Several years ago I joined a small group through my church and became quick friends with one of the other girls there. But after a year or so, she felt it was time to move on from the small group. Neither of us thought it was time to move on from the friendship, so we continued meeting together one-on-one. Largely, we went on walks or drank water sitting on my couch. Nothing special—but it was meaningful for us. Lives got busy and we lost touch for a bit, but after about a year of not seeing each other, we got together again. It was like no time had passed. Part of it is because of who she is and how God formed our friendship, but I also think conversation had a lot to do with it. Our time together was about getting to know each other and being invested in the happenings of each other's lives. So even though we lost touch, we had a deep connection that could be easily rekindled. The way we connected was through words; the walks or my couch just provided a venue.
This friend told me how much she appreciated our conversation and also how she had used something I learned in my family to help her in her relationships. We call it the "daily download." Growing up, and even to this day, my family has wanted to know what’s going on in each other’s lives. Perhaps it’s because we're an A-type family, but it seemed the easiest way to do this was to verbally walk each other through our days. In essence, when we catch up, we fill each other in on what we've done in the meantime.
For me, the daily download is a treasure. I know what’s happening in the life of my family because we share it. I know what questions to ask because I know the context in which my family is living. As a child, I felt cared for. My life seemed interesting; it was worth someone listening to the daily ins and outs. The content of my day mattered. I got to share my story. And I learned how to listen to other people's stories and be invested in their lives. The older I became, the more I came to know my parents and relate with them as friends.
There is an art to the daily download. Through the years we've learned that too much detail can be boring, and too little detail feels like a pointless monologue. Asking questions in the midst of or after the update is equally, or perhaps more, important. Without some substantive probing, it really is just a plotline of events. But even when there’s too much or too little detail or probing, we always know the family cares.
Although sometimes it seems like something we’re doing merely out of habit, we have a space carved out for the non-routine times. In some ways it’s similar to a spiritual discipline. We just show up—sometimes it feels like a worn out practice, but other times it feels deep and truly life-giving. Because our family routinely talks with each other, we can find an easy inroad to discuss deeper things. Because we make ourselves available to connect, we can.
When I was younger, it happened on the car ride home from school and at the dinner table. Now it happens through phone calls. I live in the same city as my parents and usually talk to them daily. My sister lives out of state with her husband and three kids, so when I visit my parents on Sunday afternoons we call her for the family "weekly download."
Obviously, every family, and every person within that family, is different. But finding something that works to keep you connected and to convey to your kids that their lives matter is crucial. Don't be afraid to talk openly about what you're trying to do. It may seem a bit crude to be so intentional or formulaic about conversation, but it works for us—and you may find that it works for you too. When kids are given a chance to share with others who are interested in listening, it makes them feel important, valued, and loved. And they’ll learn the very valuable skill of being able to listen to others.
Here are some suggested conversation-starters for your own daily download:
•How did today make you feel?
•What was your favorite part about today?
•What was your least favorite part about today?
•Did you learn or try anything new today?
•Did you have any great conversations today? Tell us about them!
•Tell us five words that describe your day.
Gwen Sellers is an Associate Editor for Got Questions Ministries, currently working with CompellingTruth.org. She has a bachelor's degree in English and is working toward a master's degree in counseling. Her passion is to fully embrace the abundant life she has been given in Christ and help other believers do the same. Her blogs are glimpses into God's lessons in her personal life. Gwen's prayer is that as you read her blogs, God will reveal His truth, His love, and His abundant grace for you.