Home for the Holidays
by Bettie Berkhouse
“Girls.” How often have I uttered this word? Sometimes in exasperation, but more commonly just to give everyday instructions.
“Let’s go girls, it’s time for school.”
“Girls it is time for dinner.”
When I signed cards or gift tags, it was usually from Jeff and Bettie and the Girls. While each of our daughters has always been her own person with whom we engage in recognition of her unique personality, each one also has always been a part of our family community. God created us with a longing for community, with a sense of belonging to something other than ourselves, and a longing for home. He has given us the family as a place that, on a small but very important scale, models this. In our home, I wanted our girls to know that they were first a part of God’s family and secondly a part of our family.
The Berkhouse Girls: Laura, Joy, Mary, and Bethany
Within this community, our heavenly Father has given us the following command from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The teaching of our children as we are living together, sitting in our house, walking by the way, in the evening and in the morning becomes increasingly difficult as they become teenagers. They have many more outside activities and influences. With the increase of technology in the internet and social media, these influences are ever present.
One of my favorite traditions that we instituted very early, when our first daughter was very little is what we named Quiet Time. Every night around 8 or 9, you would hear, “Girls, it’s time for Quiet Time.” This time provided a constant in the ever-changing dynamic of a growing family.
Quiet Time occurred every night, after dinner and before bed. This time was set aside to gather as a family and read God’s Word, sing hymns or songs, and pray. Over time it changed as the girls grew up, but it was a consistent part of our nightly routine. Jeff worked hard to make Quiet Time engaging. There were a variety of ages — at one point we had a senior in high school and a second grader. While sometimes, it felt like an exercise in futility as we were frustrated, or tired, or busy, those times are still some of my most cherished memories — those few minutes, all together with a squirming baby, preoccupied Mom, and busy teen taking time to sit together and sing together, to pray together and to listen to Dad read Scripture. It is part of who we are.
The holidays provide unique opportunities to grow together as a family.
We often long to use this season to begin new family traditions that will point our family to our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are often so bombarded with all the activities that it is difficult to find time to just “be” together as a family and to consider together the importance of a grateful heart and the birth of Jesus. Sometimes, we may try to compensate for lack of time together by planning an extravagant outing to provide that time.
In our experience, the best laid plans often went awry. The night we planned to go to the Christmas tree farm (with visions of being bundled up, drinking hot chocolate) was 85 degrees, and some of the mosquitos were larger than our youngest daughter. We ended up hot, tired and grumpy. The trip we planned to visit relatives was accompanied by children being sick and frequent stops to clean up the car. This type of experiences can either end in disappointment and frustration (which was often our responses), or we can realize that this is life, that simple is better, and that even these imperfect times have built memories that bind us together. We can use these moments to share God’s goodness and faithfulness to us.
Setting family traditions can provide a liturgical foundation to celebration in our families.
Traditions like serving at the same outreach in the community each year, baking cookies, looking at Christmas lights, and attending special events at church are all opportunities to celebrate the love of Christ with one another. There is great value in setting aside a few minutes each day as a family throughout the holidays, and there are many resources that can provide structure to those few minutes. Advent wreaths, Advent devotionals, and Christmas carols (especially learning all the verses) can engage our hearts as we look forward to Christmas Day. I encourage you to plan now to make room for family connections at home this holiday season.
If you would like ideas for resources to help your family focus on the real meaning of Christmas, here are a few suggestions:
Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide
Advent Conversation Cards from Kids Read Truth
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Take time this holiday season to read more of our parenting blog posts!