We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.” I agree that everything is small stuff in light of eternity but – instead of worrying about sweating it – what if we focused on the tiny, everyday, mundane, small things as the most important work we do as moms?
I believe it is the little minutes that build the mighty ages of eternity.
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the beauteous land.
Thus the little minutes,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
~ Ebenezer Brewer
So many ideas have swirled in my mind lately, but the one that settled at the top of my heart was family.
What creates a close family? Wouldn’t you agree with me building a family is a pretty big thing and it might stand to reason, it takes big things to create those bonds?
If I took a poll of everyone who has birthed or adopted children and then asked why, there would be as many answers as people polled, but the understood reason would be to create a family. Parents and children come together to form one of the most important units on the earth and ultimately the reason all life continues on earth.
I’ve been reading a book called Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kiddler, and he writes, “Margaret Mead once said, ‘Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have.”
Doesn’t that describe a family? A small group empowering its members to change the world!
Scott and I are what most people would call ‘older parents’ because our children span the ages of 28 down to 5, two are married, one in college, seven at home, and two beautiful grandsons. We should be empty nesters retired on vacation right about now, but God had such better plans for our family!
Our three older daughters have grown into amazingly beautiful adults, and we are often asked how we raised such well adjusted, kind, and selfless women. We give all the credit to God and His grace in spite of our shortcomings and mistakes. We do have a few ways we want to share how God has used us and continues to in our daily lives as our minutes grow into mighty ages of Eternity.
As I began to think through the ways Scott and I influenced our older daughters and now our seven younger ones we homeschool each day, ten ideas came to mind. Family offers happiness, comfort, belonging, dependence, safety, stability, quality time, affection, reliance, and learning and growth.
1. Fun is Happiness.
There is nothing our children love more than laughing and having fun. One of the ways Scott often lightens the moment is picking me up and swinging me around and around. You can imagine the spark of fun this ignites. All the children come running with delight in hopes they will get a turn too. It really doesn’t take a big trip or gift to bring happiness into a family’s heart. Children need laughter, silliness, and fun for happiness.
2. Create Comfort.
My mom tells the story of the day Scott and I came home from our honeymoon and picked all our shower and wedding gifts. We wanted to get everything to our new home. Back in those days everything was kept at your parents’ house on display so people could stop by and see it all. (Grin.) Mama said as we drove out of their driveway, “I wonder why Sharon needed to get all that stuff in one day.” My dad answered, “Becky, she’s trying to make herself a home.”
Creating family is surrounding ourselves with things we love to create a place of comfort. There is no greater compliment in my opinion than your grown, married, adult children feeling right at home every time they walk in the door! Children of all ages need the comfort home brings.
3. Belonging Blooms at the Table.
One of the greatest needs our waiting children in orphanages longed for was to belong and where better than in a family does that feeling flourish? Bringing a child into a family and working night and day to build a bond is the foundation to belonging. In our family one of the best ways we found to bond was with food in our kitchen gathered around our table.
I never really stopped to think how we’ve always made it a habit to gather around our table for as long as I can remember and how important and necessary it is for belonging. Both Scott and I grew up in families where eating at the table together was a priority. We just continued that tradition without giving it much thought.
Gathering and sharing meals means so much in building family bonds and belonging. Children learn they belong when they are gathered around the table.
4. Chores Foster Dependability.
Family is an important place where we learn dependance and being dependable. Our children learn so much from observing things right in front of them – like the roles of dad and mom. They realize they can depend on dad to go to work and provide for their family. They can depend on mom to prepare good meals each day. There are so many opportunities for the children to practice dependance like helping with chores, reading to a younger sibling, or taking care of pets. All these experiences offer children the chance to see how valuable being dependable means to family success.
In our family everyone has permanent, daily, and weekly chores all of which emphasize the relationship between responsibility and dependance. The Bible teaches in Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much.” Start with small responsibilities and in time, they will work us right out of our job. Children need responsibility to learn to be dependable.
5. Hugs Breathe Safety.
All children (and adults) need to feel safe. No matter where we lay our heads at night, we feel safer when tucked in close to our family. Just like wrapping up in a snuggly blanket brings a feeling of security, so does the arms of a family.
