The birds are singing, the sun is shining, it is a glorious time! I hope you are all well and having a wonderful week together at home.
I’ve recorded another read aloud video for our children: What Mary Jo Shared, by Janice May Udry. It is the story of a girl who has a hard time finding a story to share, but when she does it brings her new life! This is a great one for those of us (young or old!) who always feel like, “I don’t know what to share!” I hope you can check it out with your family on our PUMC Flipgrid: https://flipgrid.com/45caa357 and respond with your own stories.
I was inspired by Pastor Jenny’s inclusion in her sermon last Sunday of the importance of changemakers telling their story to make a difference for our world. I picked up this book earlier this year called, Holy Troublemakers & Unconventional Saints, by Daneen Akers. It is a book full of stories of real-life faith heroes, many who are still doing important work among us. The price tag is, unfortunately, a bit high, but the author is reading aloud a new story each week on her YouTube channel. I highly recommend this resource for you and your kids!
Take turns sharing your favorite stories from books, movies, and TV shows. Briefly explain how the story actually ends and then take turns offering your own ending – one that’s happier, stranger, or more interesting. Your ending may turn a minor character into a heroine or turn a tragic death into nothing more than a close call. The aim is to inspire creativity. Then, talk about some real-life alternate endings you’ve experienced – that is, when you thought a situation would turn out one way but were surprised when it turned out another way. Try to keep the stories positive, with endings that turned out better than expected. Your goal is to help kids understand that dread, fear, and worry are sometimes misplaced emotions. If we can’t see how something good ultimately can come from something that seems bad, we’re not looking at it from the right perspective. We’re not taking into account how
God can change the ending.
To honor this National Day of Prayer, here are some great resources:
For our younger ones (and young at heart!), ‘Friends With God: Discover How to Pray by Jeff White and David Harrington, contains prayer activities and stories from friends in the Bible. Consider taking a walk around the house with your child, looking at photos of family and friends. Use these photos as an opportunity for prayer. You might say, “God bless Grandpa.” or “I pray for peace for my friends from school.”
1. For this practice, one family member will act as the leader, and others will be participants. Rotate who serves as the leader, to give everyone a chance to participate in the prayer.
2. The leader will call everyone together and explain ‘Smartphone Prayer.’ Say, “This prayer moves through five different activities on our smartphones. Each is one minute long. I will tell you what to do for each activity and then start my timer. When the timer rings, look up at me and listen for the next mission.”
3. Go through the five missions as follows, making sure the leader sets his/her timer after each instruction and calls everyone back together before presenting the next mission:
– Minute One: Go to your text messages and take a look at the last five people in the recent messages, whether they are people you text regularly or people you don’t know at all. Take this minute to pray for each of the five people listed there.
– Minute Two: Go to a news app or website and take a minute to scroll through the headlines. Pray for what jumps out at you as a prayer need this day.
– Minute Three: Go to the notepad and spend this minute typing out whatever comes to mind: praise, gratitude, confession, or requests to God.
– Minute Four: Go to your favorite social media site and spend this minute praying for the people who come up on your feed during this minute.
– Minute Five: Go to your photos. Take this moment to scroll through the most recent twenty or so photos. What prayers come to mind? Lift them up to God now.
4. Follow up: After the five-minute prayer is over, take a couple of minutes to talk about the activity together using one or more of the following questions:
Was there anything surprising or unusual that you heard from God when you were using your cell phone to pray today? What was the most important prayer that came through today? How can we incorporate this attitude of prayer as we use our smartphones throughout the week? In your opinion, does technology draw us closer to God or farther away? Talk a little about your opinion.
I hope you and your families have been able to reflect together on Pastor Jenny’s call for us to think about our stories of when we knew we were God’s beloved or when we knew that we were enough. One of Henry’s favorite books is Little Humans by Brandon Stanton. I’ve created a video read aloud of the book and also an Imaginative Prayer (from Jared Patrick Boyd) inviting us to imagine ourselves being fully and uniquely formed by God.
FamilyInterviews: Get to know your family members better and practice storytelling.
Set up – Make a whole production out of it and set up an interview space in your home with two chairs and a fun backdrop (*think The Tonight Show!)
Think of some good interview questions and make sure everyone has a turn to be an interviewer and interviewee. You could even record the interviews for posterity. Here are some interview question ideas:
– What were you afraid of when you were younger? How did you overcome fear?
– When were you most proud of yourself?
– If you could talk to anyone – living or dead – for one hour, who would you choose and why? What would you talk about?
– Where do you see yourself in ten years? Where would you like to live? What would you like to be doing?
– If you could do one thing over again, what would it be?
After the interviews are done, reflect on the process of interviewing. What makes a good question? What does it feel like to know that others are interested in your stories and ideas?
Closing Family Prayer: Our interests, skills, abilities and quirks – the things that make us unique – all come from God. God put them inside us for a reason. So the more we learn about one another, the more we learn about God.
If you are wanting to get your own copy of either of these books “Little Humans” or “Imaginative Prayer” we encourage you to order them through a local bookstore like Labyrinth Books or jaZams!
I pray that you had a great time celebrating our Earth on Wednesday and that you’ve overall had a good week with your families at home.
