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Teaching Your Kids How To Pray

Having an intimate relationship with Jesus is how I try to live my life day in and day out. Part of that intimacy should include a healthy and fulfilling prayer life. I openly admit often thought, time in prayer is something I struggle with (and time in the Bible, but that’s for another day.) As a child I was never taught how to pray. My home was not one that went to church every Sunday or prayed together before every dinner. I don’t say that to put down our home, it’s simply the truth.

When our family began to expand, I really wanted to raise up little Christians who learned how to pray at an early age. Not just repeat the Lord’s Prayer or remember at holidays we sometimes said grace. I wanted to raise kids who knew what prayer was and how to use it to communicate and have a dialogue with their Lord.

Simply praying my kids will learn how to pray isn’t going to cut it however! (See what I did there?) We need to train our children up to follow the Lord but we also need to train them up within Christianity. This includes training them on how to pray.

Recently I’ve been asked by a few friends how we have been working on prayer with our kids. I wanted to share with you all some of the ways we are teaching out children how to pray.

Model.

One of the best ways to show our children how to have a relationship with the Lord is to live our lives in way that models it. By modeling a healthy prayer life you will show you’re children what communication with God should look like. Beyond that prayer life showing your children this, having a healthy prayer life will help YOU grow. As a parent there are so many uncertainties and praying over those will make you a better parent.

What are some ways to model it? Pray before meals, as a family. Spend time in prayer alone in places your children can see. When you are upset, choose to pray instead of yell. Pray with your kids before special events or long trips. Let them hear you tell friends and family you will pray for them.

Explain How!

As adults, sometimes we forget that prayer does not come naturally. Even as an older Christian, I tend to forget that it’s not something all kids grew up being called on to do in Sunday School. We need to remember to truly explain how to pray to our kids. If you’re a regular going church family, I like to base how we pray off the Lord’s Prayer. I’m unsure if I read it somewhere or my pastor preached on this topic (And he will tell me if it was him!). Somewhere along the way though I was told we aren’t only called to recite the Lord’s Prayer but also base our daily prayers off it.

What does that look like? I personally sat down and read through the Lord’s Prayer, picking out what I believed each section or line was telling me what to do. We encourage the kids to:

-Acknowledge the all powerful God we are speaking too and celebrate his power.

-Thank Him for what He has given us this day

-Ask Him for what we need.

-Ask forgiveness for our sins and help forgiving others.

-Beg Him to show us the way our feet should lead us.

-Praise Him again, celebrating who He is.

We also like to use the acronym “PAGING God!”. Paging stands for Praise, Accountability, Guidance, I (Syndrome), Needs, and God’s Glory.

Praise:

We use this to sit back and praise all the amazing things God puts in our lives and does for us. This may be a specific “Thank you God for protecting us during a baseball game today.” It can also be as simple as “Thank you for today.” We celebrate who He is and the gifts He has given us today, yesterday, and for the months that have passed.

Accountability:

I am a firm believer that using words to identify areas you’re struggling in is a great tool. Your child may be struggling with a sin they commit, such as lying, or is on the receiving end, such as someone not being kind to them. We encourage our kids to pray for their personal accountability in their actions as well as their responses to others actions. I’m not going to jump on the pedestal and perform my entire spiel here (not yet anyway), but I do not believe Christians hold each other to the higher standard of living we are called to. Beginning that at an early age is important to me.

Within this, we also ask forgiveness for our wrong choices and mistakes. Giving your sin a name is a hard action but one that we need to learn as we grow.

Guidance:

This somewhat goes along with accountability but takes it a step further. After praying we are held to the standard of living Jesus calls us to live at, we must pray for His guidance in this. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have all the answers. I can’t expect my kids to either! Asking for the Holy Spirit to guide each and every one of our steps ensures we are listening to a power and knowledge far greater than ours. Our church also prays for guidance often and I love to model what the church does! We also like to take this back to praise and thank Him for how He has guided our way so far.

