What was my crime? The girls had seen race cars made from toilet paper rolls at the preschool art show the previous evening, and I was helping them (at their request) recreate what they saw. We were off to a great start with lots of enthusiasm for the craft. But the paper wheels didn’t seem quite satisfactory, and the hole I cut out of the top of Bayla’s car looked much better than my first try on Katy’s, and I wouldn’t let them use markers to decorate their cars, because we are experiencing a brief moratorium on marker use because of some past problems with missing lids and ink stains on the carpet. Well, all heck broke loose at the thought that they could only use pens, crayons, and stickers to decorate their cars, and I was seething at their incredible display of ingratitude.
I went to my Thursday morning Bible study group shortly after the race car fiasco, still seething, my face hot as I drove into Media, all my anger and anxiety and negative emotion drawing all of my blood straight up to my brain. But as I was seething, I was also praying. And when I prayed about the situation, a very distinct thought immediately popped into my head.Let me pause here and mention that this happens often: As I’m praying about some problem, challenge, or issue, and almost before I finish formulating the words, some sort of solution or approach expresses itself in my mind. I know that some people may cringe or roll their eyes when a Christian starts a sentence with, “Well, God told me…” but I feel like these solutions come to me directly from God. If they were my own ideas, expressing themselves with such speed and clarity, then I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been stewing with anxiety over the problem just a nanosecond earlier. And besides, God has already tried the subtle approach with me in the past, and has seen it doesn’t work too well!
Back to my situation, then: I was praying about my “mommy fail” of a morning, and my incredible frustration with the girls, and their apparent misery in the hands of my parenting efforts, and like a flash came the thought: “They aren’t getting any daily spiritual nourishment.” Now, there’s another argument that it was God’s voice talking to me: the phrase “spiritual nourishment” isn’t exactly rolling around my brain on a daily basis!
I immediately understood that we have to get to our daily devotions, and that we have to spend time reading Katy’s Adventure Bible, written in language the girls can understand. We pray every day, often more than once a day, but while they express their faith on a daily basis, I haven’t been doing anything to nourish that faith, to help it grow. It was all output, with no real input.While we ate our lunch together after Bible study, I said it right out to the girls: “I don’t think I’m giving you enough spiritual nourishment. I think we really need to get back into our devotions to help you learn more about God so your faith can grow.” They accepted that as though they understood exactly what I was saying. And, as though reading a script from my own head, Katy said, “But Mommy, we pray every day! And I pray lots during the night.” So I explained to her my input/output theory as best I could.
After lunch, I read to them a page from Every Day a Blessing, along with the first two chapters of Proverbs from the Adventure Bible. (Reading the first four chapters of Proverbs aloud to our children is recommended by Sally Clarkson in The Ministry of Motherhood.) We talked about how important wisdom is, and how important it is to spend time with wise people, rather than people who make bad choices.
The next morning, we read another page of the devotional, and another chapter of Proverbs, before heading off for an outdoor meet-up with friends. In the car, the girls started to complain about where we were going and how they were sure they wouldn’t have any fun. I had a talk with them about ingratitude, and explained that we have a lo—oo—ong summer ahead of us, and that I won’t be able to take it if they complain about everything we do and assume that everything is going to be no fun. They immediately stopped the whining, and I didn’t hear another word about it until later in our meet-up when they both told me what a great time they were having, and what a fun place we were visiting.
The story was the same for the rest of the day, and the next (which is today). They have had positive, encouraging things to say to me and to each other. They have enjoyed the things we have done together. There has been considerably less whining and general misery. I know as much as anyone that those kinds of behaviors ebb and flow, but the timing is uncanny. I feel as though our Bible reading, our devotion, our conversation about what we have read, and our prayers together in the morning set a much more positive tone for the day. Just as our breakfast nourishes our body for the day, our devotional time together nourishes our spirits, and draws us closer to one another and to God, ready to face the day together.I am pretty sure that this experience has given me the incentive I need to commit to a daily devotional practice with the girls!
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