Four years ago, our family life was much different than it is today. We lived as though we had an obligation to stay Addicted to Busy, with Adrienne and Addison in tow. It gradually took its toll, until our family was in a lurch. So, we took stock and resolved to back out of over-commitment and anything that felt hectic. We made purposeful steps to define our vision and direction once again. Here is the 5 most brilliantly impacted areas of our lifestyle.

1. We Have The Space to Truly Discover Who Our Kids Are.

Formerly, we used to see our kids as just an extension of ourselves. Partly because they were so small (9 and 5), but also because our priorities were fuzzy. It’s a joy and a gift to discover their strengths and help develop them into the individuals they were born to be. Children’s lives and personalities grow broader and deeper every single year. As parents, we can’t just jump into the middle and expect to have a quality connection or a heavy hand in their process of becoming.

We now practice the art of being fully present. We work to notice and develop their giftings as a team. We put emphasis on listening to our kids’ dreams and ideas, to make headway together where we can. Bonus: we invite them into the process of crafting a larger family dream with us.

Do we always know what we are doing? Not exactly. Defining our vision and living at a pace that allows for quick corrections is extremely helpful. I (Melissa) often feel like I am in a constant hands-on learning process, trying to alter major aspects of my own upbringing. However, there’s great healing in becoming a wholehearted parent.

2. Dinnertime Became a Beautiful Place to Establish Community

In our former life, we rushed out the door for lengthy church events 4-5 times a week and came home late, exhausted. We read all the statistics about eating dinner together. However, it honestly didn’t register that this meant slowing down for meaningful exchanges – rather than something effortless and quick. My (Melissa’s) childhood was full of meals like this; or worse, meals in solitude. It took a while to learn that the dinner table can be the most beautiful place for establishing community.  Now, we eat dinner together almost every night.

We recognize that as our kids get older and involved in more activities, we’ll be going in different directions more often. But that day isn’t here yet – so we treasure our dinners! (Actually, since we are self- employed and home educated, most meals are together but dinner is the most organized.) Because we know it won’t be rushed, the effort to build a healthy, home-cooked menu is enjoyable. We share the day’s highs and lows, discuss books, projects, school, work, etc. Plus, The kids have learned about meal prep, properly setting the table, good manners, and they even help clean up. (Imagine how well this will serve them later on.)

 3. We Were Able to Build Stronger Friendships

Slowing down was lonely at first. Not everyone in our church subculture could understand how vital it was for us to shift gears, and some passed us by in the fast lane. While we weren’t paying attention, busyness had cost our family a few friendships, or at least a deeper connection. That was a painful, albeit necessary, season of relearning for us.

Ultimately, we concluded that if we could have 100 friends or just a handful that knew us intimately, we’d choose the latter. Now, when someone comes to our minds, we make a purposeful decision to spend meaningful time with them – sooner rather than later. We have since resettled in Tennessee and we have plenty of time now for house guests. One wonderful surprise is having cousins from Alaska move here this past summer, with more on their way.

4. We Create Time for The Word of God- The Most Essential Piece

Just like the ability to prioritize friendships, we now maintain time in our day to read our Bibles and spend time in prayer, in order to grow closer to God. It’s a unique time to quiet our souls and notice the areas the Heavenly Father wants to pinpoint. This is the absolute, most essential piece when it comes to staying on track in life.

Adrienne and Addison spend an amount of time every morning that feels right – be it 1 chapter, 5 minutes or 20. The point is simply to join us in establishing a lifelong value of connecting. Several mornings a week we read the Word as a family. Often, the Holy Spirit brings to the forefront a relevant idea, tailored just for the season we are in.

It’s an amazing feeling to know we have a God who will shepherd us, if only we will craft the space for that relationship. He’s the one fostering our dream for a tight-knit, vibrant family life and successful future.

5. We Travel More and Introduce Our Kids to This Amazing World

Travel is one major part of my (Steve’s) childhood. All those shared adventures around the U.S. and overseas added up to a stronger bond. Together we built a priceless collection of memories that still keep us connected. Our family lives in one of the most beautiful states and one of the biggest countries. Last year alone, we did 14 road trips. This year we are headed to Mexico, our first trip with our shiny new passports. We already know many parts of Hawaii like the back of our hand, thanks to Steve’s parents for investing in family time there with their grown children.

Don’t get us wrong, we love our home with all our things in tidy spaces. But that kitschy saying is dead on: home is wherever we are together. We can close our eyes and just about feel the breeze of places that we have made a temporary home. Places we have laughed until we cried, explored other cultures, shared meals, and discovered… each other.

What an absolute gift to have a family that can stumble headlong into the most brilliant surprises that the life offers. Together.

Written by Melissa Brendtro