The little neon green chairs and the 1940’s white leather bench were like magic in my house. The kids actually sat down to do their homework; their shoes were neatly stowed. Chores were cheerfully being fulfilled, somehow the laundry was already folded and the living room was tidy! With my new furniture acquired from my husband’s grandmother and my organized crew, I felt very Pinterest-y on this sunny morning. My house would never be chaotic again. This was going to be It for good! But then I looked again at the bench, the chairs and an end table with a little hole for writer’s ink. This time I saw not Pinterest but Grandma. The reason for this windfall- she died. Grandma “had it all” – an organized house, neon chairs, a good routine, children who co-operated. But that was not her crowning moment nor the goal. Her last breath was. Frail and empty handed, she surrendered the last bit of her life to Jesus and let go of this world. That was it for good. And that is it for me too. I aim not for beauty, systems and success but for the Cross. You too, if you are a Christian (a little Christ) are headed for the Cross. Total surrender, total abandonment, total brokenness, total service. And then we shall see what it will be like for Good. Try putting that on Pinterest.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain.” – John 12:24
“May the word of God dwell in you richly.” – Col 3:16 Oh, how I long for my kids to experience this! I know that they can be “transformed by the renewing of their minds” and touched deeply by the “living and active word.” But the Words of Scripture first need to enter into their thoughts. Seems like such a simple thing- for a parent or teacher to “feed” the word of God to her children but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling frustrated at the difficulty of this task.
Here’s an idea to help a bit:
Post a scripture verse for the week somewhere in your house. Have one of your kids pick the verse out from a list of suggestions (see below). Decorate it. Read it out loud when you pass it. Mention it. During bed time prayers, see if they remember it. Add more highlights and decorations to it as the week goes on.
We have a big chalk board in our mudroom that still has a message on it from 4 months ago. It think it is time to change it up and start this weekly bible verse idea! What are some of the ways that you help the word of God dwell richly in your children? Mention it in the comments if you’d like
Continue reading “Weekly Bible Verses”
A little while ago, my family of 6 studied one of the Psalms while eating a nice pancake breakfast. We didn’t fight. It wasn’t awkward. I didn’t preach. I wasn’t pulling teeth. It worked. Was it the fresh strawberries? The fact that my husband made the pancakes extra fluffy? Or maybe it was a good Psalm. Or was it that it was a simple approach? We have used this a few times since and it is so easy and open that I want to pass it on:
Draw a big heart on a paper and say, “the point of reading the bible or praying is always to love God and to receive his love. So, let’s keep love in mind.”
Notice – Draw a pair of glasses in the heart. “In this Scripture passage, what do you notice. What do you imagine? What do you see in your mind? If this bible portion were part of a movie, what would you see or hear? What do you smell or feel?” Read the passage and then let each person say something.
Wonder – Draw a think bubble (cloud with dots below). “What does this passage make you wonder? What are you curious about? What is confusing? What ideas pop up for you?” Read the passage again if you wish and then let each person say something.
Act – Draw a stick figure running. “What does this part of the bible make you want to do? Make some change or resolution? Pray about? Keep in mind?” Let each person share. This last one can perhaps be done as a prayer. “Jesus, I would like to …”
“Thank you, Jesus, for this time in your Word. Please help us to do the things you brought to mind. We love you. Amen”
There is only so much you have the capacity to do. No matter how much planning, creativity, staying up late or amazing effort, you can only be in one place at a time, doing one thing.
Kids naturally know this limitation. They whine. They call, “Mooommmm”. They expect their things will be taken care of even though they don’t pick up, put away, clean etc… They say they are hungry and expect to be fed. They don’t plan. They don’t understand all the work a parent needs to do, they just want to play with that parent. They cry and expect to be picked up. They trust.
Continue reading “We are limited”
There is a wellspring of things to offer to God and receive from him by simply looking at your life. This prayer never seems to get old because life is so full and God is so active. Here is my version of this “examen” or “reviewing of my day with God.” Most of it was passed on to me by some great Jesuits. 5-7 minutes is an ideal amount of time for this prayer but depending upon circumstances, it can take between 30 seconds to 30 minutes. Whether you pray with words, feelings or images, lift up everything to God, bringing your life into the loving Light of Christ. Periodically you can adapt this to review a certain season in your life instead of just a day.
Prayerful Review of the Day
Pray for Light
- Ask that you can look at this day and offer it to God in His grace.
- “Holy Spirit, please enlighten my mind so I may see this day you gave me in truth and love.”
From this day, for what am I most thankful? / What gifts did God give today?/ Where do I see God’s grace active in this day?
