Italia family members, from left, Elizabeth, John, Thomas and EmmaLee, talk about the school day and weekend plans after preparing dinner together. EmmaLee Italia photo

Italia family members, from left, Elizabeth, John, Thomas and EmmaLee, talk about the school day and weekend plans after preparing dinner together. EmmaLee Italia photo

By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, in an era of fewer distractions and more predictable schedules, family members spent time in one another’s presence by default.

Homes centered around daily chores essential for survival – the growth, harvest and preparation of food, as well as the construction and upkeep of clothing, livestock, tools, the house itself – anything that allowed life to continue in spite of climate, conflict and other uncontrollable forces. And at the center of it all, for families of faith, was the recognition that none of this was even possible without the hand of God interceding daily – so prayers of petition and thanksgiving were equally essential to family existence.

While not free of challenges or conflict in the modern age, many household tasks have been surmounted for the free world. Food is nearly always available, even prepared and ready to eat at a moment’s notice. Homes are energy efficient and filled with conveniences unthinkable just a generation or two ago. Our chores have changed, and correspondingly, so have our agendas.

Fully-stocked calendars have taken center stage in our lives, replacing the rhythms of nature, expanding the time our brains and bodies are expected to be engaged – but not necessarily with each other.

 No longer constrained by the struggles of day-to-day survival, we have replaced much of our family time together with activities and longer work hours. Some undertakings bring the family together, while others have us splitting up in different directions to meet the demands of work commutes, sports, meetings and other obligations.

Much needed down time, first exemplified by the Creator as he aside the seventh day to rest, has all but disappeared. And our bodies, minds, spirits and relationships are reaping the consequences of that deficit: our physical health as a nation is declining, with chronic disease and stress on the rise, and our insufficient free time leaves little or no space for quiet reflection or spiritual devotion. Our “face-time” – the original in-another’s-physical-presence – has dwindled, transformed with digital substitutions.

How can we balance the needs that a modern life demands, without shortchanging the needs of the family unit? What if prioritizing family time – intentionally engaging with one another in household tasks, play and prayer – can bring us closer to our physical and spiritual well-being, while fortifying family bonds?

Read on …

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