By: Jenni Walker
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…” (2 Timothy 3:14a)
“For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:8, 9a, 11)
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All of us have a rhythm by which we live our lives. Of course, some of the elements of our family lives will vary from family to family. But many of them are emphasized in Scripture and must be prioritized, taught, and sought after as disciples of Christ. These elements of daily family life are not just for the purpose of making our own lives “better,” but they help to make the context of family a living testimony of the glory, grace, and goodness of God as we rely on Him!
This sounds nice, but it does require intentional, consistent, even disciplined practice. What requires the most discipline and effort often produces the greatest reward. In the context of family relationships, intentionally establishing priorities and focusing on specific values will begin to occur more naturally with consistent practice. I think of it like a dancer learning a new step who has to practice, has to listen closely to the tempo of the song, and must be deliberate in her movements. This kind of intentional focus and effort eventually becomes more and more natural. At this point, it does not mean the dancer stops practicing, but when she hears the rhythm of the music, the required steps, muscle memory, and responses to other fellow dancers begin to hold even greater beauty and reward, both for the dancers and those in the audience observing the dance.
While the thought of daily disciplines may sometimes sound arduous or overwhelming, and the concept of joy may seem elusive, there are many ways to create this kind of rhythm of life for our families such as prioritizing daily routines, emphasizing family values, and even just being yourself. For the rest of the month, we will take a look together at several real-life examples of wholehearted women who are doing just that! When done regularly and intentionally, these simple yet powerful tools can begin to foster a beautiful and God-honoring family rhythm of godly affection and “fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:8–11).
This week, I want to introduce you to a wholehearted woman whose prioritization of daily routines in her family is not just out of necessity but to help her family experience God’s grace and goodness more fully in their daily lives. Her name is Laura. She and I have been friends since childhood, and although we now live states apart, she is still a dear friend of my heart. Nine summers ago, Laura and her husband, Drew, graciously agreed for their son to be the ring bearer for Bryan’s and my wedding ceremony. But if we were planning a wedding today, we may have had to have four ring bearers as Laura is now the proud mama of four young boys! Her life is also one of the most beautiful examples I have observed of the power of God’s grace in our lives. (Click HERE to read more of her story!)
As parents of four boys, one can only imagine what Laura refers to as “the amazing chaos of our rowdy home.” But there is also a distinct rhythm that she and her husband have endeavored to create for their family. Even amidst some of the changes that many of us have experienced as a result of the worldwide battle against the coronavirus such as children home from school, increased risk for those working in the medical field (Laura is a part-time nurse), and virtual church services and family “get-togethers,” the priorities that guide our daily rhythms can stay strong.
Laura writes, “Over the years we have finessed and redefined our priorities within our family life. In general, we focus on being together as a family to the glory of God…” They have determined specific priorities that they don’t just talk about but live on a daily basis. How do they do it with four little men living under one roof? They have established some simple yet important daily routines within their family. Laura describes them as “specific touchstone activities that keep our focus on our family and our marriage to the glory of God and service of others.” She graciously expounds on some of those activities for us below:
1- Meal times: Our children are middle school-aged and younger, so I expect this will be more challenging in the future. For now, our kids don’t have a choice. We eat our meals together, without media. This is time for conversation and reconnecting after our busy days.
2- Church: We strive to be active participants of our local church body. Our boys know Sunday is our specific day of worship. If I’m absent due to my hospital nursing job, my husband tackles that endeavor with our boys. It is both a point of connecting with each other as family in worship of our Savior, and important for us that they see our connection to the body of Christ at large.
3- Dates: Between my husband and me, and between parents and children. Because we are a largish family of 6, one on one time can be rare within our home! Our children are learning that relationships require invested time and energy, and one demonstration of that is giving them quality one on one “mommy dates” or “daddy dates.” Our weekends don’t always look traditional due to my nursing schedule, and planning for quality time and special activities allows our kids to feel their special importance in our lives.
4- Bed time: There are nights when everyone is fried and exhausted, and sleep is the best answer. Time for bed, everyone!! But most evenings, we take time. Time that is a sacrifice, but worthwhile. To help our active boys de-escalate, to pray, and to have some of the most special conversations. Bedtime serves as a key touchpoint of connection – distractions are minimal and it is focused time together in connection with each other, and in prayer and worship to the Lord. It is a time of unburdening, and some of the most significant spiritual conversations with our children have taken place in the dark quiet of their bedrooms.
Laura and her husband have chosen to prioritize these important routines and activities into their daily lives. Their goal is not to create a perfect family but to be intentional in the structure of their family time. “Clearly, your priorities, goals, and activities as a family may look very different from ours,” she explains. “We are all complex individuals, potentially married to complex spouses and raising complex children. There is exceeding grace extended to us as couples and families to work through the logistics of our family lives to the praise of Jesus. The Lord is glorified in our families not when we do it perfectly — that would be following the law, which is impossible — but when we reflect the truth of the gospel of Jesus at work in us, transforming and renewing our minds. To proclaim reconciliation to God through Jesus, to the praise of His name, is the holy and joyful work of our calling as daughters of God, being ambassadors for the Lord within our marriages, our families, and our world.”
Your family life may have a steady rhythm to it right now. Still others of us may feel a bit out-of-sync as we navigate a new season of child development, work schedules, or just sensing that there is a deeper place to which God is calling our family. As we go about the week, let’s remember that there is power in establishing clear priorities. These will help us to stay disciplined yet flexible, steady yet joyful, in our daily rhythms of family life to the glory of God. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:14, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…” No matter what, seek the Lord and lean on Him!
Time to Reflect
1) What priorities guide the daily rhythms of your family life? How do they help produce the Christlike affection and fruits of righteousness described in Philippians 1:8 –11?
2) Read 2 Timothy 3:14, then prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to give you specific and personal action steps to “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of” in both your family and in your own heart. What are some elements of your daily family life that you need to continue to prioritize? To incorporate in a new way? To adjust or even let go of?
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)