I don’t know about you all, but I can so easily fall out of the rigor and enthusiasm of Great Lent and into the “business” of the everyday grind. In our home we continue the Paschal spirit, singing “Christ is Risen” before each meal, keeping our Paschal icon out and even continuing the prayer of St Ephraim for a while, but the daily anticipation and prayers and reflections have slipped away.
As I’ve gotten older I have realized more and more that church once a week is simply not enough to bolster against the cares and temptations of the world. Before having children I remember vividly the feeling of inspiration I would get at church on Sundays and then the slow (or not so slow) draining of that font of grace throughout the week. I need more than one recharge per week. I need daily charging. Our church, in her infinite wisdom, knows this and provides rules of prayers (morning, evening, even the hours) and biweekly fasting, as well as daily scripture readings, to help us remain connected to the source of our strength throughout the day and week. But our littles may or may not get the same connection from daily prayers and are likely not fasting. We may or may not be reading daily scripture with them and, even if we are, they may or may not connect with it. So how can we help to continually feed their souls and minds?
A beloved author of mine, Michael Kelly, in his book The Rhythm of Life, describes how routine care of the soul can be challenging because unlike the stomach which growls when it needs to be fed the soul does not. Now those of us who have been blessed with momentary insights may actually recognize that the soul does in fact grumble when it is not fed. We grumble – we become more irritable or impatient, more restless or despondent, when we don’t take time daily (even multiple times a day) to connect with God. Our littles can’t even make the connection that they are “hangry” and need something to eat – so certainly their soul grumbling will not be easy for them to pick up on.
So in this vein I wanted to suggest that we don’t over commit – we don’t try and do it all. Even the many suggestions I have discussed throughout the blog and used with my family I don’t manage to do all at once. We try to say morning and evening prayers together as a family everyday and pray the Our Father before meals and the rest comes and goes. (Note: If you don’t already have a family rhythm of prayer – start there in whatever way you can, slowly if needed, but start!) But even this backbone of prayer can become route and stale for my children – failing to help them ignite the spiritual fire in their bellies. So I am working on trying to do at least one little thing each day with them beyond these daily fundamentals. Even just a few minutes a day can make a difference so try not to feel overwhelmed by the “extra work”. I am just starting this out and will report how it goes, but a few suggestions are:
- Bring in more moments of spontaneous personal prayer – having the kids speak directly with God about their hopes and dreams and fears each morning or at any time throughout the day – start with modeling and then invite them in
- Read a short daily meditation for children – I really enjoy the Jesus Calling series and have started doing the Devotional for Kids at night before prayers
- Read some stories from a children’s bible
- Color in an icon or picture of a saint and talk about the picture/person
- Read a Christian children’s book
- Pick a line of scripture (perhaps from your Godfulness Jar) and have a child recite it (can be nice to choose one each week to work towards memorizing – older children can write the verse out
- Print out a copy of the newsletter for Children from The Children’s Word and read through with your child(ren) and let them do the activity if they are old enough
- Practice some small kindness in your home or community as almsgiving for another (e.g. bring in the neighbors garbage can, pick up a bit of little you find and throw it away, help a sibling pick out PJs)
We try to fit so much in as parents and this needn’t be another long to-do – you can do this in one minute (pray together) or in five to ten (color a picture or read a short verse) or in 20 mins or more (do an extended reading or activity) depending on time and everyone’s energy. Anything can be a moment to connect with God (see post Use Any Moment) – sometimes you just all need to go for a walk outside together and look at God’s creation. Just try and remember to say “God’s creation” instead of “let’s go out and get some fresh air”. Growing up in such a secular environment except for my mom and weekly church, hearing someone say “God” felt few and far between. Let’s try to keep God in as many moments as possible – and when things slip into the daily grind remember we can always manage at least one small thing each day. There are so many more ideas to share for a small daily way to bring Christ concretely into our children’s lives – please share yours if you have the time 🙂 May God bless our efforts and our little flocks.
With love in Christ,