Monday, January 18, 2016

Keeping the Sabbath Holy (with Young Kids Underfoot)

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.

2. Reading--A few years ago we picked up on a good example from Cameron's cousins and started only reading our kids Christ-centered literature on Sundays. We have a couple magazine boxes stuffed with years of LDS Friend magazines. We also have all the scripture stories the church publishes and a few books we've picked up through the years. I love reading these uplifting stories to the kids on Sundays. It provides a great opportunity to discuss gospel principles in our lives and brings a wonderful spirit into our home.
3. Family scriptures--Cameron remembers poring over a big family Bible as a kid that was rich with pictures. When Jake was young we started looking for something like that for our family and found a lot of very expensive (though beautiful) options. We decided to make our own. We bought an extra-large LDS Bible and triple combination and started filling them with pictures we cut out from old Ensign magazines. We paste a picture on plain white paper, run a glue stick along the edge of the picture, and then insert it carefully into the appropriate place in the scriptures. We then highlight the matching scriptural passage. Through the years we have built up a beautiful variety of artwork, and we love looking through these with our kids and telling them stories.
4. Sunday games--When our kids were little we developed a game of scripture charades. We start by setting out three to five scripture pictures (we use ones from our old Gospel Art Picture Kit, but old pictures cut out from the Ensign would work just as well) and the kids then scamper off to choose which of the pictures they are going to act out. This has led to some delightful scriptural re-enactments! Giving them a few stories to choose from makes it easy to guess but also reminds them of scripture stories they might not think about otherwise.
Sometimes on Sunday little bodies need to be up and moving, and the Sabbath should be joyful and not drudgery. Several years ago Cameron invented a game we call prophet tag. We go out in the backyard with a soft, foam ball and start running around. The person with the ball throws the ball at another person. When it hits the person, the thrower has to name a prophet. If he blanks out and can't remember one, he keeps the ball and tries again to get someone else. This is fun and interactive but helps them remember scripture heroes.

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!

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