Marching to Our Own Drum

Over the past several months while living in America it has become evident that our family marches to the beat of a different drum. Our pace is less hurried and more relaxed than most. Being in constant motion is not enjoyable to us and quite honestly has been a difficult adjustment. Unlike many, we don’t need nor want to fill our time with endless activities. We cherish the unstructured, unhurried moments we have at home…together. Someone recently commented, “The girls “hang out” well.” And they do! There is a contentment, a quiet peacefulness in being able to just BE. NO activities, NO rush, NO detailed plan, NO running from house to house, NO driving across country, NO hours of meal preparation, NO endless clean-up.

The realization that we march to the beat of a different drum was exaggerated during Christmas. When others asked about our Christmas plans and heard that we were going to stay home as a family. Their response was always the same. (Insert “poor baby” tone here) “Oh , so your aren’t doing anything for Christmas!” After hearing this comment several times in the weeks leading up to Christmas our daughter walked in the kitchen and frustratingly exclaimed, “Why does everyone think we AREN’T DOING ANYTHING for Christmas!?!”

I guess here in the states people are accustomed to endless activities. Calendars are packed to the brim. Each weeknight, a commitment and weekends are booked months in advance. Most people travel to spend Christmas Eve or Day with extended family. We even know one couple who spends Christmas Eve with his family in Memphis and then rises early Christmas morning to drive 9 hours across Tennessee to spend Christmas Day with her family in Knoxville. Why is this considered “doing something”? Why is this considered “normal”?

Perhaps it’s our years of living in Mexico or maybe it came from my up bringing. Growing up in a divorced family, I always felt pulled during the holidays. I made a vow then, that when I grew up, I didn’t want my holidays to be filled with endless travel and activity. At any rate, no matter the reason, this year, like every other year, we planned to stay home and just hang out. In the weeks leading up to Christmas we shared meals and activities with extended family, but the 24th, 25th & 26th were spent at home, just Rodney, me and the girls.

Days later when one of our daughters was asked what she enjoyed most about Christmas. She quickly replied, “Staying home together, just our immediate family…we didn’t have to go anywhere, we just hung out and enjoyed being together!”

Her response was interesting, because to many, our Christmas plans seemed less than impressive. and yet to each of us, staying home together was the highlight of the season.

I am not suggesting that our family’s Christmas plans should be the norm. As I said, we march to the beat of a different drum. However, in this hurried world, I do think it is important to plan family moments in your schedule. Time where you plan to stay home, sharing meals together, playing games, singing, cooking, decorating, crafting, reading…connecting.

Building Fences

I have a friend who serves in full-time ministry. Everyone loves her! She is ALWAYS available to friends and church members who need her and is a real advocate for those who are hurting and the underprivileged. She loves Jesus with a passion that makes others pale in comparison. However, while she is busy ministering to others, her husband and kids sit at home feeling neglected and second best. Not surprisingly, her marriage and family are suffering. The crazy thing is, even though her husband openly states that he feels unimportant and neglected, she is so emotionally focused on ministry, she doesn’t even realize the imbalance.

How many of us have had a similar experience? Either being the one to neglect family or being the one neglected! Rodney and I walked through this just after starting Hope House, we were so busy with “ministry” that we didn’t make time for us or our children. (I used the word “make” intentionally, because as we set our calendar if we don’t “make” space for self and family, we will never “have” time for them.)

In last weeks blog, we discussed the need to set boundaries when we are trying to prioritize family and ministry. I walked you through some steps to help you identify areas where you might need to establish them and I recommended a book entitled: Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

In the book, the authors describe boundaries like fences on property lines. These fences place a physical boundary to help you and others to distinguish the difference between your property and their property. In life, these fences are invisable. We are the ones who have to tell others the location of our boundaries. Unfortunately, at times, we don’t even know where they are or even where they should be. In order to identify our boundaries for others, we must first identify them for ourselves.

The good news is, the first step to solving any problem is to realize that the problem exists. If you are asking how to prioritize family and ministry, then you are already thinking in the right direction and that’s a good thing!

Hopefully, by working through the questions in last weeks’ blog, you were able to identify areas in your life and ministry that subtlety (or maybe not so subtlety) make prioritizing family difficult.

So where do we go from here?

Once we have identified where your boundaries need to be established, the next step is to make them “visable” for others.

Step one:

While you are in the process of setting up your boundaries, I suggest that you developed a new habit. What I mean by this is for a period of time do not say yes to any new projects or commitments.

I realize that may be easier said than done. Saying “No!” can be scary, especially if you aren’t accustomed to saying it, so let me give you a simple phrase to practice. The next time someone asks something of you, respond with these words: “I will pray about it.”

If you aren’t ready for the big N. O., these 5 words can set you free! They can also buy you a little space until you can muster your courage to stand up for yourself and say no.

Now don’t lie, actually pray about it. But if you are trying to make space for your family and marriage, you already know that family and marriage are the priority and therefore your new default answer can NOT be yes.

