Family faith formation practices, part 2

25 March 2024

Yipes! I truly cannot believe that it has been just over a year since I wrote the first installment of this series. At least I noted in that first post that this series would “stretch for many years into the future” and that it would be “occasional.” Can’t say I didn’t warn you :)

I’ll repeat my caveats from part one: there will likely be no groundbreaking ideas here. But if you’re anything like me, you need the regular and very simple reminder that family discipleship does not always have to be complicated. More than perhaps any other area of my life, I have the instinct here to build the big machine, to devise the elaborate practice – and still, more often than not, to worry that I’m not doing enough.

This is not all bad: I believe there is a direct relationship between how much creating a fertile environment for our children to know and trust Jesus matters to me (and John) and how much thought we put into how we are doing that. But I hope through this series I can encourage you (if it’s something that matters to you) AND MYSELF that little by little adds up.

Here are three more (very simple) family faith formation practices that we’ve been practicing with our 8-year-old, 5-year-old, and 2-year-old.

We say “great question!” a lot.

Basically any time any of my children ask me anything about faith, the first thing out of my mouth is “great question!” More than any individual answer I can give, I want them to know that their questions are valued, desired, and honored, and that I’m grateful and delighted they’d bring their questions to me.

“Great question!” also buys me a beat. Instead of rushing into an answer, it’s a pause that reminds me to slow down, calm down, and get curious. It leads naturally into follow-up questions, like “What made you ask that?” or “Can you tell me more about what you want to know?” This entry into the conversation helps me meet them where they are and figure out what kind of answer might serve them best.

Worth noting: I didn’t always feel this way! Questions used to make me nervous! But as I’ve grown more knowledgeable myself over the last few years, I’ve gotten more confident – both because I do know a bit more, but also because I know that I’ll never know it all. That’s okay. No one knows it all this side of heaven, but I now know where to go so we can try and figure things out together.

We read the Jesus Storybook Bible.

John and I were marveling the other day about how the idea of the Bible being one unified, overarching story with Jesus at the center is common these days – and yet was simply not a part of our upbringing. There are so many resources now to help connect the dots (The Bible Project, for one!), but I think the Jesus Storybook Bible, with over three million copies sold, deserves a ton of credit, too. Sally Lloyd Jones is raising up a generation of kids who understand that Jesus is at the center of both the Old and New Testament in a way that I never did.

And our kids love it! Our go-to reading time is while they’re splashing in the tub – we leave a copy on the half wall in our bathroom. At 8, June is beginning to add in other resources, but she still enjoys it – she and John have recently been going through the stories one-by-one together and talking about them in a deeper way.

Sally’s writing hits such a sweet spot – winsome and accessible for kids, but delightful for parents to read, too. Highly recommend.

We faithfully go to community group.

Community groups are a staple at many churches, and they are at our church, too. Our group, which is made up of young families (June is actually the oldest kid!) and some singles, is very precious to us.

It hasn’t always been that way. We’ve been a part of community groups that we lightly dreaded going to – that felt like an obligation – but our current group is truly a highlight of our week. Whether we’re meeting with the full group for dinner and Bible study or splitting off into guys and gals, it’s a chance to gather with people who care about us, our kids, our marriage, and our faith lives. It’s a place where we’re known, loved, and spurred on to grow. In a time in our country of great loneliness, isolation, and individualism, it’s a balm.

Our kids reap the benefits, too. They’re forming relationships with the other kids, yes, but also with adults who know and care about them. That’s important now, and it will be invaluable as they grow.

So there you have it! Three (relatively) simple faith formation practices our family has found helpful. I hope there’s something you can take away, whether fostering your kids’ faith also matters to you or if there’s something else you hope to grow in your kids (or the kids you love). If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear a practice that has been helpful in your family, or something that has stuck with you from your own upbringing!

What’s going in our kids’ Easter baskets this year

13 March 2024

Just a quick post to share what’s going in our kids’ Easter baskets this year! (This might be as much for me as you – I love having the record of what they’re loving and how they’re growing each year.)

