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Editor’s note: This is the final Spirited Kids column. The Edge thanks Nadine all she has contributed to the whole.

Dear Nadine,
What do you think Santa should put in our Spirited Kids’ stockings this year? — Out-of-Ideas Mom, Minnetonka

Dear Out-Ideas-Mom,

Your kids have been telling you they’ve been good for months, their long letter to Santa has been signed and sealed and sent off to the North Pole, and with just weeks to go until the holidays begin in earnest, your every spare moment has been spent frantically scouring the stores for Shopkins and stuffed animals and sparkly tights. Yet, the best gift you can give any child, one which will never break, be discarded or go out of style, is the gift of faith, which comes wrapped up in hope and topped with a golden bow called prayer.

I’ve always believed that when you have faith, you can move mountains. Research on faith has almost doubled in the past ten years, according to David Larson, M.D., MSPH, president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, a private nonprofit agency. Hospitals and medical centers across the U.S. agree that having a spiritual belief improves health, makes us happy, and increases longevity.

Moreover, as Duke University’s Harold G. Koenig, M.D. reported to Newsmax Health, “The benefit of devout religious practice, particularly involvement in a faith community and religious commitment, is that people (including our kids) cope better. In general, they cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they’re more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often.”

In 2015, when half of U.S. children will experience a family change like divorce, where some 21 percent of children live below the poverty line (according to the U.S. Census Bureau ) and one of every four children will be a victim of bullying, faith can provide our children with a vehicle that will fortify them, build resilience and provide the strength they need to navigate under, over and around the challenges that their life brings and see them through. And of course, faith not only offers a source of strength, it often delivers the magic of miracles, just when we need them, too!

So, how do you as a family go about gifting your kids with faith? As a non-denominational family, we’ve answered that question by creating a sacred space before bedtime. We come together peacefully as a family, to pray and enjoy a spiritual connection that unifies us, uplifts us and soothes us and rounds off our hectic days.

Sometimes we huddle together in a child’s bedroom and say our prayers, sometimes we pray together, cuddling up on the parental bed. Sometimes a child leads the prayers, sometimes my husband or I will. We pray for our family, our friends and community, for children and animals in need, for the end of war and for victims of violence and for the healing of our environment. And we also include special prayer requests, for a person or situation as the need arises.

We’ve put in a number of prayer requests this year — asked with great thanks — and the beauty has been that my children have seen our prayers answered in the most mystical and marvelous of ways. And those answers multiply our family’s faith.

This summer, for example, following my decision to return to graduate school, we prayed. I was nervous. I was the oldest student in my class. I had a family to look after, a business to run, health issues to consider. But we prayed it would all work out — not just for me — but for everybody involved, including my family and classmates.

That first night, I navigated the rush hour traffic fortified by my family’s prayers, arrived at class, snagged a seat and sank thankfully into my chair, only to realize my desk had already been assigned. I turned over the name tag, ready to shift spots, only to see my own name in bold type. In that moment I appreciated that first heavenly sign that I was just where I was supposed to be.

As I buried my head in my bag, searching anxiously for one of the many pens I had thrown in, a hand touched my shoulder. I looked up. To my amazement, my neighbor grinned down at me. Turns out that she, too, had decided to return to school, and get licensed for that very same career track!

And so heaven had blessed me with a carpool buddy who knew the best short cuts to school, an assignment partner who was a dab hand with the overhead projector and, of course, a friend who ensured that each class was enjoyable. Suffice it to say, I passed my class — as did everyone. But the greatest gift was not that final grade, but that my children were shown the power of their prayer and gift of faith at work in our family’s life.

So, this December add another gift to the pile under the Christmas tree: the gift of faith. And though it may not look as high tech as an Xbox or as cuddly as that Pikachu toy or as trendy as an iPhone, this gift will comfort your kids when they’re down, offer inspiration and instill hope when they need it and remind them that there is mystery and magic all around them — which is simply divine!

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Nadine Penny attained her M.A. from the University of Denver in Counseling Psychology. Nadine lives in Minnetonka where she works as a medium, life issues reader and Reiki master. Contact her at nadine.penny@gmail.com and visit www.nadinepenny.com.

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