Sunday, February 11, 2018

Words for Littles: February 11, 2017

"Every time we read God's Word we get more Light."

Taken from Baptism presentation, Catechesis of the the Good Shepherd.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Our Family Prayer

Happy Ordinary Time friends.

The Christmas decorations and I took quite a bit of liturgical license this winter in allowing the deadline to come down to be February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. I went for something new this year and did a lot of greens from around the yard in my home. So to clean that up, I simply chucked it outside, how efficient of me!

I think it took awhile to de-Christmas because I have a seven month old! Ah, yes, that is probably more of the reason! And so, when we have that little one in our life, WE KNOW that it is called "the year of the baby" and that we do our best to be liturgically "with it."

We are in 2018 and in this home we are remembering that yes, we do homeschool. I think the December bakingfest

and fireside reading and general merry making coupled with the Virginia week of snow
and me having mom flu has made us lose any sense of work ethic we might have had.

So..we go about our day! We do!

I have a knack for calling things education that probably don't fit in the academic boxes we are accustomed to, but I need to feel accomplishment I guess?

How nice to have some non negotiables in our eating a meal and praying.

Yes, ending our day with family prayer is a good thing.

Is it just me, or do you often hear in homilys or from speakers or in books how beneficial it is to pray with your children?

Pray together they say!

Something inside of you kind of stirs and knows they of the big them aren't just speaking about prayers before meals or the Hail Mary you offer together at the sound of ambulance sirens.

So I thought, our prayer is simple enough, maybe I can offer it as one way it could look? This might be a perfect time to start getting serious about making good on that family prayer desire you have as Lent is right around the corner.

So I give you...

How We Pray as a Family

1. Our Daddy calls us to prayer after dinner. (We have dinner together. We don't always know what surprises mommy has in store, but we will eat a meal together. I will write about this in another post.)

2. We gather in our den and clear off the coffee table of legos and books and old snacks and whatever goodness there is.

This is our den or "the keep" at Christmas time, see the coffee table, we simply gather around there! 

3. We go to our prayer corner that is permanently fixed in our home as our spot for holy things. I would like to recommend Leila Lawler's The Little Oratory as a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing but to also be persuaded to simply have one.

4. In that prayer corner we find our small prayer cross, a small candle, and our statue of the Good Shepherd.

Our prayer cross is under that starfish.
5. The children set these things up on the coffee table. This is their work! "Ohhh thank you so much for doing this very important work for our family little one!"

6. The candle is lit.

7. In our family we sing a simple song to help everyone get settled...

"Jesus loves ________. Yes he does" oh my goodness we have so many,

"this little light of mine...."

but if you are just starting out, the celtic Alleluia is beautiful...or you don't sing at all! So we are singing family...there is a lot of The Greatest Showman being sung right now.

8. Then we make the sign of the cross over our bodies. We don't make a big fuss over how GOOD or CORRECT a sign of the cross is for the very young children. We, the adults, do it slowly and reverently. The child can wonder at this..."oh look how mama who often does laundry in a rush or clangs the dishes fast but oh how this big cross she makes over her body is slow and different? I wonder about that big cross and what it means to her? Why is she slow and careful?"

9. We then gently pass around the around the prayer cross. Mama has explained that you can say your prayer aloud or you can say it in your heart. You can have the prayer cross as long as you need it. You can say simply, "I love you Good Shepherd" or you can press it close to your heart and not speak. Sometimes our three year old has something to say, but this is very rare. She is most comfortable being the director of who gets the cross next, but she is hearing us pray. Again, modeling is best!

"I pray for people who are struggling."

"I pray for the unborn, especially the baby in Auntie Em's belly."

"I pray for the people on the way to the hospital."

"I pray for Deacon Nick."

And we are careful as parents.

We are careful not to pray and pass judgement on the prayer of our little ones.
"Oh, what a good prayer you said. How lovely!"

This is HARD for me..because I ALWAYS need affirmation for everything. Are they going to say they like the meal I made? Are they going to notice I did this or that?

So free your children from the stress of if their prayer is good enough...for you...because it is obviously perfect for Him. Just listen.

