A Library Find: Cultivating a Child's Christian Faith through Fine Art

Art, Children and The Gospel

 

During our two month absence the library relocated the Spanish children’s books which my daughter loves to check out though rarely reads. We never found where they put them because instead we discovered a collection of coffee table picture books, you know the kind that cost way too much at museum gift shops?  As it turns out they actually let you take these beauties home for two weeks (6 if you keep on renewing them). My daughter picked out one on parrots and I found this gem, The Life of Christ in Masterpieces of Art.

I doubt this book was created with children in mind but my daughter asked for it incessantly once we brought it home. It features paintings, mosaics and sculptures paired with Scripture readings that tell the story of Christ from Annunciation to Ascension.  She was captivated by the images and I was able to introduce her to great works of art, ancient Christian symbols and the story of the gospel all at the same time.

Art, Children, The Gospel
Meditating on the stations of the cross (in case you wondered she picks out her own outfits these days).

 

Sitting in front of this book with her I realized I have a tendency to underestimate my daughter’s capacity for complexity. I give her simplified stories and coloring books with Bible characters that she can understand but where the rich meaning of the original story is lost.

Now I’m not advocating for always giving kids information that is above their level, that would be frustrating and probably a big turn off for most. But I am suggesting that we find new ways, or in this case old ways, to tell the stories of our faith. We need to stop sharing our faith as if it were a piece of data, a spelling word to memorize. Instead we need to bring our children into the richness of their Christian heritage  in a way that inspires wonder and curiosity.  And the cool thing about great art, whether paintings or sculptures, architecture, hymns or whatever, is that like our faith it is mysterious.  The more we understand it the deeper it seems to go.

You don’t need to get this book (though it is for sale on Amazon for around $3 second hand) but if you are like me, you may need to re-examine the way we communicate our faith to our kids. If we teach them that the Bible is a text book, a place to go for facts that can be proven or dis-proven, or that that it is a collection of characters or stories to be memorized, we are missing the point and so are they. We need to engage our kids into a living faith, a beautiful heritage and to encounter the living person of Christ.  It may start with something as simple as a trip to a local church or museum or in our case a regular visit to our local library.

 

Happy Easter Friends!

 

 

Parenting and What No One Ever Tells You

Parenting and What No One Ever Tells You, Liturgy of Life, Sacramentally Cultivating a Household

 

I recently became an aunt again and have fallen in love with my new little niece.

 

Looking at her got me thinking back a few years to when our daughter was born, remembering the bewilderment of trying to find a rhythm with this brand new tiny person whose personality seems to change daily, while everyone around offers some piece of new and conflicting advice.

 

Some of the lines we heard over and over,

“They grow up so fast.”

“Just you wait till she gets older.”

“Well you are going to be dealing with that for the next 18 years.”

 

But tonight as I tuck her in I am thinking about all of the things that no one ever told me, that I suppose even if they had I wouldn’t have understood.

 

That grief is as much a part of love as joy and that growing up is its own sort of death.

 

.    .    .

 

No one ever tells you that .  .  .  watching your child’s first step you will cry with celebration mixed with mourning as she moves that much faster now on her wobbly legs towards the person she is becoming and ceases to be the baby that she once was. 

 

No one ever tells you that .  .  .  a knot will seize up in your guts as you watch her innocence and eagerness to know the world corrupted by the pain and violence she finds there.

 

No one ever tells you that .  .  .  watching her grow up will drive you to work longer and think harder (with far less sleep) than you ever even imagined you were capable of.

 

No one ever tells you that .  .  .   the confidence she has in you will leave you inspired and humbled knowing that you can’t help but let her down though you wouldn’t stop short of giving her your very life if she needed you to.

 

No one ever tells you that .  .  .  you will be terrified holding her in your arms desiring more than anything  to protect her and yet knowing that you are weak and your protection is minuscule against the strength of the world around you.

 

No one ever tells you about the power of a child in your life, that with her everything changes.  And that when you tuck her into bed at night you will encounter the Holy, you will see that Love is a Person and  in her you will be drawn to Him. And that is how it should be, grief and joy and tears and all.

 

 

 

Six Tips on Parenting An Only Child Without A TV And Without Loosing Your Mind

Liturgy of Life, raising an only child, with no tv without going crazy.

 

Watching my daughter gathering her things (Duplos, Lincoln Logs, piles of dried grass, crumpled paper, tiny dishes and most of her clothes) into a basket which will soon be dumped onto the living room rug I begin to feel a familiar tension rising in me.

I love that I get to be home with my daughter, but sometimes I am exhausted trying to keep her engaged while keeping our house and family functioning.   I have always wanted a large family but at moments like these I wonder if perhaps God knew I would absolutely loose it if I had to manage more than one kid at a time.

I’ve been comforted by the words of several friends who have 4 or 5.

“Sometimes having just one is the hardest, they keep you busy because they want all your attention, with multiples they entertain each other.”

I can’t even describe how affirming those comments have been.

So right now in our reading group we are reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking. In it Schaeffer reminds us that our homes are places to express ourselves and to be creative. They are places for family and guests to connect and grow.   And while being home all day alone with a three year old can bring anyone to the verge of insanity it is also an opportunity to create special moments together and to take tiny steps towards raising her to live life in its fullest now and as she grows.

Now I recognize that there are many who have years of experience on me as a parent, and honestly I have no room to give advice. But at the same time the thing about an only child is you only get one chance, you either have just one, or you end up with more kids and the dynamic changes. So no one really can be much of an expert here. Take it or leave it, here are a few pieces of wisdom that I have learned in these three short years.

