A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.
Benjamin Franklin

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Lectures, DARE presentations, and well-scripted movies have nothing over a bonfire for keeping your kids off drugs. Why? Because one of the top ways to keep your kids clean is to have strong family relationships, and one of the best ways our family has found to enjoy each other’s company is around our backyard firepit, warming up by the bonfire.

On Valentine’s Day, rather than enjoying an intimate evening out with every other couple in town, my husband and I opted for a relaxing evening at home with our kids. Since there was a hint of spring in the air, the kids requested one of their favorite activities, which is gathering around the fire pit to enjoy a bonfire. Something about just being outside of the house helps everyone relax and talk more freely.

This time, we read stories about Hudson Taylor, a famous missionary to China, and talked about the amazing ways God had helped him through some difficult trials. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were having a very frank discussion with our teen and tweens about the dangers of drunk driving and of playing around with drugs. What seemed to be just an innocent evening out under the stars became a wonderful opportunity to reinforce the boundaries protecting our children’s innocence, with no lecture necessary.

So, why do we need the bonfire to stimulate these discussions? I think stepping outside, even just a few feet from our home, takes away the pull of the computer and video games and myriad distractions of daily life. Gathering the wood and lighting the fire creates a sense of freedom, of being on vacation, where it is easier to let down your guard and open your heart. Something about the outside air causes our children to waver back and forth between utter abandon in play and serious contemplation. They run around playing chase in the dark and then huddle by the fire, drinking hot chocolate, watching the stars, and considering the great questions of the world. Every time we spend an evening out there, we agree to do it more often, but we often allow too many weeks, or months, to go by before we do it again.

The time that used to be spent reading fairy tales is now sometimes spent talking about things no parent wants to discuss, but can’t abide the consequences of avoiding. Our kids are growing up quickly, and our bonfires are numbered. We’re going to light as many fires as we can, and pray that the discussions that result will continue to guide our kids’ choices as they move further away from that familiar glow.