I feel like I can’t continue writing posts until I’ve written a bit about something that has become extremely near and dear to our hearts as a family. The year 2017 was a hard year for us: a year full of travel for Jeff, weeks of single-parenting for me, health issues, a difficult toddler, a child struggling with night terrors, school transitions, and so on. Yes, there were beautiful moments throughout this past year, but if given the option to relive 2017, the answer would be a hard “no.”
Towards the end of the year, Jeff and I listened to a podcast by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub about establishing a set of family core values by which to set the rhythms of our life. One of their big plugs for creating these values was the promise of being unified as a couple (and a family). And truth be told – we were desperate for a little family unification.
( A tiny backstory – Jeff’s job requires a significant amount of travel. When we were first married, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, it all sounded like a grand adventure. Then kids happened. And the “grand adventure” wasn’t so grand after all. This past year alone, Jeff has had over 11 weeks of travel (4 separate trips) to Japan, leaving me at home with the girls. The upheaval of his travel has been extremely trying on every single relationship in our little family. And so the idea of being unified, even when separated by thousands of miles, was a bit more than appealing.)
So, one blustery weekend in December, Jeff and I went out for breakfast and literally wrote down a list of values we wished to instill in our lives as a couple and in our girls’ lives. After going back and forth, we narrowed our list down to five main purposes for our family: 1) Marriage, 2) Family, 3) Faith, 4) Contentment, and 5) Hospitality. We then came up with a Bible verse for each value that supports the importance of it in our lives. (Let it be known that narrowing it down to five values was extremely difficult! Especially between two people. While there are lots and lots of great principles by which to train up your family, for our individual home, these ones fit the best. The Straubs give a values list if you need a kick start.)
Prior to this, I probably would have said core values and mission statements were a little hokey. But you know what? There was something so relieving and inspiring about being able to sit down with the person I love most in this world and discuss the principles that we want to make the biggest impression in our family’s life. Knowing that when another hard year slams into us, we will have these five tenets to help us stay unified and encouraged is such a comfort. (Unfortunately, it seems that work travel will always be a part of our lives. Having this list of values makes decision making, when separated, feel not so one-sided.)
It was all well and good to have a piece of paper in hand with a few Bible verses scribbled on it to support our ideas, but what we really needed to do now was implement these core principles. This is where the rubber hits the road. Where we put theory into practice. So how have we started changing the way we live in 2018 to align with these values?
- Marriage – to be honest, Jeff and I have always been pretty good about doing a date night at least twice a month. We have been fortunate enough to live in the same city as grandparents, and we also have a really superb babysitter. So date night has never really been a problem. But we wanted to take our connection beyond date night. Something we’ve always struggled with is being consistent in being in the Word together and praying together. It’s been over a month now since we have started meeting together every night once the girls are down to do devotions together and pray. I can confidently say that our marriage has strengthened and deepened in connection with the Lord and each other.
- Family – this has been one of the most fun principles to make a priority in our lives. Our girls are now at an age where it’s possible to start really “doing” things together as a family. Zoe and Elsie both know now that every Friday night is “Feddema Family Fantastic Friday Night Fun Times.” (You really have no idea how cheesy we are!) Sometimes we go to the grocery store and pick out a snack for movie night together. Or we have a picnic in the living room. Or we go skating. Bottom line – the four of us are intentionally hanging out together. Feddema Family Fantastic Friday Night Fun Times is sacred time.
- Faith – faith can be a pretty big concept to try to explain to a 2 and a 4 year-old. So this is one of those values that we try to live out so that our girls will just perceive it as rudimentary. In the mornings when Zoe wakes up and comes downstairs, I used to be busy in the kitchen getting breakfast ready, or her school bag packed, or tackling the never ending pile of dishes. Now I’ve taken to sitting in my armchair, finishing up my Bible reading for the morning until she comes downstairs. She will crawl into my chair and want to know what I’m reading about or who I’m praying for. Someday, I want my girls to be able to know that in that chair in that corner of that living room, Mum would meet with God each morning.
- Hospitality – I grew up in a home that exuded hospitality. My Mum never cared how many people were around her table. She never freaked out if my brother or I brought a friend (or two, or three…) home. Another cup of water could always be added to the soup pot. My parents house was never perfect looking, but it was always cozy and welcoming. It’s one of the things I’m most thankful to my parents for teaching me. I want our girls to feel the same way – that they can rest assured that our doors are always open and there’s always an extra place at our table.
- Contentment – our whole world is consumed with making us feel inadequate, dissatisfied, less than. Jeff and I have been a little obsessed with the concept of minimalism and how it coincides with our desire for living contented lives. Lately we have tried to ask ourselves each time we make a purchase if this aligns with what is best for our core values, if this money is being spent well to enrich our marriage, our family, our faith, our hospitality and our contentment. It’s pretty nutty how often simply asking myself that question has made me put down an item and leave it in the store. Ultimately, we only get one life. We don’t want to spend our lives spending money on things we don’t have time to enjoy because instead we’re spending time working for those supposed necessities. Instead, we want to be satisfied with what we have, with the “good enough.” Because ultimately, contentment will only lead to more time spent together.
As I said, we’ve only been living by these set of values for about six weeks now. We’re still newbies. We certainly don’t have all the answers. But already we’ve experienced a strength in our family that wasn’t there before. Each moment is lived with a little more intention. And when we get assailed with another year like 2017, I know that we’ll be able to hold on to each other a little tighter.