It has also, however, been a huge blessing. My family no longer feels like second fiddle. They are to be my primary ministry, not the recipients of my leftover goods and goodies. In my mind and my ministry, they are to be foremost, not on the back burner. And true to scriptural admonition, that means my husband comes first.

My husband has shared, after much prodding from me assuring him that I could handle the truth, that he hasn't always been "just fine" with my efforts at serving and pleasing outsiders while leaving him to fend for himself. He has admitted that at times he felt slighted because I was baking a pie for the plumber, some cookies for the carpenter, or a torte for the TV repairman while leaving him to rummage through the cupboards for his own snack.

Ladies, please don't fall into the same trap I did. Our families need to come first as the recipients of our love, creativity, and handiwork. If not, you'll be left living an inverted life at the helm of a resentful brood. Trust me. It's no fun.

So how do you put your family first? Well, it starts not in the kitchen with food for the stomach but in the entirety of your home with nourishment for the soul. While food lovingly served can help minister to your loved ones, what they need most is to feel a sense of belonging - that they are wanted and welcome. For us, seeing this happen all began with a lesson from our past.

 When we were newlyweds, my husband was a youth pastor at a country church in our small central Michigan town. Todd had a detailed strategy for the kind of youth group he wanted to see emerge under his leadership at that church. The number one principle he strove to drive into the kids' hearts and minds was this: In this group we will do all we can to create an atmosphere of love. That means no cliques, no put-downs, no harsh words, no kidding! I remember it seemed like we worked for an eternity to solidify these teens from all walks of life into a unified and loyal group. Kind of hard when you have some who are athletic "jocks," some who prefer the library, and a group of giggling girls whose only interest was the latest shade of lip gloss. But what the world's system often can't do was accomplished, in time, in our youth group. They were a team, a collection of individuals that operated as one. We weren't looking for uniformity - all looking and behaving the same way - but for unity. And unity God brought. Those kids stuck up for each other and stuck together. It was a delight to behold.

Our family is diverse too. My husband is the fastidious, somewhat serious dad who likes lots of down time and is energized by being alone. I am the fun-loving and fun-instigating mom who tends to let my life get so busy I can't breathe. I am most energized by being with people. Our oldest son, eleven-year-old Mitchell, is an out-of-the-box, methodical thinker who is constantly inventing a new way to do an old thing. He is energized by using his brain. "Don't bother me now. I'm figuring!" he used to declare even as a toddler. He also is a clean freak, and we affectionately refer to him as "Neat Nick." Unfortunately, he shares a bedroom with his younger brother, "Sloppy Joe."

Our eight-year-old, Spencer, is the family clown. He plays hard, then drops whatever he is doing - literally - and moves on to the next thing. He is energized by activity and fun.

Our teenage daughter, Mackenzie, is a social creature. An "artsy-smartsy" type, she loves to sing, to create, and above all to talk - whether with her mouth or her hands, as she is fluent in American Sign Language. She is most energized by anyone who will answer back.

Throw us five together on a family vacation and what will you get? A father and son who want to go camping in the wilderness all alone, a mother and son who want to take in every sight there is to see while dashing from one activity to the next, and a teenager who doesn't care what we do as long as she can bring a friend or two along, chatting all the way. Oh my!