Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Starting Our Day with a Morning Devotional

This blog post was originally written for and published by Fresh Canned Peaches, a blog by Kyra Holm about joyful self-reliance. 

Mornings can be the most hectic part of a mom's day. And while I don't have school-age kids to get ready and out the door--my kids are 2 and 1--just getting breakfast on the table and cleaned up can feel like an enormous feat. Personally, mornings are a struggle for me. I'm definitely not a morning person--never have been. Even after years of getting up early, it's still painful. My kids, on the other hand, seem to hit the ground running the moment they open their eyes! I'd take their tiny wake-up call any day over an obnoxious alarm, but seriously, it's all I can do every morning to keep up with the barrage of dirty diapers, spills, and spit-up. Then before I know it, I'm eating cold eggs and toast again, and the kitchen looks like a bomb went off. (Note to self: install child-proof locks.)

No one wants to start their day feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. And since there's nothing I can do about the inevitable spit-up and sink full of dishes, I've had to find other ways to simplify and bring peace to our mornings. One thing I started doing a few months ago was setting aside some time for a morning devotional with my kids. My mother-in-law gave me a big book of illustrations she used years ago as a Sunday School teacher, and they've really brought the scriptures to life for my kids. (You can find a similar book here or here.)

Every morning after breakfast, when we go upstairs to get dressed and make beds, we pull out the book and pick out a picture to talk about--we usually go in order (we started with the Creation and now we're talking about the birth of Christ), but sometimes another picture catches their eye, so we talk about that. I love when they point and ask questions on their own instead of me waving my arms and jiggling the picture to get their attention, which happens some mornings, too.  

After we pick a picture, I read the story on the back, sometimes a verse or two out of the scriptures--we keep a set in Caleb's room, which we also read at bedtime--and put the picture up on our chalkboard easel for them to look at. I can wedge the pictures nicely into the top of the easel so they stay put and I can leave them up all day. And the illustrations are inside transparency sleeves, so they're easy to slide in and out (unfortunately, they're also easy to crumble and rip). I have another book of LDS art that has quite a few pictures that my other book doesn't have, like Moses holding the 10 commandments and the angel appearing to Mary, so we've propped this book open a time or two on the tray of the easel, too.

Lydia, my one-year-old, loves whenever she can point out animals in the pictures--she always turns to the picture of Noah's ark--and Caleb, my almost-3-year-old, likes to ask and answer questions about the people and their stories. I write a key word or two on the chalkboard to help him remember what we're learning, too, and he's already learned words like "prophet," "ark," "tabernacle," and "Nebuchadnezzar"--how to say them and what they mean. What I love about our morning devotional is not only that it gives me precious one-on-one (two-on-one?) time with my kids, but also gives us a chance to learn about God and the scriptures together.

Caleb still talks almost daily about David fighting "Golijah" (he keeps mixing up the names Goliath and Elijah), and the other day when he was putting on his Superman shirt, he told me, "Superheroes and Heavenly Father and Jesus help people." I love that he's learning that God helps and protects us, like He did in the fiery furnace for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how His commandments help us, like they did for Daniel when he chose not to eat anything against God's law.
We still have crazy mornings--and let's be honest, crazy days--but I feel like our devotional gives us something to look forward to after breakfast, something to learn and talk about together, and something to refer back to when we clash over tantrums or time-outs. It seems there's always a lesson in what we learn that morning that ties with what whatever our day brings us. And it's certainly brought the peace--not to mention, a little more structure--to our mornings that I was looking for.