When a medical crisis threw our family into chaos last year, intentional family living was sidelined. And yet, it was the goals, priorities, and habits that we had practiced for so long that helped get us through that turbulent time intact.
by Heidi Indahl
When I am writing about intentional family living, I can say with great confidence that the tools I have shared here are very useful in supporting strong family relationships. I can also say that at times we do a great job with this and at times intentional living is left to the sidelines when we are simply hoping to keep our heads above the water.
Just a year ago, we faced an extended period of trial when we were faced with a high-risk pregnancy in combination with a probably terminal diagnosis for our unborn daughter. I spent a good portion of my time on bed rest finding places for my children to be during the day because I couldn’t care for them. Since we homeschool, that meant a place for five children most days of the week for four months. At one point, I was hospitalized for two weeks. Financially we needed my husband’s insurance and paychecks and he had limited time that he could take off to support us more directly. Family meals and family meetings stopped. Mass was a challenge when I was well enough to make it at all. We were completely at the mercy of other people for most of our basic needs.
It was actually during this time that I realized the value that investing in intentional family living has, largely because for a season we didn’t have it. Our regular methods of communicating were stretched. Our typical routines for handling various situations were nullified by our reality. This disciplined structure that our family was accustomed to was no longer possible.
Everyone was feeling the strain, but I found that as our tangible structures were falling apart, our relationships were not. Our defined roles shifted as kids and grown-ups naturally recognized what they could do to help. The phrase from our mission statement, “We work together,” was lived fully and almost automatically.
After our daughter Siena passed, you might imagine that our family slipped further into disarray, but the truth is that we almost immediately began to emerge stronger. Both slowly and suddenly (if that’s possible) we were able to use the structure as a support system for our days and for our family when nothing else made sense. When we were so distraught in grief that we couldn’t remember the words to prayers we have known for a lifetime, we could slip back into the intentional routines and structures we had been forced to abandon for a season. Slowly, everything else came back around us.
Because in this family, we established our priorities. Yet at no time during the chaos did I realize that (in addition to a great amount of prayer, sacramental grace, and outside help) the thing keeping us moving was that we had all individually taken ownership of a common goal. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that the conviction of intentional family living was carrying us even when it seemed like we were ignoring it.
It was our automatic reflex…our auto pilot.
We were on the same page because before this season of chaos we committed ourselves to being on the same page as a priority. It didn’t happen overnight and at many times, particularly when my children were all younger, I wondered why on earth we were trying. Yet over time, there it was.
Exactly where we needed it to be, when we needed it to be there.