I know Easter baskets are not for everyone, but I’ve really grown to love the opportunity they give me to celebrate an important holiday in our faith, support small businesses, replenish basics at the turn of the season, and create some magic for our kids. And personally, as a creative person, they’re just really fun for me to collect, curate, arrange, and fluff! I might enjoy them even more than the kids :)

This year, it turns out everyone is well-stocked with some of my usual suspects: bathing suits (I usually turn to Boden, Hanna Andersson, or a consignment sale), pajamas (consignment sale, always), swim goggles, water bottles, sunglasses, chalk, and Natives. I still came up with some sweet goodies, though :) Here’s what each of our kids will be getting in their Easter baskets this year (note that some items are still en route to me!):

June, age 8, will have a sketch pad (this brand is the best, and reasonably priced!), a spiral notebook bought from a favorite local shop, socks, stickers, a jump rope, a Brain Quest deck, a stopwatch (I predict this will be one of the most popular items), a few Yoto cards I’ve stored up from our Yoto Club membership, dark chocolate caramel bunnies, conditioner, and the CSB One Big Story Bible. (We were going back and forth between it and the Explorer Bible!)

Shep, age 5, will have a sketch pad, a stopwatch (it was a two-pack!), dive gems, a snack container for kindergarten, bath bombs, a paint-by-sticker book, a few Yoto cards, chocolate pocky sticks, and new sneakers. We’re going with Kiziks (the Athena) since he’s busted through the velcro on his last two pairs when the rest of the sneaker still looked brand new – argh! You can use this link for $20 off a pair, if you’d like.

Annie, age 2, will have a sketch pad (she’ll fill it with scribbles but will love being just like her big sibs), a Gabby’s Dollhouse magic coloring set, dot-a-dot markers, Bluey water squirters for the pool, Laura Wifler’s new book, a mini Squishmallow (weirdly, this pack was $20 less when I bought it in November?!), bath bombs, and a few Yoto cards.

If you’re shopping for different ages than we are this year, I’ve got you covered:
A 7-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy, and a 1-year-old girl
A 6-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy
A 5-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy
A 4-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Easter basket books and picks here, too! Affiliate links are used in this post.

Happy celebrating, friends!

March 2024 goals

5 March 2024

When I shared earlier this year that posting frequency would slow down a bit here as I began posting weekly on The Connected Family, I worried that things would feel… slow at EFM. But thanks to your generous participation and maybe a little of the old quality v. quantity tradeoff, I was delighted by what we were able to talk about in February. You all are so good to me, and I’m excited for what I have planned for this month, too.

Writing here feels particularly like a gift right now as I work to find my TCF voice. It’s a new audience and brand (and purpose), and the trial and error feels a bit foreign! While I’ve got pretty much everything (voice, tone, perspective, format, length, angle, etc.) nailed down for EFM and CWM (since I’ve written for both for over a decade!), I’m still figuring all those things out with TCF. Thanks for coming along for the ride :)

The first of my fancy daffodils have bloomed!!

On my calendar:
— Easter basket shopping with all three kids. I’ll go on individual mini shopping trips to Target with each kiddo to choose items for baskets we donate through a local program. One of my favorite traditions!
— Primary voting. I would never miss a chance to add my voice, even if it sometimes seems inconsequential.
— Spring break. We are returning to Jekyll Island!

What I’m loving right now:
Ocean BINGO, an unexpected reading practice tool! Shep and I have been playing it together and, since he loves to be the caller, he finds himself sounding out things like “spotted eagle ray” and “wandering albatross.” I’ll take it :) These BINGO games are really beautiful and great quality – I want to collect all the versions (birds! cats! trees!) even though I have very little reason to.
— John and I try to have an at-home date night about once a month and usually watch a movie. Recently we chose Yesterday, and it was delightful! A feel-good pick with a just-intriguing-enough premise (and lots of Beatles songs). It’s currently included with Prime.
— I asked for and received Vuori joggers for Christmas, and I’m sorry to report back that they really are excellent. Good quality, great fit, and I love my color – iron heather.

