Being Married to a Clark Griswold Is a Good Thing

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It’s a campy movie, part of a franchise, about a good willed man who tries his hardest to do amazing things for his family and blunders it all along the way.  It the first movie, he attempts to take his kids to an amazing amusement park.  After a series of weird events they make it, only to find the park is closed.  The movie doesn’t end there, and if you haven’t seen it… I won’t spoil it.  I know there is a generation of kids who haven’t had the chance to see the humble beginnings of an incredible franchise.  In fact there are 3 movies when they attempt vacations (Family Vacation, European Vacation, and Vegas Vacation – sadly this last one is just worthy of skipping).  Then there is my personal favorite the “Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold attempts to have a family Christmas at his home.

This is a movie that I love for a lot of reasons, besides being campy.   You have a man who works hard for his family, in a company where he is practically invisible to the management.   When discussing their annual bonus, his co-worker asks if Clark is spending the money on himself.  Instead Clark shares his intention of spending the money on the family.  This is a guy who is a family first kind of guy, he is working hard to provide for his family not just financially but also in building memories.    Clark values the importance of putting his family before himself.

When his wife expresses concern over all of the family members staying in their home for the Christmas Vacation, Clark scoffs at it.  He knows it won’t be perfect, but it is important to him to have this memory for his kids.  Clark doesn’t feign the knowledge that the family members are not perfect, knowing there will be bickering and a tight fit.  However, for Clark it is something he can deal with for the over all goal of having his family together at Christmas.  Clark values the importance of family time, including the in laws.

When the senile aunt & grumpy uncle show up, as well as some uninvited extended family members arrive, Clark is surely surprised by their antics.  Despite the comments he makes under his breath, Clark never asks them to leave or makes them feel unwelcome in his home.  He accommodates them, and ends up offering to provide Christmas presents for their children.  Clark values the importance of being charitable to those who are in poor in health, spirit, and finances.  He also doesn’t allow the children to suffer from the mistakes of the parents.

Yes there are moments where Clark loses his cool, and is not the epitome of great husband, dad, or person.  He isn’t immune to the stresses of the holidays.  He is not impervious to outside influences affecting things beyond his control.  Clark puts too much pressure on himself to make things perfect for everyone else, but that is the very thing that makes him endearing.  Clark is a man who TRIES with everything in his might to make things grand for others.  It’s never about himself, but about making sure others feel loved, appreciated, and cared for. 

In fact, in those moments where it becomes about him… is only from his failure to achieve those goals.  Not because he wanted the accolades, but instead because he failed his family.

Yet, the family response is what shows how much they know he cares.  It is those who are closest to him that try to talk him down from the grandeur.  They know how much it means to him, how much effort he will go to, and they know him well enough to expect there is going to be a let down along the way.  They want to spare him, in every comment they make… it is always a concern about how he will feel.  Even his teenage daughter stands to his defense when his father in law criticizes him, and attempts to make him feel better.

Many might see Clark Griswold’s character as flawed and foolish, but I contend it that be that as it may… it is in the most wonderful of ways.  Despite his imperfections, this is a character that clearly cares about others above himself.

There are days that I can be a Clark Griswold, wanting everything to be perfect for the experience of others.  There are days my husband can be too, as he LOVES Christmas and wants to create that feeling of wonder all month long.  We both fail miserably at times, or buckle under the stress of it all.  BUT, if I must be married to an imperfect man… I’ll take someone who is a Clark Griswold.

A man who works hard for his family, putting them ahead of himself.  Who opens his doors to others, who is generous, caring, wants to build memories, and is doing the best he can for no other reason than to see smiles on the faces of those he loves.

 

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Family Christian, Giving Back

For almost two years now, I have been writing reviews for Family Christian.  It may be books, movies, music, etc… and I really enjoy it.  BUT, my most favorite thing to participate in are their giving back campaigns.  In a nutshell, when a giving back campaign is launched, the bloggers submit who they would want to give a gift to and why.  Then a few of us are selected.  This is my second time giving back.  The first time, I was able to bless Una Esperanza with Bibles to take with them on their last mission trip.

This time, it is a little bit closer to home.

