I am incredibly thankful for my faith. That it was instilled in me at a young age, but over time, it stopped being my parent's faith and became mine. I long for that same story for Eli. That he would grow up to not only know his Bible, but he would love it as an old friend. That he wouldn't just know how to recite a catechism or a memory verse, but that it's truth would root deep down in his heart, beating life into him right along with it. That he would not only know the old hymns, but that their meanings would make his wavering soul steady in the midst of trial.
I knew becoming a mom would bring me more tears, but I didn't realize how much more it'd bring me to my knees. Although Eli's faith is ultimately out of my hands, I also know that I will have one of the biggest influences on his heart. I often think, he's only six months old, what can I do besides pray for him? It's easy to think, oh, I'll just wait until he's older to be more intentional with him, he doesn't understand anything yet. While Eli doesn't understand Job's suffering, Sarah's laughter, Paul's passion or Daniel's bravery yet, his little heart is already soaking up attitudes, habits and principles - it was from the moment he was born. And as he gets older and older, I will have less and less of a say with how he spends his time, what he reads, what he listens to and who he looks up to.
As mothers, we talk all the time about how to be intentional with getting babies to that next milestone, helping them develop skills, brains and emotions, why wouldn't we be intentional in developing a baby's heart? God is not limited by language or maturity, and his work in a child's heart can begin long before a child can speak.
Here are a few things Mike and I do to be intentional in raising a child that loves the Lord.
Read the bible aloud.
Mike and I read Eli a chapter or two from the Jesus Storybook Bible each night during his last bottle before bed. While it's technically meant for ages four and up, he's a pretty captive audience when he's downing a bottle and he likes looking at the pictures. I think eventually we'll switch to the Big Picture Bible when he's a bit older (for ages 2-7). I have to be honest, going through this Bible has probably been more beneficial for Mike and me than for Eli. Seeing the stories we're so familiar with brought back to the basics is a moving and convicting reminder of God's love for us.
Pray with them and over them.
This is often the first thing that comes to mind when we think of intentionally raising a child to love Jesus, and I believe it's one of the most important things parents can do for their children. But not only do Mike and I want to pray for Eli, we want him to see us in prayer. We pray before meals and before bed with Eli, bowing our heads and closing our eyes. We don't smile at him, talk in funny voices to him, or even look at him - we want him to see, even from a very young age, that he is not our focus during prayer, God is. We want Eli to see that prayer is a way our family can relate to each other, sharing requests - the good and the bad - and that it's important to take time out of every day to commune with God.
Speak verses to them.
Another easy way to let God's Word saturate your child's heart is through speaking scripture to them. I feel pretty awkward just randomly spouting a verse off to Eli when he's in beast-mode in his ExerSaucer, pulling and yanking at toys, so I stole a tip from a friend and began speaking a verse aloud to him every time I changed his diaper. I post the verse for the week above his changing table, so Mike knows what the weekly verse is too. If you're looking for some to get started with, here's a good list. I just hand wrote them all down on colorful paper one day and stored them in the top drawer of his changing table. Each week, I pull a new one out of the drawer and post it on the wall with washi tape.
Play (and sing) biblical music.
This one was hard for me. I really, really struggle with children's music - the weird recorders and lame lyrics, I don't really play any children's music for Eli at all. We listen to music on Pandora a lot during the day so the house doesn't sound so empty, but I also know music is an easy way to infuse scripture into our day. There are two CDs that have been recommended to me by a lot of my mom-friends as not "too annoying" with solid lyrics. Seeds Family Worship (basically scripture set to music) and Hidden in My Heart. I just ordered the Seeds Family Worship after listening to a few on YouTube, and I have to admit, it's at least tolerable. Mike and I also often find ourselves singing children's songs to Eli, just to make him smile. (Eli seriously makes me feel like I'm Carrie Underwood - he's the only person in the world who loves my singing voice.) We work hard to try to remember to sing him hymns or Christian children's songs, rather than just singing Hermie the Wormie.
Go to church.
For any believer, this one seems like a no brainer, but I don't think I realized the significance of being dedicated to get to church with a baby until recently. It can be easy to use the baby as an excuse - even for a planner like me, it truly is hard to get out of the house on time because babies are awesome at pooping at the most inconvenient moments - but Mike and I set five alarms and wake up a half hour before we technically need to so we can be sure we get there on time. Just like prayer, Eli doesn't understand what we're doing, but it's important he sees our commitment from a young age. Growing up "in the church," helps him to be familiar and comfortable with how a service works and understand that church is an important part of our weekly routine, vital to our fellowship with other believers and relationship with God.
Raising a child is too big, too important of a responsibility to not be intentional about such things. I don't want Eli growing to think Mike and I were just good, religious people. I want him to grow up to see us as praying, committed, Godly people. That we lived for something that was bigger than ourselves, of great worth and value and we wanted desperately to share it with him. That someday if he believes as well, he can say - as I did - that while it may have started as his parent's faith, it grew into his own.
Fellow parents of littles, anything you would add?