Family Faith Snapshots: Sara Estabrooks
“It’s important for the kids to see us praying through our joy and our stress”
Who are you?
I’m Sara, a Catholic wife and mom of four. I love to write my thoughts and prayers — it helps me think and stay focused! I share some of these on my blog, ToJesusSincerely.com. On my blog, you can also participate in devotions such as My Mass Takeaway and the Virtue Challenge to help boost your prayer life.
Tell me a little about your family.
My husband, Chad, and I have been married for almost eight years now!.We have four kids ages 6 and under. Family is very important to us – both our biological and our Church families. We prefer a quiet pace and a free schedule. To achieve that, we homeschool, enjoy play-at-home days, and prioritize playdates with our friends and family over formal activities.
What is your family's prayer routine like on an average day?
Of course we go to Mass on Sundays, and we try to hit the confessional every month. But on an average day, we do our best to have an active prayer life. We say grace before meals, at home and when we’re out. We ask for St. Christopher’s and our Guardian Angel’s protection when we get in the car. After dinner, we gather together to pray the Rosary while coloring in our “holy” coloring books. And at bedtime, Chad does a special prayer time and blessing with each of the kids. Those are our go-to formal prayers with our children. I do my best to pray out loud at times – informally, just to give my kids an example of having real conversations with Jesus. Chad and I also have prayer time together every day. And a special prayer for the marital embrace, that helps us keep our marriage holy and focused on God!
Do you have a specific devotion that is particularly important to you as a family?
Before we pray the Rosary every night, each member of the family shares their special intentions. This is one of the most important times in our prayer life. It’s been so good for each of us to have a chance to talk about what’s on our hearts – especially the kids. Their intentions range from adorable (“I want to pray for Jesus and puppies”) to inspiring (“I want to pray for people who don’t have a home”) and everything in between. It’s also important for the kids to see Chad and I praying through our joy and our stress. Whether we have time for one decade of the Rosary or a full five, we take as long as we need for everyone to share their special intentions.
How do your children inspire you to grow in faith?
Our children amaze me with their simple faith, their strong devotion, and their sometimes surprisingly deep reflections. When I get lazy or tired and want to skip our daily Rosary in trade for movie time, the kids “remind” me that we need to pray. Our children are talkers and thinkers. Often, a discussion about how God made us, and His plan for our lives, is more effective discipline than time out or punishment. They inspire and stretch me to be more reflective and spiritual in my daily life – to call on God’s grace to hold me up in my vocation as wife and mom.
Is there a particular book or resource that is or has been especially helpful in your effort to raise a holy family or have a faith-filled home?
My favorite book for having a faith-filled family is Parenting with Grace by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak. It has helped me see the importance of focusing on the vocation aspect of parenting. It helps me keep my eyes on the end goal – heaven, and seeking virtue in myself and for my kids. But, aside from books, my number one recommended resource is faithful friends. It’s so important to find friends who share the same worldview – friends who challenge you to draw closer to Jesus and grow in holiness. God created us to need companionship, and faith-filled friends are indispensable!
Do you have a written or unwritten mission for your family?
Our goal and focus changes from time to time. Lately, I’ve been fostering the idea of self-sacrificing love in our family – especially in modeling it myself, but also encouraging it in our kids. The phrase “Give love” hangs on our fridge as a reminder to be generous in our time, talents, and all we have and are.
What is your family's favorite Catholic tradition or celebration?
We love to celebrate our Guardian Angels on their feast day, Oct. 2. Without fail, we throw a party with crafts, fancy fruit punch, angel food cake and decorations. We make sure our kids know that our angels are more than the childish or effeminate depictions we see so often. They are warriors who fight for our salvation. With such an important job in our daily lives, it’s only fitting that we celebrate them in a big way!
What are some of your DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to technology and media?
We don’t allow our kids to use smartphones or tablets, and we don’t have videogames or cable TV in our home. We try to make intentional use of screen time and keep it in its proper bounds. We do use some screen time as a tool, such as for my blog, Chad’s work, and hand-picked shows or movies to keep our kids still in the evening while we take care of their daily routine of health needs. Ultimately, I would say: DO set limits, be intentional, and monitor the quality of what you watch. DON’T let screens take over or feel guilty about moderate, intentional use. If we get too reliant on screen time, we sometimes implement a screen-time fast: a whole day for the entire family to stay off all screens.
How do you get yourself or your family back on track when you feel like faith gets sidelined to other responsibilities of daily life?
We allow ourselves to be flexible and try to maintain a healthy sense of guilt. It’s good to know when we’ve fallen short so we can make changes. It’s not good to beat ourselves up, so we feel like a failure and want to give up. We just pick ourselves back up, go to confession if we need to, and try again. And we try to let our prayer life grow and change with our family. If a whole Rosary makes us crabby, we cut back to just a decade. If our kids can sit relatively still in Adoration, we bring them. Again, having faithful friends is important to staying strong and getting back on track. We can always go to them for accountability, solidarity and fresh ideas.
Can you share a word of wisdom that has been particularly beneficial to you in your Catholic parenting and family life?
When I underwent counseling for depression, my counselor (from the Pastoral Solutions Institute) stressed the importance of acceptance. We have to accept who we are and who our family is. That doesn’t mean pretending things are perfect or that we can’t change, but finding peace and joy in the midst of our state in life right now. There will always be somebody who’s more faithful, more pious, more liturgical than me. I can always find someone who is better at prayer or discipline or healthy eating. But that doesn’t need to steal our joy. We can accept who we are right now, and seek God’s will for how to live each moment.