A CILT graduate and retired Air Force fighter pilot, Whippoor now serves camp as she is able while living in Japan (soon to be Wyoming) and leading online Bible studies. Some of those studies and more information can be found at donnadouglass.com.
Jamie fumbled for her phone and tapped off the alarm. Evenings after the kids went to bed never seemed long enough but now it was bedtime.
Eight hours later, two alarms beeped a few seconds apart. Frank was already out in the 5am dawn light walking the dog, which doubled as his prayer time. Jamie finished pouring the juice then silenced her watch, musing that the 8-year-old Courtney was probably old enough to pour them herself now so it might be time to hand that chore off to her.
As her tea water heated up, Jamie shoved a load of laundry in the washer. The kids would fold it later, with 3-year-old Ashley taking on the socks and washcloths. Jamie put away the biggest of the clean dishes and those that went into high cabinets. The rest she left as Courtney’s second morning chore. It took self control to not straighten up the entire kitchen, but she knew this time before kids woke up was precious.
Stretching one muscle group after the next, Jamie worked through arms, legs, torso and prayer cards. She paused briefly to fine-tune the day’s schedule with Frank when he returned. With work, nap and work out times defined, each took their coffee and dispersed to read their Bibles. No matter what births, moves, accidents and vacations scattered their lives, they’d protected this one piece of daily schedule for each other throughout their 15 years of marriage. This was the foundation of the rest of their lives. How many times had arguments dissolved here or decisions been formed here, decisions as big as job changes and as small as a love note to a kid? But most of all, this time formed Jamie’s and Frank’s understanding of God and of themselves in relation to Him…and nothing outranked that.
At 6am the ipad’s “Defend Your Sleep” app turned the kids’ clock yellow, indicating that they were now allowed to sneak quietly out of bed as long as they did not wake anyone else up. Five-year-old Henry slipped out for some Mommy-lap time. Having finished journaling about her Bible reading and done a few minutes of other work, Jamie took the cue to shift to the next priority: getting the kids up and going.
With the kids’ morning chores done and most of breakfast in bellies, Jamie opened the Bible for the next part of the daily routine: morning devotions of reading the Bible and praying for the church, missionaries they supported and the character trait each was focusing on that week. On the weekend they reviewed how that trait was developing and evaluated whether the following week would retain the same goals or shift to new ones. Finishing his dissertation in record speed along with calming of the sharp tongues around him had sold Frank on this system of weekly focus and daily reminders.
Before transitioning the breakfast table to a workspace, Jamie wrote “fix pull-chain” on today’s day of weekly checklist. She loved the freedom of not having to remember such little projects once they were on the list. Before replacing the checklist in its customary location, Jamie reviewed the highlights of the day with the kids. Between scheduled breaks and “mommy time,” they each worked steadily through their lists in anticipation of a sweet snack if they finished before dinner.
The rest of the day Jamie moved between helping one child with simple schoolwork to keep up math and reading skills during this summer break, her household to-do list and while the kids were playing on their breaks, the next step on her own project for the week.
Guided by their individual lists that reflected intentional priorities, the day progressed with each person in the family moving one step toward each other, better character and finished projects. Like they did at least three days each week, Henry set the table while Courtney poured the milks and everyone met around the dinner table. After games, a movie or music, the kids settled into their beds for prayers of thanksgiving and bed.
Though repetitive, Jamie always thanked God for the family and time together with which God had blessed her far beyond what she’d ever imagined.
Key thoughts (bolded in the story above):
Use alarms and timers. They free you from having to constantly think about time and watch the clock. Set up for good mornings by going to bed at a reasonable hour. Use an alarm if you must. Some consider good rest a spiritual discipline because it directly impacts self-control and the ability to process emotion and function rationally.
Pray daily in the morning. Your Father wants to hear your heart and your request for His help. Every day. All day. But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you (Psalm 88:13). In praying early, we also follow Jesus’ example: And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1:35).
Assign chores to each child as soon as s/he is old enough to do them, even as young as two years old! It helps them know and experience the fact that they are a valuable part of the team, just like they will one day hopefully be in the body of Christ: For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5). Routines, charts and/or rewards can help motivate kids.
Early mornings, time before kids wake up, is extremely valuable to set your day up for success. Use it wisely and intentionally. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice… (Psalm 5:3). Abraham, Moses, David, Job and Jesus are all seen rising early in the morning to meet with God. Just an idea…
Post a schedule where everyone can see it , like on a whiteboard. It can be rigid or flexible, specific or just an estimate but keep it updated and highlight important events. The Bible doesn’t direct this, but it help us both make the best use of time and live in harmony with one another (Ephesians 5:15-16, Romans 12:16).
Whether it is a full-up nap or just some down time, cycles of work and rest, intensity and chill times are a key part of life. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak… (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7. See also Psalm 4:8 and Psalm 127:2).
No matter how you feel about it, your body is a key part of you. Regular stretching and working out will serve you well in countless ways. …it is my eager expectation and hope that …Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20. See also Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:13, 19-20, 1 Timothy 4:8.)
Read the Bible in the morning. Not only is this the best way to ensure that it will happen, but it also calibrates your mind for the day. All change resulting from faith stems from renewing your mind (Romans 12:2). How can our minds be changed apart from regular intake of God’s truth? Daily Bible reading is the most foundational and transforming practice you can adopt.
Set priorities and intentionally maintain them. Biblically our priorities should be God, our spouse, our kids then all other things including work, ministry and fun. In seasons like having a new baby, that may mean you only accomplish your time with God and with your spouse outside of the necessities of caring for the baby and other children each day. And that is okay.
Daily and weekly routines also help maintain family harmony and save time because everyone knows what to expect and can prepare for it mentally and otherwise (Ephesians 5:15-16, , Romans 12:16).
Set goals. “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time” (Zig Ziglar). When we put this conventional wisdom beside the importance of responding to the Bible (James 1:22-25), it only makes sense to intentionally aim at the character traits and/or projects God lays before us. For even better results, give it a specific time frame and make it a team activity. Once each week, evaluate how last week’s goals turned out with simple red, yellow or green ratings then determine next week goals. Reward and discipline appropriately.
Write lists and checklists. And use them. Everything written on a list can be released from your mind and has a greater chance of being accomplished later at an appropriate time.
Gather often around the dinner table. Many studies trace the success of children to regular time spent around the dinner table with their families. Don’t miss this invaluable opportunity to set your kids up for success.
The bottom line? And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).