By: Traci Smith
When my oldest son, Clayton, was four months old, he contracted his first cold. The pediatrician said it wasn’t cause for alarm, to monitor him closely, and to bring him back if anything got worse. I spent the whole day worried. I trusted our doctor, but I was a fearful new mom, and my precious baby wasn’t well. That evening, my anxiety got the best of me, and I began to conjure up all kinds of worst-case scenarios to the common head cold. At bedtime, as I changed him into his snuggly pajamas and rubbed him down with baby oil, I had an instinct that has now become a ritual in our home. I made the sign of the cross on Clayton’s head and said, simply, “Lord, protect Clayton, keep him safe, and heal his little body. Amen.” It was a simple gesture, but it felt very profound to me. I was calmer, and my peaceful presence had a positive effect on Clayton as well.
This is the opening paragraph of my book Faithful Families as well as the inspiration behind it. Faithful Families isn’t the type of book to read cover to cover in a few sittings, it’s the type of book you pick up time and time again, like a cookbook. Instead of containing recipes for delicious meals, it contains recipes for spiritual practices to use at home with families birth through their teenage years. An anointing for when your child is sick. Bubble prayers to mark the death of a loved one. A special dinner to honor a visitor. There are over 50 practices designed for different moments in a child’s life.
The inspiration for the book was simple: I wrote the book I wanted to read, but couldn’t find. I wanted practices we could do at home that were simple, didn’t cost a lot of money or time, and added rich meaning to our days. Clayton is now five, almost six, and he has a younger brother, Samuel and sister, Marina. We use the practices in the book like many families do, testing them out, adding to them, making them our own. Just like a recipe book, there’s room for improvisation as well as strict adherence to what is printed. Some of the most profound practices in the book are the most simple, meant to be adapted for a time and then put away. One of the practices is called Marking the Days God Has Given. Here’s how it works: each day, at the end of the day, a small child takes a sticker and places it on a paper hanging in a common area. As the sticker is placed, he or she says “Thank you God for another day. Amen.” We did this when my boys were very small, ages 2 and 3, for about 6 months, until we started doing a different routine at night time. One evening as they were doing this practice, I heard my younger son Samuel, in his garbled two year old voice: “Fank you God for anower day, amen.” My eyes welled up with tears, not only because it was so precious, but because I realized this: even if the book I spent almost a year proposing, writing, editing and promoting never sold a single copy, that moment alone made it worth it. Thankfully, the book has been well received by many other families who have created sacred moments in their homes. I’ve been blessed to hear of families marking the first day of school together, burying their pets together, and unplugging together. It’s been a tremendous privilege.
Through the writing and promotion of Faithful Families, I’ve had the chance to meet countless Christian Educators and pastors who have limitless creativity for their ideas. If this is you, if you have an idea you think the world needs to have, my advice is this: write for an audience of one. Write for yourself.
Traci Smith is the author of Faithful Families, Creating Sacred Moments at Home, which was previously titled Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life. The book is available on Amazon here. Connect with Traci at www.traci-smith.com