Do you have days when you wonder if you’re doing anything right? Do you ask yourself, “Am I doing what God meant for me to do?”
Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what God-given good is present in the real, day-to-day me. What did God see in me, or give to me, that would make Him choose me to be the mother of our four boys?
This post discusses how using our God-given talents at home, and not being envious or jealous of other families, are two important parts of following God’s will for your family.
Your unique gift or talent might be service, or hospitality, or telling jokes, or sports, or crafts, or patience, or organization, or traveling the world. Maybe it’s painting, or building, or cooking. (The list goes on and on.) Each of those gifts has the potential to bring God’s love to your family. Each gift you have makes your home quite different than mine. Your talents will shape your family life into something completely different than your neighbors’.
My problem is, I see all the wonderful gifts out there, and I think I’m supposed to give them all to my family in order to help my kids get to Heaven.
That is not possible. But it is what I try (and fail) to do.
Whenever I read about different homeschooling styles, I understand that “school-in-a-box” works great for some, while unschooling works for others. Somehow, despite the method of homeschooling chosen, the children still learn what they need to in the end. It doesn’t bother me that some families succeed using those methods, because I am quite comfortable in my eclectic, Charlotte Mason-inspired classical homeschool.
I don’t have the same comfortable feeling when it comes to my kids’ spiritual learning, though. How about you?
When you hear your Catholic friends talk about what they do at home to keep the Faith front-and-center in their home life, do you start to get jealous? Or if you read Catholic family blogs, do you start feeling discontent? I always feel temped to think that I’m doing something wrong, or not enough.
Why is this? Is it because we see all the Catholic devotions, liturgical customs, and traditions as MANDATORY? That we moms somehow have to fit everything in, or we’re going to deprive our childrens’ spiritual lives?
There must be styles of living the Faith at home, just like there are styles of homeschooling. Different “styles” that, in the end, produce a child who chooses to love God because he knows God loves him. And there must be one that fits your family naturally, as God intended and planned from the beginning.
Before I continue, I have to point out that, really, none of us can “produce” such a said God-loving child, because none of us can force our children to love God. We can instill habits of virtue, teach the Catechism, etc. but in the end, the child’s heart is drawn to God only by God Himself. It is out of our control. Out of my control. And maybe that’s what scares me, but I know it shouldn’t!
That’s my general goal for our home learning environment. Our home spiritual life doesn’t have to be so different, does it?
Let’s see what “providing your children with great ideas” might look like:
- Bringing your children to Mass and the sacraments
- Reading aloud stories of the Bible or the saints
- Talking about God, discussing topics that revolve around the Church, the Saints, or Catholic culture in general
- Pointing out beautiful holy images or listening to sacred music
- Praying together
If you consistently do any of the above, then you have provided your loved ones with essential, beautiful truths and ideas. You have already done something pleasing to God.
In our homeschool, I see the fruits of reading aloud simple spiritual readings. An hour or so after I’ve read the Catechism lesson, my 5-year-old will ask me (while he’s building Legos) deep questions about his existence, creation, and God’s plan for Redemption.
Now, honestly, most of the work was done by God, because even though I read something holy, it took the work of the Holy Ghost to turn those readings into an hour-long meditation on truth that ignited curiosity in my son’s heart. I provided the ideas, got out of the way, (literally, because an hour after Catechism I’m usually in another room!) and God took care of the rest.
So what is there to worry about? We parents are meant to be the primary teachers of the Faith to our children, and by simply doing read alouds, narrations, and discussions, it seems the “teaching” part is taken care of…or is it?
What else is essential?
I’d like to get back to the idea of our unique God-given gifts and talents. There is a purpose for each of us; a part in the Divine Plan that no one else can do. We need to sit down, and think about what makes each of us unique, and how we can better serve our families by using what comes most naturally to us: our God-given abilities.
The first thing about myself that I always think of is music. I am talented, but you will never see me in the performance hall because I am not a professional performer. I have to work really, really hard at music to have a flawless performance of even simple material. I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to think that playing piano or organ is a snap for me. It is enjoyable, but I struggle to “get it right.”
In a little bit, I’ll show you how I use music to provide little moments of grace at home. But first, I want to explain why what I do with my family might not work with yours…and why that’s ok.
To me, family-life is like a cake, and our God-given talents are like the frosting. Using our talents will make family life more enjoyable, even though you don’t need frosting to make a perfect cake. Your “frosting” will be a different flavor than mine, but your frosting is the one that goes best with your cake. Stop being jealous of what other families are doing, because no matter how hard you try, peppermint frosting just doesn’t go with carrot cake. (At least I don’t think so, lol.)
To give you ideas on how to serve your family with your God-given ability, I’m going to tell you what I do with mine. Not to brag, but to get you thinking about the topic. Singing at bedtime works for us – because music is a gift God gave me – but if it doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to fret.
You just need to remember what your gift is, and use it!
For now, living the Faith in our home looks like this:
1) I sing the Divine Office almost every morning so the kids can hear it. I use the The Mundelein Psalter and I love it. Before finding that edition, I always prayed silently. But this Psalter gives me notes to sing on every page, for almost every prayer, and the musician in me can’t resist! Sometimes one of the boys will kneel next to me for a few moments and hum along. Even if they seem busy, they are always in the same room as me when I pray, and this is so good for them! They hear the psalms; they hear their Mom pleading for mercy, strength and forgiveness.
2) Saint and Bible stories are read every week. This year we are using “Once Upon a Time Saints” and the Read-aloud Bible Book.
3) We sing the hymns on this blog, following along with the Newsletters that I send out. We listen to online recordings of sacred music.
4) Usually 2-3 times a week, I tune into iCatholic Radio from 3-4 pm for the “Quiet Waters Holy Hour” and play it through a Bose mini speaker, so everyone can hear. I pray out loud along with it, while the boys are usually building with Legos, (the Lego table is in the same room as our home altar) but I hear them join in with some of the prayers. Some more than others. When the Divine Mercy chaplet is sung, a couple of the boys sing it loud and clear the entire time. And then they join in on some of the Hail Mary’s during the Rosary.
5) We say night prayers while the boys are lying in their beds. (All four are in one room; I see that as a blessing.) Each of us offers up something we are thankful for and something we are sorry for. But some nights, it’s just me saying the prayers. Then I usually sing a hymn, although lately I’ve been too eager to leave their room (can anyone relate??) so I’ve been skipping that part.
So, overall, you see a pattern that suggests that the gift I bring to my family is the gift of musical prayer. Now, is singing hymns everyday REQUIRED for salvation? No, so don’t be jealous – you can get to heaven without singing a note. But musical talent was given to me by God for a reason, and I see that part of my mission is to share my love for my Faith with my children through music. Some mothers are great at making Liturgical crafts with their kids, and their kids will always have wonderful memories (and keepsakes) of making beautiful things with their mother to celebrate the seasons. (Ok, now I’m trying not to be jealous.) As for me and my house? I hope my children will always remember that some sort of hymn, or a sung prayer, could be heard everyday.
That fits us. Without trying to be like someone else. And I’m going to work on being comfortable with that.
What gift comes naturally to you, and how does that gift make your family special? I’d love to hear from you!
This month, I’m reading Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. I’ve heard it is not a quick read, despite its small size, but I was thrilled to find these handy teaching notes by Michael Naughton for the University of St. Thomas. I look forward to sharing what I learn with you.
How on earth did I stumble upon this? From reading Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah MacKensie. I recommend it highly! I also recommend learning about the word “scholé”. It will make a your homeschool days less panicky!