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In our culture today, family time is priceless.  The competition to have quality family time is fierce, so how can we make it count?

Technology has been put into our hands so that now even the youngest dinner guests have something to play.  Sports at a competitive level now start in the grade school years.  And the after-school commitments of our high school students are gobbling up what time there once was around the dinner table.  Then, once our kids leave home, they are opened to a whole new world of opportunity, oftentimes abroad or at a minimum in another city.  While this can be a sobering concept for many of us as parents, it also makes us realize the importance of being together.

Take heart!  Rather than giving into the culture we live in, we can still affect it by making the most of the time we have by being intentional.

How do we accomplish this practically?  Where do we begin?

A good place to start is to consider what you are already doing and add an extra layer of meaning.  I recently worked with Amy, a single mother who planned a west coast road trip for her two daughters, one in college and one a recent college graduate.   She had already planned a fabulous trip with a great balance of activity and unstructured downtime, per the request of her girls, and she was looking forward to their time together.  Amy knew she wanted to go beyond a great itinerary to bring greater value and meaning to this trip with her young adult daughters.  A month prior, we met to clarify what she wanted to impart and to make a specific plan for how to take this mother-daughter trip to a deeper level.  During their trip, Amy shared a series of letters and pictures, which she had written in advance as part of our preparation.  In the letters, she asked forgiveness, affirmed their identity and shared her own life story.  With her daughters launching into adulthood, Amy was able to transfer life lessons, key messages, poignant memories, and a generational heritage in this monumental trip.  The investment of time relationally was a game changer for this family.  The dynamics changed, the relationships deepened, and each person’s identity in the family was solidified.   Amy deposited what I call “a living legacy” and her daughters will be forever impacted.  What could have gone down as a great vacation became something that set the course for their future as they received a blessing.

In another example, in my own family, was an opportunity to celebrate the graduation of my oldest daughter.  She is a sentimental person.  She collects pictures and journals memories to savor memorable moments.  While I also love and appreciate pictures and memories, it is not a natural gift of mine to collect them.  I knew this launch day was approaching, and having missed many opportunities to pull together a book for her, this was my last opportunity.  I am happy to report that I rose to the occasion.  In the end, I delivered a 45-minute video of her life to include video, pictures, music, and artwork.  It was a priceless gift.  We invited the extended family to come and watch and accumulated a mountain of “Kleenex” to document the emotion.  After she composed herself, her takeaway was the most valuable of all.  She looked at me on the eve of her leaving and told me, “I am so blessed, I will never look at anyone again and be jealous.”  It imparted something to her that I couldn’t have anticipated.  It gave her a sense of self and a foundation of blessing that allowed her to walk into the next season of life, full of uncertainty and new experiences, with confidence!

While the example provided by Amy’s story required a bigger effort, I’ve found that smaller efforts can have just as much impact.  What we are after is context so that you can experience something lasting – perhaps even eternal – in the more normal rhythms of simply being a family.   Birthdays are something we all mark in life.  As a mom, I can get distracted trying to make the event so special that I miss making it meaningful.  Years ago, we implemented a simple tradition that has brought a deep connection to our family and has made a lasting impact.  We write birthday letters.  The impact of these letters has elevated this tradition to the top of our list and each participant willingly shares a memory, anecdote, and even some wisdom to honor the birthday person.   We cherish these letters, re-read them, understand more through the eyes of the author and all feel blessed by the gift we have in each other.  It could even be a simple as setting time aside to have coffee, or take a walk with one of your family members and simply ask, “What do you want to talk about?”

Intentionality takes effort

Intentionality takes effort, there is no way around it.  Some opportunities require more effort than others.  The important thing is to make the effort.  Small or large, to turn the ordinary into eternal.

If you need help planning a big event or setting up a template to capture smaller ones, I am here to help.

Cristin Parker