Today's "This is What Family Home Evening Looks Like at My House" comes from Jocelyn at "We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ." If you haven't seen her ideas for creating Christ centered Easter traditions you need to skip on over to her blog. Like always... she is inspiring.
Let's face it, there is enough in life that is complicated. That is why I believe in keeping Family Home Evening simple.
Our family is made up of my husband and me, and three children ages 5, 3, and 2, so in addition to keeping it simple, we keep it short and sweet.
My motto for Family Home Evening is
"20 minutes, every Monday, to a better life."
And holding simple, consistent Family Home Evenings every week truly has lead us to a better life.
We have found that Elder Bednar's words about the best Family Home Evenings not being pre-produced to be so true. Some of our best FHEs have been completely off the cuff, but with the spirit and in bearing testimony to our children.
That said, I tend to plan out special FHE lessons about half of the time. About twice a year, I like to flip through Friend Magazines and craft magazines looking for ideas to base a lesson on. If I find something fun or seasonal that I'd like to do with the kids, I rip out the page and throw it in a manilla file folder. Then I slap a sticky note on the pages indicating what month/week I'd like to do these lessons, treats, or activities.
My husband and I keep a special shared online calendar through Google that contains just our FHE topics for each week. That way, while he is at work, he can check to see what we'll be talking about at FHE and think about what he wants to say before he gets home. Sometimes we stick with our plan, but we like to play it by ear...gauging the children's interest and energy level. We try to be flexible so Family Home Evening can be as enjoyable and productive as possible.
The OTHER half of the time, we just make up a lesson on the fly. My husband and I tend to pick a topic on Sunday night based on what we think the family needs to talk about so there is some forethought...like tonight's lesson for instance.
Last night before we fell asleep we said, "It would be nice to talk about following the prophet, since next weekend is General Conference." "Or 'Jennifer' Conference, as the kids like to say!" Then we laughed and fell asleep and Monday happened. Six o'clock rolled around and I hadn't planned anything, but my husband picked up the slack when he arrived home from work.
Another reason our FHEs are quick is because my husband gets home at six and my kids go to bed at 7pm...so they are tired, I am exhausted, and they will turn into little pumpkins if we don't move quickly.
So tonight, my husband hopped on the Friend website and printed off a coloring page with President Monson on it. The Friend is such an amazing resource. I think not enough people take advantage of the Friend, its printouts, recipes, and easy-to-read words of the prophets!
The page also had this scripture from Amos 3:7, which we read with the children
and based our discussion on:
"Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."
Tonight we gathered around the kitchen table, because there was coloring on the docket. After singing "Follow the Prophet," my husband held up the coloring page and asked if any of us had seen this man before. If you've seen him before, raise your hand.
We all raised our hands...the kids with much enthusiasm.
Then we talked about the scripture that we had read. My husband asked if we could think of some "secrets" that the prophet had revealed to us. We said that the prophet had taught us the secret of being happy in a family through The Family Proclamation. We mentioned a few more "secrets" to happiness that have come through prophets of the Lord. My husband challenged us to listen carefully next weekend during General Conference to see if they hear the prophets reveal any "secrets" to us.
The children colored as we talked.
We all chuckled, because Scarlett colored President Monson with purple hair, and we all thought that he looked like the Joker.
Before we could get too off-topic, I jumped up and dangled chocolate covered Oreos in front of them. We listened to the talk by Claudio R. M. Costa from the last Conference titled, "Obedience to the Prophets". I told the children that we would listen to his talk and if they could remember two of the 14 points he listed in his talk, they would get a cookie.
We listened to his talk, which was very relaxing for me.
I took notes, and felt spiritually fed for the first time that day.
Parenting can take so much out of you during the day. There is nothing in the rulebook that says FHE should only be enriching for the children! As much as possible, I try to slip in activities and lessons that can recharge our batteries as well.
As we listened to Elder Costa's talk, with the promise of Oreo cookies floating in the air, my five-year-old Guy concentrated and tried with all of his Preschool might to take notes.
He wrote down enough of the first point to earn a cookie:
(Point One: "The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.")
My 3 year-old Scarlett was busy listening while drawing a picture of my husband "walking into the church."
Everyone had about two cookies, while I quizzed them with "yes/no" questions about the full 14 points. Then we sang "We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet" while I started the dishes.
My husband ran the children upstairs to get them ready for bed, and I wiped down the table.
I glanced at the microwave clock. 20 minutes on the dot.
Then for about 20 seconds, it was quiet in the kitchen, and I felt a clear confirmation from the spirit, a peaceful feeling, a knowledge that our children were happy, that they had learned very valuable principles, and that they felt safe and secure and would go to bed feeling loved.
And there you have it.
20 minutes, every Monday, to a better life.
I expect that our FHEs will evolve as time passes and our needs change, but I figure about 18 years of this, 52 times a year, and we'll be pretty solid as a family! We will also have built some pretty wonderful memories for ourselves. And that's a great blessing in and of itself!