10. When the cross has been passed to everyone, Justin and I then pray over each child. We have our own prayer that we say that asks for God's protection over the child and we ask that each child walk hand in hand with the Lord all the days of their lives. Maybe your husband isn't there yet? That's ok! Prayer will look different in your home!

As this prayer time concludes, we may sing some more and the children restore the items to the prayer corner and then we commence with watching curling in the Winter Olympics!

So if it sounds simple, it is.

It is so simple I feel like I have to justify that we do pray at other times in our house!

No we do I promise!

My husband in the evening likes to sometimes take his guitar into the school/music room and he just plays for an hour, usually songs by Switchfoot, and that is his way of praying. I try to say a rosary everyday, although I am finding it is in decades scattered throughout the day and I do LOVE to read and journal.

I should tell you that for awhile before we did the prayer cross we were doing one Our Father, one Hail Mary, a Glory Be while holding hands and we would do this, but no matter how many times my then two year old heard these prayers, she couldn't quite say them ALONG with us.

I had this epiphany while running an atrium session that as we gather at the prayer table and pass the prayer cross around that we could do this in our home! The atrium prayer cards say things like "Amen" and "Hail Mary" and I realized I was asking SO MUCH of my littlest ones.

So, when we think about the essentials of cultivating a prayer life, it is really communicating with this loving Father of ours. So it has been a BLESSING to our family to bring our prayer level to meet the needs of the youngest one in our home. She does not usually pray aloud and sometimes she will hold the cross to her heart and pray for Doc McStuffins or a lamp (because that is what she is looking at in the moment she holds the cross) but we smile and nod and she HEARS the prayers of her parents and siblings. Through the Mass and my personal prayer life and praying with her older siblings her toddler absorbent mind will pick up words and meaning, but for now this is working beautifully for our family.

Can I tell you what has been absolutely DELIGHTFUL about this way of praying? During the holidays we would have our extended family or dear friends visiting and this way of praying is very easy to ASK others to be part of. I am embarrassed to admit that I used to just "skip" prayer when we had company as to not force my piety on other people. I didn't want our visiting loved ones to feel pressured or awkward or whatever you call that tension when you show others "This is Who I love and follow." So now all we have to do is pass the prayer cross around!

I humbly offer this as what we do and not the "right" way. Enjoy your weekend dear friends!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

What We Do

My son asked me what door to open on his chocolate Advent calendar this morning. Is it really the 21st already?

Happy Winter Solstice friends. On the longest night of the year, I have some beautiful news to share...THE LIGHT IS COMING.

Yes the days will be longer, but I speak of that Light which defeats all darkness. We are Children of that Light.

Yes it certainly is the 21st! I don't know how to feel about that fact with the logistics of this household.

Anyway!My friend Nicole and I were chatting online at the beginning of this month and she asked me a question. I was asking if her little boys were understanding what is going on around them with the festivities of the season and she replied that she knows they understand Santa Claus but she is not sure if they quite get the real meaning. And then she asked me for any suggestions?!?!?!?!?

Wait! I have blog where I can answer this very question!! Maybe other mamas wonder what it is I do? And what I do may look very different from what Nicole ultimately ends up doing, but this is the beauty of being sovereign in your own home! And understanding that you are sovereign would be the first step to teaching the meaning about Christmas: KNOW that this is YOUR job. Don't  be intimidated by this, have great confidence in trusting that the Helper will give you the graces to raise...a Christian.

So when we wonder about the meaning of Christmas for our kids, I wonder if any of us adults really get the meaning. That this Father of ours, this Creator, decides, out of love, to initiate contact in a way He never has before. He could have done so in a lot of really cool and "epic" ways, but he decides to glorify the small. He also decides to glorify motherhood. Our Lord became dependent on a woman, whom He always had in mind for this particular task, and yes, h
e comes to us a baby. He takes on our flesh.

That is a big thing to think about!

And so I think in one's home it might be most helpful to the littlest child to have a sense of wonder about this particular baby. And my three year old is getting this...that the baby is not out at the nativity right now! We wonder when the baby Jesus will be born. We are waiting!

