By: Jenni Walker
“But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians 3:14
This month, we are focusing on ways to cultivate a godly and joyful rhythm of life for our families such as prioritizing daily routines, emphasizing family values, and even just being yourself. This week, we will take a look together at another real-life example of a wholehearted woman who is 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).
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I am one of twenty first cousins on my dad’s side. We have always loved spending time together over the years at my grandparents’ home in Minnesota. My cousin, Alexandra, and I are close in age, and she now lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three young children. Their marriage and family life is an absolutely beautiful example of what I can only describe as relentless sacrifice. They graciously share their home with their three little ones, one of whom has special needs, with in-home nurses, with out-of-town relatives, and even with foreign exchange students. Their faith is of deep importance to them and is at the center of all that they do.
When I wrote to Alexandra about this devotional topic, I asked if she would be willing to give some insight into the values that they have chosen to orient their family around that affect their daily rhythm of life together. She responded in the following way: “Oh Cousin, I am honored! You’re making me think…I don’t have time for a long response, but two things come to mind…”
The first thing she described is that she is “trying to live in the present moment — not get so busy planning or fretting.” Life is never going to be perfect, and the demands of family life often require flexibility. If you were to get a glimpse of the way Alexandra and her husband conduct their life together, you would see a couple who truly does endeavor to make the most of each moment. From singing songs around the piano together, to gardening in the backyard, from reading with each of their children, to being actively involved with their extended families and local church, they choose to prioritize living “in the present moment.” They find ways to be both intentional yet flexible, something that could seem impossible without their strong faith that anchors them.
In her e-mail, Alexandra also wrote about a second family value that she lives by, saying, “I am trying to pour myself out in love…I have very little time for just myself, but when I see how Christ died for me (giving everything) I remember that this is what it’s all about!” Rather than complaining or growing disheartened by the constant demands of raising her little ones, she has chosen to frame it as a calling to pour herself out in love. She and her husband have built their life together on the belief that because of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for them, they in turn ought to do the same for one another as husband and wife, for their children, and for others. Their family is a beautiful picture for others of what it looks like to build all aspects of family life on values rooted in the love of Christ, which never fades and never fails.
Sometimes, this “beautiful picture” looks very normal or, perhaps, does not look the way we might have planned at all on any given day. Yesterday, I woke up not feeling great. I had a lingering allergy headache and had been up later than I planned the night before trying to transfer family videos on my phone to a DVD/USB converter app. The dishwasher was full of clean dishes, and there were dirty dishes filling the sink from dinner the night before. Our young son played heartily as he always does, and he is in an especially imaginative stage where trains go down car ramps, elaborate pretend meals are made for whatever action figure or toy he is playing with at the moment, and Daniel Tiger and Woody and Sesame Street characters all play together. There were toys strewn about the living room that were part of his ongoing play yesterday, and I have learned as a mom that is just part of life. The tidying up would happen later, and the day marched on.
When my son went down for his once-a-day nap later that afternoon, I decided to lay down, too, rather than read a book or tackle the dishes. I turned on a show in the background on the iPad and let my body rest on the couch. My husband has been working from home the past month, and when the end of his workday arrived, I moseyed into our bedroom to say hello before waking our little one. We have been intentional to routinely eat meals at home, but tonight would not be part of that routine. I had not meal-prepped for tonight, and there was a particular restaurant nearby that does pickup orders which sounded delicious to both of us. So I woke up our sleeping toddler from his nap, my husband placed the order, and off we went together in the car to pick up our dinner.
As Bryan drove, the radio played in the background, and I read a few portions of Scripture from my Bible between our usual family chatter. Upon returning home, we settled in to the dining room and dove into the meal before us. Our toddler is not a fast eater these days, and as I was sitting near his high chair doing a final “is your tummy full and happy?” check before clearing the table, my rockstar husband began tackling the dishes in the kitchen. Truthfully, I felt bad, because he is extremely servant-hearted, and I have not been as “on the ball” with doing the dishes each day. But I decided to receive his gracious gesture and began loading our leftovers into the fridge as our toddler ran to find his bubble lawn mower down the hall.
