Crafting Peace with Children

I am not crafty. When normal women set out glue guns, fabric, and paint, I see magic wands, mithril, and pixie dust. The mere thought of "craft time" with my children makes my palms sweat.

Pope Francis, however, inspired me to overcome my fears. This is the Pope's universal prayer intention for January 2015: "Peace: That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace." In honor of this prayer intention, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I adapted, published, AND EXECUTED the following Apostleship of Prayer "Sea Bottle" craft activity with my daughter Rose.

We had a great time creating our bottle. In addition to the vegetable oil and colored water, my daughter decided to include a few beads and lots of glitter (SO much glitter). All those ingredients interact in fascinating ways. Simply tipping the bottle from side to side mesmerizes me. Alternatively, shaking the bottle produces a million bubbles; watching them slowly burst and disappear is soothing. This therapeutic little craft really is calming!

I'm awfully excited that (a) I finished a craft activity with my daughter, and (b) the finished product actually does what it was designed to do. It's tempting, of course, to harass myself, to feel depressed that I didn't do more crafts with my older children. Rose is the fifth of five children, and she is ten years old. . . .
 NOW I start doing crafts?

That little whisper popped into my head just as Rose and I were delighting in our teamwork. Here I was, spending time with my daughter, relishing the moment, and joining our prayers to the Pope's universal intention for peace. And then, BAM! My heart grew restless; my mind became distracted. With one little whisper, peace vanished.

That discouraging whisper took me away from the present moment, away from prayer. In an instant, I was reliving 18 years of parenting, lamenting my faults and failings. Feelings of gratitude and peace were replaced by old enemies: resentment and self-absorption. 

Resisting this kind of obnoxious discouragement is at the heart of Pope Francis' monthly prayer. In order to promote peace in our restless, violent world, we need to find ways to become more peaceful individuals. As soon as we become aware of enemies nibbling away at our tranquility, we can call out to Jesus. The disciples did this, complaining, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" (Mark 4:38).

Jesus responded with authority: "Quiet! Be still!" And like the mixture in my daughter's sea bottle craft, the seas grew calm. 

Wynn, Steven. Jesus Christ Sleeps in Boat through Storm. Getty Images.
We often call to the Lord for help in desperate, stormy times. We can also invite him to calm our hearts in less dramatic moments, like when negative thoughts threaten to derail a happy mother-daughter moment. Jesus wants to bring us peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. . . .
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
-John 14:27

Pope Francis invites us to pray for peace. In my own life, I've seen that I more freely pay attention to others when I feel peaceful. It's when I am anxious or afraid that I close in on myself. The more peaceful we are, the more we see opportunities to collaborate with others. And the Pope particularly prays that we will "work together for peace." Together, we can work to soothe, maybe even to heal, wounds within our hearts and throughout our communities.