Family Routines We Are Loving // March 2021

`Do you feel like we are in the eye of hurricane, or is that just me? For now, at least here in South Africa, we have more freedom than we’ve had for some time, to see people, to meet as a church, to hold classes in person, to go to the beach or other parks. There’s this lingering sense, though, that at any moment, our restrictions could increase, and these privileges (it’s what they’ve become, no?) may be less accessible. While I have always been a routine-oriented person, my whole family has grown even more grateful for the regular guideposts in our weeks, the pegs on which to hang our hats, if you will. While much feels out of our control, the rhythms we establish maintain a sense of calm, of intention, of expectation. Kim John Payne emphasizes the significance associated with family rhythms: “Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes.”

Monthly dates // It comes at a cost, but Ben and I have realized how much we need to prioritize our time together, to intentionally connect and remember each other. We are almost 12 years into marriage, and the many other commitments and distractions only increase as our time together increases. We’ve noticed that if we are not making intentional efforts at keeping our relationship connected, fun, and fresh, it’s easy to drift apart. So this year, rain or shine, we are committing to at least one date a month (and some months two!). Scheduling it ahead of time helps as we anticipate the joy of being together, recalling the events of the past week or year, sharing our griefs and hopes, and remembering just why we love each other.

Friday cleaning // While we are so grateful to have a housekeeper who resets our home once a week, six people living in a close space means it needs a second clean. In order to teach our children responsibility for our shared home, and the practicalities of how to clean, we have implemented our Friday cleaning ritual. Usually, first thing before school, I bring out the clipboard, write everyone’s names in bright colors with the tasks they’ll need to accomplish, and turn up some inspirational music (Annie’s “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” is a favorite, for some reason 🙂 ). Though the music and fun checklist help, cheerful encouragement is often needed as I skirt from room to room, helping as needed.

Monday parenting encouragement // This past year has felt lonely at times, no? Ben and I have felt the strain of parenting without much support, and at times, felt discouraged as parents. We’re utilizing one of our church’s subscription to Right Now Media to do a short parenting study together. Cups of tea or hot chocolate in hand, we sit down to receive input and teaching, and converse over this immense privilege and responsibility.

Wednesday evening small group // We are grateful that we can meet in person for our weekly small group from our church. We all look forward to gathering for a simple supper, usually soup and fresh bread, and then moving into a time of study and prayer. The younger children wander in and out of our living room while playing, the older ones may sit and listen, or read a book nearby. Tess will often fall asleep on my lap. The time feels sacred, after many months without this privilege, the gathering together of our church family.

Saturday morning pancakes // Not to be cliché, but we do start our weekends with a batch of fluffy sourdough pancakes. The children enjoy taking turns being the “flipper” of the pancakes, an ever important job, and we eat together in our jammies. Though during the week we may need to get an earlier start on our days, the weekend is extra sweet when eased into.

Sabbath // This past year, our family began a formal Sabbath practice, where we pause from most of our daily chores, work, technology, and spending to spend time resting together, following the example of God himself in Genesis and the tradition of God’s people throughout history. With anticipation, we wrap up our work on Saturday afternoon, giving the house one last pick-up, sending that last text, prepping the food for Sunday, and putting the finishing touches on our Shabbat meal for Saturday evening. As we light the candles and break the bread, we exhale from the week, share our highs and lows, and ease into rest with intentionality. On Sundays, we will either go to church (our church meets every other week currently), or on a family walk or to a favorite coffee shop with an area for the children to play. It’s been beautiful and restorative, though it isn’t surprising, is it? God knows what we need.

Sunday movie + pizza night // We end our Sabbaths with our longest-standing family routine – the Sunday night pizza and movie night we’ve been enjoying for five years. We began this routine in preparation for moving overseas, as a point of stability for our children that we could take anywhere. We’ve had pizza and movie nights on different continents, in many different places, and we’re not sick of it yet! Lately, we are enjoying Little House on the Prairie – it’s been fun for Ben and I to rewatch this classic series as adults. 🙂

These are some of our family routines that have helped this past year, as the world around us trembles and adjusts, to keep us grounded together and provide stability. While routines are often regarded as especially helpful for children, I would argue they are also significant for adults, and one of the most powerful ways to simplify our lives.

I’d love to hear: what are some of your most life-giving routines in this season?

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