Weaving Faith into Our Everyday Lives
by Carol Kuykendall
How can we weave our faith into the natural rhythms of our everyday lives?
I didn’t really know what faith meant when I was growing up. In my family, we prayed to God together at least once a year … before Thanksgiving dinner. As for Jesus, he was mostly the figure that came out of the Christmas decorations box in December. And sometimes named when my father got really mad.
Faith became more real and increasingly important to me when I was in high school and started going to church on my own, hoping God might fill a lonely longing in my heart. By the time I met and married my husband, Lynn, and we had three children, faith had become a foundational part of our lives.
One of my deepest desires was for our children to grow up knowing who Jesus is and how he gives us hope in something beyond ourselves and our circumstances. Lynn and I also believed what experts told us: Faith strengthens families, and the ways children learn about faith in their early years can influence their lifelong faith journeys.
How could we create a context of faith in our family? Lynn grew up with some modeling from his parents, but I had none. So we began watching other families in our church and soon learned that different families express their faith in different ways, through their unique personalities. There’s not just one right way, which meant we had to find our own right way. We knew more of what we didn’t want: Faith based on a bunch of rigid rules about doing the right thing.
Working Toward a solution:
Eventually some patterns evolved. We all attended church together regularly and prayed together around the family dinner table. We didn’t have scheduled family devotions or Bible reading. Our children mostly memorized Scripture in their Sunday school classes, though I often wrote short Scriptures on sticky notes and put them by their bed or on a bathroom mirror, or later, in their lunch bags. I think they found that a mostly annoying habit from a buggy mom. Mainly, we wanted to weave God naturally into the normal rhythms of our everyday lives.
But everyday life can reveal the gaps between what we say and what we do. Nothing holds parents more accountable than three pairs of wide-open-eyes and ears watching and listening to how we talk about and treat others; how we deal with our anger, impatience, disappointment … all the stuff of life. Does faith make a difference? Is Jesus real? Do we recognize and admit our own inconsistencies?
Ultimately, we wanted our children to understand they would not automatically inherit our faith. They needed to make their own choice about being in a relationship with Jesus. We hoped to influence that choice in their early years, but we could not control that decision.
Now that our children are grown and raising families of their own, I have my reflective reviews about the far-from-perfect ways we lived out our faith. But I wondered about their reflections. So recently, I emailed them this question: “What did we do — or not do — that influenced your own faith journey?” I coaxed their answers with the promise they would “experience great joy in thinking about this topic.” Clichéd language that only proves I can still be a buggy mom. Here are their responses.
Derek Kuykendall, our eldest, married to Alexandra, father of four, ages 3 months to 9 years old.
“The way you and dad prayed over me when I was little. I remember — as a little boy — lying in bed some nights and feeling afraid of something that might happen the next day … like being bullied by bigger, scary boys — things that seemed totally out of my control. And you or dad patiently listened and told me I would be OK, and then you talked to God for me. And because I trusted you, I began to trust God; that he hears our prayers and knows me and cares about what makes me sad or scared about things that might happen. I felt protected because you prayed for me, not expecting me to join in the prayer. Your talk-prayer to God gave me a growing confidence that I could talk to God in the same way.”
Lindsay Waymire, our middle child, married to Jeff and mother of three, ages 6, 3 and 1.
“Growing up, we had to go to church, but within the ‘had to’ was some flexibility. If I didn’t want to go to my Sunday school class for whatever reason, you let me sit with you in ‘big church’ and a few years later, you helped me become a helper in the nursery with the babies, which I liked better than Sunday school that year. Because of that flexibility, I began to learn that faith is about a growing, changing relationship with a God we could experience in many different, meaningful ways.”
Kendall Parkhurst, our youngest, married to David and mother of two, ages 3 and 1.
“My faith was influenced by what I saw more than by what I was told. If I got up early (which I actually liked to do as a preschooler!), then I saw you sitting at the kitchen counter with your Bible and a notebook. I saw you not only taking us to Sunday school but also teaching Sunday school. You showed us the importance of being involved at church. Also, we had fun together. That might not seem important to our spiritual development, but it was. The fun experiences built a sense of trust and respect that earned you the ‘right to be heard’ as you weaved in the important messages of faith.”
Carol Kuykendall, is a consulting editor for MomSense magazine, the author of Five Simple Ways to Grow a Great Family and co-author of What Every Mom Needs, available at MOPShop.org.