book, bath, table & time: teaching at home

I recently read Fred Edie’s Book, Bath, Table, and Time: Christian Worship as Source and Resource for Youth Ministry for my research on vocation and youth. Drawing from his theological work with teenagers at the Duke Youth Academy, Edie writes about simple ways to retrieve the holy things and practices of the church to engage youth.

I’m not a youth minister. But I enjoyed this book, and not just because it’s about empowering teenagers to explore their vocations. I loved this book for its title.

Book, bath, table, and time.

Most of my life as a mother of two little ones revolves around these four things, places and moments. We read books from sun up to sun down. We splash in the bath every night. We gather around the table three times a day. And we follow a rhythm of routine that gives gentle order to our time.

Since I finished Edie’s book, I’ve found myself musing about book, bath, table, and time. Each offers opportunities for teaching my children – not just about God or religion, but about the world, other people and themselves. When I think about raising kids to have a heart and imagination for faith, these are times and places where I hope to start conversations about what it means to be human and to wonder about the divine:

book: We live in a house of books. They line the walls and cover our floors. Not only the favorite stories that have become part of our daily routine, but the special, sacred books: the photo albums, the baby books. Books that tell our family who we are.

I hope that through the books we share together, my kids will come to know that Scripture is not something stale or stodgy, saved for Sundays. Our stories are woven into God’s story everyday. Every time we snuggle with a child and crack a favorite cover, we have the chance to tell them a story that will open their heart to wonder, joy, and imagination. The more stories we share – of every genre, flavor and color – the more our minds open to the wideness of God’s world.

bath: Everyone needs to wash, to get clean. To slow down and relax into calming warmth and water. But we also need to delight in the simple: bubbles, splashing, rubber ducks and silly songs. Bath time is a great equalizer between parents and children.

All the little “bath” moments – washing hands before meals, scrubbing garden dirt from fingernails, wiping paint from faces – remind me that baptism is an everyday sacrament: cleansing, refreshing, blessing. I hope I can immerse my children in a deeper awareness of how moments of transformation are always around us. As dirty becomes clean and old becomes new, so are we given chances every day to start fresh, with each other and with our God.

table: Much of our day spins around the table: preparing food, eating meals, cleaning up. Sometimes table time reminds us that we’re all-too-human – cranky when we’re hungry, angry when we’re frustrated. But gathering at table can also bring out our best as a family. We laugh and sing, listen and share about our day.

Seated together, we notice milestones: high chair to booster seat, baby food to solids. The infant once held in arms over dinner becomes the boy who helps set the silverware. Remembering to be grateful for these simple moments – and the blessing of sharing food with those I love – is an everyday Eucharist.

time: Family life brings its own calendar of feast days and ordinary time. For babies and toddlers, routine is key to keeping their lives ordered. As children grow, their activities set the family schedule. No matter the age, the way we live and share time shapes us as a family.

The paradox of time is how endless it feels in the moment and how fleeting it finally proves. I hope that as the seasons slide by, our family will create our own rituals to celebrate the gift of the time we’re blessed to share. And I hope we’ll regularly make time together to do absolutely nothing at all. To savor slow Sunday mornings with heaps of pancakes. To lay on the floor and read stacks of books in the afternoon sunlight. To meet God in quiet Sabbath moments.

Book, bath, table, time. These can be sacred moments for a family. Around here, holy water is sudsy bath bubbles. Communion is crackers at snack time. Scripture is beloved bedtime stories read night after night.

But there aren’t the only moments that hold promise for going deeper. Timeouts and saying sorry can be moments of reconciliation. Putting band aids on scraped knees and dosing medicine can be moments of anointing the sick. Noticing our children’s gifts and blessing them with hugs and kisses can be moments of confirmation.

Sacraments are more than seven. And sacred moments aren’t reserved for holy buildings. Because ancient practices of faith speak to what makes us human: the simple moments where we meet each other (and God, too). Where we learn how the ordinary can be holy. How the dirty can lead to the divine.

(Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rescue a toddler who recited so many favorite books to himself during nap that he didn’t sleep and is now sobbing for a snack. Book meets time, bath meets table…)

What are your family’s favorite ordinary moments?

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  1. Liz on 26 March 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I love this post and am glad for an opportunity to think about how our lives inform the sacraments and vice versa.

    Have you read Honoring the Body by Stephanie Paulsell? She’s got some great insights about bodies and bathing that would fit well with your thinking…aside from which it’s just a great book!

    • mothering spirit on 29 March 2012 at 2:24 pm

      I haven’t read it – will definitely add it to my list!

  2. mothering spirit on 26 March 2012 at 11:23 am

    Fr. Kevin wisdom for a Monday morning – thank you for taking me back! I needed those words about washing dishes, too. I HATE washing dishes. But the other day I came across this beautiful image of St. Therese doing the dishes and decided I need to order it and frame it near the sink:

    One of my constant challenges is trying to be present to what I’m doing and not try to multi-task all the time. We all think we’re better at multi-tasking than we really are, and I know my kids sometimes pay the price for my ignoring their needs while I’m trying to send an email or do a zillion “important” things. Thanks for a good reminder.

    • Lauren on 26 March 2012 at 12:50 pm

      I LOVE THAT IMAGE!!! Might have to get that for myself too. 🙂

      I think it’s a challenge for all of us to be present to what’s right in front of us. When I was dealing with my anxiety problems, my therapist told me that anxiety comes from rushing ahead, from thinking forward to the what ifs. One of the ways to combat it is to take stock of the present situation. You’re worried you might faint? Well, are you breathing funky? How about slowing that down? You’re worried you might get sick? Well, what are your symptoms? Oh, you don’t have any? Okay, then you’re probably not getting sick. You’re worried that something might happen to people you love? Well, how about giving them a call or sending them a note?

      It’s taken a long time to get to a place where my first reaction to anxiety isn’t more anxiety but deep breaths and returning to the present. Talk about a gift.

  3. Lauren on 26 March 2012 at 11:17 am

    One of the things I remember vividly from Fr. Kevin’s Sacraments and Worship class is his discussion that the sacraments come out of our daily living–they take the important quotidian moments and make them holy. (These are my words, not his.) I love that concept.

    And it echoes what one of my college professors said when quoting I can’t remember who: “When you’re washing the dishes, wash the dishes.” In essence, be there in that moment and give all of your attention to it. I have loved washing the dishes ever since.

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