Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 5:: Intentional living

photo credit: 'PixelPlacebo' via photopin cc

Time moves fast doesn't it?  It's limited.  We can not add to it.  We can not stop it.  Some days I wish I could just bottle some up and reserve it for a day where I really need it.  But we don't have that luxury.

You can read all kinds of books on how to manage it.  You can attend organizational seminars in how to set it free.  And these might help you.  But bottom line is this: at the end of the day, we all have the same 24 hours. 

The issue is not necessarily how to gain more time, but how to become more intentional with what we are given. As single parents, we sometimes have to get creative.  

For us personally, the mornings do not allow for much.  I awake the kids at 6:00am and we are out the door by 6:15.  We drive less than a block to the sitter's house.  The evening allows for a few more hours.  But sometimes between dinner prep, homework, extra curricular activities and showers, it seems to just flit away.  At the end of the day, we've failed to spend true quality time together.

These times where our lives intersect become critical.  This is where we have to harness it and wield it.  We only get a few hours in a day to set their course.  If we're not intentional, we'll miss an opportunity to speak life and truth into the hearts of our children. 

I'm going to give you some simple ideas on how you can grab hold of your time and apply it for a purpose.

Morning time:


Communication: encouraging words
Your role: coach
Goal: instill purpose

Slip that note in their lunch box.  Convey you've got their back and more importantly that God's got their back no matter what they may face through the day.  If you have a bit of a drive, say a quick prayer together.  Remind them they have purpose.  Set the tone for they day they are about to have.



Meal Time:


Communication: formal discussions
Your role: teacher/facilitator
Your goal: establish values

If you are able to sit down maybe three times a week with your family and eat dinner, I highly encourage you to do so.  It doesn't have to be at home over a home cooked meal.  

In the local fast food chain, over take out.  The food doesn't matter.  The 'who' does.

Focus on the Family has some great online resources.  They offer 52 free family dinner devotionals.  You can print out the PDF and use them as a guide, tailoring them for your family dynamics and the ages of your children.  Also check out their mealtime questions, a way to engage your kids in deeper, meaningful conversations.

Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam also has a free download for family dinner conversation starters.  This would be perfect for the tweens and teens in your life.

Feel free to get creative too. Kids Activities Blog offers 99 Family Conversation Starters for Kids.  They even give step by step instructions on how to make your own 'jar of love'.  

A family I know does what they call 'hair on fire'.  They pick a topic and start randomly around the table.  The first child answers the question and then calls another member by name and says 'hair on fire'.  That child then has a turn to answer the question.

Be creative.  Be purposeful.  But most importantly, engage your kids.  You will all leave the dinner table with bellies and hearts full.

Drive Time:

Communication: informal dialogue
Your role: befriend/build relationship
Goal: interpret life

Some days we seem to spend most of our time in the car.  On the way to school, scouts, daycare.  Wherever you're going, you have to sit together, so you may as well be together.  Turn off the radio, put down the cell and engage.

After school, I will often ask my kids to give me three good things that happened to them that day and one not so good thing.  It gives me the opportunity to hear small snippets of their day and rejoice with them.  It also gives me an insight on their tone coming home from school.  Was the day good or bad?  

If you're on a long trip, get creative.  I've had some amazing insight into my children's minds and personalities by simply finding shapes in clouds.  

We also play the animal ABC game.  Start with the letter A and go around thinking of animals that start with that letter.  Keep going until one person runs out of ideas.  If the next person has one, then they get a point and that letter round ends.

When I was about six years old, I was in the car with my parents and I said 'look at those two mans'.  So my parents started a game with me to help me learn vocabulary.  Mom would say 'one man, two...' and I would chime in 'men'.  'One woman, two....' 'women'.  You get the idea.  That time with them is a precious memory to this day.

Really, the kids do not care about the conversation, they just want your interaction.  They want you to listen and they want you to truly hear them.  These times show that you care about them and their interests.

Bed Time:

Communication:  intimate conversations
Your role: counselor
Goal: build intimacy and create a safe place.

Bedtime has become a precious time for our family.  We take our time and try not to rush.  Sometimes the conversations start about nothing much, but they can turn into treasures. 
My middle daughter is a prime example.  She is not one to wear her emotions on her sleeve.  And after our separation and impending divorce, I really began to worry about her.  She went through a very long period of denial.  She told me that she would rather not talk about things because if she didn't 'it was like it didn't really happen'.  She said she could 'pretend Daddy was at work and everything was just fine'.  

But slowly with more time together at bedtime, the walls of protection have begun to crumble.  I can sit on her bed and brush her hair and we can really get to the heart of what she is going through.  Beautiful snippets of connection.  Ones I might have missed had I not given the opportunity.

With my son, I've learned he needs time to step away and process his feelings.  I may see that he had a rough day at school by his actions at home, and we may try to talk about it but I'll get the typical 'nothing' response.  But at bedtime, this is where his heart will flow.  Where he relaxes.  Where he feels safe.  Where 'nothing' was really 'something' and he wants to talk it out after all.  And I speak encouragement.  Moments I cherish.

Start slow, but start...

This list is a guide and is by no means set in stone.  If you're feeling overwhelmed, please hear me when I say, it's O.K.  Here is the beauty: where, when and how doesn't matter.  What matters is having and keeping those lines of communication open.

Learn the rhythm of your household.  Learn the rhythm of your days.  Tweak and tweak and then tweak some more for what may work for your family.  Start slow, maybe one or two ideas this week. 
If it's awkward and uncomfortable at first, be sure to give yourself some grace.  It may take some time for it to become natural for all of you.  But small efforts show great progress.  And you are doing a great job!
I will not pretend to tell you that this is what every day looks like for us.  Some days, there's too much chaos and we're just not into it.

Some nights I'm past ready for them to be in bed.  If not for their rest, than for my own sanity.  I would rather them hurry up and go to sleep, so I can relax and refuel and detox from the day, because I'm spent.  And that's OK.

What matters is them knowing you're there.
One evening several weeks ago, my boy came home and I could tell there was something wrong.  I asked him about it and he told me 'nothing' and blew me off.  I said, "David, you know I'm hear when you're ready to talk."  Later that evening I was cooking supper.  He came in and hopped up on the counter.  And it all came pouring out.

I pray this continues.  I pray my children always know I'm hear to listen, to the little and the big.  Through the teen years.  Through college.  Even when they're grown and gone and have families of their own.  I hope they know they can always come to me.

I may not have all the answers.  They may not take my advice.  But I hope they will know that I'm always here.

And I pray the same for you.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NLT) emphasis mine

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