It’s hard to say goodbye to the summer, to finally give up on our unrealistic expectations about the projects we would accomplish, the fun trips we would take, the family memories we would make.
But even if you’re not one of the people who compulsively pumpkin spices everything between now and Halloween, there’s a lot about this season to enjoy: the weather, the fall sports, the rhythm of scholastic life. If the end of summer is bitter, the treasures of fall can be sweet enough to make it bittersweet.
And it’s also a time when we tend to take a deep breath and manage another running start at doing the things that are important to us. We make the big changes and undertake the big challenges with the beginning of a new school year.
Following are five suggestions about how to be successful at using the new season as a launchpad for renewing (or instilling) a spiritual life for your family.
Season with faith
Many of us make the mistake of overdoing it with the “spiritual stuff.” We have a moment where it hits us forcefully that our family is functionally heathen, that no one is really living a life of faith, and that the six year old might be a sociopath. So we try to take things as far as we can in the opposite direction.
And there’s nothing wrong with family devotions twice a day and only enjoying Christian entertainment. But if that’s the goal, it’s how we will measure our success . . . which means that we will constantly feel like we’re failing.
It helps to think of faith as seasoning. The salt is not the meal. Life is the meal and you’re cooking for the family so you are going to be strategic about where and how you’re going to add the salt.
Pray out loud a fleeting blessing over your kids before they get on the bus. Stick a Bible verse in their lunch or their backpack every day or every so often. Bring God up in conversation where it’s appropriate. Tuck them in with a brief prayer or a verse of a song you know from church.
Trust in God’s irrepressible potency, trust that His success is not dependent on the consistency or the ambitious scope of your efforts.
Keep the Sabbath
The season is unbelievably busy. Sunday is a gift from God to a people who will unwisely exhaust themselves and others with a relentless schedule if given the chance.
Give your kids one day a week when the focus is on something else, when they don’t have to feel guilty about not accomplishing something, when the demands of school and sport and cultural engagement are given the stiff arm.
Participating in worship is certainly part of how we keep the Sabbath, and most of us who do it can testify that it establishes a rhythm and provides benefits that stretch well into the week that follows.
Fight for perspective
During the school year it can be easy to lose perspective. The grade on an exam or the final score of a soccer game can seem all-important. School-aged relationships can be volatile, which is too bad considering how big a deal we think they are at the time.
Tell your children that they were made for eternity. Remind them that they are resilient and that they will outlast their grades, their scores, and their social statuses. Teach your children to shrug.
Offer them your umbrella
The best thing you can do for your family is to love Jesus deeply and to practice your faith openly and consistently. Doing so will make you a rock of stability, a steady and deeply rooted person in the midst of a busy season. And your children need that more than you know.
The deeper you go with Jesus the bigger your umbrella and the more room there is under it for others to get the benefit. Eventually your kids will need to develop their own faith for handling all that a season might throw at them. But this fall count it a privilege to spread the umbrella of your faith over your family.
Make delight a verb
It is truly a delightful season, but delight tends to elude those who wait for it to show up. Resolve that you and your family will delight this fall.
Don’t just go apple picking. Decide that you’re going to do your delighting in an apple orchard one day.
And don’t neglect delight’s sister, gratitude. The more you practice the one, the more the other shows up unbidden, perhaps even tasting of pumpkin spice.
8/29/2017 08:13:53 pm
Well said Joel, thanks for sharing these words of wisdom.
8/30/2017 05:44:59 am
Thank you, Greg!
1/30/2021 06:24:37 am
Appreciate youu blogging this
1/30/2021 10:19:41 am
Absolutely! I'm encouraged to know that it's of use to someone so long after it was written. God bless you.
3/1/2021 12:14:30 pm
Being a parent is always challenging and it becomes more challenging for single parents. The parenting blog sites help a lot of parents like me to get going with the flow.
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