I (Syndrome):

My prayer is it is evident that I strive to be selfless and giving to all that enter my life. I do this because I am called as a Christian to give the clothes off my back to the least of us. That’s what my greatest commission-love my neighbor.

I’m not one to get down on generations, so I speak in a broad “all of human kind” sense: We are selfish, fickle beings. I am. My kids are. It is something I wish to dim down inside our personalities. With the “I (Syndrome)” we choose someone else to pray for. There have been times where it’s an easy person-one of their siblings, our Sunday school teachers, a family member. There have been times I challenge them, and myself and husband-leaders of this country, the kid who made fun of them on the bus, people who are not kind. Praying for others is not only a gift to them, it is a gift to us, as we strive to be more Christ-like in our day to day lives.

Needs:

Everyone has needs! Most often, by the time we get down to asking God what we need in our days, we have already covered the basic ones with accountability and guidance. However sometimes kids just want to ask God for something. My son often says “Let us have fun tomorrow.” It’s a simple prayer, but simple is important to kids. And if someone asks for something they’re not going to get (say a dog or car…because both have been prayed for at our dinnertime prayers…) it’s a great time to introduce the concept God isn’t Amazon. He won’t just send you what you want, in the time frame you want it in, because you ordered it up while bowing your head one night. The disappointment can be real but hey-even as adults, that’s something we struggle with, am I right?

God’s Glory:

Using a double G here, but this is something I am passionate about asking for in every prayer time. While we praise Him above, I want my children to know every single step they take and choice they make should be in the glory of God. In celebration of Jesus, who died for us on the cross and rose again. Pleasing to the Holy Spirit who is walking these steps with us. I want them to know WHO we are living for-it’s not the applause or the friends we have. It’s all for Him. So we ask that everything we do may please Him and bring Him glory.

(For your friendly little reference, this page!)

And finally…routine!

Now don’t look above and think “Lauren has it all together, I can never do that”.  Y’all I’m a hot mess. I forget to model it outside of prayer time at dinner most the time. If you’ve been around for any amount of time you know personal Bible time is the downfall of my life. I’m forever making the goal to spend more time in the Word and failing. We even chose to skip family bible study night at our church because it was too much for me to handle.

That being said, my 3 year old son will also now fold his hands up before meals and yell “Mama WE NEEDA PRAY”.  The kids wait expectantly for our grace. I’ve heard them pray themselves and it’s spectacular. I give all the Glory to God for that…but also, ROUTINE. We decided we would pray before dinner every night and by gone we have been doing just that. Sure, my 3 year olds prayers are “Thank you God for Everything-SAY AMEN”.  But he does them. And that’s what matters the most to me.

So sweet friends, whether you’re trying to introduce more prayer to older children or want it as part of your life as your babies grow, here are my best tips. From a totally not perfect, but trying her darnedest Christian friend! Remember-God wants time with you and your babies. He doesn’t care if it’s perfect or composed. He hears even your smallest “Lord I need you,” whispered from your breaking point after a long hard day.

Do you pray with your kids? Or is that something you hope to do someday?

7 Good Friday Reflections

7 Reflections for Good Friday(&An Easter “basket” Idea for the Whole Family!

It is Friday-Good Friday. Today we solemnly sit back as we acknowledge the cross Jesus died on for you and I. We are acutely aware the torture He endured. Whips on his back, laced with stone. Nailed to a cross He was forced to carry there. Hung beside criminals, taking the spear in His side and wearing that crown of thorns that we bestowed upon Him.

That I put there.

As a Christian, Good Friday is a reminder of the pain my Savior accepted humbly to save me. Jesus could have stopped that crucifixion. He had armies of angels at His command. Yet, there He sat, the King of all Creation, Son of God…willfully taking the weight of the sins of all man kind onto His shoulders.

My sins.

Today of all days, I’m able to truly take a step back and recognize that the nails that held Jesus to the cross were not what kept Him there. What kept Him there was my sins, that He loved me so dearly He was willing to die to save me from them. Sins I did before I became a Christian. Ones that I continue to do today.

