Faith · Family

Morning Whack-a-Mole (or Morning Devotions — tomayto, tomahto)

photo-53Morning devotions is one of my favorite family traditions. Because my older three leave the house at 6:45, we don’t read a devotion together any more. I want to, but this is definitely a case of my spirit is willing, but my not-a-morning-person flesh is very weak. It’s on my list of things I want to do, but I’m giving myself grace on this one. Anyway, my three little guys catch the bus much later, so we read from Jesus Calling for kids together each morning. And I love it.

I love that they have scripture and thoughts of God fresh in their minds before they hop on the school bus. I love that we pray together each morning before they leave — even if we’re running late and the bus is about to come and all I can say is God, please fill these boys up with You today and help them to love You with all their heart, soul, strength and mind and to love other people too. Amen. 

When it seems I mess up a lot as a mom (Hello! Like last night when I completely went grouchy-crazy and lost it over absolutely nothing important. And had to tearfully apologize to Lauren.) — so when it seems I mess up a lot, I know I am doing this one thing well. And, you know, sometimes we hang onto whatever little thread we have. Right?

Reading some Bible verses and thoughts about God together each morning gets our heads on right for the day. It sets our focus a little bit, puts us in the right frame of mind to take on the day. It’s a habit I hope my kids develop on their own because we’re establishing it now. And I trust that these truths we’re planting each morning in their hearts will take root. That just when they need a thought or bit of truth the most, the words of our morning devotions will spring to mind.

Most mornings, our time together is sweet. I read (sometimes Daddy is still here and he reads) and they listen, then one of us prays. It takes three or four minutes, maybe five if we have a lot to pray about. But I was recently thinking about the days when we first started. The children were younger. Some of them had the attention span of a gnat. They weren’t in love with the idea of sitting down and listening to a devotional reading. It took a while to get them to all come to the table. And just when the last one finally meandered in, another would remember he only had one sock and jump up to search for the missing one. A giant game of whack-a-mole does not put a momma in a deep spiritual mood for reading from the Bible.

In those early days, I would start to read, get four words out, then a child would interrupt with some extremely urgent thing to say, like I hope we play dodgeball in PE today. Then just when I’d get us back on-track and re-read those four words and add on another three words, somebody would accidentally kick someone else’s chair while putting on a shoe. Drama would ensue. I would douse that flame and start reading again. After a few more words, someone would burp or make a face or whisper something important about LEGOs to someone else. And our three minute devotional reading would take fifteen minutes.

Many mornings I’d start our devotion time with a prayer. You know, one of those prayers that is really more toward my children than to God. Dear God, please let us all hear Your words to us this morning. And help us not to touch each other or whisper or burp or interrupt while Momma’s reading. Please help us remember that You are God Almighty and we have to treat You with respect and honor, like being perfectly silent during devotion time. Amen. And then my children would go ahead and burp and whisper and touch each other and play with army men and drum on the table. And I would wonder if this was really such a good idea after all.

But gradually the time between interruptions grew. They came to the table more quickly. They began to accept this as part of the routine.  They got older; their attention spans increased. Little by little, they got with the program. Now, many mornings nobody interrupts at all. Not every morning, mind you. My children are still very much children. Last night during Advent readings, my oldest and youngest were whispering about rubber band bracelets instead of, you know, listening to the promise of Messiah’s coming. Because deciding colors for rubber band bracelets is pretty important. So we still have our moments of gnat-like attention spans and distractions. But we press on. And, really, in this tradition, the sweet moments now outnumber the frustrating ones.

So, Mommas (or Daddies) of little ones, if you’re considering reading a morning devotion together, I want to encourage you — Do it! Even when it’s frustrating and distractions abound, even when it seems they don’t want to listen, Do it! Choose something short and age-appropriate. (I do love, love, love Jesus Calling for kids!) Pray that you’ll be gentle and kind and loving when the children interrupt — because they WILL interrupt. Expect it to take longer than it should. Maybe try reading to them while they’re eating. Their mouths will be busy with food and maybe less likely to interrupt with the important announcement of I hope we have Asian chicken for lunch today! 

I can’t even stress enough how glad I am we pushed through the thoughts of giving it up, the thoughts of how it seemed a futile exercise in getting everyone’s attention at once. This will be one of my favorite memories of my children’s growing-up years — sitting around the breakfast table and reading reminders of God’s love and faithfulness and praying for the new day together.

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