Today I’d like to extend a special welcome to Rachel Anne of Home Sanctuary and her Company Girls!

Rachel Anne conducted an interview with me for the Company Girls and included excerpts of it in her newsletter, which was just published.

Here’s the interview in its entirety:

Home Sanctuary: With the demands on families these days, is it really possible to slow down?

Ann Kroeker/Not So Fast: Maybe you’ll think I’m unrealistic, but yes, I do think it’s possible—so much so that I was confident enough to use the phrase “slow-down solutions for frenzied families” as the book’s subtitle! But (and this is the hard part) we have to counter the culture, because the culture around us is in overdrive. Unless we make bold, intentional choices, we’ll end up in overdrive, too, by default. It’s not easy. However, if we turn to the Lord in prayer, open to change, He can help us develop the needed discernment, vision, courage and confidence to change our deepest values that may result in a major family slow-down.

Home Sanctuary: What are some of the benefits you’ve seen in your family as a result of slowing the pace down?

Ann Kroeker/Not So Fast: I don’t operate well emotionally or relationally when I’m stressed and in high speed—neither do the kids. I get snippy, agitated, nervous, easily upset. So slowing down means we are all less snippy with each other and generally more gentle, loving and kind. We do better at noticing and responding to details—whether something of beauty in this world, or pain in someone’s eyes. I think we have more joy and fun as a family. We have more time to be in other people’s lives, too, building friendships, serving neighbors and enjoying spontaneous outings. We have time to read, work on family projects, explore interests, and we’re out in nature more. Most importantly, I believe we have more time available to seek the Lord, both individually and together as a family.

Home Sanctuary: Do you have a favorite “slow down” tip?

Ann Kroeker/Not So Fast: Well, high-speed families may have to start small and simple. For them, I’d suggest doing something, however simple, that gets them outside in God’s creation. Pick a day and time to take a regular walk as a family. This works for all ages. The first few walks may be simply around the block or down the street and back. Eventually, a family may choose to increase the distance or frequency, because they can relax and talk about their days and goals and dreams. They can notice seasonal changes and wave to their neighbors. Unplugging and chatting like this reinforces the slow life. If there’s no time for a walk, how about just pausing at sunset to watch the sun slip out of sight? Stop and thank the Lord for giving the family another day of life together.

Home Sanctuary: How about a “slow down” food recipe?

Ann Kroeker/Not So Fast: When families’ schedules are full to the brim, breakfast is sometimes a grab-n-go affair. So I like cooking steel cut oats overnight in a crock pot, using a double-boiler method. It’s not exactly a recipe—more like instructions—but the steel cut oats are warm, nourishing and ready to serve when you wake up in the morning. They feel slow. Here’s the link, with instructional photos and explanatory text.

Home Sanctuary: How do you deal with technology (tv, phone, texting, facebook, gaming) in your family?  Do you have suggestions for families who want to limit it but don’t know where to start?

Ann Kroeker/Not So Fast: In Not So Fast, I devote an entire chapter to our family’s technology saga. I use technology, so I am not Luddite. But I also see how it speeds up a lot of things in people’s lives in unhealthy ways. It’s easier to wait a long time to introduce something than to buy something right away and then take it away later because it’s having a negative effect. Pray about it. Research what experts are saying about each item that you’re considering, and ask if you think it will help your child move closer to the Lord or pull her away? Will it enhance relationships or wreak havoc? Will it enrich their lives or keep them from more enriching experiences?

Once you invite some type of technology into your lives, set limits and monitor it closely. I recommend seriously limiting or eliminating any technology that causes a kid to show signs of addiction, rebellion, or anti-social behavior toward the family. If it is enhancing life and is a tool well managed, it may be okay. See if the Lord starts to reveal trouble areas and talk about it with the kids. Act boldly if they can’t change or control their use of it.

I don’t know that we’ve made all the best decisions, but here’s where we are today: The kids don’t have Facebook. I do, however. I set up an account, and over time it’s become an extension of my professional/ministry/writing life. Some of my kids’ friends have friended me, so I can pass on relevant information. The kids own handheld gaming gadgets that they can use with limits. Just a couple of months ago, the two oldest, ages 15 and 13, bought their own phones and pay for their minutes; again, they have limits and I reserve the right to confiscate the games or phones at any moment and to read every text. They agreed to it. We have two TVs with few and uninteresting channels. Neither TV set is on the main floor of the house or in a child’s room. As a result, we watch very, very little television or movies. The kids have e-mail that we review when concerned. They also have computers that they use in public spaces.

Every family has to decide what works for them. We have friends who don’t own a TV at all and love the freedom. We have friends whose high school kids don’t have a phone yet or have one phone that all the kids share. It’s not the norm, but we don’t have to go with what the culture is doing just because it’s the norm. We have to do what we feel is right for our family. Even if it makes us look a little backward.

Home Sanctuary: Family devotions can be really hard to pull off consistently.  Do you have any suggestions?

Ann Kroeker/Not So Fast: Years ago we tried to make it more involved, and that became too much work. One idea is to try having devotions while on the walk that you start incorporating into your week! Any time we can dovetail it with something that’s already a habit will help make it easier to integrate.

Our family eats at home most of the time, so we open up the One-Year Bible at the end of the evening meal and pick one verse from that day’s reading to talk about. It’s simple, doesn’t take long, and can involve all ages. Sometimes we have some really interesting conversation that way, and sometimes it’s really brief and basic. Some families do better with a book to guide them through some discussions, and others prefer a bigger devotion time once a week over a small, simpler daily routine. Experiment. Try something for one month and then tweak it the next.

I do think it’s important to be comfortable talking regularly about the Lord and learning to pray together. I hope your readers give it a try. Seeking Him together as a family can transform a family—at whatever speed a family operates, I hope that they learn to keep in step with the Spirit.

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