As a reminder, you can find allll the things I’ve loved over the last few years neatly organized right here!

What you’re loving right now:

This is where I highlight a few items here that have been popular in the last month with fellow readers, based on my analytics. Here’s hoping this will help you find something you’ll love!

— The Rifle Paper Co for Target collection was easily the most popular link I shared last month – and for good reason! I was truly blown away by the quality of the boxes I purchased. Wish there was more from the collection still in stock!!
— The pearl and gold studs I wear daily bounced up to the top, too. I’m not giving them up anytime soon but I did just try on these hearts in a store and they’re now on my wish list.
52 Modern Manners for Kids, a resource we use for Team Thomas Tuesdays
— My current sunhat
— Our favorite family conversation card deck

Last month on The Connected Family:

Adding a segment to round up the previous month’s posts on TCF! So many of you have subscribed (thank you!), but if you haven’t, and a conversation about kids, technology, and family culture sounds meaningful for you, I’d love for you to join us.

Low-Screen Living Cues Around Our Home | 11+ examples (with photos!) of how we’ve shaped our environment to prioritize what’s important to us.
TV Fasts | A tiny rhythm that keeps our consumption in check and our lives on track.
7 Barriers to Community | On loneliness, pride, and, yes, social media
7 Ways to Grow in Community | On consistency, going first, and shared traditions
A Simple Playground Trick for Independence | Sometimes, the best option is… doing nothing

What I read in February:
The Red Tent | I plucked this re-read off our shelf as we worked our way through Genesis in our Bible-in-a-year plan. It’s a highly-imagined recreation of Dinah’s story, compelling and adding some interesting background to the ancient world Jesus’s lineage wound through, but it made me feel similar to The Book of Longings – vaguely scandalous?
To Say Nothing of the Dog | Whew. I added this to my 2024 reading list after Janssen put it on hers, so I didn’t know too much about it before requesting it from the library. It was… very different than your average bookstagram pick (!). It’s a “comedy of manners,” a stylized form I’d never read before, and packed with literary and historical allusions, many of which I was not familiar with. It was also published in 1998. All this to say, it was mostly a slog. I was still considering DNF-ing up until about 3/4 of the way through, but I’m glad I stuck it out. I think there’s value in reading something very different and a little more challenging than my usual fare every once in a while – even if it did back up my reading pipeline for a few weeks :) And I am proud to say I guessed the twist early!

My reading list for 2024, if you’d like to follow along!

Revisiting my February goals:
Reach out to an upholsterer and/or visit a showroom for goal no. 1 (Yes! Waiting on fabric swatches to arrive.)
Rehab and paint June’s new (old) desk (Yes! I just added the top coat yesterday and now it needs two weeks (!) to cure. I found a cutie chair to pair it with at Pigfish on my birthday.)
Finalize the secrets + swag for the AC retreat (Sadly, the AC retreat is the same weekend as my grandmother’s service, so I’m no longer able to attend. I’m very sad to miss, of course, but also feel total peace that I’ll be where I need to be that weekend. Because of this, I’ve stepped back from the planning, but can’t wait to see what the gals come up with!)
Complete at least 60 hours of deep work (I got to 39, beating my total for January by four hours! Still room to grow, but grateful for improvement!)
Write one lesson of the TCF course (It was the first one and by far the easiest, but still!)
Read chapters 4, 5, and 6 of Outlive (Just starting to get into the actionable section :))
Take the Birds & Bees course with John

March goals:
— Take the Birds & Bees course with John
— Read chapters 7, 8, and 9 of Outlive
— Choose fabric and send chairs off for reupholstering
— Complete at least 45 hours of deep work (about 3 for every week day, minus travel days!)
— Finish the leadership program slides + deliver my talk
— Write the second lesson of the TCF course
— Wholeheartedly enjoy my extended family and time in Connecticut, as my grandmother would have wanted

As a reminder, many of these are drawn from my 2024 goals!

Happy March! Feel free to chime in on anything I’ve mentioned or anything else on your mind.

Affiliate links are used in this post!