A few months ago my middle school aged daughter called me to pick her up from school early, she was feeling sick.  Bible study was just ending, and I headed straight to her school.  I was wearing a tshirt with a bible verse on it, and had thrown my wallet into my tote bag for the study.  Since the school needed my ID, I just grabbed the tote on my way in.  As I was waiting for my daughter to get to the office from the clinic, the school secretary read the verse on my shirt aloud.  The Dean’s assistant was standing next to her, and made a comment about it.  I responded that I had just come from our weekly bible study meeting.  To which they looked at each other, and the secretary said “Isn’t that nice.”

It was a tone I recognized all to well, the sound of voice we have when someone else is getting to do something we would enjoy but don’t have time for.  When Family Christian wanted to do a holiday giving back campaign, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I nominated these two women, who work tirelessly for our school.  I wanted to give them an opportunity to study together during their lunch break at the school.  I shared the story of the encounter and what I would give them.  And, I was selected to participate.

Family Christian sent me a $50 gift certificate to purchase items from their site.

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I selected Jen Wilken’s “Women of the Word”, some multi-colored bible study markers, and journals they could write notes in through their study.

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At our local dollar tree I was able to purchase some pretty paper, ribbon, and snowflakes to wrap the gifts in.  I wanted the gifts to look like something special, so they knew that extra effort was put into their gift.  (Usually, I am a gift bag kind of gal for gifts to teachers).

I stacked each package, putting the journal on the bottom since it was the longest.  The book landed in the middle and the markers on top.  It was perfect!  I wrapped a ribbon around the length of the package, and topped with the snowflake.  I used elmer’s school glue to ensure the snowflake would stay put.

On the day I delivered the packages to the middle school, I was surprised to be honest.  In the elementary school my youngest attends, I saw parents dropping off gifts to the office staff each morning leading toward the last day before break.  In the middle school office, there was nothing.  Ms. S, was at her desk as Christamsy as she could be.  Santa hat on her head, and a Christmas Light necklace adorned her school tshirt.  Yet, there were no gift bags from parents to be seen.  Apparently something happens when kids enter middle school and high school.  Less parents are giving teachers gifts, and even less (and in our case apparently none) were including the front office staff.

The Principal was standing near by, as I let her know I was dropping of a gift to her and Ms. Jones (the Dean’s assistant).  The look on her face, could not have been more shocked.   The Principal started showering her with accolades, acknowledging all that she did for the school.  All the while she was hustling her way around the counter to give me a hug.  As she approached there were tears in her eyes.  She was so grateful that someone appreciated her, that someone was acknowledging her, that she was remembered.  I don’t know much about Ms. S.  Is she married?  Does she have children?  Was she alone for Christmas?  What I do know is that I made her day, and I wouldn’t have done it without Family Christian giving me the nudge.

Ms. Jones was already out of the office for the day, but I left the gift for her. I received a card a few days later.

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The funny thing about all of this is that I thought Family Christian was allowing me an opportunity to give a gift that would encourage two women to study together when they can.  In reality the gift was more than that.  I was the one who received the greatest gift, because it opened my eyes to those who work tirelessly for our children… and often go unrecognized.

Whether it is Christmas, Teacher Appreciation Day, the end of the school year… or just a random Wednesday… take the opportunity to recognize the people in the schools working behind the scenes.  Especially so for our middle and high school support staff and administration.  Secretaries, Cafeteria Workers, Custodians/Janitors, etc are all people who are making an impact on the school your children attend.

A few days ago, my high school daughter shared that she wished the Cafeteria cashier a Merry Christmas… she replied:

“You are the first person to say that to me all week.”

This year is almost over, but the school year still has a few months ahead.  I challenge anyone who reads this (even if you kids do not attend school), what can you do in the coming months as a way to show appreciation to the people in your life that may be working behind the scenes… unnoticed, unrecognized?  People like:

The cleaning crew that comes in to the office after hours.

The teller at the bank who always serves you.

The grocery store cashier, the one you make a point of getting into his or her line because they do a good job.

The high school janitor.

The golf course grounds keepers.

The local police department or fire house.

School Crossing Guards, office security guards, the neighbor who always brings up your trash can, church secretaries, the mechanic who saved you a ton of money this year, etc.  If you are unsure who to recognize, pray that God will reveal the person to you.  Or, that He will provide the funds or means to recognize all of the people you desire to acknowledge.

Official Family Christian Blogger