Monday, April 28, 2014

Let it Go: Devotional Time With Children.

We have four small children (7, 6, 4, 9 months) and have honestly been hit-or-miss with nightly family devotions. We love and use the Jesus Bible Storybook at home before bedtime and use the curriculum at our church's kids' programming, but because of the busy life we have, every night is different and it's a challenge to be consistent. I'd love to say it was purely the gentle wind of the Holy Spirit that led me to be more serious about these nightly moments, but instead it was when one of my children was asked about the true meaning of Easter and that kid answered that Easter was about "Trying to be nice." That particular offspring has since been sent to live with Billy Graham.
I kid, I kid.

But really, Mr. Graham, do you have an internship program?

Anyway, it was clear to me that although Seth and I spend our lives teaching the Word of God to people of all ages, we were slacking in the Train Up Your Children Dept.
Maybe because bedtime is pure carnage due to exhaustion and fourteen cups of water and PLEASE GO TO BED through clenched teeth, I was weary, guys. Some nights all I could muster was to speed dial a phoned-in bedtime prayer and if I felt really guilty, an episode of VeggieTales.

I wanted to be more intentional, but the thorn in my side about devo time with my family was my incredibly unrealistic image of a picture-perfect, Pinterest-posed brood sitting quietly, moving nary a muscle, as we read the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and the children do their mental systematic theology. This held me hostage from doing what I do when I teach others the Bible: welcoming them just as they are.

Our kids are beautifully noisy and messy and sometimes loud (where DO they get that?) and bicker-y and are full of natural curiosity and laughter. 

I can set ridiculous expectations in my mind that ruin family time with God,
I can LET IT GO, plop them on my lap like Jesus did, and just enjoy learning through their eyes.

Tonight, we crowded around my old iPhone and watched a devotional made for kids on YouTube. Ty gave up midway through and threw himself dramatically on the couch. Heather and Tabbi pushed each other out of the way because each one said the other was in her line of view. The video was started over at least once because everyone was fighting so loudly over being able to see the screen that no one could even hear what the little teacher lady said. Post-devo, I asked my sweet little Von Trapp Alexander Children what the lesson (Hebrews 10:25 -- stay close to other people who are also "on fire" for Jesus), and one said, "You need to be a burning log on fire."

Close enough.

I tried to compare fire and passion for God to my eldest child's deep love for all things FROZEN.

Rookie Error. She talked about her undying love of the movie and soundtrack and plot and characters for ten million years.


Between the ice and fire, I need to report that there was a not small amount of spiritual temperature confusion. The conversation turned to talking about the woods and camp and how it would hurt to be caught on fire.
I looked most desperately at Reverend Seth, who artfully brought it back around to the importance of living in community and serving God in His church. It didn't have to be perfectly and intensely spiritual to teach them a Biblical truth. As Lisa-Jo Baker wrote in Surprised by Motherhood, "Motherhood is a sacred marriage of the mundane and the eternal." I am praying that these little gems from God's Word will hide in their hearts until God brings them out at the right moment.

Also hoping they don't go too far with the fire metaphor.

{Do you struggle with this too? How do you consistently share family devotions, especially with young children?}


Anonymous said...

We struggle with this.....we either read from the boys First Hands on Bible, worship with music and or pray before they go to bed. It really depends on their moods but some nights we do combination of them all or just a couple. The boys love the music and being explained what it means

Lauren said...

Wow, I love the idea of the worship time! Mood is a huge factor...may the Lord give us discernment to see when "less is more" is truly most fruitful.

Anonymous said...

Bryan has an awesome video of Trevor on his phone of him dancing and acting out the song its a true blessing

Catenaimamom said...

Dear, dear Lauren...mine aren't so young, but sometimes it just ain't happenin'...At times our prayer times is the standard, Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, Angels watch us through the night and wake us with the morning light...
Even on the telephone to my oldest (19 years old) I'll say this prayer to him.
Sometimes the prayer should be Now I finally lay my achy body down, I pray, Lord, calm them now! Someone come and take me away and wake them with nothing to say!

lisa chestnut said...

Love it. Our 4 still have trouble setting still. Not getting the giggles, someone always farts because that's just funny. But i know that cover-up them in Gods word never comes back void, and just when i think they arn't getting it they surprise me.

Lauren said...

Catena + Lisa,

It is so good to know it's not just me! I pray for the kids every morning before they leave for school and it is always utter chaos with people talking and yelling at each other and I wonder if there is fruit...
Until I see God answer my prayers right before my eyes!

Lauren said...


I HAVE to see that cute video with Trev!

Grace Mulkey said...

Lauren I know EXACTLY how you feel!!!!! I've ended up more often feeling like a failure at the end of the evening because of the expectations ive set and chaos and.bickering and fighting...... so ive had to try different things. We dont do devotions all the time but nightly we pray together. Sometimes we do the 5 finger prayer (thanks to John McClure - kids love it) we take turns telling Jesus what we are thankful for we sing songs. Not smooth nights all.the time.but im learning to just enjoy it as it comes. - letting the little children come to.Him and. Not forcing them the way id like. I heard a sermon by John Mohler and He said something along the lines of - mothers one day your child.will.need Jesus. No.little prayer you say with them every night or devotion you do can change that fact. Don't live their lives for them. Don't let yourself feel like a failure when they mess up. Just live your life before them. One day they will notice theres.something different about your heart than theirs and they will ask you."mommy why do you act/speak/respond this way" let them see Jesus in your life!