It started with a desire to make my children more grateful. There were too many moments when words of jealousy pierced my ears. Too many moments when their complaints about dinner, or things they didn’t have, or the unfairness of life threatened my attempts at being a patient and loving mother. How could I help them see how many wonderful gifts God had given them? How could we then progress to the truth that God brings good out of events and circumstances that first appear undesirable, uncomfortable, or even tragic? And how can I help them see that these gifts from God are more wonder-filled than any video game will ever be?
So here is our list for the summer. A list that will hopefully result in a summer full of gratitude, joy, and wonder in a world that so desperately needs relief from jaded perspectives and a renewal in the miraculous creativity of God.
- Make a gratitude list
Inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, I decided to start a gratitude list with my family. Our goal is to reach one thousand (or more) different gifts we’re thankful for by the end of the summer. My kids love adding to the list, and I love watching them notice the little, ordinary things throughout their day that fill them with joy and wonder. I try to make a point of reminding them that all of these gifts come from God, and my hope is that the practice of being thankful will help to curb materialism and the indifference it creates — and remind them to marvel at even the simplest pleasures in life.
2. Spend time with nature
Nature walks, sitting on the back deck at sunset, or leaving the city lights behind for a breathtaking view of the stars allows us to bask in something bigger than ourselves. We remember how to wonder when we remember how small we are and how the greatest creations are impossible for humans to duplicate. Find a beautiful view, point it out to your children, and ask them to describe it to you–and watch the glint of wonder light up their eyes.
3. Teach them how to pray
It is only when we become friends with the greatest Wonder-Creator of all that we can truly appreciate all that surrounds us. Make a habit of praying a Morning Offering or Rosary together as a family. Spend some one-on-one time with each of your children, guiding them through spontaneous prayer, lectio divina, or a favorite devotion. Help them develop a relationship with Jesus so they will recognize His face in everyone they see, and his creative hand in everything they encounter. (see the book Pray With Me: Seven Simple Ways To Pray With Your Children by Grace Mazza Urbanski for ideas on how to pray with your children.)
4. Find new life
My daughters’ eyes lit up with excitement when they heard our newest baby’s heartbeat for the first time. My 11-year-old son’s interest always piqued when I mentioned the latest development of the three baby birds nestled above our garage light. My toddler loved being the first to bring in a cucumber from the garden. New life reminds us of God’s mission — that He is a life-giver. Even after we leave this earthly existence, He only wants to bring us into another life more glorious than we could ever imagine. Seek out opportunities for your children to experience the miracle of a brand new life being formed, and nurture their inherent sense of the miracle of creation.
5. Surround them with beauty
Bring fresh flowers into the house. Pull aside curtains in the mornings and bask in the beauty of a new day’s sunbeams. Play beautiful music. Choose home decor that reflects the beauty of our Catholic faith. Visit art museums. And teach your children the beauty of an orderly, clean home. My children often complain about doing their chores, yet they never fail to gravitate to the cleanest room in the house. In a world that is too often cluttered with ugliness, noise, and stress, give your children an appreciation for that which is beautiful and allows room for God. Raise them to be the bearers of beautiful wonder to the rest of the world.
Copyright 2018 Charisse Tierney