Good Friday for me is wondrous time to take a step back and give true thanks for what Jesus did for us. He allowed-yes ALLOWED- this to happen out of pure love. This is the person I aim to become more like every day. The Great Councilor is who I want to fill myself up with as I empty myself of this world. This is the King of Kings. Yet there He hangs carrying the weight of my cross.

It’s also an amazing reminder that I am still living in sin every day. I don’t share this as a huge revelation: I am a sinner. Yet, while I was still a sinner…while we were all sinners, Jesus died for us. The strength behind those words causes me to sit down and pray. It forces me to reconsider how I am living my life now. Here and now. In this day and every day.

I try to take part of Good Friday to reflect on these questions and realign my vision and dreams with what Jesus died for. Yes-He saved us. Good works will never be worth more than the blood and body of Christ. But because He willingly bore the worst parts of this world to save us. The least I can do is live a life that is mostly pleasing to Him.

I reflect on:

And Sunday is coming! Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. We don’t do the bunny so that takes a lot of pressure off of the day for us. This year however we wanted to do something for the kids to truly celebrate the day. I put together an Nature Journal Station!

The idea of a nature journal actually came to me while pursuing Instagram the other day. Heather, a woman I follow AND LOVE on Instagram, shared a post just mentioning the idea of nature journaling. I LOVED even the phrase “nature journaling”. We are hiking, fishing, camping, picture taking, dirt loving people. My kids spend most the summer days outside and I have no qualms with this.

Bringing our love of nature to our love of art sounded like an amazing concept!

I was just going to start putting together a little box to keep this all in, but I decided, why not give it to the kids on Easter? It would give them something to tell their friends they got. We would be celebrating the greatest gift of new life and it’s the beginning of spring this year.

Plus-this earth is a wondrous gift from God as well!

The box simply has some water colors, crayons, colored pencils and various other items. I ran out and grabbed them each a sweet little “artists journal” as well. Doodle and my husband-because we are all getting them!- each got nice art journals. They are truly the artists in the family!

I hope you all have a blessed weekend and this finds you in a place reconciling yourself with Christ! Thank God for Good Friday-and Happy Easter!

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G.I.F.T-A Lent Challenge for Kids

I know this post is coming a little late, as Lent began two days ago, but I almost didn’t write it at all! I wasn’t sure if anyone would really have much interest in our Lent challenge…and I let doubt come in and push it off. Then a few sisters encouraged me to share what we are doing and I decided, LET’S DO THIS.

What is Lent?

Before this year, all Lent was to me was a season where I pretended I was going to give up breadchipssugarsoda, anything that was “bad”, for a season. When I was younger our church would mention it and we would all sign up. I would proudly tell my Mema exactly what I would give up for Lent and she would tell me hers. To be completely honest, Mema usually won. In my childhood mind, Lent was a time to “win.”

Then we came up to my years struggling with an eating disorder and I’m ashamed to say, I used Lent as a means to restrict food even more than usual. I would purposefully abstain from bad foods. I would claim to be fasting different things that had higher calories. I talk about how my eating disorders most lethal weapon was taking away my faith.

My favorite post I’ve read on the matter of what Lent is for can be found on Arabah Joy’s blog. I was written by a woman I follow on Instagram who writes at the blog Joy Pursued. The post can be found here.

My basic understanding when I began writing this challenge up for our children was this: Lent was a time to prepare our hearts for the gift of Jesus and Resurrection Sunday. It was 40 days to reflect the time Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by the devil yet never faltering nor failing us.

I really wanted to make clear this was a season to prepare our hearts for Jesus, not to simply give up something we kind of like. 

So I dove began praying over what we could do for those forty days as a family that would bring us closer to Jesus. And in my moments of prayer, words began to stick out to me. Fasting, of course. There’s no denying that fasting is a real way to connect with Jesus. Prayer. Loving others. Serving others. Giving. Being thankful.

I wracked my brain to try and find a way to put this all into a little box and pretty metaphor and in the midst of prayer it came to me: GIFT.

What is GIFT?

