I heard a nugget of truth at a regional Chi Alpha staff conference that has stuck with me. It has nothing to do with Chi Alpha at all. It was an answer to a question given during a Q & A session and I can’t seem to shake it. The speaker said, “plan for the life stage five years from now.”
His point was to begin planning for where your family will be in five years, so that the next stage of life will not surprise any member of your family. What seems like a “duh” point of advice, really will be life changing if it is implemented. Most of us have seen the three or five year plan for Chi Alpha and goals in ministry, but we often do not look at family life with the same lens.
Personally, my kids are currently 11, 9 and 4. I homeschool them while doing Chi Alpha with my husband. If I am thinking through the roles that I play in my family- wife and mom- it will all look different with kids ages 16, 14, and 8. I need to begin prepping for parenting a potentially driving teen, what school options we may or may not choose for all three kids and how two teenage girls will share a bathroom with their 8 year old brother. I will also be celebrating 19 years of marriage by then and might want to begin planning a little kid-free vacation for our 20th the year after. (***Gasping for air, here!***)
Perhaps you hope to have a few babies in the next five years? Could you be knee-deep in the teenage years or have high school graduates heading to college or the workforce? Maybe you will be empty nesters with a suddenly quiet house? Or maybe you are not raising children, you may still have family life issues that need planning, such as caring for aging parents and you own retirement. All of these phases and stages bring about new aspects to family life and we can give ourselves a head start by prepping now.
The first thing you can do to arrange for life’s next curve is to position yourself in the audience of someone that is already there and knocking it out of the park. Don’t be weird about it, but become their friend and ask questions, observe, take note of how they do things, what kinds of conversations they are having with each other, their kids and with their friends. This is one of the beautiful aspects of being a part of a multi-generational church or small group.
Also, continue to develop your own interests and skills. (Or make a list of things you want to learn or discover once you aren’t swimming in the physically exhausting stage of baby and preschool years.) Nothing could be more boring than arriving at the empty nest stage without something fun to do in your off-time. Perhaps you have been dreaming about speaking for weekend retreats and always said no “because of the kids”. It’s possible you will suddenly find yourself with a wide open school-day schedule because the baby is now in kindergarten and you are available to meet with your Chi Alpha students more freely.
Thomas Chrisholm wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” based on Lamentations 3:22-24 because, despite having a humble and ordinary life, God continued to be faithful to him each morning. Family life can be boring and extremely fast-paced at the same time, yet God promises to sustain us, with new mercy every morning.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”