A cove is the most important and obvious part of any harbor. The cove is essential and is the also the identifying part of a harbor You see, the cove of a harbor is the body of calm water that is sheltered by land which encircles it leaving an opening for mariners to enter from the open sea. The land provides protection from the severe winds and waves and creates the safe space for the harbor to exist. A cove provides protection and shelter for all the other harbor elements. A cove is a peaceful, welcoming place; a respite from the turbulent water beyond. Without a cove, there can not be a harbor.
In Your Harbor Home, the cove contains your most essential values and your core beliefs about love and unity in the family. Your cove is your most personal space and is where everyone comes to be nurtured and kept safe. There are many simple ways to create a cove that enhances the harbor of your home, and all it takes is a a bit of mindfulness.
In part two of "The Cove In Your Harbor Home: Love Never Fails" we will be looking at more ways to create the cove that you desire for Your Harbor Home. If you have not read part one yet, check it out for other ideas that you can do today to increase the joy in your cove.
1. Your heart as a cove
It is said that children spell love T-I-M-E. This truth is carried across all strong relationships. We give our time to the people and activities that are the most important to us. In essence, when we give our time to our families we are actually giving our heart. When we give someone our time, we are giving something that is more valuable than anything else we possess because we cannot manufacture more of it. We can earn more money, make more gifts, imagine more experiences, but we only have the time we have been appointed, and giving it freely to another is to share the essence of life.
In a cove, time is spent as positively as possible. In a cove, isolated screen time is limited. In a cove, disputes are handled quickly and produce an outcome that keeps relationships intact. (See Apologizing In Your Harbor Home) Time is too precious to waste it being unkind or impatient. When your heart is a cove, you choose to involve yourself in an uplifting way with those who share the space. Give your heart by giving time.
So often, I’ve heard people say that they “don’t have time” to sit down and play or read with their children and other loved ones. Let me say very clearly that you can make time for anything that truly matters. Turn off the television. Get off of Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, YouTube, Pinterest, Candy Crush or whatever draws you to pick up your phone every three minutes. Just live in the cove and be present in the lives of those around you. You can do it. Set your phone and other distractions aside for a block of time each day. A few short blocks of time are better for young children. This decreases their need to seek attention in negative ways, so you might see behavior improvements in them.
Remember that there will come a day when the only laundry in the hamper will be yours, the only meals you will prepare will be for yourself, the only noise in the house will come from you. You can use the time you have with your family all together any way you choose. Choose to make a cove of your heart. Once you are alone in your home you probably won’t look back and wish you had watched more television. You’ll wish for more games of Candyland and more kites flown on breezy Saturday mornings. Trips to big box theme parks will not be as meaningful or create better memories than making up new words to old songs as you ride in the car.
2. Your words as a cove
When my children were small I taught them a modified version of an old proverb. It went this way: “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will break my heart.” I used it as a reminder and a mantra that I expected the words that we spoke to one another to be uplifting or, at least, not harmful. I reminded them that words are powerful and easily cause wounds that are not easily healed. In our cove, we were to be cautious with our words.
Were we always cautious with our words? Absolutely not. But we learned how to sincerely say “I’m sorry” when we were unkind. Apologies were quick to be spoken and forgiveness quickly given. One of the most important truths concerning words is that once they have been spoken, they cannot ever be unspoken. They are like arrows shot from a bow. They are flung out from our mouths into the minds of those who hear them, and there they rest. Sometimes they rest and reverberate for decades. Kind words or hurtful words, they linger on. Choose your words carefully so that they will strengthen and sustain your cove. Remind your children that in your cove, words are used to build each other up and not tear each other down.
Our words can influence healing or pain, courage or fear, hope or despair. There is no way to overstate the power of the spoken word. Surely you can pause and remember clearly the words of someone who spoke to you and those words gave you the desire to accomplish something great or try something new. Perhaps you remember someone who said something to you and those words influenced you to give up on a dream. The writer of the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about this. My favorite is this:
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Proverbs 16:24 NIV
It is clear that the words spoken in your cove can either heal or harm, so it is very important that the words spoken in your Harbor Home come from a place of love and peace. There are many techniques for keeping your words truthful and loving. Words matter, so make sure that your words are good and true.
One time honored way of getting control over your angry or hurtful words is to simply count several numbers before speaking. In other words, pause. Stop. Don’t speak until you’ve gotten beyond the initial reaction. Just. Don’t. Speak. Wait until you know that you won’t later regret what you’re going to say. It is a bad feeling to be surprised by the words coming out of your own mouth! Trust me on this one. It’s a bad feeling. As the Apostle Paul assured us, “Instead, speaking the truth in love we will become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” Ephesians 4:15
Another way is to practice (there’s that word again…remember from part one?) what you want to say before a situation occurs. Have you noticed how often you find yourself in the same situations or conversations with your children or spouse or other members of your family? I find it helpful to keep a mental list, and on occasion a written list, of the best, most positive response I can make in some of the situations or conversations that are replayed over and over in our harbor home.
Go ahead and stop right now and make a note, written or mental, about the scenarios in your harbor home that are replayed over and over. Some are funny, some are neutral, but some bring negative words and responses virtually every time. You dread these recurring interactions, you see them on the horizon, and yet you are usually unprepared to respond in a manner that reveals the cove that we are creating in our Harbor Home.
