Happy New Year! I’m sure you are off and running at the beginning of 2020. If you are like me, then you welcome the month of January to reflect on the previous year while thinking strategically about the new one. In this excerpt post from Episode 26 of the Family Strong With Jeffrey Dean podcast, here are 10 steps to consider as you work in 2020 to build a stronger family.
1. Read a biography, autobiography, or historical book.
Last year I read President George W. Bush’s book, “Decision Points.” A few years ago, I read “Known and Unknown” a memoir by former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. I’m a slow reader. And, often these types of books are rather lengthy. So, I don’t read them all at once. I do try and read something every morning and such books are a part of my reading rotation. If you haven’t grabbed a book to begin the new year, or even if you aren’t a reader, the month of January is the perfect time to begin such a habit.
You may be asking – “What does reading a biography, autobiography, or historical book have to do with building a stronger family?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
One characteristic of a strong family: communication. Families can never communicate enough. The really strong families have learned the power of communication and have mastered the art of using communication as a time to connect and grow closer.
Ifyou are a regular listener of Family Strong, then you know I’m always encouraging you to look for creative ways to engage in conversation with your family. Reading enlarges your knowledge. And, knowledge can be the fuel to spark conversation with your family.
Encourage each member of your family to do the same. Use dinner time once a week to discuss one another’s book, an interesting fact you’ve learned, or an exciting story you read. Reading and talking about what you read can be a great connection opportunity for your family in 2020.
2. Pray 15 minutes a day for your spouse and children.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Work as if you were to live a hundred years, pray as if you were to die tomorrow.” And S.D. Gordon, a popular author and speaker in the late 19th century said, “The great people of the earth today are the people who pray, not those who talk about prayer.”
I would add to these words in saying that [Tweet “The great spouses and parents of the earth are those who pray daily for their family.”]
Answer this question: “Can I ever pray too much for my family?” You know the answer to that question.
The American family is under attack. Our enemy hates your marriage and your kids. He never gives up. He never stops strategizing. He never stops looking for a way to disrupt, to interfere, and ultimately, as Jesus warns in John 10:10 to “…steal, kill, and destroy.”
Fortunately you have an arsenal of angles at your request who are ready and able to fight and win for you and for your family.
Psalm 91:11 says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
Luke 4:10 reads in almost the same way. It says, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully.”
And, Psalm 34:7 reads, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”
How good it is to know that we worship a God who hears us and who listens intently to our prayers. One of the greatest things you can do for your family in 2020 is to pray for them. If you can’t give it 15 minutes, begin with 10 or 5 or 2. The important thing is that you begin!
Pray for your spouse.
Pray for your children.
Pray for them by name.
Pray for favor, health, joy, confidence, peace, power, influence, direction, and financial blessings.
Pray for whatever comes to your mind.
3. Write notes.
One of my favorite gifts I received this Christmas from our oldest Bailey was a jar full of hand-written notes. She also gave a jar to Amy and her sister Brynnan. Each day, I’ve been reaching into the jar to take out a new note and read it. One note she included in the jar said, “I love it when we play piano together.” Another note, “I love how you enjoy making our yard pretty.” I do enjoy my yard time!
Thus far, my favorite note I’ve found in the jar, ”I love when you tell the big, green dragon story.”
The big, green dragon story is a story I made up years ago when she was a little girl about a dragon who lived in the woods and loved to eat chocolate chip cookies.
Leaving a note on your husband or wife’s pillow only takes a few moments. Dropping a quick note in your son or daughter’s lunch bag or backpack is super easy. Get your pen and paper and get started now!
4. Spend time in the Bible with your family at least once a week.
You’re busy! And, if your family is like mine, the busy will just continue this year. So, if you don’t plan for this one, this one won’t happen.2 Timothy 3:16 confirms the power of God’s Word and its impact on our families:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.”
Get your family involved as you plan to get time in the Word on the family calendar. If family devotional time hasn’t been a priority in the past for you or your family, it’s all good. The can’t change the past, but you can choose what happens in 2020.
Why not start tonight at dinner? Dinner time can be connection time. Bring your bible to the dinner table. Additionally, there are tons of great devotionals apps. Or, your family may want to purchase a devotional book to read through this year. There are countless tools out there now to help you with this – to help make it super easy. So, what’s stopping you?
5. Keep working on your marriage.
As I talk with people everywhere, I find this is one with which couples often struggle and often do so unintentionally. You’ll have to be intentional with this one!
Most couples with kids are focused each day on getting everyone up and out the door to school. Evenings are packed with getting dinner ready, homework, projects, practices, rehearsals, games, work and more…
Many couples admit to me that they think a lot about ways to make their kid’s lives better and more enriched. They spend a lot of time thinking about their kid’s health, safety, school projects, and sporting events.
