Having the four fabulous nieces and nephews for the long weekend has been a flashback experience for us confirmed empty-nesters! Yes, I said four; that's two boys plus two girls. I'd forgotten (we raised two children) how many more four is than two. No, it's not simple math! Right now the OctoMom has climbed up rather high on my prayer list.
But it was when we stayed around the dinner table after supper for family devotions together that we missed our own children the most.
Now that Rebekah and I are in our 50's, with children raised, productive, happy and solvent, people tend to ask us questions about raising a family.
There are two primary problems with this. 1) We've pretty much repressed all the hard stuff by now and we don't remember that much anymore! and 2) There's very little that works anything close to the same way in more than one family.
It's kind of like an education. Schooling that teaches to a particular test, stresses a technical skill-set, or deals with specific answers - is not very adaptable outside the laboratory or when faced with new or evolving circumstance. Information and technique become out of date quickly and the student is left with useless or obsolete knowledge...
... But a good solid Liberal Arts or Humanities education, one that stresses problem-solving and teaches the student how to think critically, is good no matter what. Because the learning curve is ongoing and adaptable; problem-solving and research skills support innovative critical thinking and make for the ability to evolve solutions right along with the changing body of knowledge.
It's the same thing with raising children. The pile of parenting books and techniques that were circulating back when our kids were in elementary school have mostly all gone by the wayside. My family is unique, and so is yours. The moment we attempt to replicate circumstance or try "one-size-fits-all" we're doomed to frustration.
So what does remain steady and true?
Consequently there's pretty-much only one core principle we urge all the families we know to follow. Here it is: keep your relationship to the Creator central to family life. Worship together, pray together, talk together, learn together, serve together.
For us, family dinnertime was the foundation of family cohesiveness and where we had family devotions. We ate at the dining table, no television, no phone answering. It involved good conversation, questions from the parents, more talking after the meal was complete, and sharing about our lives as a cornerstone of the family covenant.
Then, we shared our concerns, enjoyed a short Bible-reading, and prayed around the table. Visiting kids participated too. And, guess what, ours was still a popular house for dinner.
"Thank you, Lord, for Aunt Bekah and Uncle Derek," Seth prayed. "And thank you for a good Southern dinner."
That's what I'm talking about.