Just about every weekday during this season of “staying-at-home,” my husband Michael and I enjoy lunch on our patio. The weather has been so pleasant – truly balm for the soul. And we are finally using the patio table we have had for so many years. We shake our heads with a little shame that it took a pandemic to get us out there. As we sit there enjoying the birds and the breeze, we ask ourselves, “When things get back to ‘normal,’ how can we keep doing this?”
As I talk with other families, it appears we are not alone in this question. Many families have found some sabbath-rest from the hustle and bustle of managing all the things: commuting, extracurricular activities, social engagements, meetings, volunteer work, etc. The slower pace has been welcomed. I have heard reports of renewed family mealtimes, movie nights, walks, games, puzzles, arts and crafts, and home improvement projects - things we always hoped we would get around to, but the calendar never seemed to open up. There was always something.
For some of us the anxiety lies in getting back to “life as we knew it” more than it does around the virus itself. In many ways, we have been given a clean slate. Now what are we going to do with it? So, I return to the original question: When things get back to ‘normal,’ how can we re-structure our lives in such a way that we are living the life we really want?
While it is still fresh, before we “re-enter” the world and while we are still quarantining, spend some time reflecting on life since mid-March. The process is outlined below. The goal is to gain clarity on what is really important to the family and then intentionally structure life around those desires in light of how your family wishes to move forward.
(The process is inspired by the ancient spiritual practice of the Daily Examen, the work of Simon Sinek in book Start with Why and concept of “The Golden Circle,” and the work of Greg McKewon in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.)
In this stage, we observe the facts and their impact on us - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and communally. With an open mind and an open heart, gather as a family for a time of intentional conversation. This can happen around the table at mealtime or while lounging on the couch. Take notes on the responses, including your own. Remember, no matter how small or seemingly silly, honor every contribution. Here is a list of questions to explore.
- What happened in the world? Name the facts.
- What happened in our family? Name the facts.
- When all this started, what did you think was going to happen?
- When did you experience joy?
- When did you experience frustration/anger/sadness?
- When did you feel most “yourself?” At peace? Feel love?
- What surprised you about this time?
- What do you see as some of the “gifts”/good things of this time?
- What have you missed during this time?
Before we can “respond” to our quarantine experience, it would serve us well to set aside time to listen through prayer. By “resting” with the information we have gathered, we ask ourselves the following two questions over the course of a day, or weekend, or some agreed upon time. Ask:
God, what are you saying to me?
What are you saying to our family?
Listen for what you sense is being communicated to you from…
- your personal answers to the reflection questions
- your family’s answers to the reflection questions
- what you feel emotionally
- what you sense your body saying
- Scripture or other spiritual writings
- other signs and voices of wisdom
Record your thoughts, feelings, and insights in a journal.
In light of your reflections, then ask:
God, what would you have me do?
What would you have us do?
Record your thoughts, feelings, and insights in a journal.
In this step we gather back together to create a model/plan/framework that will help us move forward with the life we want. First, share what you heard from God in the “Listening” Stage. Write this down. Maybe use a big piece of paper on the wall to record what is shared. Leave it up on your wall for a couple of days. Read the ideas, mull them over, and look for repetition and overlap.
Then gather back together. With these God-given insights in hand, begin synthesizing and formulating your way forward.
We realize that these things are important to us as a family… common themes and values
- THEREFORE, when we come out of this time of staying at home and social-distancing:
we want to continue…
- Things we have newly adopted or rediscovered since staying at home
we want to return to…
- Specific activities/relationships/routines we had to “pause”
we will do this by…
- Specific things we will sacrifice, ways we will adjust, and structures we will put in place to move forward with the life to which God is calling us
This is a plan that everyone needs to “buy into.” In the next step you will “try it on,” live with it, review, and adjust as needed. Once your plan has been developed, pray together as a family and commit your family’s path to Christ.
In this step, we live into the prototype we co-created. We implement our family plan. Try it out for a month. It would serve you to make visual reminders and hang them in places around your home – near the family calendar, on the fridge or kitchen cabinet, etc.
Every week at least, review your plan together. Check-in with each other about how it is going. What are the obstacles blocking the living out of your calling as a family? Tweak and adjust as needed.
It will be easy to slip back into old patterns without even realizing it. When this happens, be gentle with yourselves. Take a breath and take a moment to realign yourselves with God’s yearning for your family.
WANTING TO GO DEEPER?
“Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Does your time sometimes get hijacked by someone else’s agenda? Have you ever said ‘yes’ just to please and then resented it?”
If you resonate with any of this, then join Parenting Ministry Pastor Rachel Sciretti in exploring the Way of the Essentialist through a summer reading of Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.