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Young child reading the Bible.

It was a Tuesday morning as my three girls and I were driving to swim class. At the next red light, I abruptly turned off whatever we were listening to, and fumbled with my phone to quickly turn on hymns. My oldest daughter noticed this shift and asked why I changed the music. I took a deep breath and said, “Mommy really needs some worship music right now. You can worship with me if you’d like.” In the car, we both start singing along to Nothing But the Blood with our hands raised, praising God together. 

Not long into the song, she says, “Mom, I don’t think I like separate music anymore.” As I tried to interpret what this three-year-old was trying to tell me with her limited vocabulary, I concluded that she mistakenly substituted the word “worship” for “separate.” 

“Oh. Well, that’s okay. Maybe one day you will like worship music. Worship music is the music we listen to in church. That’s why I like it. It makes me think of Jesus.” I replied. 

“Yeah, but I don’t like separate music.” She countered. 

“Right. Well, I hope one day you like worship music.” I repeated. 

She went on to explain, “Yeah, I don’t like separate music. You know, like Trolls, and…” 

“Trolls?” I think to myself. What is she talking about? Then, the lightbulb lit up. 

“Juliette, do you mean to say secular music?” I say, hearing the hope in my voice that she wasn’t actually talking about worship music. 

“Yeah! Sec-a-luh music!” she responded, matching my excitement. “I only like songs that are about Jesus because I love Jesus. Not sec-a-luh music.” 

The remainder of the car ride, we continued our conversation – a conversation we’ve now incorporated more frequently into our weekly rhythms. We talked about how secular music isn’t always bad. How God wants us to enjoy music that makes us want to dance, smile and have a good time – how we can still see God in secular music, even if it wasn’t intended for that. However, music is a lot like the food we eat. Some food is good for us and makes us big and strong. Some food, while yummy and fun to eat, isn’t good for us and can actually make us feel weak. So, while it’s fun to eat a cupcake occasionally, we can’t eat cupcakes all the time because we wouldn’t grow big and strong. We’d be grumpy, tired and weak. That’s not what God wants for us! Just like food, secular music can be fun to listen to occasionally when you’re dancing and playing with your friends. But if we only listened to secular music, then we would float further and further from God. That’s not what God wants! He always wants us to be super close to Him.  

Now, this moment while on paper seems magically spontaneous, was actually a trained behavior over a span of the previous six months. If I’m being honest, Tuesdays hold rank for my most stressful and dreaded mornings. They consist of me taking on the morning responsibilities solo while my husband attends an early morning bible study and heads to work right after. So, I handle getting all the girls up and ready for the day, completing our morning liturgies, and somehow managing to get three kids (three and under) ready for nine o-clock swim class. The chaotic environment heightens my anxiety straight into the Slough of Despond. 

One discipline that has helped in grounding me during these moments of spiraling negative thoughts and dynamic environments is turning to worship. When my mind is racing internally, and multiple external variables are also pulling at my attention, focusing on prayer becomes very challenging. By taking two minutes to stop what I’m doing and turn on my favorite worship playlist, I am actively making a decision to welcome God into my chaos instead of letting the chaos control me. 

Making this decision to stop and worship did not come without cost. It wasn’t an easy shift for my two toddlers who are overly passionate about their music. I had to persevere through the constant whining and tantrums because, “I wanted to listen to Moana!” But over the weeks, I persisted to explain to a two and three-year-old the “why” behind our new daily shift to “Jesus music.” 

“Mommy is feeling sad today, and Jesus music helps me not feel sad anymore.” I would say. 

“Mommy is feeling very overwhelmed right now, so I need to focus on Jesus music.” 

“Mommy keeps being mean today. I need Jesus music to help me be joyful and kind to you.” 

Sometimes it would be as simple as, “Mommy just needs Jesus music right now!” In those circumstances, the urgency in my voice would usually be enough to prevent further questioning from my two Disney princesses. 

Turning to worship doesn’t necessarily “fix” the problems I’m experiencing. Although, sometimes it certainly can. Worship is simply a spiritual discipline we’ve adopted in our house for this season of our lives to anchor us to God’s truth when we’re floating further from our heavenly Father. And as I told Juliette, “God always wants to be super close to us.”  

Benefits to practicing spiritual disciplines with your kids: 

  • You are showing them how to react in times of trial. No matter how young, our children are observing us and taking mental notes of how to respond when our circumstances miss our expectations. Whether it be prayer, worship, Bible reading, fasting, you name it! Remember, you have little disciples learning from you. 
  • You are showing them that mommy isn’t perfect, and sometimes mommy isn’t okay. Your children are going to experience pain and suffering in this fallen world – that’s inevitable. And how beautiful a gift to give our children – the gift of knowing how normal it is to experience sufferings -for suffering not to be a surprise because their parents didn’t hide it from them, but invited them into their suffering to praise God and bring glory to His name through spiritual disciplines. We are not God, and our kids need to see that and find comfort in the fact that we do have a God who is perfect. 
  • It’s never too early to teach our children the gift of discernment – the ability to judge well. By incorporating spiritual disciplines into your weekly rhythms, you are teaching your children the skill of pursuing the things that are spiritually good for us and putting either a pause or an end to the things that are not so good for us.