Recently I read a secular book about improving family life, searching for a few gems in regard to assigning chores and keeping a house running smoothly. Instead, I came across the advice to hold a family meeting once a week. It was recommended for toddlers as well as teens.
Since we usually eat breakfast and dinner together, we have time to discuss important family issues like, "Who keeps using my towel in the bathroom?" and "When do I get the cell phone you promised me?" But having a meeting to make general announcements, bring up sensitive topics, and hear from each member of the family how things are going sounded like something we needed especially since the kids are tucked away at school for a large chunk of time each week.
We're now three months into the trial and it's been great. Each Sunday evening, I make popcorn or dump some cookies in a bowl and serve hot chocolate. We spend the first 30 minutes discussing family issues, and Mark or I jot down the kids' concerns.
One of the issues was that party invitations kept getting lost in the shuffle of papers. We agreed that a cork board in the kitchen would help us keep track of everything. Each week at our meeting, Isaiah reminded us that we needed a cork board until I finally bought it and put it up on the wall. Isaiah just tacked onto the board his two party invitations for this week. Problem solved.
Getting a dog was another frequently raised topic, and one night Julia gave us a presentation on different dog breeds and her recommendations for our family and house size. We ended up with a mutt, some kind of yellow lab schnauzer mix, but everyone's happy.
Last week Mark and I discussed the concept of a missionary furlough so the kids understand that in a few years, they will need to leave our home in Uruguay and go back to the U.S. They didn't say much, but that's O.K.
After the business meeting, we added two more vital components not mentioned in the self help book. We sing hymns together, in English. Thankfully we have two Trinity hymnals. Singing familiar hymns keeps us feeling connected to our home church in CA, and also to the OPC denomination since the songs remind Mark and me of the many Orthodox Presbyterian churches we've been a part of since we were children.
And finally, the third part is prayer. Sometimes we "pray for the person on our right" after sharing praises and petitions. And sometimes we break up into pairs. Isaiah and I were paired up tonight, and I smiled as he prayed that God would help me with the grocery shopping and picking up kids from school even though I hadn't mentioned those concerns.
Tonight, we invited a boy from the neighborhood to stay for the meeting. During the business part, he told us about a volcano he was going to work on with his friends. Then he sang the hymns with us, prayed with us, and is now making cookies in the kitchen with Mark and Julia.
I just went into the kitchen to test the dough, and our neighbor chef gave me a strange, "are you kidding?" look as I put some in my mouth. "You can eat that?" he asked. "Yes!!!! Try it!!!" I said. He hesitantly put a glob of snickerdoodle dough in his mouth. The expression of pure delight on his face was priceless: "That's amazing!!!" He had never seen or tasted cookie dough before.
Our prayer is that he and his family will also taste and see that the Lord is good, and that once they have tasted the gospel in Word and deed, they will follow Him faithfully. This is our prayer for each one of our children as well, and I believe that our weekly family meeting, complete with popcorn, hot chocolate, and hymnals, will continue to be a sweet refuge under His wings.