Step Two:

Now let’s look at the areas you identified from last weeks questions and divide them into two categories: A) Ministries you are not in charge of and B) Ministries you are in charge of.

A) Ministries you are not in charge of:

As you can imagine, ministries you are involved in, but not in charge of will be much easier to eliminate from your schedule.

Here is the secret: Simply stop attending. Just don’t go. More than likely you will have someone ask you why, and responding with the simple truth should suffice. “I’m choosing to work on making my family a priority right now therefore I am cutting back on my outside activities.” Now, don’t be naive enough to think that everyone will understand. They won’t! But that is ok. Stand confident knowing that building your marriage and family are more important than what Sister Opinionated thinks.

B) Ministries where you are in charge:

This area can be a little more challenging to navigate and can ultimately take more time to restructure. If the commitment, responsibility or event is close to being fulfilled, by all means follow through with your commitment and then don’t re-enlist. If the responsibility is not close to completion, there are several things you can do. First, you can try to find someone else to take over your responsibilities. Deligation is key in growing any ministry and keeping your sanity. If you are unable to find someone to replace you, try restructuring the activity so that it requires less of your time. Ideas include: enlisting guest teachers & speakers, having participants take an active role in the responsibility of the ministry and finally seek helpers who can assist you complete part of your responsibilities. You CAN learn to delegate. But whatever you do, your goal is to eventually scale back your responsibilities and commitments to something manageable which makes room for prioritizing your family and marriage.

*Disclaimer*

Please understand, I am NOT suggesting that you quit all involvement with ministry. I am simply saying that you need to be certain that the areas of ministry in which you are involved are ones that God has called you to do and not ones that you got roped into by others.

What’s next?:

Now that you are beginning to establish some visible boundaries for your marriage and family, next week we will discover how to make room for the people who are most important to us.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

Psalm 91

Prioritizing Family in Ministry

Let’s face it, Ministry is often exhausting! And while it CAN be extremely fulfilling, It can also suck the life out of you, your marriage and your family.

The first thing that I’ve learned about prioritizing family and ministry is this: Prioritizing means learning to say, “No!” (Yes!, you heard me correctly.) If your family is going to be priority, there are some things that you will not be able to do. Therefore learning to say no is an essential skill to master.

Like many of you, my husband and I started out sprinting this marathon. We were always busy! For years we were the first to arrive at church and almost always the last to leave. We were there every time the doors were opened. (And I’ll tell you, those doors were opened ALOT!) Six days a week there was something that we were in charge of or required to attend. Saturday began with sunrise prayer, continued with neighborhood Kid’s Club and included worship practice and evening bible study. To top that off, for a while the church actually met in our home, so when there wasn’t “ministry” to do, we were cleaning up from a meeting or preparing for a meeting. After all that ministry, there was barely enough time to do the basic necessities like grocery shopping, cooking and laundry. And we certainly did not have time for enjoyable activities, fellowshipping with friends, neighbors or family or resting. During those years most all of our activities and conversations revolved around ministry and as you can guess, our marriage was suffering.

So here is the deal, the only way to prioritize family and full-time ministry is to learn to set boundaries! Repeat after me! “It’s ok to say No!” Now believe me, I understand that you love The Lord and want to serve Him. I also know that 20% of the people always do 80% of the work. And what I’ve come to believe even more is, there ARE people perfectly capable of doing many of these things. However, because we always volunteer or think that no one can do it as well as we can, they never get the opportunity to try. Beyond that, it’s ok to just let some things go undone.

There is a great book that someone recommended to me several years ago when I was struggling with this very thing. I have read it & listened to the audio several times over the years. I think it might be helpful for you too. in fact, I think I might revisit it again as I prepare for my next blog.

Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Believe me, I know that setting boundaries is not easy, but it does get easier with practice! (We’ll discuss how to do that more another day.)

So where do we go from here?

Step one:

Identify some areas of ministry where you might need to set boundaries. In order to do that, prayerfully ask yourself the following questions.

1) Am I currently involved with any aspect of ministry that I do not believe God has specifically asked me to do?

2) Am I currently involved in any part of ministry simply because someone coerced, obligated or guilted me into doing? Am I involved because others think I should be? Am I involved because others will think poorly of me if I’m not in charge or don’t participate?

3) Am I involved in anything that is sucking the life out of me, my family, or my marriage?

4) Do I enjoy something, but it is taking up way too much time and energy? Am I spread too thin?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you most likely do not have proper boundaries set to protect you, your family or marriage.

(If you answered “no” to all of the above questions…well then this blog is probably not written for you.)

Step Two:

Now make a list of the areas that came to mind when you answered yes to the above questions.

These are the areas where you need to set boundaries!

What’s next?:

Now that you have identified the areas where you need to set boundaries, next week we will look at how to actually make that happen.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

KD

Psalm 91