Last week, Pastor Jenny started a new sermon series on stories and she challenged us to share a story about our beginning. One way children might think about their story of beginning is through sharing about their names. One of my very favorite activities to do when I taught Kindergarten was for parents to share the story of their child’s name with the class. We all learned so much about our friends this way and I found it a powerful opportunity to build up a child’s esteem and affirm their identity.
If you have a chance, talk with your child about their name. Tell the story of how you decided on their name when they were a baby. Are they named after a specific ancestor or special friend? Is there a funny story about how their name came to be? Why did you love it? Then help your child to share the story of their name in the read-aloud YouTube comments. I pray this will be a fun way for our children to share their personal name stories with one another.
Names are just one small piece of what makes our story special. I love the image Pastor Jenny mentioned last week from Psalms about God knitting us in our mother’s womb. What a beautiful and exciting life we live, that we get to co-write our stories with God!
To follow up from Sunday School last week, I challenged our children to reach out to a friend they are missing and tell them how much they care about them. I’ve attached a “Thinking of You” coloring page here for them to do just that!
Have a great week and let me know if you need anything!
Are you and/or your child experiencing anxiety right now? The Butterfly Hug may be a good prayer and calming technique for you to try. I’ve recorded a video to help your family learn this Butterfly Hug prayer, which was developed by a therapist in Mexico to help children who were dealing with trauma following a hurricane. While we may not be currently facing an actual hurricane, we are very much experiencing trauma. I pray this prayer practice brings feelings of peace to you and your family. Remember that it is a “practice.” which means it may not come easy to all of us right away. Practice makes better!
In talking with members of our church family in the past few days, I am realizing that COVID-19 and the loss that trails behind it is starting to hit very close to home for many of us. A member of our church family passed away last week from the virus. You may very well know others who have lost their lives recently, due to COVID or other causes. Unfortunately, there may be more in the coming days.
So how do we tell our kids about death and dying? How can we help them grieve? Last Fall, our Sunday School teachers participated in some training in how to help our children with grief. I have some of the highlights below and I’ve also added some more tips I found helpful in watching this recent webinar* on talking with children about death. I encourage you to watch the video, but here are some highlights.
Helping Kids Cope with Grief:
– Speak completely about death with children: “____ stopped breathing and they have died.” Avoid saying confusing things like, “_____ is sleeping for a long time.”
– Model openness and vulnerability for children: Name exactly how you’re feeling when you find yourself missing someone who died.
– Name that it is okay to laugh and be happy when you’re feeling sad and missing someone who has died.
– Encourage children to ask questions.
– Reflect on coping strategies that work well for you. Model these and name them for your child(ren). For example, “I need to go for a walk right now to help me think about my sadness.”
– Grief is not only about people dying. Our children may be currently grieving other things, like seeing friends, playing sports, going to church and school, etc.
– Follow kids’ leads for their preferred grief outlets: coloring, imaginative play, playing games, etc.
– Some children may be withdrawing into solitude in their rooms – keep inviting them to do activities as a family, like eating together, going for a walk, playing games, or whatever their interests might be.
– Talk about all of the helpers in your community and the extraordinary displays of love being shown by humanity right now!
– Don’t try to fix their feelings. Let them feel sad and affirm their sadness with statements like, “I feel sad, too.” Giving them space to feel their grief equips them for emotional regulation.
– Be patient with their grief process: your child might have big feelings about seemingly trivial things. (my son Henry was SO mad today that he couldn’t eat pizza for lunch!) This is part of their grief process.
Good Theology for Talking with Kids about Loss:
– Jesus came here to be human and show us all of the feelings. John said, “Jesus wept”. God’s faithful people do not always experience joy. It is okay to feel sadness and despair.
– When children ask tough questions, it is okay to tell them that we don’t know all of the answers. Have grace for yourselves. We don’t know the full nature of God.
– Children may need some sensory practices to help them remember God is with them. Light a candle, ring a bell or chime, or give them a rock to hold to remind them that God is near.
– Children can write a letter to God with their feelings. Tell them God is big enough to handle any feelings or thoughts they lift up.
– Go into the Psalms and read them with your child to show them that generations of people have suffered and asked questions of God.
– Reread the Holy Week scriptures together. Acknowledge the suffering Christ endured, while also reminding them that the story did not end with Christ’s death on the cross. Help them make spiritual meaning in this: what we are experiencing now is not the end!
– Be ready to theologically learn from your child. They can be the best theologians around!
Please know that our clergy and church staff are also here for you and your family right now. Feel free to email us or give us a call if you and/or your children need someone to talk with about big feelings. I also encourage you to join our PUMC Families WhatsApp group to share/receive ideas, prayer concerns, and to stay connected. While we cannot gather together physically, please know that your feelings are valid and that you are not alone!
Director of Children’s Ministry at Princeton United Methodist Church
*The webinar involved two experts from Green Leaf Psychology (Dr. Jennifer McCollum, Licensed Clinical Psychologist) and Sandra Concannon, Marriage & Family Therapist, along with four from Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church — Rev. Jaime Polson, Pastor for Family Ministry & Executive Leadership, Lori Robinson, Associate Director of Children’s Ministry, Keris Dahlkamp, Director of Youth Ministry, and the moderator, Ryan Timpte, Director of Children’s Ministry,