Upon returning to the kitchen with it, we noticed that the bubbles seemed to be out as our little one raced back and forth with it on the tile floor. Bryan started the dishwasher, retrieved a bottle of bubble solution, and sat down beside the toy mower to refill it. Moments later, it was sitting in a puddle of bubble solution from a mysterious leak in its undercarriage. I took our son’s hand and led him to the living room for a quick “tidy-up,” allowing Daddy undisturbed time to figure out the solution to the leak. A few minutes later, the living room rug was visible again, and the mower was its usual self. On we went with the rest of the night: more play, tickle chases through the house, a bedtime story, nighttime prayers, a Mister Rogers episode, PJs, brush teeth, go outside to see the stars (and to find a toad hopping in the driveway!), and then off to bed for our little one.
After he was asleep, Bryan and I poured over the photo apps on our phones as he tried to figure out a storage issue I was having so I could finish my DVD/USB converter project. We debriefed about the day a bit and did our usual “check-in”: Are you going to bed yet? What time are you getting up tomorrow? What do you need right now? We both decided to let ourselves relax a little, him with a bubble bath and me returning a call to a Minnesota family member and then playing a bit of cribbage. Shortly after that, we were both in bed and settling in for the night.
These were the things my family “did” yesterday. The values they were rooted in and the state of the heart is what I want to focus on. The experience of the day could have been so different if I had begun complaining to myself, if I had demanded more of myself instead of quieting my heart and my body when I needed rest, or if I had begun to approach life as a toddler mom as merely a to-do list rather than a beautiful calling to connect and grow in relationship with my son. There are so many “normal” ways to pour ourselves out in love for one another each day. Many days, that includes me making meals and doing the dishes. Yesterday, it was my husband who poured himself out in love in that way by serving me in in such simple yet soul-strengthening ways by making a plan for our dinner and cleaning up the kitchen. On top of that, he fixed our son’s toy lawn mower and threw himself into our evening family time.
In the middle of “doing” (or “not doing” sometimes!), it is so important to keep our hearts turned toward Christ as we receive from Him and pour ourselves out, too. This often happens in small ways. We are teaching our son to put away his laundry (with help, of course) and his toys and to say please and thank you with a happy heart. As for me yesterday, I tuned in to what my husband needed at the end of the day – a moment to connect and then some time to personally relax and unwind. And rather than feeling down on myself for not “doing” all the things I typically do, I pivoted my heart toward the Lord and received His grace and perspective.
All of our family lives most definitely require to-do lists and have many normal, as well as unplanned, things that occur in the home. As followers of Christ, sometimes we read passages of Scripture about sacrificial love, patience, and grace, and we immediately think of it as another thing to “add to the to-do list” or to “work into our schedule” somewhere. But the Bible does not merely give us to-do lists. Rather, it provides an invitation to experience the sacrificial love of Christ in the daily rhythms of our family life. In the middle of a regular day like the one I had yesterday, there were multiple moments that I lifted up my heart to the Lord in worship, dependence, and gratitude to Him as I folded laundry, sat on the floor to play with our son, talked with my husband, and lived a seemingly normal “at-home” day.
Today, I have more energy and a meal plan. The sun is shining, and we will get outside for some fresh air. But that does not necessarily make today “better” than yesterday. Each day is full of opportunities to receive wisdom, strength, and love from our Lord and, in turn, to allow Him to infuse even the most normal of moments with His sacrificial love and unshakable grace. We close today with Colossians 3:12–14. As you read this passage, remember that this is not merely a spiritual to-do list but, rather, an invitation to experience the sacrificial love of Christ in your home in transformative ways. We cannot consistently do these things in our own strength. It is both practical and supernatural. The rhythms of our daily family lives will pulse to the beat of His sacrificial love when we choose to value this above all else!
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12–14).
Time to Reflect
1. Consider what Alexandra shared about the rhythm of her family life. What specific values guide the daily rhythms of your family life? What can you learn from her story?
2. Read Colossians 3:12–14 again. What is the Lord speaking to your heart?
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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.)