During these super-busy seasons of life, I am more prone to get irritated at inefficiency. I have noticed that when I have 4 or more of the kids working together on a particular chore, they tend to get distracted easier (especially the 2, 4, and 6 year old). They also have a tendency to not display brotherly affection towards each other (remember our key verse this year: 2 Peter 1:5-8... the 4 oldest kids have this memorized now). So ultimately what happens is that the task which could easily have been done in 15 or so minutes takes an HOUR! With the 7 and 10 year old arrows (children) doing the most work. An example of this would be cleaning up the kitchen after a meal. Actually, it is almost exclusively in this chore where we have had issues.
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,but those who plan peace have joy. Proverbs 12:20 (emphasis mine)
During my quiet time several weeks ago, the Holy Spirit really spoke to me through this verse... plan peace! Now this isn't rocket science! In fact, I have been planning peace for years during various activities. When my children are reminded how they are to behave during church, I am planning for peace. When I tell them what is expected of them during grocery shopping, I am planning for peace. When we lovingly, Biblically, discipline them, we are planning for peace. But let's face it, our children are born into sin. We do not have to teach them how to lie, steal, whine, be selfish, etc... they are born that way. We are to train up our children in the way they should go; even when they are old, they are will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Training our children in the way they should go IS planning for peace. Training requires WORK, DILIGENCE, and DISCIPLINE on the part of us as parents. We can not "parent-from-the-couch" and expect the results to be optimal.
So what does it look like to PLAN PEACE? First of all, we need to recognize that "plan" is a verb and requires you to be intentional in order to carry it out. It is an active process, not a passive process. You can not "do nothing" and plan peace. You have to think and plan, and then follow through. Satan will do what he can to prevent you from obeying the Word of God, so the most important step in the process is prayer. I have a list of scriptures and biblical promises written down that I routinely pray through... this scripture is one of them. By doing that, I am enlisting the power of the Holy Spirit to help me plan for peace. He gives me patience, wisdom, energy, and whatever else I may need to glorify God in my parenting each day. Do I regularly fail? Yes... but He does grant me new mercies each morning; and by His grace He lovingly convicts me of my sin, training me each moment so I am better equipped to train my children.
Next, I try to identify areas during the day that aren't peaceful. I will use the example of kitchen cleanup: how can I make that time more peaceful, efficient, and loving? There are several things that can be done here, and what may work for one day, week, month... may not work for the next. Also note that some of the things that work for us may not work for another family. I have found that reminding my "arrows" of 2 Peter 1:5-8 before beginning the task keeps them focused on acting more loving. (Col. 3:23 (Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men) and 1 Cor. 14:40 (Let all things be done decently and in order) are other verses that we commonly use. Another thing that we have found is on some tasks, having 2 kids working in an area at a time is more productive than 4 kids. So there have been times where I have a cooking helper (or two) who help with meal prep and clean-up before the meal and the rest of the kids clean up after the meal. If each child has an area they are responsible for, things go smoother too. When we are at "the farm" where there is no dishwasher and the dishes all are done by hand, the kids have a great system worked out with 4 jobs: washer, drier, "hander" who hands dry dishes to the child sitting on the counter, and "put-awayer" who sits on the counter so he/she can reach the cabinets. My kids also tend to be joyful in their work if there is music playing, so turning on the CD player and listening to praise/worship music, Westminster catechism questions set to music, children's hymns, or even Peter and the Wolf will boost everyone's mood (and speed). Making the chore into a game with a time limit can be fun too. I love watching them race the clock and work together to beat the buzzer. (Note: not all of these ideas are implemented at the same time on the same chore...).
Remember that parenting is training... even for the little ones. My just-turned-four year old can fold and put away laundry all by himself. My just-turned-2-year old is also included in these chores. She has been helping with household chores since she could walk. Don't let the little ones off of the hook; they WANT to help. Training them young is planning for peace too. They are able to fold towels/wash clothes, put silverware away, help unload/load the dishwasher, dust, etc... even when they are 1 year old! Yes, it requires more time on your part as the parent, but you are training them up and planning for peace. Planning for peace does not mean that you sit your kids in front of the TV while you take care of household duties. Sure, it is easier and may be more peaceful for the moment, but did that train your kids in godliness?
Don't forget to praise your kids for a job well done. We tend to point out the negatives and forget to mention the positives. We need to train our kids to have a Godly attitude towards work and each other, and we need to have Godly attitudes as well.
What about planning for peace in your marriage? Do you tell your husband how much you appreciate him when he gets home from work? Do you show him respect that comes from your heart? What are some things you can do to make a peaceful relationship?
This list certainly is not exhaustive. It contains a few ideas of how our household plans for peace. Do you plan for peace? Have you ever thought of planning peace? What works in your home? There are many aspects that this verse can be applied to: parenting, marriage, work place, friendships, church body... I encourage you to prayerfully evaluate areas in your life that need peace!