There’s just something spectacular about fall. The crispness in the air. The crunch of leaves beneath your feet. Football. The “extra” hour of sleep that comes with the end of Daylight Savings Time. Pumpkins, pumpkin pies and pumpkin-flavored coffee drinks.
Unfortunately, finding time to enjoy all of these things as a family is usually the problem. Vying for our time are soccer practices and games, homework and class projects, school plays, fundraisers and fall festivals, on top of the everyday chores and to-do lists. As a side effect, we feel distant from our spouses – and often God – when we are pulled in a million different directions.
If you are married, you are going to have problems. You are going to have worldly pressures and anxiety. That’s what the Apostle Paul promised in his writings to the church at Corinth: “Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (1 Corinthians 7:28). He goes on to add: “I want you to be free from anxieties...The married man is anxious about worldly things, and his interests are divided. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (verses 32-35).
When our fall schedules, which seem to be dominated by the demands of parenting, stretch our marriages and spiritual lives, it’s time to take a closer look. It is a problem, but it’s not one without a solution. Here are six things to consider to recalibrate your life, for the sake of your marriage and your walk with the Lord.
It's okay to say no. Or, as my wife says so eloquently puts it: “No thank you, in Jesus name.” Most of us extend ourselves beyond capacity. That’s because it can be hard to say no. Often our hearts are in the right place. We are doing good things. But sometimes we need to make sure we are saying yes to only the things that are truly important, and declining on the things that are ultimately inconsequential. This could also mean saying no to your children. If it were up to our daughter, our days would be spent hitting every playground in the Southeast each weekend.
Guard dinner time. There should be a time each day in the life of your family that is sacred. In our house, it's usually dinner time. For many, late sports practices or games, hectic work travel schedules and more can keep this from becoming consistent. But, there’s not a much better way for a family to grow closer together than to have the consistency of breaking bread together around the same dinner table.
Make Date Night important. To remain connected to your spouse, date night has to be a priority. This can be easier said than done. It doesn't happen near enough in our house. But, I can say that we are able to get out of the house together, it’s a beautiful time of reconnecting with each other. We are able to see each other as husband and wife, not the roles we play as dad and mom the rest of the time.
Conversation is king. Any growing relationship has to be watered, and there’s no better nourishment than conversation. For me, whenever I feel like I’m far from God, there’s a reason. He hasn’t moved, I have. I don’t go to him as much. Interpersonal relationships are similar. When we lack communication, it’s hard for us to truly know each other. Spend time daily conversing with God, your spouse and your children.
Be willing to compromise. If the rule in your house is “it’s my way, or the highway,” then you might need to hitchhike your way to a better plan. You can’t always do what you want to do. For me, it means I have to take my daughter to her friends’ birthday parties when I’d rather be watching football. For my wife, it means she occasionally watches football when she’d rather watch The Notebook or Dancing with the Stars. For my daughter, it means we have to go home early from the park so her baby brother can take a nap. Compromise isn’t a bad word; it’s mandatory in a happy home.
Unplug. We are so connected to the world around us, it’s easy to become disconnected from the home we live in. Constantly checking our phones for new emails, updated news headlines and sports scores certainly doesn’t bring us closer to God and our spouse. What we read today on Facebook or Twitter, or see on Instagram or Pinterest, isn’t going to drastically change our lives for the better. Every minute I spend playing “Candy Crush” or “Words with Friends” is a minute I could pour into my wife or my kids. We need to regularly force ourselves to disconnect from the electronic devices, and connect with our families instead.
There’s no doubt that family problems, busy schedules and everyday concerns can pull you away from God and your spouse. Don’t let the hectic nature of life – especially during the fall when it seems to be in overdrive – lead you to burnout. There’s time to course-correct before you veer completely off path.
Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brentrinehart.
Publication date: November 5, 2014