Last week I wrote my blog post about the unique neighborhood where I grew up. Based on all the comments from the “kids” I grew up with who are still my friends though we are spread far and wide across the states, it seems that what we had was truly special. It was something that perhaps was unique even 45 plus years ago and is definitely hard to find anywhere. And so today I want to focus on why it was special, and how people today can attempt to find something similar, though it takes work, effort, and time.
Growing up at the base of the Mount Diablo hills in tiny Concord/Clayton was definitely the good old days. Life was slower, easier, and neighbors were out in their yards and in the streets much more. Attending the neighborhood school and church and swim team helped us bond, and almost made things seamless. But our parents were intentional about their relationships and friendships. They made time for each other. They focused on the core people in their life, and they made the dinners, the happy hours, the camping trips, the pizza nights happen. It was purposeful and it made for lifetime friendships.
I think that is what we are missing today in the 21st century. So many of us are caught up in the current of our kids’ crazy schedules, that we forget what is truly important. We are busy chauffeuring them to event after event, sport practice after sport practice, extra activity after extra activity. Our kids, too, get caught in the riptide. I get caught up in it too and I often will have a “state of the family” address to sort out “how we got here.” Anyone who knows our family knows we are just as busy as every one else, but we have tried over the years to make sure our boys and our family aren’t caught up in what everyone else is doing. We intentionally don’t join every sport or extra activity. We ask our boys what is important and what is not. They have chosen (thankfully) to be smart when it comes to the sports they choose and the activities they are involved in. The activities must align with their core beliefs and values and if they don’t, then the activity is a no. Greg and I do this too. We choose who we spend our time with and what we are involved with so that it aligns with what is truly important to us.
This is all called “intentionality”. We are intentional about what we do, who we spend time with, and why we are doing what we do. Being intentional has saved us many times. There are people in life who we all encounter who are “toxic” and people who help us “thrive”. We simply choose people and activities that help us thrive. It may sound elitist to some of you, but seriously, it helps us focus our lives and keep our sanity. While there are many great opportunities, activities, and causes we could be involved in, we intentionally choose what suits our family’s needs first. If it doesn’t help us thrive, then we cut it out.
In John 15, we hear about Jesus as the vine.
“ I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” John 15: 1-4
Being intentional with your life, your friends, and your activities requires pruning so you can focus on the things that will make you thrive and bear fruit. Just as the gardener prunes in order to be more fruitful, we also must prune things from our life. If a person or an activity is causing stress or turmoil, then reconsider it, and prune where needed.
This is how to live a life that isn’t toxic, but a life that helps you and your family thrive. Think about all the things that you have in your life right now. Friends, commitments, events, activities…..and look at how each aligns with your values and what you want for your life and your family’s needs and well being. Seriously think about what needs to be pruned or even cut out of your life. I assure you, you will survive if your child isn’t on every travel team in every sport or in three or four activities each week. In fact, you might find that you can find family time that you never had.
Serious relationships require intentionality. This means making tough decisions about how and with whom we spend our time. We need to teach our kids this, but if we are barely staying afloat with all we are involved in, our kids won’t learn this. They learn by our actions, and if we are in a constant state of busy-ness and craziness, this is all they will know.
Yesterday I made some intentional choices. I sat with Noah and watched the classic movie “Good Will Hunting”. Our pastor had made a reference to the movie in his message, and Noah wanted to watch it. So, I sat on his bed with him and watched it and then we pulled up the Oscars from that year on You Tube and I showed him when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were young pups and received their first Academy Award. It was fun to walk memory lane and share something from the past with my son. Later that day our family played Yahtzee—it was wild and crazy and mom seems to win all the time! That evening we pulled up the movie “Chef” on Netflix and I sat on my bed with Micah and some buttered popcorn and we watched that together. Micah got his first chef knife for Christmas, and loves looking up recipes and cooking up concoctions, so it was a fun movie for us to watch together. It was a simple day, but I was intentional about how I spent my time with my boys. It was quality time, not spent chauffeuring them to another event, but simply being in the moment together.
These kinds of family times can be yours too, if you are intentional about your values and your priorities. Maybe it is time for a little pruning in your life?