Something amazing was done for my family– something we could not have done for ourselves. It came unsolicited, uninvited, yet God knew we needed it. We were given a week at a family camp. Even though, it could not have been easier for us to go– no expense to our account, only an hour and a half away, and a week with a great forecast, some of us were still reluctant. Going into it, we didn’t know how much we needed it. Yet, somewhere on the first full day, I paused and said to my husband, “We need this.”
I did some thinking about my family, sitting on a bench by a lake. My family is a family of six, but I wouldn’t say we are always cohesive. I love my family and the way God made it. Yes, like any family, there are difficulties. There are the unique challenges with having all boys (three, of the four, are teenagers), being the only girl, trying to maintain a little less chaos at the dinner table, keeping up with the constant sports and competition, etc. Cohesion is a great need for my family and for all families today.
Each family or any mix of people working or living together have its own challenges. When you combine a group of people, whether related or not, it is difficult to be cohesive and remain cohesive. You may wonder what “cohesion” has to do with family life. When I think of the word “cohesion,” I think of a “sticking together”, or a “unity” in the members. Since our nature is set for independence, and to live by our own agenda, it can be difficult to give up our rights. It can feel more desireable to take our own path instead of walking it together. Yet, it is exactly when we give up our rights and care for the whole, that we gain more for ourselves and for the group. Sitting by the lake, I vividly saw four things my family needs to help build cohesion
1. Putting aside our schedule and agenda
At camp, there was a planned schedule for a good part of each day. I saw how much we like to be in control of our time, our schedule, and our activities. We want the freedom to get out of bed when we want, to spend as much time as we like on our devices, or to eat whatever we want. We want more free time to ourselves to do what we want, when we want! It is difficult to be cohesive, when everything and everyone is moving separately. I saw clearly our need to work for each other and work together. My family needs opportunities for putting aside our agenda, temporarily and frequently, for the sake of cohesion. As we do, we are learning to put other’s needs above our self. A major roadblock to cohesion is living too independently. It is good and healthy to give my family opportunities to put aside our schedules and plans. We need more of this.
What I want to do-
This is a small thing for some (but big for me): I am revisiting our family chores (or lack of regular chores). I have been a slacker in this. I am getting organized and updating our chores for serving. I feel I am doing my kid a disservice by not being clear on what is expected and not creating better opportunities for them to serve one another. We now have a new updated chore list! I am reminded how this also affords me opportunities to teach them new things which will be helpful for them in years to come. They also can learn to serve cheerfully without complaining. They can be proud of a job well done. Even if you are a student, the same principles can apply in your family or when you are home or with your roommates. How can you contribute and serve cheerfully?
2. Persevering when we don’t feel like it.
The day before we left for camp I started to not feel so good and didn’t feel like being a part of things at times. There were also activities my kids did not feel like being apart of. I do want to consider my kid’s feelings, but I don’t want them to always be the guide for what is best for our family. Evan loves to fish, but he is learning it is hard to be patient and wait. He is also learning if he gives in too quickly he will not get the satisfaction of the catch.Giving into my kids (and my own) feelings continually does not set a good pattern for learning perseverance. As we persevere we discover new things, and learn valuable lessons for enduring. We may find out we actually enjoyed the challenge or experience. It also breeds unity when we stick things out together.
I want to resume our family bible time at dinner that we have neglected. Honestly, I sometimes don’t feel like doing this. It is easier to finish dinner, hurry and clean things up in order to move onto the next things. Usually, one person in the mix does not feel like having this time or wants to get to their homework. To make it easier, I have a stack of hardback, inexpensive bibles in our dining room for each person in our family. That way we are reading from the same version. It is also ok if they get a little messy! We don’t necessarily do our bible time each night, but I am happy if we could do it at least three nights out of the week. When we began this, we read some verses or a “scene” from the gospel of Matthew (not too long of a passage) and talked about it for 5 minutes or so. This works well for all ages.
3. Limiting devices
I love using my ipad for my calendar, taking notes, or checking facebook. And I am thankful for my iphone! I am not against technology, I just want to figure out ways to control it better, so it isn’t controlling us. How can I find and maintain a healthy balance for my family? During the week of camp, there was little use of devices and there was no wi-fi. I felt like this was a gift given to us– a gift for enjoying other things. As I set limits, I am saying, “yes” to something else. As we put them down, we are able to look up and find other things to enjoy around us.
How am I doing in maintaining limits? This is a huge challenge for us! I first need to remind my kids and myself why we need healthy limits on our devices. This takes thought and time, to decide what they should be. It also will take time on my part to help keep the limitations set. This is probably the most difficult thing. I need to do a better job of keeping up with it, when they are set. If I don’t, I feel again I am doing them a disservice. We have limits set in place during the school year, and it is a little trickier in the summer. The morning is the time for exercise, basketball, tennis, being outside, reading, time in the bible, etc. I need to be clear and consistent with them for their well-being, and the well-being of our family.
- No video games or tv during the school week.
- Do not be in a rush to buy a phone for your kid, especially if you don’t have the time to limit their activity on it when they are young.
- Reading is expected, and not an option. We have readers and “non-readers” (those who don’t enjoy reading as much) in our house.
- Time in the bible is encouraged before other things.
- Give a time limit to devices that you are comfortable with.
- They must exercise before they play.
4. Rest and play together
The camp came the first week of summer, when usually we are trying to figure out the summer schedule. The first week of summer, is the week we like to catch up on our sleep and get the needed “time to ourselves.” Starting the summer in a different way was beneficial. Putting our agenda aside, persevering through our feelings, and limiting devices was actually fun and restful. I think it set a great tone for the rest of the summer. Starting as a “family” helped to put other’s needs before our own.We loved the cohesion and we want to preserve it.
What I want to do-
College Station is not necessarily a place full of lots of things to do, but I made a list of free or inexpensive things for us to do together. Today, my youngest son and I went to a petting zoo at the library and petted some cute alpacas. I hope this summer has many game nights, meals together and many laughs.
Why cohesion matters
These four things are like glue in the cohesion of my family. They bring us together, and we need that. I don’t have to go to camp to find or implement these four things, but going to camp and sitting by this lake reminded me how difficult it is to put aside our agenda and to serve one another. It is not always natural to look out for other’s needs, to persevere when we don’t feel like it, put down our devices or make time to rest and play together. It is natural to feel tension when we are challenged to give up our rights, yet the benefits for our family are beyond measure. It is worth it!
Cohesion binds the separate pieces, and in turn, results in a greater impact to the world. It is something, which builds up the individual and the group. This is what we need. The beautiful thing about cohesion is that it points to something greater. It produces a greater love for one another. It also points others to Christ– because only He can produce real lasting unity.
The other day we cleaned the garage as a family. It just made sense to do it together when everyone could help. We had made such a mess and were tired of it! There is joy in doing things together (and it goes by more quickly). There were lessons with the shop vac, sorting, throwing things away, and putting things in the garage sale/give away pile. It is a small thing in some ways but it is also big, because it adds more glue in the cohesion of my family. For that I am grateful. Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
What is a way you or your family can put aside agendas and serve each other?
What feelings do you need to persevere through?
How are you doing with limiting devices?
Is there a way you can regularly rest and play together?