It's one thing for us to talk about cutting excess from our schedules so we have more time with our kids. Trade out TV for reading time. Spend less time online in exchange for time at the park. You know, the usual time wasters. But when Newsboy-rock-and-roller Phil Joel, and his TV-personality-wife Heather, say it, it takes on a whole new level of seriousness. Phil and Heather have given up what most of us would only dream of having. Why? So they can spend more time at home with their kids. Recently we caught up with them to ask what you're probably thinking: Are you kidding me?
Did you always want kids? What kinds of thoughts did you have about children and family when you first got married?
We always knew we wanted to have kids one day!
What prompted you to start your family?
Heather: By the time we got pregnant, we’d been married five years. We’d had an amazing ride up to that point with it just being the two of us, but we both began to get that feeling that someone was missing. We prayed about it and felt a real excitement and peace.
What emotional or practical hurdles did you have to overcome in order to start your family?
Phil: It took us a little while to settle down and get certain things out of our systems—well, mainly Heather’s system. She was hosting a TV show for Country Music Television (CMT) up until the time she got pregnant and she really loved her job. She had to travel quite a bit and knew she didn’t want to keep up that kind of pace once we had children. We knew we wanted to be fully focused on parenting when we started into that season of our lives, so it was a bit of a mental transition out of the mindset of television and road tripping to the great and awesome job of being a momma.
How are you building such a vibrant and strong family; where do you go for advice and encouragement?
Heather: Our main strategy for our family is keeping it simple. We try not to allow our lives to get cluttered up with bunches of activities and stuff. Family dinners around the table, lots of reading, bike rides, talking and taking lots of time to “stop and smell the roses” are what we fill up our time with. We once heard the challenge “are you going to be a media-centered family or a relationship-centered family”? That question really impacted our thinking—we now use that as the measuring stick for the things we do.
We are big on finding great ideas and resources—anything we can get our hands on that we can enjoy together. We’re always on the look out for new things—we’re resource junkies!
Phil: Our best resource ever ... Heather has been blessed with the greatest mom on earth! She is the best sounding board, advice giver, encourager, truth speaker and is always there with a listening ear. We are so blessed to have her!
How has God revealed himself to you through your children?
The parent/child relationship is such a fascinating parallel to a person’s relationship with God the Father. God has given us that dynamic as an awesome picture of how He loves us completely and unconditionally while at the same time shaping, teaching, training, and growing us into the people He created us to be. We will always be children under His care no matter how old we are!
What surprised you most about becoming parents?
Heather: Over and over people would always say, ”make sure you get your sleep before the new baby comes” ... we’d think, “okay, okay ... we know.” Well apparently we were totally unable to prepare for our newfound lack of sleep. We had no idea how close to “insane zombie” you feel in the first few weeks with a newborn. It’s like your mind gets frozen and you walk around in a fog.
What's the most annoying toy or children's show/video that parenthood has brought into your life?
Heather: When any one theme can be found on pencils, vitamins, hair clips, toothbrushes, socks, underwear, gum, light switches, drinking cups, backpacks, tennis shoes, juice boxes, etc., it feels like somebody is set on extracting every last dollar from people’s wallets. Over-branding is a big turn off!
How has having children affected your marriage?
Phil: It’s made Heather and me really come together in a new way as a team. We are always talking through things relating to the kids as individuals as well as the way we are doing “family” as a whole.
How has it affected your career(s)?
Phil: Well, it’s led to quite a significant change for us. Two-and-a-half years ago, Heather and I decided that it was time for me to finish up my time with Newsboys (the band I’d been in for 12&1/2 years). We were on the road quite a bit and we realized that this kind of pace wouldn’t be healthy for us as a family long term. At the same time the Lord had really been putting this deliberatePeople ministry/message/music on my heart.
Heather and I knew that in life, seasons change and having a family really re-sets the playing field. We knew that if we wanted our family to thrive, we needed to make some significant changes regarding my job. I still get to do music and play shows, but my schedule is much more open. I get tons of time at home with Heather and the kids and I get to really focus on the things that God is putting on our hearts to share.
Phil, when do you find time to write music and record as a dad?
I am really blessed to be able to work out of my home studio in the back yard—it’s an old carriage house that we converted into a studio. I keep regular work hours writing and recording. I have an “open door” policy with friends and family—the kids (and friends) are always popping in for visits. It’s a huge blessing!
A friend of ours describes the family as a "domestic church." What's life like in your "domestic church"?
Phil: We know that the key element in our family is my walk with the Lord and Heather’s walk with Him. If we are to be the godly leaders in our home and shepherds of our children’s hearts, we have got to be seeking Him, knowing Him, and looking toward Him as our provider. If we try and take on the huge task of raising our family in this culture on our own, we are done for. As we are pursuing the Lord each day and relying on His strength, vision and strategies, we can be confident that He will lead us and show us the things we need to know in order to lead and grow up our family.
It starts with us and the Lord individually, and from there it directly impacts our marriage and then the way we raise our children.
Before launching deliberatePeople. in 2005, Phil Joel was bassist and support vocalist for the Newsboys. He and his wife Heather, former host of CMT's All Access and Hit Trip, have two children, Phynley (8) and Eden (5).
The Joels realized how having a deliberate encounter with God everyday was the key to greater intimacy with Him and how this lifestyle would revolutionize peoples’ lives.
Learn more about their ministry and music at deliberatePeople.com
(Note: You can hear Phil and Heather tell more of their story on the Boundless Show.)