry Farm, when we all lost each other.  

Families that know each other well, friends that have walked many season together have these little signals. 

My grandpa’s ways were so infectious I found myself copying him, this family signal, this family whistle. 

And my sons now know it and practice it. This last week, my son expressed annoyance and displeasure at my plans for the day: the errands, the unexpected lesson.  He wasn’t prepared and felt startled at all we had to do. I felt unappreciated for the work I’d done to set up the lesson and arrange the schedule. The disagreement escalated and we ended up hurting each other. 

“It feels like you’re throwing snowballs at my face and I cannot defend myself,” he said.

“I can’t handle your complaining. I need to stop talking about this.” I replied and rolled down the car windows to cool off. 

By the time we got home we had heard each other out, but I could still feel the afterglow of tension.  I looked up to see my son across the room, watching me. He is eleven and every day I see the man he is becoming.  I smiled and automaticaly sent him the family signal: that grin with the longer blink. It always means the same thing; I see you, I know you, I love you.

He returned the signal. And in an instant, all was well. I still had some journaling to do to figure out the roots. But I had the family signal backing me up. 

And that is why our family culture matters so deeply. Our family of origin tells us some of the most significant things about us. They give us most of our tools for living in this merciless world. You cannot live in any family culture without emerging with tools. And even in the best of families, we don’t emerge as adults with all the tools we will need. That’s why marriage and friendships, especially children, are such a mercy from God. These adult friendships all supplement the missing pieces from our childhood.  And we all have missing pieces.

My grandpa showed me the affectionate ways a father should love his daughter. So where my own dad was deficient, my grandfather filled in. And this is the way God works with anyone who invites Him. Everything the Evil One has taken or is taking from your life, every injustice, every premature death or broken relationship, God is signaling to you another way. Like a shot of blue sky on a grey day. Just open your eyes to his work: to the children he has given you (biologically or in your circle of friends), look at the friends he has you working besides, the easily over-looked, often humbler and quieter people in your life. They are God’s signals that you can grow beyond the generational sins that haunt all of us.

These are the mercies of God. We all have them. If we only look. 

These people are the friendships I want to help you grow in this next year. Join my blog’s regularly posts for more about friendship in 2022.



This is the barn I passed every day when leaving our White Woods in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I’ve painted this mini-landscape (it measures 2.5″ x 3.5″) from a plein air study I did years ago, one warm Spring morning. The owner, Dusty, invited me over to paint anytime. The snow was beginning to melt and the grey sky couldn’t hold against those exclamations of blue. Warmer weather was coming!

I wanted this piece to be about the grayness punctuated by blue sky. That’s a lot like God’s mercy, such a surprise in this humdrum world where nothing seems to change. But God’s mercies do, they are new every morning. A tiny version of “Dusty’s Barn” is available unframed for $29. This larger piece above is heading to Durango, Colorado to a wonderful shop that has hosted my work for a year now. Thank you to Revival Goods for including me in their collection!

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I love this. The afterglow tension is so real and yet, I love the way the signal offered connection. A simple act of openness and humility bridges the gap.

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