One of our eight family values is discipline. Honestly, I remember cringing when we included it with our values eleven years ago. I am not disciplined. Shouldn't we value something else like procrastination or "just knowing enough to get by". I felt uncomfortable at the time in the way it would stretch me, and even more uncertain about what it would look like to bring children into a home that valued discipline. You see, discipline is defined by us as any training intended to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior and saying no to something so that we can say yes to what's most important.
For those of you who are naturally disciplined people, that may not seem that atrocious. But, to me, it is overwhelming. And, so, to teach my kids to be disciplined is a daily chore for me.
That's why getting away from the distractions of home is important. That's exactly what we did last week. We drove to a cabin for pastors' families in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. We had no cell service, no television, and nothing to do: we had no schedule for two days.
I wasn't really sure what this would look like with four kiddos eight and under. I mean we pray in our home regularly. We talk about God all the time. We talk about what it looks like to follow Jesus. But, now, it isn't just a part of our day, it is our whole reason for existing for two days.
Obviously, we had a lot of family time reading, playing games, making and eating yummy meals, roasting marshmallows, and feeding the horses. But, we wanted to add in some intentional moments designed for our kiddos to experience God in a new way. I brought journals and sketchpads and crayons and colored pencils. There were three main things we did that were the focus of our time away.
First, Buck picked a passage for us to focus on the weekend. We read it a few times throughout the weekend. We asked some questions about what that can look like for each of us.
Second, we followed the trails around the camp. When we came to a prayer stone or another spot the kids wanted to stop, everyone pulled their supplies out of their bags. At the prayer stones, we would read the verse on the stone and unwrap it for just a minute. Then we gave them time. We told them they could pray or draw or write. We told them they could walk around or be still. Some drew pictures of what they saw in God's creation. Some wrote stories about our journey. And, some wrote what they were experiencing and thinking. Our only rule was that you had to be quiet so that everyone could do whatever they wanted. Sometimes the quiet thing worked better than others. But, I was impressed with the way they jumped in and participated.
Finally, on our last morning, we walked up through the meadow to the prayer labyrinth. I haven't walked through a prayer labyrinth since I was in college. We gave each of our kids an opportunity to walk through. We talked with them about focusing on God as they walked through. It's a hard thing to do. It's especially difficult to do with the quiet whispers of your siblings sitting on the outside of the labyrinth. Our youngest kids were more concerned with getting through the "maze" of the labyrinth than really communing with God. But, I hope as they grow, they will remember what it means to take time to connect with God. Personally, I was thankful for the experience. I needed to have some quiet moments with my Savior and Creator! I was glad to model spending time with God in unique ways for my kids.
I really appreciated the time away to disconnect with the world we live in and reconnect with my family and God in a quiet place. But, what I loved most was watching my kids experience God in new ways. They may not even be able to verbalize what they experienced this weekend. But, I hope it will be a marker for them in their journey of learning discipline and what it means to follow Jesus.
What are the things you do with your family to make spending time with God a priority? I need lots of good ideas!