I traveled relatively a lot this summer. I have been looking forward to some consistent time at home with the family. I love our family’s personality. We are pretty low key and there is so much to enjoy with all the personalities whether at home or in our local community. You have to be present with 5 kids. Making one trip out the house takes a lot of effort and provides enough entertainment or frustration along the way. I thought I would highlight three characteristics that make our family dynamics sustainable.
After reading the Bible, maintaining/fixing the property and house, then working out, there is little room for hobbies. Besides the occasional movie fix, I have little desire to pursue much else. I have been contemplating even purging movies in order to devote more time to reading leadership or spiritual books, writing, and farming. We don’t have enough time to be bored. There is always something to be done, someone to pray for, a family to have over, a house project to work on. At the same time, if I don’t get to it because I am spending time with the family then so be it.
My frustrating chicken coop project has taken way too long, especially with my excellent helpers wanting to screw, hammer or saw. I had a timeline that quickly got disrupted by life and other things. I know my kids will remember and appreciate the quality time it spent to do a job four times as long, over me continually denying their participation for my own satisfaction. All of this boils down to sacrifice and I am grateful for the perfect example in Jesus Christ.
We are content with our season. We don’t have a feeling that we are missing out on something by not going here, being invited there, or getting tickets to that. Johnna and I sometimes look at each other and wonder, “What did we do together before kids.” Granted, we only had one year of marriage before our first kid, we still consider that a special time. For that reason I try to advise couples to be purposeful with that time. Take advantage of the freedom to pick up and go to the store, take weekend trips with little thought, and to have an inconsequential logistical footprint. For us, our focused has shifted to the ministry that is parenting. Without contentment, we would likely drive ourselves crazy with bitterness, jealousy, and anger.
The time and effort it takes for us to do anything else frees us to enjoy the moments with each other. For example, if my oldest wants to hit the baseball outside after breakfast, life flows like this. Most likely, we are physically drawn to be in the same vicinity of each other pretty much at all times. If one of us wants to do something, we all want to do it. Our second participates, although not as athletic, yet he enjoys the attempts just the same. Our girl will not be denied and she will get louder if she feels ignored. Our fourth runs everywhere, is usually in the way and until someone occupies his attention, no one is getting anything done. Our baby is either being held by mom or sleeping. I spend a quarter of my time correcting form and technique, a quarter directing kids out of harm’s way, a quarter enforcing rules such as taking turns and sportsmanship, and a quarter of the time realizing they don’t care much about the structure they just like doing activities together. The teamwork, family cohesion, and communication (or lack thereof) is all a part of their development. The ministry of parenting has a lot to do with you, as a parent, not getting things your way. Knowing how to abase and abound, to live with little or with much is contentment. My oldest and I are extremely competitive so the games don’t last that long. When you have added in all the transitions of clothes, shoes, bathroom, and water breaks, it is lunch time. The day is pretty much over. Nap time, dinner, and then prep for bed. Good thing I didn’t have much on the agenda.
Our family’s routine and discipline are essential to our functionality. We have to stay prayed up and well-nourished with the Word.
The consistency with which you have to apply accountability requires the renewal of mind and soul daily. The embarrassment discipline saves you from and the prison discipline frees you from are not enough, even for the Christian family, to commit to. The differences in respect, courtesy, selflessness, and gratitude are painstakingly noticeable; however, because we are called to parenthood and to be a part of God’s plan for their salvation, we must shepherd our children. That shepherding prevents us from provoking or punishing without proper boundaries. Shepherding our children’s hearts enables us to explain their sinfulness, redirect their rejections, and point them to Jesus. Our discipline is the most important part of our ministry at this stage in parenting life. Conversely, having obedient (relatively) children makes an insurmountable difference in your parenting quality of life.
Our spiritual and physical discipline shapes our family routine. We try to navigate our day so that we are setting our kids up for success, making exceptions on rare occasions such as ministry, family, or unique opportunities. It is my job, with Johnna’s assistance, to ensure we are not making too many exceptions. ‘Spending time with the family’ implies a lot about the leadership of the family. The doubts, the temptations, and all the ‘parenting advice’ that bombards our decision-making everyday must be with a strong, consistent, and formidable defense of truth, hope, faith, and love. That comes from the Word, family devotionals, and fellowship with Johnna. Maintaining a godly and eternal perspective is necessary for parenting sanity. My leadership here shapes the future of our children, as the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it.” The majority of my leadership in regards to discipline does not come from what I say, but what I do and do not do.
Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 107:9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.