936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
I was dealing with a case of the all-too-frequent “Sunday morning sickness”, although this time she actually did feel feverish when she woke up.
“Okay, I’ll stay home with you. We don’t have to go to church today.”
My daughter’s face lit up with joy, something I didn’t see most Sunday mornings. But while her heart rejoiced, mine began flooding with disappointment. Why does she dislike church so much? Where have we gone wrong?
Church had been part my husband and my life since we met, in fact, we’d both attended church our whole lives. Because of church friends, we met our daughter and three weeks later, adopted her. I thought I’d done everything Proverbs 22:6 told us parents to do, I had “raised her in the way she should go” and yet – she pled with me each Sunday morning to stay home.
In her pink nightgown with a bowl of cereal in her hands, she plopped down on the couch excited to watch Sunday morning shows. They felt like a novelty to her, a prize for being sick. I didn’t want to turn on the TV or reward her for staying home, but I honestly didn’t know what else to do.
“Lord, help me not condemn her and show me how to introduce you to her,” I prayed. I needed some help.
As the morning turned into noon and the sun warmed up the chilly day, I suggested we take a walk. She didn’t like the idea at first, but eventually went along with it.
We headed to the sidewalk that wraps around our neighborhood. I thought maybe we could get a little Sunday school lesson in. It would make me feel less guilty about missing church.
“Let’s talk and tell stories! What do you think?” I suggested. With squinted eyes and a scrunched up nose, she quieted her voice. She was on to me already: “Okay….” she replied hesitantly, “I guess. But do we have to talk about Jesus and stuff?”
The disappointment that had slowly trickled into my heart burst forth, flooding in like an old basement crack that sprung a leak. What was wrong with her? I needed to know so I looked down and asked, “Why don’t you like talking about God?”
I braced myself for her answer… and a Christian parent’s worst nightmare. I was ready to hear that my kid hated God. Or maybe someone at church had done something bad to her. Whatever it was, I needed to know. She hesitated, unsure it was safe to say why, but soon in a very soft, muffled voice she spoke:
What a relief, was my honest, immediate thought. And as we walked, I calmed down and gained more insight into how she felt.
My creative, imaginative, storytelling girl- a child who transforms the silverware at restaurants into pretend characters and toys, was tired of hearing the same Bible stories over and over. Jesus had become merely another character taped on the wall to her. God was predictable, and there was no magic or mystery left to find. It was hard and humbling to hear, but in a quick moment of reflection, I realized she was right.
I had introduced her to God in the ways I love to meet Him – through studying the Bible, singing worship songs and listening to messages at church. I hadn’t recognized her need to uniquely connect with Him and that it may look different from me.
“Oh babe, I can understand why you’d feel that way,” I finally replied. “I’m sorry, I’ve not done a good job of showing you all of the different sides of God. He’s actually the least boring thing ever. Jesus is pretty amazing, and the Holy Spirit is crazy fun!”
She stayed quiet with her doubts, but she was open to hearing more. I began pointing out the different colors on our walk – the blue houses, green grass, mocha-colored tree bark – and we talked about God as an artist. We watched the squirrels run up the trees and talked about God the Creator – how did He make so many animals!? We threw out a lot of questions about Heaven: Who’s there right now? Will we be kids or adults when we get there? Will we eat? (We hope so)! What’s Jesus doing right now? How about Grandma Pat? Will our dogs be there?
It was a fun conversation and at the end of the walk, she was smiling.
Ever since that Sunday, I’ve not looked at God and church in the same way. As a family, we still attend church most weeks (and value church family so much!). However, I’ve learned that it’s OK to miss every once and awhile, and especially when the Holy Spirit has something else planned.
Teaching our kids to build a relationship with the living God is not one-size-fits-all. Just like God meets us adults in ways unique to our personalities, interests and passions – God meets our kids in the same ways. It’s a joy of parenting to sense and discern how God may be calling them, and to schedule (or reschedule!) our days so they can experience Him, too.
Sometimes they do need Bible stories, coloring sheets and children’s church to discover Him. But other times, they don’t. They need nature walks, art projects and movies. They need to be drawn into the goodness of God through new and fun ways, through family time and prayer. They need a day at home and permission to sit on the couch in their PJs and get loved on by their parents. After all, Romans 8 tells us God can use ALL things for His glory. (Even if that means missing Sunday morning church.)
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!