Growing up as a PK (pastor’s kid) was an experience (more on that another time) but one of my favorite things we did as a family, were daily family devotions around the breakfast table. My brother and two sisters and I, we would go through commentaries and memorize scripture, having lively debates on original sin and the present day implications of what it means to keep the Sabbath Holy. My dad had this giant white board he’d whip out to help us understand the original greek of the passage we were studying. We’d often end in worship, my sister on the piano and the rest of us taking different harmonies. I’m sure it wasn’t as perfect and holy as my memories are, I’m sure we all had our off mornings and I KNOW that many times the “devotion” for the morning was to discuss and bring attention to one of our conflicts or disrespectful responses to my parents. It was part theology and part discipleship/counseling. Even still, it is one of my favorite growing up memories.
Once I had four littles of my own, I couldn’t wait to carry on the tradition of breakfast and Bible. Only, my children are seven, six, four and one, much too young to debate theology or play musical instruments. Most mornings my attempts at devotions end in frustration. Everyone has to go to the bathroom or get a diaper change, or needs more water, or spills their water. I am herding cats, not teaching eager little beavers.
Some days I feel like they are bored, uninterested and itching to leave the table. Some days I wonder why I try.
And then, one morning, I had a shift.
They weren’t paying attention, my patience was running thin, and I just started reading the story for that morning and it was about how Jesus calms the storm. Something about the way it was written pierced my heart. I felt like the waves were crashing down on me, I felt like Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat and here I was frantically trying to keep us from drowning.
I started to cry as I read, I was having my own holy moment and the kids started to hush. I guess they aren’t used to seeing mommy in tears or hear such heartfelt, weak and needy prayers.
It was in that moment that I realized why I need to persist in morning devotions.
Instead of doing it for them, I need to do it for me.
I realized that I NEED the gospel every morning, not just my kids.
Our devotions started to change a bit after that.
I started diving into scripture that inspired ME and brought me to tears, instead of the cute stories from their children’s Bible.
I played worship songs that I could belt out and experience the Holy Spirit through, instead of This Little Light of Mine.
I needed to preach the gospel to myself, I needed to be real with my kids over MY struggles to trust that God keeps His promises when it looked like daddy might lose his job, or I was so tired with a list a mile long. Some days, my passion and my heart would break through to them, their little voices joining mine and their prayers heartfelt and tender. Some days I really was just preaching to myself – while they smeared yogurt all over the table.
Either way I am convinced that I am most effective as a mom when I stand before God and work as unto Him and Him alone. When I don’t allow the responses from my children dictate my faithfulness to live and articulate the gospel to them.
Maybe one day, we will dive into commentaries and I’ll get out the whiteboard, like my father used to do, and we will study together. But, if that is a gift granted to me, it is several years off at least. Until then, I will follow Him, I will pray my heart out, right there at the table full of crumbs, over the screeches of a one year old who is done with being confined to her high chair, and I will delight myself in the Lord, leaving the souls of my children in His capable hands.
Here are a few resources I have found helpful for our morning devotion time, easy enough for my very young children to grasp, but substantial to feed my heart as well.
Wise Up by Marty Machowski
This devotional does a uniquely wonderful job of teaching wisdom without teaching rules. It shows children how to live according to God’s design but is CONSTANTLY reminding them that good works alone can NEVER save us, we are loved by God through Jesus sacrifice alone. This devotional also has a musical album to accompany it and the truths that it teaches. My kids love music and I loved being able to sing with them and reinforce what we were learning day by day.
Heaven for Children by Randy Alcorn
I am a huge fan of Randy Alcorn and both his fiction and non-fiction. His book Heaven was foundational to my understanding of and greater longing for Heaven and when I saw he had a version for children I was hopeful it would be just as good. It did not disappoint. This book made us ALL long for heaven and was a constant reminder to me what GLORIES await us, giving me a hope in the midst of trials and giving my children a much larger picture of what Heaven is like and what a miracle it is that we, who are far from perfect or deserving, get to go to this wonderful place. This book also CLEARLY preaches the gospel in several places.
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
I would be remiss if I did not include this resource, although it is not new by any stretch, still, I am blown away, time and time again, when we take a break from reading this bible and come back to it, how deep, clear, compelling and beautiful the gospel is presented through this Children’s bible. The ONLY Children’s Bible I would read all by myself.