GIFT, very simply, stands for Giving, Intercession, Fasting, and Thankfulness.  Upon reading more posts about Lent, the more I felt convicted to talk about these four areas for Lent.

Each night at dinner, I am presenting the challenge for the next day. The challenges that are daily are based on giving, intercession, and fasting. Each night at dinner we will also be sharing what we are thankful for and writing it on our thankful board.

Why Giving? Why Intercession? Why Fasting? Why Thankfulness?

The Gospel is very clear about giving: time, money, our spiritual gifts…it tells us all to give. Whether we are tithing or volunteering, we are to be cheerful givers. While my children are currently “okay” givers, especially when it comes to material things, I want to raise them to give as much as they can. I want to raise them to believe that their discomfort is acceptable as long as they are giving to others whom they love dearly. And I want them to understand that they should love every other person in this world dearly. Our giving challenges are focused in all forms of giving.

“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” Deuteronomy 16:17

But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24

I have also felt a huge push towards prayer, or intercession the past few months. I’ve read a few books on the matter lately and have felt so called to cultivate a healthy prayer life. In that I want to create a healthier prayer life for our children as well. While I believe we are okay with giving, I fear we have not pushed prayer as much as we should. We hear of the stories where Jesus went out on his own and sat in prayer, we hear of the power a healing prayer, we are told He hears our every prayer. Yet here we sit, not using this wondrous gift as much as we should. Our prayer challenges are all about praying for others, praying together, and praying in intercession.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4: 6-7

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Fasting is a spiritual tool that has also come to my mind and heart recently, but in different ways. I’ve been trying to inentionally fast from television during the late hours I’m not sleeping, from my phone while we are all together as a family, and I’m planning a fast to try and hear God’s voice clearer later this month. The fasting we are doing as a family will not come a full food fast or anything like that. We will be fasting from television, snacks, saying unkind things and the likes.

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6: 16-18

And our final challenge is in thankfulness. We try very hard to talk about how thankful and grateful we are each day, but we have fallen off the wagon recently. So much so Josh and I have had a few talks about what we could do to help reinstate our usual dedicaton to thankfulness. This Lenten season came at the perfect time. Each day we will be writing down what we are thankful for on our board.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34


Our list is pretty great, all of it, but to save some space, I only want to share a few of the ideas we are using. I hope upon reading these you come up with some ideas that work really well for your family as well!

Pray for a leader in the church

Clean the church

Pray for someone you don’t like

Make cards for shut ins in the church

Research a charity

Pray for the charity

Donate money to the charity (These three are my favorites I think. I cannot wait to see my kids research injustices and choose who to help)

Pray for our pastor

Pray for our church family

No television for the day

No snacks

Give up something you love for 24 hours

Pray for someone you don’t like

Don’t say anything mean today

Smile at people you meet

Clean up an outside area

Help with a chore at home

Clean up our yard

Make cookies and give them to people

Collect loose change and donate it

Donate clothes or toys

Pick out a canned food to donate

What are you doing for Lent? Are you giving something up? Are you recognizing it with your children?

The Church is Failing Foster and Adoptive Parents

The Church is Failing Foster And Adoptive Parents. 

I’ve been living the foster care and adoption life for over a decade. I’ve been a Christian my entire life and with the exception of what I fondly call “the dark years“, I’ve been a pretty active church goer in that time. At this point in my life, I can’t remember the last Sunday we didn’t go to church. Our weekends are filled with fellowship functions and the two minute drive from our home to the church is one made frequently throughout the week.

When we began fostering I found a world of wondrous support systems online-both through Facebook and Instagram. If you’re ever considering foster care or adoption, I truly recommend getting on Instagram and connecting. It’s such an amazing system of kind words, hard love, and people who truly understand.

What lacked wonderfulness, however, was this underlying theme I kept hearing in Facebook groups or Instagram chats.

The church is failing foster and adoptive parents.