We are waiting for the baby Jesus to come.  When I first set the nativity up, I stopped and asked her "Where do you think we can put baby Jesus?" and we found a nice spot. I think it is important to ask for the child's help, after all it is their home too.

I want her to take ownership and, my little one, you hide the baby Jesus...and then you can take him out on Christmas Eve...and you will help bring Christmas to our home. I found this beautiful ceramic nativity at a thrift store. I personally love spending $5.00 on things like this because then I can be ok with my littles touching the nativity and then when something does break, we aren't all flustered about it. That's a Christmas spirit killer... "I broke Mama's St Joseph and she is so mad."

If you have multiple nativities, all of their Baby Jesus figures are also in your safe space. Oh how beautiful that for our Lord His waiting was in the womb of His mama; in our home it is a drawer.

Hhhmm? What else? Oh yes!

An Advent wreath in the middle of the kitchen table is always so simple too! The children love a flame. They love the colors purple and that one pink candle. We can wonder about this light that is making its way around the wreath. I like to place Mother Mary in the middle of our Advent wreath, she was waiting in a most particular way.

So...I can continue to list out all of our traditions. Baby Jesus hidden...check! Advent wreath...check!  But at times I we make our way through chocolate calendars and the sort...and we don't even do elf on the shelf..I wonder...if we even have too many traditions? CAN YOU HAVE TOO MANY? I think we can. So, let's have a baseline in our homes that we try to be very intentional and yet as I write thinking of Nicole and her two boys in beautiful Alaska, I think we must remember...that very young children have what Dr. Maria Montessori called the "Absorbent Mind."

So...yes...maybe...we TRUST the child's sponge of a mind. We decorate our tree. We play absolutely BEAUTIFUL Christmas music. We take them to Mass and they see candles and they dip their hands in Holy Water and they see the purple and the LARGER Advent wreath that the small Advent wreath on the kitchen table always pointed too.

We take them to the sanctuary and they see this image of the Blessed Mother again there and deep down they might wonder at this Lady.

I think I would say to Nicole...model JOY in this season. Joy in making cookies. Joy in making a Christmas Craft. Joy in letting THEM put the ornaments on the tree. Joy in visiting a jovial plump man at the Christmas tree lot. Joy in sipping cocoa. Joy in watching a goofy elf in tights walk around New York City or a bunch of Whos singing around a tree.

Their little minds will tuck this away...they will start having a collective memory, "I like my home at this time of year."

Their little minds will be drawn to "how happy mommy and daddy are, how peaceful they seem" this time of year. Ha! I know...I am not always happy and peaceful but we must have goals!

They will start to make connections that go MUCH deeper than we could guess, and not because we sat and read and tested them about the Who that this season is about. Maybe we just read the gospel account of His Sacred Birth once in front of the tree. We light a candle and Papa reads and then that's it. No explaining. No going on and on and on. Just essentials.

We TRUST the amazing brains and the tender souls of our children to pick up on how intentional we decorate. How lovingly we do the small things, and this is what we do...we allow mystery. We as their parents acknowledge and honor the truth that deep down these children will connect with what they see. Why? Because they are made in His image. We are not teaching them anything, it is really a gradual work of the Holy Spirit in that the child, in an environment that lays good soil, that the truth inside of them comes out.

"I am made in His image! It is this time of year that I remember He came as GIFT to us!"

So, we go about cultivating a space for our children that points to that inner truth. It can be through music or prayers or pictures or food, and the great beauty is that every HOME will look different.

So, I hope this relieves any stress any of you might be feeling, especially with little ones, about whether or not they "get" what is going on. Someday dear friends, you will see the fruit of being intentional in these younger years. Your children will say things like, "I want this from Santa, but I know that is not what Christmas is about."

So...go cuddle up with your little ones with a good Christmas book and ENJOY GIFT my friends! And remember...Christmas is a GREAT FEAST so stretch it out...go all the way to Epiphany! Don't worry my tree will be very dry too...its absolutely wonderful. ;)

God bless