Six Tips for Raising an Only Child and Staying Sane

1.  Bring them into your world. This has been key for us. We noticed while working in Mexico that children were quieter and more respectful around adults. Of course the Mexican families we knew loved their kids, but their children weren’t the center of their world.  Their children had an important place in their home but the home did not revolve around them.

So this has been our approach.

I aim to bring my daughter into what I’m doing.   I’m always willing to let her help me cook or clean or garden (of course what she has to offer isn’t always “helpful” but I still let her participate, the mess I think is worth it). If I have to do sit down work like writing a letter or paying a bill I let her color or write, do stamps or play dough at the table with me.

I don’t spend a lot of time “playing” with her. But when I do, I make it count.  I usually stop a couple times a day for 10 minutes or so to sit down and play whatever game she wants. When I do, I give her all my attention, my phone is put away (for the most part I leave my computer put away unless she is napping or unless I am like 10 minutes from being done with a blog post when she wakes up) and we don’t have TV. So I play with enthusiasm and I have a blast. Something that I just couldn’t do if our play time had no end in sight.

It may sound a bit harsh but having once been swept into an hour long game of My Little Ponies I learned my lesson.

2. Be creative.  Find things that you actually enjoy doing together. Sometimes I let her pick out a project like making a new diaper for her doll.  Or I’ll see a recipe for homemade play dough and want to try it out. For us this looks like a lot of arts and crafts as well as some nature hikes but for you it might be sports or manicures or collecting rocks or woodworking or taking care of animals or whatever you are into.  If you work at it you can almost always find a way to do something enjoyable, and even productive, together.

3. Get a routine. I’m not naturally organized but since having a kid I’ve realized that establishing a weekly and daily routine is a game changer for us. I found that my daughter functions better and has more fun when she knows what to expect.

A weekly routine my be as simple as: Monday we go to the grocery store, Tuesday we do laundry, Wednesday we have a play date, Thursday we go the park and Friday we do family music night. You probably already have one. Make a point to explain it to your kid and help them feel a part of what is going on.
You probably have a daily routine too. Ours goes something like: get up have tea and prayer time, then get dressed, have breakfast and do some reading over the table, then we either go out or start on some project in the house. Lunch is at 12:00, rest time at 1. We have dinner at 6 then bath and bed. Of course it changes if we have company are out of the house. But keeping the structure of things the same keeps us all on the same page.

4. Know when to break the routine. Sometimes a rough day needs an extra trip to the park or a “let’s drop everything and go get an ice cream cone”.

5. Don’t be afraid of a little boredom.  There will be moments when you have to make a call or wait in line and your kid will start to complain.  Don’t feel like you need to whip out an iPhone or DVD player (do people still use those?). Boredom stimulates imagination and observation. Your job isn’t to keep your kid entertained don’t feel guilty about it.

4. Take a rest time. Even if your child refuses to sleep keep the rest time in your schedule. Even without napping we all have a better day if we have an hour alone to wind down and re-collect. I’ve recently begun letting my daughter listen to music because she hardly ever naps anymore. I put on a CD that is at least one hour long. She has to stay in her room until it is over, if she falls asleep great, if not, at least we both had a relaxing hour to ourselves.

5. Get out of the house. I’m a homebody. But my daughter has energy to burn.  While we do end up spending one day a week entirely at home, I try to at least add in a walk to the mailbox or an outdoor activity. Most other days we run an errand and usually stop by a play ground or the library.  Even a 10 minute stop off  at the swings can feel exciting to a 3 year old. Better yet is a play date, even better is a regular play date or something like library story time. Try to fit a couple activities into your weekly routine that gets you out and that gives you both a social outlet.

6. Give yourself a break. Sometimes, especially for me, as a mom of one who had expected to be a mom of a larger family, I feel the need to relish the time with my daughter. I always imagined I’d have a decade or so with a pre-schooler around, but time is flying by and I don’t want to miss a moment with my one and only precious kid.

But that time is just as precious for her and her dad or other family. And it is important for her to make friends of her own. And sometimes I really need along time, or my husband and I need time together. I need to keep reminding myself that it is good for my daughter to have parents with friends and interests and it is good for her to have other people in her life who she knows and trusts.

 

Parenting is hard.

But no one cares more about parenting our kids than we do, hard or not, we are the best people to guide and shape our little ones through life.

Now to clean up that pile on the living room rug.

 

This post is part of a series referencing The Hidden Art of Homemaking. We would love to have you read along with us. Click here to learn more about what Liturgy of Life is all about and feel free to comment here or join our facebook group for more in-depth discussion.

You may also enjoy:

Swim Lessons and Gratitude and How Our Iphones Interfere with Both.

Tips and Tricks for Road Tripping with a Pre-schooler

Parenting by Example, My Bad Attitude and St. Benedict

Holding Hands.
A Few Thoughts
on God’s Love.

holdinghands

“Can you hold my hand Mama?”

My little girl came down with a fever yesterday. This morning she comes into our room, early.  There isn’t much else I can do for her, but she doesn’t ask for anything else.  She takes my hand and goes back to sleep.

And while we are laying there dozing I think about God and how He promises to be with me.  Sometimes I go crazy trying to figure Him out. His love is mysterious and unsearchable, the way He works in the world  baffles, even angers me. But then sometimes it is just like this. Me reaching up to Him saying, “hold my hand?” and He always does. And with that I can rest.

So we sit like this, she begins feverish and tired,  me anxious and afraid, not for her fever, but just about our lives and our future. We hold hands and we are comforted.  And right here in this moment God’s love for me makes more sense than ever.