I don’t say that lightly. I don’t say it as a hard truth-maybe you belong to a church that does amazing things for its foster and adoptive families; I know I do. But as a general comment, as a person who has lived immersed in the world of foster care for over a decade, as an observer of so many Christian friends feeling unwelcome or uninvited or unloved-the church needs to step its act up.
As I mentioned, I’ve been pretty lucky overall to be blessed with a church that has some active ministering going on in the life of adoptive and foster families–but we are far from perfect. In hopes of not missing any needs that should be addressed, I went out and asked in a few groups, on my Facebook page and Instagram what people thought their church did well or the church needed to know about foster care and adoption. I wanted to share some thoughts with you from them as well as from me, in hopes this may be shared with leaders and deacons in your churches. Foster and adoptive parents are parents, like any other set, but we face certain difficulties that are very different from being birth parents. (Which, I am both, so I see both sides!)

What do foster and adoptive parents want the church to know or what do we need the church to do better? I find it can be broken into three main categories: inclusion, education, and support. 

Inclusion

We all have heard that inclusion matters. For foster children, most of whom are in foster care at no fault of their own, it’s so hard to deal with these moments when they don’t feel like they belong-even within their own church. For foster or adoptive parents, who may feel unsure of their standings with friends or family because of this choice-they need to feel the church welcomes them as well.
“But we don’t make our foster or adopted families feel unwelcome!” I know, you’re horrified I would accuse any church of that. You may feel like you’re being inclusive; you say hi to the foster family or adoptive parents in church. You invite them to bible studies. You and your church are so not part of the problem in this area. But…hear me out.

How do the volunteers in your church work? In my state and others, before leaving our children with an adult the adult must be checked of a criminal background. If your church doesn’t do a background check before allowing someone to volunteer with their children(something as a foster/adoptive mother AND previous teacher will never understand): it is not being inclusive.
Is there a special needs ministry in your church? While foster and adopted children by no means are the only children with neurodivergent minds, there’s a high percentage who are. Beyond the occurrences of neurodiversity that happens naturally, there’s also sometimes traumas, experience with behaviors that are destructive and dangerous, or exposure in the womb. A special needs ministry, along with the training that would take place with it, is necessary to include your blended families into the congregation and church family. Even if it seems small, if one child is able to experience Jesus better-is that not what being the church is all about? Go into your churches and talk about the policies surrounding special needs kids. How do you handle behaviors that are horrifying and completely out of the realm of “normal”? How do you handle trauma?


And speaking of policies-in this day and age, another policy protocol is brought to light: social media. In MA, we are not allowed to post photos of our children’s faces. (We are now, but while you’re fostering you are not). Have your church leaders talked about what to do in the event of a church function-how do they handle the kids who are not able to be photographed and published? What about with volunteers? A strict policy needs to be put into place, acknowledging what is necessary to keep these children safe. And this policy must be shared with any and all volunteers who work with youth.
While there are some areas of inclusivity I mention that are steps beyond the normal treatment of biological newborns being born into the church family, that’s a comment I heard often when asking about it as well. While I’ve never adopted an infant, I have heard a resounding sigh from the adoptive community, that for many people, adding an adopted child was treated so differently than having a biological child. Essentially, the repeated thought shared with me was this, “if your church does it for a new mom who just had a baby, do it for a new family who just adopted one(or an older child as well)!”
All children are children of God and when welcoming new ones into the church-treat them equally! I heard stories of some churches making sure adopted parents got a baby shower as well, setting up meal trains, offering a respite night to foster families. While a baby shower was far outside what I needed with our foster to adopt kids, I can see where it’s a positive experience that really helps adoptive moms feel like any other mom! One thing my church did , that I absolutely ADORED, was allowing us to dedicate our kids after we finalized their adoption. Despite dedication usually happening as an infant, they went out of their way to make sure we’ve done it for all our recent adoptions. That was such a blessing on us.


There are far too many times I’ve heard of families feeling as though they are unable to attend churches long term because these matters haven’t been dealt with by the leaders in the church. Many of the issues I mention above have to do with acceptance and inclusion, but those won’t happen without….

Education.

