Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nourish ~ Nourish by Noticing

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 16. To see the rest of the series click here!

It is one thing to aim to provide nourishment to your family as a whole, it is quite another to see to the individual nourishment of each life in your care. In a family of any size it is possible for kids to get lost in the shuffle. We sometimes lose kids and adults too around here — not physically, I usually know where they are — but we can so easily we lose our focus on each as his or her own being. 

We often speak of “the kids” or “our gang” and we forget that each part of “our crew” is a whole individual with a unique set of joys and struggles and fears and strengths. I’m learning that it is important to learn what the special characteristics of each of our children are exactly. I’m also finding that gathering this information is not a simple task…at all. It turns out that kids don’t walk around with their buttons all exposed, though why the good Lord didn’t make them that way I’d like to know. 

Wouldn’t it be great to turn to a child who has just entered the room and notice that on their control panel a green light was lit which indicates that their belly is full. Or perhaps when another, taller kid moves past you, you would notice that there was an orange warning light flashing which would let you know with a glance that that particular child was in need of physical activity pronto if a total melt down later is to be avoided. How about an indicator for your mate that shines purple when he’s had a good day of work? Or a flashing blue light that glows from the mom when her nerves are getting a bit jangly to let her family know to simmer down a little.

Not a bad plan right?

Except, I suspect family members would talk to one another even less than I imagine we already do. Also, just cramming food down a kid’s gullet when a hungry light flashes is hardly making a nourishing connection with her…it’s a start, but better is to be found. It takes time and energy to get to know your folks. Time and energy that I need to remember to spend because if I don’t take the time to preform a little due diligence on my people, to become an expert on them, I’ll miss out on opportunities to nourish!

Questions for due diligence (or suggestions for becoming an expert on your individual family member for the sole purpose of his or her nourishment):

What is a favorite meal &/or that each person adores?
Is he a morning person or a night owl?
What school subjects (or areas of his/her job) are most challenging to her?
What comes naturally to them?
How can you most effectively “fill their love tank”? *
What makes her feel pretty?

What is it about the person you are studying that you have in common?

What activities do they look forward to? What do they dread?

Is he/she an introvert or an extrovert? (Does time among people energize her or drain her?)**

What does he like to do in his free time?

What are their favorite flavors, colors, smells?

What makes him laugh?

What chores do they hate? What chores are no big deal to them?

What makes him nervous? 

Of what is she confident?

What kind of music has he recently discovered?

Does she have a favorite author or genre of book? 

Where is her favorite place to hang out? Eat out? 

*For an excellent read about “filling love tanks” grab a copy of “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It’s intended for couples but is so easily and helpfully applied to every one with a “love tank” which is every single one of us! It’s a short book and is an extraordinarily easy read. Highly recommended! 

**Much more on the subject of introverts and extroverts can be found in Susan Cain’s excellent book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” and also in her Ted Talks video here.

A gentle word of CAUTION!!!! 

The above questions are for you to answer as you observe each individual and as you intentionally engage them in conversation. These questions are not intended to be a questionnaire with which you interrogate. That just won’t be nourishing at all. It will be frightening to the one you intend to serve! 

This list of questions is also only a beginning to get you started on your journey to being an expert on each person in your family. The more you watch, the more you’ll notice, and the greater the expert you’ll become. 

Helpful hint: While gathering information don't be satisfied with just learning about your folks. WRITE IT DOWN!! I recently asked my gang individually what their favorite foods were...and I can only remember half of what they told me. Use a separate notecard for each person or a separate notebook on Evernote (the best app for this I think), don't trust your brain, it's too me here!!

After you’ve earned expert status on those closest to you, consider extending the circle a little wider. There are plenty of folks out there who could use a little "nourishing by noticing."

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

~Timothy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

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