The next twenty-one days

My family and I have faced separation a lot this year. My husband has been hospitalized six times since December and has spent upwards of two weeks in the hospital at the time receiving chemotherapy. My children have been forced to spend many nights without their father and the nights I alternate at the hospital they are also without me. There are many days they do not get my full attention as I have to work and handle the household responsibilities while my husband is away. My husband typically has two and a half weeks home between each chemotherapy cycle and so we make it a point to spend quality time as a family.

It hasn't always been like that. Prior to my husband getting diagnosed with cancer we were the typical American family. Busy, busy, busy. Both of us were working. My husband was also going to school full-time. Our days consisted of getting up early for work, coming home from work exhausted. My husband would go to school two days out of the week. We went to mid-week church services and spent the evening doing household chores. While we did spend time together as a family, there were many days where exhaustion took the priority.

Cancer changes everything. It helps you see what should be your priority. Family needs to be a priority. It is so easy to put other things before your family. We typically don't make excuses when it comes to work. We get up in the morning and work 8-10 hours and sometimes bring work home. But many times we make excuses when it comes to spending quality time together. We say we are too busy, too exhausted, and have important things we need to do. The family unit has been challenged and Satan would like nothing more than to destroy marriages and to draw children from serving God. One way he does that is by drawing us away from devoting time to our family.

They say it takes twenty-one days to make a habit. And so I am challenging you to spend the next 21 days putting your family first. In doing so, you might need to change some things.  Each day we only have a few precious hours together in comparison to the time we spend at work and our children at school. We need to make sure those hours we have in the same house are spent together. So for twenty-one days I encourage you to make your family a priority. I believe once the twenty-one days is over this will become a lifestyle.

So many marriages are breaking apart and one reason is because the couple stopped making their marriage a priority. Let's change that. There are so many different ways you can do this. Get up an hour early each day and spend time together. Develop a daily Bible devotion and prayer together. Use this time to talk to each other. Make it an effort to make your spouse feel special. This doesn't mean you need to purchase them an expensive gift but you can write them a love letter, or make it a point to give them affirming words. Put the electronics down each day for a certain amount of time. I know chores are important. Someone has to clean the house. So clean the house together and talk while doing it. You can have a conversation over the dishes or while folding the laundry. You might not be able to go on dates but you can sit on the porch and talk. You can walk around the block holding hands. Go to sleep together at the same time.  Work to heal the scars that might have developed over the years. Forgive your spouse for hurtful things they may have said or done. Don't stay late at the office and don't bring work home with you.  Some of the things you do that you know bother your spouse, try not to do them. And some of the things your spouse does that bother you, try to ignore those things. Don't make a big deal out of little things. Re-commit to your marriage. For the next twenty-one days spend quality time together. Make your marriage a priority.

Not only are marriages crumbling but children are growing up and walking away from God. Your voice needs to be louder than the voice of culture and society. In order for that to happen, you need to make your children a priority. Every day tell your children you love them. Embrace them. Give them encouraging and uplifting words. Each night gather together in one room and pray together. Talk about the Word of God together. I know you're tired. I know you have dishes to wash. I know the toys need to be picked up. I know you have to make lunches for the next day. I know but make it a point to spend time with your children. Take your teenager on a weekly date. And talk to them, don't yell at them. Eat dinner together each night. Sit around the table and talk about their day. Extra-curricular activities shouldn't take the place of quality time spent with your children. You can be so busy taking them to practice and from game to game that you don't actually spend time with them.  Let your children know that they come first in your life. Show them that they are more important than your career and more important than whatever ministry you are involved in. If you have young children, play with them. Build lego forts, and tents made out of blankets, read them one more bed-time story. Laugh with them. And pray with them as well. They are never too young to hear about God.

Spending time together and making your family a priority doesn't cost money.  For twenty-one days make it a commitment that you are going to place your family first. These twenty-one days will become a habit and then it will lead to a lifestyle. A lifestyle where family matters. A lifestyle where your family is the priority.

Twenty-one days