I cannot stress this enough-the world needs to become more educated on foster care and adoption in general-but the church has an extra burden to educate themselves on these types of families. Period. There’s no room for excuses, justification, or brushing it off. The church needs to place a larger push on educating its leaders, pastors and volunteers on matters that come up within foster care and adoption.

Okay-great for me to say that right? But what does that mean?? What exactly should we educate our leaders and volunteers on?
Well, first you could start off with the basics and just go over some of the vocabulary. There’s many words or letters in child services that it helps immensely to know what they mean when talking to families involved-even the children! My kids knew who their GAL was, but do you know what that even stands for? Does your pastor or youth group leader? In our home, we’re also passionate about birth family positive language and family positive language. It’s important leaders in your church are aware of what those things are.
Education can also go deeper on issues faced specifically by foster care/adopted children. Suicide rates within the adoptive community are high-as well as the risk of sexual abuse. A plan should be in place if a child or teen-or adult-comes to a leader in the church with risky behaviors. Or they disclose facts that need to be reported. Are all your leaders aware of how to report situations or disclosures of abuse or neglect? These things are so important to have into place.
Education on challenges overwhelming our kids are also internal. Children in foster care are more likely to struggle with PTSD, traumatic memories, and mental illnesses. Volunteers must be educated in handling behaviors of all kinds-behaviors that go beyond pushing each other in lines. And the answer to acting out with these behaviors should not equate being unwelcome in the church. This brings it back to the inclusion point.
And at the end of the day, what do we need most?

Support.

Both inclusion and education go a long way in filling in holes where support is lacking. Fighting towards a diverse, understanding, inclusive and well educated group of leaders in the church creates a safe place for adoptive and foster families to go. When those things are covered, we no longer are left worrying about our child in Sunday school or policies to make sure they’re safe. When these needs are met, we are able to relax, share in fellowship, attend church, and gain what church should be about-worshipping Jesus.
There are a few other ways you can support a family during the foster care or adoption process and one I heard a few times is simply financial support. As the church-we are CALLED to help these children. If a church is unable to give money, at least it could step up and help fundraise.


As I mentioned in the inclusivity part, throw a baby shower. See what size clothes are needed for foster parents, especially if they have a high turnover rate. Start a meal train. I’ll be completely authentic here and say, making food after giving birth is nothing. Making food with two completely new to me children who tried to run away?? So much harder. Offer support in that manner.
Offer support through love, compassion, and just being there for a foster or adoptive parent.

I’ve said this before, I will say it again, this can be a really lonely path to walk. I have no doubt in my mind God put me here and is the guiding backbone to having chosen foster care and adoption. I know He called us to this lifestyle. And I am blessed by it immensely-it is only through the foster care system I have loved six children, four forever, and I count everyday with them as a blessing from Him.
As I mention in “10 Things Moms of Kids with Mental Illnesses Want You To Know,” not all of those days are easy and some of them feel so isolating. We need your support. We need you to be willing to hear us cry over things you cannot comprehend, pray for things you do not understand us requesting prayers for, accepting our families just as they are that day-because some of us change day to day.
Offer to take a foster or adoptive mom out to coffee. Ask if you can be CORI’d so you can be a person who is able to sit with them while a rare date night occurs.


Go to court with them and hold their hand on court days. Do you want to know the hardest day of my entire life as far as foster care goes? It’s not the day that we were told we were not approved to adopt a little girl we had fallen in love with. It’s not the day we watched a little boy be reunified, despite knowing it was for the best, watching our kids hearts being broken. It’s the day I had to testify; completely alone in a courtroom and feeling like no one was there for me, on my side, or even understood how hard it was to say what had to be said despite loving everyone involved in the case so darn much.

But is any of this the church’s responsibility?

I believe it absolutely is. In our walk to be Christlike, let’s not allow our comfort to come before helping those amongst us. Let us not quietly stand by the sidelines but dive headfirst into relentless love and unwavering support.