They also admit that they don’t think as often about ways to love on their spouse, to say something nice, or freely offer encouragement. Anyone who is married or has been married knows that marriage takes a lot of work. You also know how good it feels when your spouse doesn’t something nice, takes you to dinner, leaves a sweet note on your desk or bedside table, or just stops for a moment to give you a hug.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking in the right direction about this one:
– Do you and your spouse spend time talking about things other than your kids?
– Do you work to have date nights?
– Do you initiate creative ways to say, “Thank you, “I’m proud of you,” or “I love being married to you?”
– Do the two of you pray together regularly?
Remember step #3: Write Notes? I shared a few notes with you that Bailey wrote and included in the jar she gave me for Christmas. Well, today I pulled out a new one and it read this: “I love that you love mom.”
Working hard to grow my relationship with Amy isn’t just something that benefits Amy and me. I know that Bailey and Brynnan have more peace in life and more confidence in themselves and in our family when they know that mom and dad’s marriage is strong.
Your marriage won’t get stronger in 2020 on its own. You’ve got to “go the gym” so to speak each week and exercise your relationship with your spouse. Spend time here at the beginning of this new year thinking about ways you can keep working on your marriage to make 2020 your best year yet with your spouse.
6. Develop an open-door policy in your home.
My wife Amy has taught me the importance of hospitality. She loves to open our home to others – inviting friends and family and sometimes people we don’t even know that well into our home. And, what a great way to teach your kids about the importance of loving on others, serving others, and just getting comfortable talking with people around the dinner table or out on the back porch.
There are countless ways you can implement step #6 in 2020, and this will look different from family to family. But, opening your house and inviting others in can do so much on so many levels with your family and within your community. Maybe you want to think about hosting a Super Bowl party in a few weeks. Or, like one family I know, you might consider a weekly coffee and bible study time in your living room with friends or co-workers. The skies the limit on this one!
7. Get alone with God every day.
Time alone with God gives me confidence and peace even in the midst of increasingly challenging moments in life.
Proverbs 18:10 is one great example! It says, “The name of Yahweh is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected.”
Nehemiah 8:10 is another reminder of the confidence one gains from spending time with God. It reads, “Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.”
Here’s one more. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”
As you spend time with God in prayer and in His Word in 2020, He will better prepare you to be an effective leader in your home. The key: be strategic! You have to schedule this into your day or it just won’t happen!
7. Take responsibility for failures.
Have you ever had one of those heated moments with your spouse or child then didn’t end well? Of course you have – you’re human.
You’ve most likely also been in that place after the fallout where when you realize, “Okay, I blew it! That was my fault and I didn’t handle the situation as I should have.”
In such a moment, what happens next is critical for the health and future success of your family.
Sadly, many people never take the proper next step, which is to say, “I’m sorry!”
Taking responsibility for your failures isn’t always easy. Heck, it’s almost never easy! And, it definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. But doing so is critical for the health of your family and is a true sign of maturity!
8. Plan a vacation.
Brynnan, our youngest, told me recently, “Daddy, my favorite time with our family is our vacation time.” I couldn’t agree more.
While your children are still living at home, they are in the middle of their memory-making years. You don’t have to go somewhere and spend a lot of money to make great memories with your family. What is important is that you take the time to unplug, get away from the routine, and spend time together.
Planning at the beginning of the year works well for our family. Once we get a plan, it’s always fun for us To family to count down the months and days until vacation time.
9. Say “I love you” every day in different ways.
There are countless ways to tell someone, “I love you.” Why not make it a priority this year to tell those you love, and tell them often in creative ways, “I love you.”
A quick note or text; sending flowers to your spouse; showing up for a surprise lunch; taking an unexpected trip; cooking a favorite meal; assuming the sole responsibility of cleaning up after a favorite meal…you have 12 months to mix it up and make it count in 2020. Have fun!
10. Slow down and enjoy every moment.
Last night a friend of mine told me that each family member is choosing a word for the year that will help them think about how they live. I love this idea. So, I asked her, “What’s your word?”
She responded, “Slow.” “It’s my goal this year Jeffrey,” she said, “to slow down and enjoy every moment.”
What a great reminder for all of us. I want to get better at this in 2020, don’t you?
You can get on the back porch more. Have a movie night regularly. Play board games. Laugh. Talk. Eat. Enjoy being together making memories.
I sure do hope that 2020 is a great year for you and your family. It’s our goal as a family to slow down and enjoy it all. And, above all, to serve the Lord and to make Him known. Whatever the year brings, remember that God desires that you allow Him to lead you as you lead your family.
Happy New Year.