Emily Sue Harvey: Keeping family harmony

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Women in BedIn honor of Jessica Keener’s new release, Women in Bed, we asked everyone to share stories of love and relationships. Emily Sue Harvey shared this story about her family. Thanks Emily Sue!

A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.”  ~ D. L. Moody

History itself affirms that the family is the foundation of society. It is the glue that holds together civilization itself. Block by block, it builds nations. But the most important place for family is inside each of us; it is who we are. We’re living in days when the traditional family is challenged to the hilt. More than ever, parenting and nurturing roles are important and necessary. Like an orchestra, each family member is an instrument, with notes that blend the unit.



My father’s sudden, accidental death drove this home to me. My biological mother died when I was ten. My wonderful stepmother, my other “Mom,” was my surrogate parent from the tender age of eleven. Years later, when Dad died, the earth was yanked from beneath me. I wasn’t certain, in those hours, who I was exactly, with 2 full siblings and three half-siblings. Oh, we’d never even used the ‘half’ term. We’re extremely close. But was Dad, father to us all, after all, the glue?

In my initial shocked state, the family unit felt shattered. But hours later, when I entered Mom’s house (not Dad’s anymore) I heard her call, “Susie,” her voice soothing as she sailed like a scud missile to gather me into her arms. “I’m sorry about Daddy. He’s with your Mama now,” she whispered, tears in her eyes. I was aghast at her selflessness in that moment.

And my place in the family galvanized. I’ve seen family members vacate that space because some sibling, parent, or relative crossed some invisible line. Rather than confront and lovingly resolve the differences, they were willing to abdicate their rightful position in the orchestra, creating dissonance and frailty of tone.  The perception is yours. And only you can take your place. The orchestra is not quite right, a bit hollow, without you there playing your notes.


We all hit sour notes in our families. All of us miss opportunities to keep the family harmony solid.  One way to do that is to simply ‘be there’ for each other. I’ll never forget failing in that role. While in my teens, I was, like other peers, incredibly self-absorbed at times. When later, Lee and I planned a quick, private  wedding ceremony at our pastor’s home, I didn’t see the yearning in my siblings’ eyes to “be there” with me at that momentous event. Patsy was eleven and Jimmy was fourteen, old enough to appreciate the solemnity of the occasion. I totally overlooked them, rather opting for two close girl friends to be in attendance.

Only years later did I learn of their disappointment. I apologized profusely and was forgiven. But the sad, minor note lingers with me till this day, reminding me that family is one of God’s greatest gifts to each of us.  I’ve since tried to remedy that lapse.  It was a hard lesson learned about just being there.

(3)  RE-TUNE:

Forgive the out-of-tune times. My brother, Jimmy, married a great gal whose first abusive marriage had produced two fine sons.  One day while we visited my parents who lived next door to Jimmy, Mom said, “Your brother is upset with you. You need to go out and talk to him to clear the air.”

My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. “What have I done?” I cried out, thoroughly perplexed. I walked out to his house, where he was tinkering with a lawn mower.

“Hi, Jimmy,” I said, using his nickname. He grunted and didn’t meet my eyes. Alarm frissoned over me. “Mom told me you were upset about something. What’s wrong?” I asked.

He looked up at me from his crouched position and I saw a look I’d never seen before in my brother’s face. Offense. Anger toward me.

“We came to your house for our family Christmas gathering and you let Pam mistreat Donnie. And we don’t appreciate it.” He proceeded to tell me how Lib, his newlywed wife, had left the bedroom where all the family women had lounged on the bed for girl talk, feeling it necessary to sit with two-year-old Donnie on her lap to protect him from my four-year-old Pam’s perceived harassment.

His words stung because I wondered why they had not come to the bedroom on that occasion and notify me of my “alpha” daughter’s behavior. I would have taken action to stop it.

“I’m sorry, Jimmy,” I muttered hoarsely, shock turning me numb.

He ended the discourse with a suggestion that it would be better if I kept my “brats” away from their kids.

For once speechless, I walked away from him with a lump the size of Montana in my throat, my chest ready to burst with the most gosh awful hurt I’d ever experienced in my life up until that time. My own brother calling my kids “brats”? Telling me to stay away from them all?


I learned then that no one, I mean no one can hurt you like family.

It was one of those times I simply had to hand it all to God. The weight and pain of it was too much.

And then, days later while I was praying, Father God revealed the why of it all. He showed me that because of Lib’s abusive first marriage, during which she had been forced to padlock doors and windows to keep her life threatening ex from breaking in with knives and harming her and the boys, she’d been emotionally scarred. The long term trauma of it had left her ultra sensitive and loaded with trust issues. And of course, her new husband, Jimmy, was compelled to be her knight in shining armor protector. As he should.

That set the whole thing into perspective for me.  God also showed me that I could choose to be a Velcro catcher for hurt or I could step away from it. It was up to me.

What did I do? I let it go. Yup. That’s exactly what the Lord told me to do. I turned loose of it and never mentioned it again. Whenever I saw them at my parents’ house or at family events, I simply acted as if nothing had happened. Eventually, Jimmy and Lib realized that I was not offended, that I loved them and the boys unconditionally and the entire issue of four-year-old Pam’s “harassment” morphed into something less sinister and threatening.

That “unconditional” applied to familial love is paramount to peace and harmony.

Now, decades later, my born again, changed brother probably doesn’t even remember the incident and if he does, his perspective is more mellow and forgiving. Some siblings and family members spend years holding a grudge that isn’t worth mentioning. Life is too short to waste agonizing over real or imagined offenses.  Sometimes, like in this case, one must simply give it to God for the sake of Family Harmony.

Some things just take time and love to resolve.

It’s worth hanging in there for.

It’s worth the time it takes to re-tune!


If you would like to contribute and share your story of love and relationships, please email allison.cronk@thestoryplant.com.

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On October 3, 2013
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