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5 Ways to Stay Family-Focused

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
~John 13:34-35

After-School Rush

From the moment our family stepped foot in the house, the after-school bickering began. The oldest three went at it like a pack of piranhas picking at one another.  I threw in my standard “Ya’ll be nice to each other!” or “Can the two of you stop?” but soon another  conflict would ensue.

I knew Dan was getting home late that evening and I was determined to cook a decent dinner before school Open Houses, sports practices and parent meetings. But between breaking up arguing, turning off video games and putting the youngest two in time out; it was time to start heading out the door.

My head was spinning and what I wanted to do was pull out the lime and tequila and park myself by the pool for the remainder of the evening.

Eat a Meal Together

Instead, I took a deep breath and made the kids set the table and we ate dinner together. I didn’t care that we had to be at the school in 30 minutes and that my 10-year old needed to get ready for football practice. I didn’t care about the rat race—what I cared about was enjoying dinner with my family and THAT was what we were going to do!!!!

And that’s where John 13:35 comes in.

How are we supposed to be a testimony to the world if we act like flesh-eating piranhas within our families? We tend to brush these interactions off as normal and surrender to the fact that it’s just the way it is.  I know it’s normal.

Siblings are God’s way of teaching us to navigate relationships, but if how we love one another determines how others will view God then maybe its time to be a little ABNORMAL.

A few things I am not—

a planner;

a devoted homemaker;

a mommy expert.

I’ve forgotten (on multiple occasions) to take my kids to birthday parties and have shown up one week early to school events! I’ve recently said the S-word in front of my kids when one of them hit the car door on an innocent parked car—anyone else done this???

In spite of these imperfections, my husband I value family time and do our BEST to resist the rat race. We have to do things, that by the world’s standards, seem a little abnormal.  We’ve clung to these practices since the littles were homeschooled, but now that all five are in public school—we have to fight off the weekly crazies harder than ever.

Here are FIVE Family-Focused practices that work for us:

  1. Commit to a simple family devotional.

We chose a devotional that is low-maintenance, yet meaningful. Since we have been battling bickering—we chose Undivided. This devotional teaches family members how to live FOR and not just WITH one another. While we are loving public school (all two weeks of it), we realize that each grade level has its own ecosystem. It’s difficult to switch from that same-peer environment to the family environment where they have to deal with baby brothers and moody teen agers

We thought this “one another” based theme would help us navigate the dynamics of school with those of our family. The guide is split into 12-week devotions with short sections that involve short bible readings, discussion and easy-to-do activities.

When our kids were little, we did Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski—these short biblical stories were surprisingly insightful. What I loved most is how beautifully Machowski weaves the hope of a savior through each story. If your kids are little and you are making a mad dash to school–this is a good pick for you.

  1. Be deliberate about honoring family time.

 We looked at our schedule and saw that Monday nights were the only nights with no scheduled activities. We dubbed these nights Middlebrook Mondays. Now, if you know me, I am a notorious over-scheduler and double-booker.

For this reason, I’ve asked my family to hold me accountable to Middlebrook Mondays and to help me resist the urge to pounce on this open slice of space like I’m proned to do.

In addition to protecting Monday nights, we’ve commited to waking up together on Wednesday mornings and carving out 20 minutes of time on Sunday evenings. In total, we’ve set aside less than three hours for family time. It doesn’t take A LOT of time–just focused, quality time. For some of you, you can schedule a little less or a little more—the key is to be deliberate and treat these times like you would a work meeting.

  1. Honor Bedtime Routines.

Shhh-don’t tell anyone, but our older kids still like to be “tucked in.” It looks different for each of them, but our bedtime rituals are an important part of our day. For my 14 year old, it’s simply sitting on his bed and saying good-night. If he has anything to say, this is usually the time he will say it.

Not gonna lie—sometimes I’m exhausted and looking forward to hubby time, or my glass of red wine or maybe catching up on work.  Sometimes I even take tucking in rain checks for the olders, but I realize I’m investing in life-long relationships with these little people that live in our home.

Take the time now and reap the rewards later—you know, like when we become mother-in-laws and expect our grown sons to call us just to check in on us. I’d like to think that one day I’ll be able to trace those calls back to 5-minute bedtime routines:)

  1. Make Them Part of YOUR Daily Activities.

HandUp is an all consuming force that has required many sacrifices for my family. But instead of making it HandUp vs. my children, I have found ways to include them in this work. I admit my mistakes and give them updates on how the boys in Haiti are doing or will give them the heads up when a busy season is coming up. It isn’t perfect, but children are very understanding if you teach them to be.

Find ways to connect your children to your work and teach them the art of listening to others—even when it isn’t that interesting to them. Their future spouses will thank you for it.

  1. Take a time out.

Although these should be used sparingly, sometimes it takes a severe schedule detour to get back on track. I don’t regret having to miss part of my daughter’s Open House or driving 80 mph to make it to my son’s football practice on time—(sorry law enforcement and other innocent drivers). Those 30 minutes of dinner and discussion drove the point home to my children and they realized that they were not honoring the relationships God gave them.

Parenting is a never-ending opportunity of teachable moments.

If you want your kids to have successful families, we must be deliberate about teaching them how—both by example and through instruction.

These practices have made our family stronger but of course, they aren’t perfect. Just like anything else worth having–it takes work.  My husband and I understand that we are sewing seeds for our childrens’ future.

But in the meantime, we mustn’t forget that we have the potential to bring others to Jesus simply by how we love one another. So love well, my friends.

What do you do to keep your family centered?

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