How our family has gotten closer with a 30-min Weekly Practice
An introduction to a weekly segment in this site called "Weekly Devotion" where I will write about the fruit of our Weekly Family Devotion
Our family situation has always been extraordinary. When I introduce myself to strangers and mention that I have six siblings, a 45-year old Mom, and a late Dad who passed away 7 years ago, their eyeballs go behind their sockets and I can just imagine what goes through their minds: the word
c-o-m-p-l-i-c-a-t-e-d doesn't seem too far-fetched. And so, in the spirit of this extraordinariness, our family has always had an unusual way of living. Today, my two youngest siblings, Holly and Tiago, and I live in Baguio with our Mom; my eldest brother, Aki, lives in Alabang with our grandparents; my sister, Julia, was just assigned to Cebu for work; and my two brothers, Robbie and Marco, live in Ortigas, near their school (each one of us moves to Manila for college), and it's been this way for quite some time now. It wasn't always this way though. When I was younger, I experienced such a rich and colorful childhood - my Dad was still around, my Mom was the ultimate housewife, and we all lived under the same roof.
All of this to say that naturally, my youngest siblings, Holly and Tiago, didn't really experience the same sense of family that I did when I was younger. They're unfortunately handicapped that way - 7 years without a Dad, a Mom that's had to be both Mom AND Dad most of their lives, and older siblings that are just too busy with school and work. Thankfully, even with the unusual circumstances that have plagued their lives, they're growing up to be very loving, responsible, and affectionate kids. Though understandably, when I went back to Baguio and had a heart-to-heart with them, they said that they've been feeling left out, neglected and lonely. And I honestly couldn't blame them - after all, I couldn't even remember calling them regularly the whole time I lived in Manila (a whole 7 years!).
I knew that we just needed time to really talk to each other. So, we started with the small things. My Mom and I made sure that we had dinner on the table together, spoke until we finished the meal, and cleaned the table up together. At least we had dinner. But another practice that I introduced to my Mom and my two siblings (one I picked up from my former boss) was this little 30-minute tradition called a Weekly Devotion. Every week, we come together in my Mom's room and discuss both trivial and serious matters: work, school, relationships, virtues ... anything under the sun. We begin the session with a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us in the discussion, then we go into the meat (the Leader gets to choose how the Devotion will be conducted), and we end with a resolution for the week. It's a simple practice - it encourages creativity, it sparks discussion, but best of all, it requires action. The following week, we do a quick check on our resolutions before we start the next topic to see how we've done, and to share how we can do better.
The best part about this whole practice is that we all take part in it. Everyone has something to say, and everyone's voices are equally important. My Mom and I always talk about how amazed we are at the maturity of Holly and Tiago's thoughts. In my mind, they're just my baby sister and brother, but now they have minds of their own, and it's refreshing to hear their perspectives on matters of life and love. We also make sure that everyone's opinion and ideas matter - we try not to butt in when someone else is talking, we don't disregard opinions, and we listen intently to the Leader. The practice stimulates the mind and the spirit, and encourages healthy dialogue and discourse.
Now, although we haven't been very consistent and we still have a lot to work on, it's a tradition that we all look forward to. Even my other siblings who live in Manila have joined one or two of our sessions, and they love being able to talk and debate about a single topic as a family. Somehow, it's made us closer and more open to one another. I feel more connected and at ease with my siblings because of our discussions, and I hope they feel the same about me. The topics don't matter as much as the conversations do - just carving out a bit of time once a week to converse has already proven to be so much more fruitful than futile attempts in the past. And just as an added bonus: we get to practice communicating our ideas more clearly and effectively - a skill that we all need to hone.
So if you want to grow in mind and spirit with those closest to you, I suggest trying this practice out. All it takes is 30 minutes a week, and a firm resolve to carry out your commitment for the week.
If you want to try it out, here's a sample schedule and topics you can bring to your Weekly Family Devotion:
Try doing it every Wednesday or Thursday evening after dinner - a perfect time to get recharged in the middle of a hectic week. Do it in a comfortable place like your dining room or a bedroom. Assign a Leader once a week, and allow the Leader to choose any form of presentation - a simple discussion is usually our go-to, but we sometimes prepare PowerPoint presentations or movies to supplement the session.
3. Work as Prayer
4. Relationships in high school
8. Keeping yourself healthy
9. Respect of others and respect of self
10. The value of time
12. The skill of listening
13. Marriage and commitment
15. Hard work
If you do end up trying this, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
'til then, Onward & Upward!