Mark van den Steenhoven

Integrated Life

This is a word I'm using quite a lot in the last year and especially when it's about missional discipleship. A definition of integration which I found is: combining or coordinating seperate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole. 

Living integrated lives is what I try to do with Jacolien and our household. For me this means that I'm not living in different boxes, but to be the same person in different areas of life. It also means that we open our lives so that people really get the chance to know us. I think this is key when we are discipling people, because we influence people more by the person who we are and what we do then by the words we are speaking. Allow people into my life and spend time with me will give them the opportunity to imitate me. So bottomline we need to open up our lives and spend time with people. But everybody (including us) seems so busy. How can we find time to build discipling relationships? In this blog I'd like to share some things which are working well in our household.

Most of us need 2 or 3 meals a day, so why not eat together? I know some of you will think, yeah thanks I'm already busy and this makes it even worse. Hold on for a second. When you keep the following practical tips in mind you'll discover that inviting people for meals is less busy then you may think. 

1. Keep it simple! You don't have to impress people with your cooking skills. If the focus is on discipleship then don't focus too much on the food. Yes of course we want to have a nice meal, but it's not about the food. Choose a simple meal, which doesn't cost you a lot of time preparing. Make sure that you spend at least as much time at the table as preparing the table. Making a cooking book with easy recipes is really helpful. We have some great and easy curry's which we're cooking when people come around.

2. Set a clear boundary. Invite people only for the meal, which can be breakfast (why not?), brunch, lunch or dinner. When people are busy, then inviting them only for a specific time slot. For breakfast it's easier because most of us need to go to work. But when you invite people for dinner why not saying that they don't have to stay the whole night? Why not be clear about the expectations at the beginning? Just say to them, we know you're busy, so come at 6 pm have dinner with us and feel free to go at 7.30 or 8. And you know what? This is a win-win situation, they have the rest of the evening to do what they need to do and ..... so do you!

3. Last but not least approach your 'visitors' as family. It helped me a lot to see people as family instead of guests. In a way it seems easier when it's family. Where I've been trying to impress people, I'm now more relaxed. I like the phrase I've heard: we're not perfect examples but living examples! 

Besides inviting people around for meals there is also a great opportunity to catch up when you ask them to join when you're doing things. For example traveling, shopping and for multi-taskers.. cooking. I'm most of the time quite task focused so inviting people to join was something that was not really on my radar. Now I'm doing this more and it's great to see that it works. 

Integration doesn't happen overnight and it can be a challenge. We need to be intentional about it (that is another word we're using quite a lot!) and it is a process. Allow yourself time and try different things. 

We'd love to hear more examples how you integrate your life or if you have any comments just leave a reaction!



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