In my world and I believe many parents’ worlds, February is a planning season for what lies ahead. Summer activities for the kids need to be booked and time off planned. What will we do with the kids during spring break? Sports seasons are switching and calendars need to be rearranged. The end of the school year is closer than we think.

Here at church we are planning for Lent- the season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. Lent, is all about preparing our hearts and minds for what the crucifixion and resurrection mean. How will we grow in Christ? In my role as CYF Minister, trying to figure out how to get kids to slow down and reflect is a big task! I have to get myself to do that first which I promise you is not easy for me. I have spent my life going as fast as possible and attempting to accomplish as much as I can before I crash each night. I rarely take time to stop and process, reflect and listen. I’m great at pivoting, adapting and living within chaos but sometimes life forces you to stop, pause, reflect. This winter has brought some very challenging times for me and I am starting to realize that learning to listen and reflect is not only essential for mental and physical well-being, but that it is a learned skill that needs to be taught. We need to teach our children how to take time to reflect, listen and take care of themselves. I am grateful that Lent is coming as it will be a time for the CYF leaders and I to do some direct instruction with the kids and youth about how to pray, how to listen to God, how to see beauty in small things and of the importance of taking care of ourselves. Our kids and youth are being asked to adapt so much as they grow naturally, but also as covid dictates that they be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Lent is a perfect time to help them learn how to reflect and prepare as they grow in God’s love.

Father Howie Anderson is accompanying the 2022 Pilgrims (this year’s Confirmation Class) on their Ireland Pilgrimage in June and has taken time each month to write a letter to the pilgrims about preparing for our journey. Here is a portion of what he said to our 10th and 11th graders:

Dear Pilgrims,

I suspect you are all busy with school, sports, tests and friends. I am going to ask you again, as a way of getting you into what I hope might be a lifelong habit, to let me know if you have been able to take the 15 minutes a day to enter the silence. Perhaps you simply practice breathing. Yes, we all breathe all the time. But all the world’s great spiritual traditions stress the necessity of breathing mindfully and deeply.  A way to start is to breathe in deeply and exhale slowly. Breathe in for the count of four, hold for a moment, then exhale slowly, over the count of eight. The Buddhist tradition says meditation begins with becoming aware of your breathing. Other traditions stress walking meditation. Walk indoors or outdoors, observing all that is around you carefully. You may be surprised what you notice. The Creator speaks to us through the creation. In a walking meditation, I notice a plant in my home that was blooming profusely, in the middle of the winter. How could I not have noticed it? It was almost shouting “look at me. Beauty is everywhere.”

Please let me know how you are doing with entering the silence in any way you choose. It will be a way to encourage you to start this spiritual practice. If 15 minutes is too much, do 10. If 10 minutes is too much, begin with 5! But start! The most important step in a 1,000 miles journey, is the first step!  

Check in on your kids, grandkids, Sunday School kids. any kids in your life! How are they? Are they remembering to breathe? Do they have time to process and reflect? Do they have someone listening to them? Really listening? Are we teaching them to listen? Let’s work together to give our children and youth the skills they need as they grow and change in God’s love this Lenten season.

Heather Miller
Minister of Children, Youth, and Families