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James‬ ‭1:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

How can you help a foster or adoptive family in your church today? What can you do to encourage your church into taking some of these action steps? Has your heart been moved to push for changes?

Keeping Our Loved Ones Alive

Keeping Our Loved Ones Alive

As we grow older and as our children grow older, our time here on earth is forever marked by the loss of our loved ones. I experienced loss as a fairly young woman, as both my fathers parents passed away before I entered high school and then my father in law passed away about 9 months before we were married. I always dealt it well and while it wasn’t “easy,” I was raised with a steady Christian belief system and had a pretty good handle on it all.

When we began having and adopting kids though, I was made acutely aware that there were things missing from their lives. My kids will only be able to play baseball in the yard or go out fishing with one of their grandfathers. My father in law wouldn’t be showing them how to hunt or shoot a gun or feeding him some of his “interesting” meals.

They are missing out on eating ice cream from the carton and tunafish from the can like I did with my Papa. And Nana would never tell them six hundred times how to dry a dish…only to come back and dry it herself. (Because 10 year old me couldn’t dry dishes right okay?) My parents camp on the lake would always be that to them: Coach’s and Grandma’s camp. They would play with the dolls for hours, never once knowing the ish you could get in if you left one out after clean up time. They didn’t get to watch Papa cut up his fish.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am acutely aware how lucky my kids are to have two full sets of great grandparents and a great great grandmother. We are so thankful every day for the experiences and familial traditions they get to live through. For our family though, it’s very important to us to keep those loved ones who have passed a part of their story.

How do we do that though?

Keep the memories alive through stories.

My husband is the best at this when it comes to telling stories about his father. His entire demeanor changes as he takes on Chuck’s personality and voice while reciting these tales, our children sitting around and laughing at each word. I’ve been with him for five years now and every time there’s a new tale of his dad. I love when we’re together with his mother, brother and sisters and they all begin to tell the kids about the time they slid down the stairs or jumped from the balcony.

Telling stories about our deceased loved ones brings them back to life as we sit around and share what we remember. For my kids, who have no memory of these people, it gives them a real picture of what their voice sounded like, how they moved and who they were.

Keep photos around for them to look at.

I’m a huge photo fan(in case you haven’t been able to tell with this blog) and I believe holding onto photos of our loved ones is a great way to share them with our kids. We have photos of my father in law with my husband and brother in law hanging around the house and the kids can identify who he is through photos. The photographs will provide even more memories to talk about. I love to pull out my old photo albums of my grandparents so they can see what they were like when I was younger.

Celebrate their traditions.

One thing I truly hope to implicate this year is the birthday blessing my great grandmother used to say at our birthdays. A sweet, short prayer, it brings back the memories of her speaking it over us and our families having it memorized. My prayer is we can bring that back into our birthday parties, as a way to honor her and once upon a time, a family tradition.

Think back to what your loved ones ate on holidays or how they celebrated them and bring those into your lives now! Josh’s family always has pierogies on holidays and now our children have them every Christmas celebration with that side of the family. It’s something we hope to keep doing, even once we no longer do it with those people. I might continue to cook the raisin gravy…even though the kids and I won’t eat it. Not Polish enough? Maybe.

Speak their names and stories on special days.

For a long time, I refrained from mentioning my grandparents on their birthdays or holidays because I was afraid bringing them up would create more sadness than joy. It was a naive thought and one that not only didn’t honor my grandparents but also didn’t ease the pain of losing them for my loved ones.

It’s so important to speak their names and stories on days you would if they were still here. We passed by Chuck’s birthday recently and I asked my husband a few time how he was handling his dads birthday as well as told the kids today was the day Grandpa was born. I purposefully try to mention my grandparents on Mother and Father’s day and I attempt to bring them up during the hard celebrations we wish they were here for now. Mentioning them on these days brings them into the picture in gentle ways and makes it more natural to speak of them.

As much as it hurts to celebrate the special days, such as graduations and weddings, without our loved ones present, I love the ways people are bringing them into their weddings again with pictures or candles or the little pictures attached to their flowers.