Wrapping a child or family member in a hug or holding them in your lap is one of the best ways to offer safety. Even my 28, 26, and 22 year olds need to be hugged and feel the safety of their mom and dad’s arms around them. Don’t underestimate the power of touch. We ALL need it! Children learn safety in deeds not words.
6. Gather for Stability.
Home and family are paramount in providing children a place of stability when we live in a world where horrible acts are splashed through media every second of the day, or family members receive the bad news of loved ones with cancer, or a million other bad things we could name.
Scott and I have found to create a feeling of stability, we must keep our days and nights predictable and in a routine. Our children thrive on knowing what to expect and having down time to just be kids. We try very hard not to over schedule every second of their day. We like to have more evenings at home than not, and I know this can be very hard if both parents work, kids are in school, or lots of extracurricular activities are scheduled.
There was a time when Scott and I both worked full time, our children were involved in school, church, and lots of classes (competitive gymnastics) almost every week night and competitions on the weekends. Very busy! So I can speak from experience that there is still hope for stability. We were still vigilant in keeping our family close even when everyone was going in different directions. How?
We picked a time and a place that most of us could be together, even if it was in a parking lot with happy meals. We gathered face to face to talk, eat, and touch base as a family. The gathering provided the stability. I have proof in my three big girls! Children need to feel grounded.
7. Make Moments Count.
Quality is so much more important than quantity. It means making moments count. Make a commitment and follow through with it. For our family, we try to keep Sunday as a day of rest and quality time together. During the last year with Calla being newly home, going to church was not always the best way of spending our family time. It was too much for her. We chose to worship at home, spend time in the pool, or eating around our outside table. In winter, we love roasting hotdogs and s’mores around our family room fireplace. Quality time doesn’t have to be on a grand scale to foster rewards, it just has to be intentional and personal. Children just need us to invest time in their lives.
8. Show Affection.
Scott and I believe it is very important for our children to see us cherishing each other and prioritizing our marriage before them. We try very hard with the help of our older daughters to schedule dates at least once a month. They see us holding each other, praying together, and spending time together after they go to bed.
We intentionally enforce a bedtime of 8:00 and 9:00 to ensure time with each other. We know from experience this changes as they get older but for now, it models affection for our children. We believe we should set the example of what we want to see in them. Children need positive examples of affection before they can give it themselves.
9. Be Reliable in All Things
Being reliable follows us all our lives and practicing it within a family is key. One of the ways we experience this is following through on promises made or statements we make concerning discipline. If you say you are going to do something, just do it. Dads and moms need to rely on each other and that trickles down to the children. Once again, habits and routines in families can offer the reliance we all yearn for. Children need promise keepers.
10. Learning and Growth is the Fabric of Families.
Our family has always spent time learning and growing together. When the big girls were little, we partnered with schools, churches, youth groups, and neighbors for learning and growth. Now we spend our days schooling our younger children at home where learning and growth is the very fabric of our family life. Everything can be a learning experience.
In both situations with the older girls and the younger children, I can wholeheartedly say gathering in the family room or the kitchen sharing conversations, prayers, and open Bibles are the heart of family in learning and growth. Children need to believe they are life long learners.
One day this past summer Rosemary, our youngest Original, made the most insightful statement. “You know mom, you and Dad sure have lived a lot of lives.” I asked what she meant. “Well, you grew up on a dairy farm, went to college and married dad, had us three Originals and two heaven babies while teaching school for 18 years, then adopted the seven littles from China and homeschool, and you’re a grandmother. That’s a lot of lives.” Amazing to hear an adult child’s perception on the flow of family life!
My hope in sharing these ten ideas is to encourage you to believe it doesn’t take grand, expensive, or extravagant measures to make the minutes count. It really comes down to the two recurring themes of gathering and talking. Now is all you get.
Make it Matter!
Those little minutes really do add up to mighty ages.
Did any of the ten ideas speak to you? Can you think of another important way we make the minutes count? Blessings and love to each of your families.