I love the Sabbath. When I was younger I loved the time for peaceful reflection that the Sabbath gave me. Years flew by, Cameron and I became parents, and my leisurely Sabbaths of quiet and peace were gone. How do you make the Sabbath beautiful with young kids running here, there, and everywhere around you?
Learning to keep the Sabbath as a young family has been a process for us. We now have a small repertoire of activities that are spiritually and emotionally nourishing that we enjoy together on Sundays. Of course, we are all human, and this doesn't mean the Sabbath is stress- and contention-free around here. But we enjoy the effort to cultivate a Sabbath spirit among the little squabbles along the way. Here are some of the activities we regularly choose:
1. Family history--Years ago for Christmas I gathered stories from relatives and compiled a book of Grandma and Grandpa's bedtime stories. It is a simple binder full of stories placed in plastic page protectors. I wrote the stories for a kids' audience and included pictures and a few illustrations provided by Cameron's talented brother. A year or two later I added several more pages of my mission stories with some old pictures from my mission. Through the years my kids have loved those stories. Recently Cameron's grandma passed away, and we pulled the book out to read all the stories from her life. I love teaching my kids about their ancestors. In a few more years when Jake gets good at deciphering people's cursive I want to teach him to index. For now, we love to fill the kids with stories. Cuddling up on a Sunday with the kids and this book is a wonderful bonding opportunity.
5. LDS Conference talks--We recently started watching a conference talk together every Sunday--this keeps the previous conference fresh in our minds. If the kids pay attention we all enjoy a treat together afterwards. We check to make sure they were paying attention by asking what they remember from the talk, and this has led to some sweet gospel discussions.
6. Family council--I blogged about our family council a few years ago, but it is the cement that holds our family together. Every Sunday evening since our two oldest kids were toddlers we have gathered around a big bowl of popcorn to discuss family issues, calendar items, disciplinary concerns. etc. Throughout the week we write agenda items on the white board that hangs in our kitchen. These meetings give our kids a voice in family matters and let them feel heard. We write our decisions down in our family binder, and our kids hold us to them! We end family council each week with our family cheer and group hug, and it is a wonderful way to end a Sabbath.
Just because it's Sunday doesn't mean our children are suddenly willing to sit still for long time periods. We find it works best to constantly move from one activity to the next. Maybe we will read family history or gospel stories for a while, play a fun Sunday game, watch a conference talk, and then eat a snack. We sometimes mix things up a bit with individual parent-child time or an occasional family testimony meeting. We have our best successes when we keep things moving from one activity to the next.
Keeping the Sabbath beautiful and uplifting with a young, large family isn't easy. But I love the feeling in our home as soft Sunday music plays and we discuss the gospel as a family. It is worth every bit of effort to enjoy that sweet spirit in our home!