Seek solace in the fact that this is not the end.

2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” -John 14: 2-4

How sweet are those words as believers, who are in mourning? We know the place where Jesus went to prepare the way, the place where He went to prepare a place for us all. We celebrate those words as we mourn. And as we tell our children stories of our deceased loved ones, we are able to find solace, comfort, and joy in the fact that in their deaths, they have left this world and are residing in heaven with our King.

Obviously, none of us know the beliefs in a persons heart, but as my husband said as I talked to him about this, if a person brings their bible to their hospital bed, prays while there, and has spent a good portion of their life talking about Jesus? We can begin to assume that yes, they have accepted Him into their heart.

Losing a loved one can be hard, no matter what point in your life you are at. While it’s important to me and my husband to keep the memory of them alive, it’s completely okay to take a step back if you have to, following a loss that hits you extremely hard. There is absolutely no shame in allowing yourself the proper time to heal and mourn. And if you’re loved one has been gone for a longer period of time, there’s nothing wrong with beginning this process now, at this point, even if you haven’t had it going forever.

How do you remember your deceased loved ones?

please

Please, Bring Your Screaming Baby to Our Church.

 

Per usual, I began inviting people to our Christmas events the day before Thanksgiving. I love Christmas so very much and I always want to invite other people to spend the entire season with me. It’s the perfect time of year to be an extrovert. A big part of our Christmas Eve, and Day this year, is church. Whenever I invite people to church, there’s a reaction of horror.

“Oh, I can’t go!” they explain. There’s a list of reasons why they can’t come, even though it’s Christmas Eve. I truly get some-if you don’t believe, if you aren’t into that, okay. But more often than not, I find people tell me they don’t want to feel unwelcome because of a circumstance.

So I want you to know this year…we want your screaming baby sitting in the back pew at our church on Christmas Eve. You are more than welcome to stand in the back, rocking them back and forth. We won’t glare at you if they fuss.

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We want your child who loudly proclaims in the middle of the service, “Look at my glowstick!” We want you, if you have to run out during a hymn because your toddler is holding onto themselves crying out “MAMA I GOTTA PEE”. You won’t be the first, or the last, to have that happen. Take it from the experienced runner outer.

You are welcome with your nursing baby. Chances are someone will even help you cover up if you’re struggling with your scarf or blanket. We love to see you bounce the baby a little, searching for a bottle. There may be someone around you who smiles and waves at your kids while our pastor is preaching…we like that too.

Even if you don’t know the words to the carols, even if you have forgotten the tune to the hymns, we would love to see you sitting next to us on Christmas morning. We don’t care where you’ve been, where you’re coming from, who you’re leaving behind…we would love to share this glorious day with you.

Maybe you’ve never read the Lord’s Prayer before in your life. Maybe you don’t even know if you believe the words in it. Maybe you read it every day for a decade and then walked away from it and this is your first time back at a church since then…it doesn’t matter what your circumstance is. We would love for you to be with us on Christmas Eve and day.

You might be in your finest clothes, stopping in for your three times a year church attendance. You may never have the inclination to return. You may fall in love and want to come every week after(no pressure though). You may meet a new friend or you may sit quietly in the back, intentionally trying to avoid contact. I apologize now if you do not succeed…we’re not a great place to go if you don’t want love or fellowship.

You might be in jeans and a stained shirt. You might still have on pajamas from the night before(actually that’s recommended for Sunday Morning!). You are still welcome in our congregation.

Maybe you’re only here because it’s warmer than your house this weekend. Maybe you hope to find some support in grieving your first holiday after you lost a loved one. Maybe you’re only here to appease your grandmother. Maybe your Christmas season is plagued with heartache and sorrow, maybe this feels like an annoyance that takes you away from the party.

No matter why you find yourself here, no matter the reasons you think you would be shunned, you are loved. You are cherished. You are valued. And we would love to see you at church with us this Christmas. Actually, we would love to see you at our church any given day.

Please, bring your screaming baby to our church.

(Because I assure you, yours will not be the only one.)

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