About 10 years ago I read Rick Warren’s best-selling book, "The Purpose-Driven Life" and something he wrote has really stuck with me. Warren tells his readers, “The best way to spell love is T-I-M-E.”
I certainly want to express love to my tribe by spending time with them, so making each minute count is important. But between homework and extra-curricular activities for the kids, and work and volunteer activities for my husband and me, taming the calendar is a struggle.
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And as careful and intentional as I’ve been with our schedules, sometimes it feels like the hands of time have a tight squeeze on my household.
Below are tips I’ve used to keep family time a priority. I have to remind myself of these often or I will start giving away time and attention that should be reserved for my clan.
Prioritize What’s Important to You
Sit down with your spouse and make a list of the things that are important to you as a family. Then, make sure your schedule reflects your priorities. At this life stage, schoolwork, family dinners and unscheduled weekends are important to us. Therefore, we will consider participation in an activity as long as it does not encroach upon or totally eclipse other family priorities.
This year we do have an activity that cuts close to the dinner hour, so I brought out the glorious, life-giving Crock-Pot. When we come home from the activity in the evening, a healthy, hot dinner is waiting for us. With a little pre-planning, we don’t have to sacrifice the fun activity or family dinner. Win-win.
Say “No” or “Not Now” to Good Things
This avoids what I call “well-intentioned chaos.” There is certainly nothing wrong with taking various lessons, playing sports or volunteering for a good cause. However, when you trade all your family time for good things, they turn into bad things before you know it.
Last year I was asked to volunteer at an absolutely noble, Christ-centered organization. I really wanted to say yes and be a part of the great work they were doing. However, one of the requirements was a once-a-month meeting on Thursday mornings. That doesn’t sound like much, but our youngest child was home with me on Thursdays. So while I wanted be a part of their mission, I asked for a rain check until next year when our littlest one would be in school full time.
Now that our youngest child is in school, I joyfully serve with that organization.
Be a Good Steward of Your Time Together
Our generation of parents has a challenge unlike any of the preceding generations. It’s one thing to tame the calendar, but taming technology seems to be a different beast entirely. How many times have you seen families out together and each member is enveloped in their own individual screen? They may be together physically, but truly they are worlds apart.
Much has been written about enacting screen-time restrictions for kids, but parents also need boundaries – this parent included. I have had to set up boundaries for myself regarding screen time because my smartphone has made it so easy to be a million miles away from my family while we’re in the same room. It’s not enough to physically be with my family, I must also be mentally present.
Control What You Can Control
Even with the best intentions, there will be seasons of busyness that are beyond your control. Things like family illnesses, a new baby or a job transition will definitely demand more time. When you are in those seasons, give yourself grace and ride the tide.
There is a saying that I keep top-of-mind as I keep our calendar, “God does not want you to be busy, He wants you to be fruitful.” Moments with your family are the fruitful legacies of your life. I encourage you to take a look at your family’s schedule and make sure you’ve carved out purposeful T-I-M-E for your most precious people.
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