- Converse with Jesus about these things and listen to what these good things mean in your life.
- “Thank you… Jesus, you are… This is special because…”
- Allow gratitude to well up. Offer it back to the Father with love.
From this day, for what am I least thankful? / What needs to be converted?/ What was a challenge?
- Converse with Jesus about these things and listen to what needs healing.
- “Please forgive me… I’m sad… Please help…”
- Offer it back to the Father with love.
Tomorrow with Christ
- Converse with Jesus about how God wants to (or has already) equip you for tomorrow.
- “What concept, scripture verse or resolution shall I carry in my heart for tomorrow?”
- Make a tiny resolution about your own action for tomorrow. Ask for God’s grace to fulfill it.
Early on I got some advice from a lady who always seems to be full of joy and on the verge of learning something new. “Delight in your children” and later she added, “and they will be delightful”. I love this advice. There are so many things embedded in it. It says, parenting can be fun, relaxing- delightful! Children are worthy of awe- of our delight. Children are full of surprises! It says, life is good and you are free to enjoy it. It also has resounding principle in the goodness of people. It says, there is always something wonderful in children – in people. Find that. Think about that. Enjoy that. Dwell on that. Certainly, however, our kids will not always delight us. Far from it. Certainly that needs to be addressed frequently and acknowledged but as a general disposition and practice- delight is the way to go,just as our heavenly father delights in His children.
There is also a positive influence on the child when a parent finds delight, Don’t you feel better, kinder, more confident, happier, bigger people when you think that others are enjoying your presence? Same is true for our kids, of course. And conversely, we are better parents when we are delighting in our children. This is true in the classroom as well. The whole atmosphere of the classroom is elevated when the teacher truly is delighted by her students.
It reminds me of St. Paul’s advice to the Philippians “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
What is delightful about your children?
Having a small handful of memorized meal time prayers can keep grace focused yet easy – without being rote.
Grateful hearts prayer: Give us grateful hearts, O Father, for all your kindness and make us mindful of the needs of others. Amen.
Sign Language Prayer: I give myself to your beautiful love. I want to be good with your grace from above. Your cross will guide all I do and say. Lord Jesus Christ, please hold my hand today. (find the signs for the words in italics at www.handspeak.com.)
Traditional Meal Time: Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Everything: Thank you, God, for feet to run, thank you for my play and fun, for eyes to see for hands to lift, for food to eat and every gift that make me strong and wish to sing thank you God for EVERYTHING!
Here is a family prayer guide that can take from 5-15 minutes which can be adapted for zillions of situations. Of course, it is even more fun and habitually reinforcing if you add sweets to the event or a nice setting like a fireplace. Sunday is a natural choice for a day to do this but it can be any time. Having a job for each member makes it truly feel like a “family” prayer. Try it once. Then try it again.
People have been telling me forever that my kids are well behaved at Mass. I’ll tell you the secret… It is really easy and takes no preparation. Most people aren’t willing to do it though. Are you ready?
Sit in the front pew. Not the second, not close to the front. The first row. Think about it. If you were 30 inches tall and you were standing behind a 6 foot man and a large lady, what would you see and think about at church? Rear ends! Even if you hold your kids up (which does help) they still are not seeing as high as you are and it is not practical to hold them the whole time. There are SO many distractions in a crowd. Up front what do you see? The candles, the priest, the bible, the bread and wine, the cross. Kids become engaged in the “play” of the Mass. Sitting up front helps even at a VERY young age- as soon as a baby has long range vision and continues through all of childhood. You can whisper in her ear about the candles, about Jesus, about the kids who are helping at Mass.
Of course, kids do make noise. Lots of it sometimes so, having a get-away plan is pretty necessary in the early ages. Sitting on the side helps.
Not only will your kids benefit but, once you start this as a habit, you will realize you your self are getting tons more out of Mass.
With babies and toddlers, having a bag ready to go full of good toys for church will save you some angst. Watch out for hard plastic or metal which can be banged noisily on the pew. Opting for special toys which echos the message of the gospel (loosely) helps to set the tone for Sunday. Try stuffed animal lambs, bible bored books, Christmas cards, holy cards, bible character figurines, rosaries, holy water bottles, religious picture books, Christmas nativity figurines. If your child puts everything in her mouth, purchase a small photo album and slide in a bunch of pictures of Jesus, the saints and his people. Although this won’t totally protect your pictures, it will keep your child from eating paper. You can cut these kind of pictures from nonprofit organization mailings, trifolds in the back of the church, religious calendars, Christmas cards or holy cards you purchase at a religious books store or online.