Part 4: More Ways to Love Your Family and Others
Last week, I offered the first part of a list of hands on ways to love your family and friends in grad school. Here’s the rest of the list.
8. Schedule it. When something is important, we schedule it. And when we schedule it, it gets done. One couple went out for pizza each week after church, while another had regular “Taco Bell talks.” Laurel mentioned scheduling weekly date nights as one key for her and her husband during school.
9. Do something special… This one is mainly (though not only) for the guys. In my experience, the women in our lives want to feel special. (And they are, right?) One woman says that her husband Tim “is great at this. Even when his schedule is really tight, he goes out of his way to rearrange his schedule so that we can have quality time together (even if this may be detrimental to his work).” Occasional, bigger surprises like an overnight away or special concert can also go a long way.
10. … or not. On the other hand, little, consistent things can truly communicate love to our spouse, kids, and friends, too. Mike texts his wife to let her know he appreciates something she did, or point to a bible verse that will encourage her. I used to leave my wife little notes around the house that would surprise her when I had to be on campus.
11. Take a genuine interest. Truly listening and drawing our spouse or friends out is so important. One wife says, “This is hard for me sometimes with [my husband] since his day-to-day is relatively predictable and the stuff he’s doing is way over my head. But I try to make an effort to probe beyond the surface.”
12. Start and/or end the day together. Starting or ending the day with our spouse and kids is powerful and keeps us connected. (For young children in particular, even a few minutes at bedtime is strangely magical and helps them feel safe). Doing this may require us to make adjustments to our natural rhythms, like putting our work down when we’d rather keep cranking away into the night.
13. Work together. If you’re married with young children and both working, special challenges can arise. One friend shared, “We cover a lot for each other – Lauren will watch [our daughter] while I go into the lab early in the morning or stay late at night, or I will watch her while Lauren goes to work for part of a Saturday. For us, working to make each other’s research possible is one of the ways that we love each other.”
14. Confess it when you blow it. We’re bound to cross the boundaries we’ve agreed to from time to time or drift back into unhealthy patterns. When we do, confessing that to God and the people we’ve hurt – without excuses – goes a long way toward making things right.
15. Practicing for later. Every time I talk to a friend who has one child (we have four), he says, “We’re so tired with just one. I don’t know how you do it!” And every time, my answer is the same: “We’re not super-parents. We tried our best with what was in front of us, and God prepared us one step at a time.” That applies to wherever you are. Whether it’s planning the next date night, putting your work down for 10 minutes to truly listen, or doing the next diaper change, being faithful with the next small thing is preparing you for what lies ahead (see Luke 16:10). Your future life will not(!) be easier, but you’ll be able to handle it with relative ease if you’re faithful now.
So, there you go. Fifteen practical ideas for loving the people around you even while you’re still in school. Even though it can be incredibly difficult, taking small steps in the right direction can add up and help our most important relationships thrive during this challenging season of life.
Which of the above ideas might be most helpful to you during your time in school? What other ideas should be added to the list? Share with us in the comments below!
Lord, I admit that it’s so easy to get lost in my day-to-day responsibilities with school. And lose sight of the people you’ve called me to love. Please show me how I can very practically love them better, and remind me that your grace is sufficient for me as I try. In Jesus’s Name, amen.