Imagine a positive response to the situations that drain away peace instead of replenishing it. Begin now to realize that you can choose a response that will build the cove in the harbor you want. Like the other habits in this chapter, this one takes practice. Look at a few examples of responses that reflect life in a cove:
a. Expectations in the cove: Positively state, clearly and without passion, the behavior that is expected within your harbor home. For example: Suppose your nine year old comes in from school and drops his book bag on the floor of the laundry room. You want it to be taken to the hook by the front door so that it can be ready for the next morning. So rather than raising your voice, berating him and telling him that you have told him a million times that his book bag does not go on the floor, remind him calmly and firmly what he should do with his book bag. Your words could be similar to this: “Your book bag goes on the hook by the door. Take it there now please.” It is important to note that your voice is calm, your eyes are on the same level as his eyes, your feet are pointing at him and you are using a low tone of voice. A firm, loving tone eliminates the need for raised, harsh voices. This technique makes very clear the behavior you do want, as opposed to focusing on behavior you do not want. Positively state the expectation. Stay calm while doing so.
b. Refrain from using upspeak: Upspeak, or rising intonation, is very common among Americans. This is the habit many of us have of speaking our phrases with a higher tone at the end of them. This effectively turns statements into questions. The implication is that you are offering a choice. Unless you truly are offering a choice, your inflection should remain flat. Look at this example: The entire family is leaving for baseball practice in forty five minutes, and you must eat dinner before you go. The meal is prepared and ready to serve, but your nine year old is lingering at his tablet. So you say, “Sweetie, put your tablet down and come eat...okay?” Or “Honey, can you come on now, okay?” He doesn’t budge. Instead of these ineffective, wheedling phrases, try clearly speaking your expectation with no upspeak or ending the statement with “Okay?”. Asking “Okay?” is another way of implying that a choice is available. In your harbor home, there are times when individuals may choose their activities, and times when the greater good of the family must be respected and therefore all must cooperate with the schedule. So try phrasing it this way. “Dinner is ready now. Put down your tablet, wash your hands and come to the table.” Remember to keep your tone low, your inflection flat and your words firm and calm. If you have to repeat the directions, the tablet could be forfeited the next day as a reminder of the expectations in a harbor home.
c. Only speak consequences that you are willing to pursue: We all reach a point at which we feel completely at our wits end and as though we’ve used all our positive options. At such a time it is tempting to issue dire threats that you know in your heart you will never follow through on. Doing this completely erodes your credibility and demonstrates that you are no longer in control of the harbor home. And let me be very clear about this: your children want you to be in control of the harbor in which they live. They know that without you in control they are not safe. Often, out of bounds behavior is simply a way to make sure that you are still in control. Families in which the adults are loving, firm and clearly in charge produce children who are secure and ready to take their place in the world and create their own harbor when the time comes. So, unless you are actually going to use a bungee cord to secure your child to the roof rack of your car and drive them to the closest orphanage, don’t tell them that you’re going to do that. Just saying.
d. Bribery is counterproductive: Bribery may seem like a good idea in a trying moment but, in the long run, offering a tangible reward for reasonable and cooperative behavior backfires. Remember that in a Harbor Home, we work together because we are a community that loves and depends on another. The one who is expected to cooperate with the community today, will certainly need to rely on the community’s cooperation later. Life in a Harbor Home is a series of gestures and actions in which giving and receiving are a necessary part for all to be safe and loved. Truly being part of a community that shares responsibilities and works well to help each other is worth more in the long run than any five dollar trinket you can offer if the child will just brush their teeth before leaving to go to school. Or whatever.
e. Model encouraging words: The people around you are listening and absorbing your words. As an adult in leadership of your harbor home, your example of encouraging those who live in the harbor with you is vital. Look for and find reasons to offer encouragement and praise. When encouragement is the most common conversation heard, the times when you must speak out in correction will be distinct, and therefore more likely to be heard. If your words are more often corrective and discouraging, they are more likely to be dismissed when you really need them to be heard. Make your encouragement frequent and lavish. Keep your corrections rare and succinct.
f. Eliminate Bad Words: You know the ones I mean. Profanity has no place in….well, it has no place anywhere. If you are reading this , I assume you are out of middle school and beyond the need to show off your extensive vocabulary of foul language. Remember that words can’t be unsaid, and there are so many alternatives to these. Train yourself to use language that uplifts and if these kinds of rude words are in your daily conversation pattern, stop. Your children are listening and will repeat every phrase you use. Words matter. Use words that are in good taste. Use your words to build.
3. Your Home As A Cove
When your family is at home, where is everybody? Is someone in the kitchen, someone else in the office, one child is in the den, and the other is somewhere and being suspiciously quiet? Certainly there are times almost every day when your family will be scattered throughout your house, even if you are in a small house like mine, a tiny apartment like my daughter’s or a large house like some of my neighbors’. In a harbor home, however, there should come a time in most days when the family comes together to be in a shared space. If your family doesn’t have this habit yet, you can begin it today. When you are in this shared space, acknowledge each other. Speak. Say hi. My son and his wife have a daily practice of asking the twins during dinner, “What were the best and worst parts of today?” They all take turns, and everybody gets a chance to speak without interruption. It is a beautiful moment that is part of each day in their very busy harbor home. After this exchange, it’s more than okay to watch a movie or do independent activities. This is not the time to criticize a sloppily made bed or unkempt hair. This should be a positive time when you are simply in your cove and all is well. Share the space, look at each other. Smile at your spouse and your children. Let them catch you giving them a loving glance. If you love them and you know it, your face will surely show it!
The cove of your home is, as I said, is the central element of your Harbor Home. This is where to start. But remember: if you are reading this the cove is a safe space for you also. Enjoy the peace and contentment that your cove and your harbor offers. You are a precious treasure and the cove is for you as well as the people you share it with. Create it and enjoy it.