Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Making Jesus Accessible to Littles

But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Luke 18:16 NIV

My one-year-old grandson’s eyes lit up as he quickly noticed all the Christmas decorations around the house.

Climbing out of his father’s arms, he couldn’t creep fast enough to the front bay window where our miniature tree stood, adorned with bright red hearts. Too colorful to resist, he grabbed a heart and his high-pitched squeal announced his accomplishment.

There’s no greater joy than to experience Christmas through a child’s eyes! Their sparkle, their curiosity, their building anticipation for Christmas Day through every detail of preparation awakens my own senses to the awe and excitement of Jesus’ birth.

My grandson crept his way from the miniature tree, past the festive Christmas mugs in the China cabinet, to his great, great grandmother’s nativity perched upon the blanket of cottony white snow in the next room. While I toyed with the idea of making this untouchable, God whispered, “Make me approachable.” So, cuddled up on my lap, my grandson and I carefully held each piece, one at a time, in our hands while I told of its role in the Christmas story.

“Here is baby Jesus, God’s son, who came to save us so we can live in heaven with him someday.”

“This is Mary, his mommy, and Joseph, his daddy.”

“Here’s the donkey that Mary rode upon all the way to Bethlehem.”

And so on, from angels to shepherds, wise men and camels. I let him hold each one because he needs to know that Jesus is always accessible and touchable. The Christmas story, the good news that Jesus brought us–that He is God’s son come down to live among us–was to make God accessible to every human being.

How do you make Jesus accessible to your little ones?

If you're joining me here from the Christian Children's Author's blog, welcome!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Stop Fixing Me!

"Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you." Psalm 143:8

I finally own a pretty, woman's tool box. You know, the dainty one where all the essential tools are wrapped in pink? It sits atop my refrigerator where I can easily find every tool needed for those quick-fix household repairs.

But, it's not always those loose floor boards or broken door handles that surfaces my urge to fix things. Rather, my uncontrollable urge to make things right erupts when those most precious to me are hurting. And before you think I'm a softhearted, altruistic wife, mother and grandmother, let me set the record straight. I don't like broken things because they bring discomfort, disharmony and disorder. I like life simple, orderly and happy.

But life is full of discomfort, disharmony, and disorder, so I've learned that although I want to fix everything - offer the right tool - when life breaks my loved ones' hearts, fixing just makes things worse. Why? Because, (1) I can't fix everything. If I could fix everything then I'd be God. I'm certainly not. (2) They don't want fixing. Mostly, they want a good listener and encouragement; someone who will shoulder their pain and encourage their hearts with unconditional love.

God's worked on my irregular passion for order and happiness over the years and I've learned it's through our brokenness we can either help or hinder God's power (his Holy Spirit) in our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

In Jesus Lives, by Sarah Young she puts it this way:

"Stop feeling responsible to fix people since that is {God's} role...You can be part of the process, but remember {God} is the Author and Director of the drama...Do not usurp {God's} role in people's lives."

Young offers these tips to those of us who love to fix things:
  • Prayerfully release your loved ones to God's Care
  • Restrain your urges to fix them or their problems
  • Listen to them
  • Pray with and for them
  • Trust God's infinite wisdom
Do you suffer from the urge to fix things with your loved ones? How does God help you restrain that urge?






Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Happy National Family Literacy Month


Reading to my children and now, grandchildren, has always been one of my favorite activities. Not only does it allow for extra cuddle time with my precious little ones, but it reinforces family ties and promotes literacy. 

November is National Family Literacy Month. While most of us in the northern hemisphere experience shorter and stormier days this month, what better time is there to snuggle up by a fire or under a cozy blanket together and read a pile of books?

While books can carry us off to far away places and help us experience new and wonderful adventures from the past or future or fantasy worlds, reading promotes critical thinking and confidence. It opens a world of hope and imagination like nothing else can. Literally, with books, the world is at your fingertips.

There's many other ways to promote family reading other than story books. Why not crack open your favorite cookbook and help your children follow the recipe? Or, for those handy people, purchase an easy craft project that includes written instructions and do that together? 

If you put your mind to it, there are countless ways to promote reading as a family, but here's my list: 

  • Start reading while babies are in utero. This helps your baby recognize family voices.
  • Develop nightly bedtime story routines. Once the child can read, they will want to read to you.
  • Rainy-day family read-a-thon. Cuddle up as a family and enjoy your adventures. Children will see that you enjoy reading, too.
  • Attend story hours at your local library or church
  • Cook with a recipe promotes reading, listening, and following instructions.
  • Crafts and building projects with written instructions works the same as cooking.
  • Play board games that promote reading. One of our favorites is Apples to Apples Junior and with pictures. This promotes reading, grammar, vocabulary and critical thinking. 
  • Reading using puppets. Children of all ages love puppets. If they are a shy reader, using puppets may help them become braver readers, especially aloud.
  • Family devotions. Familiarize your children with reading from the Bible. (See Janice Green's article here). What better way to teach our children God's ways. 


Happy Reading, 
Dawn

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

We Do Not Serve a $1.98 God

Coupon Piles by Caroly Pyles
Flickr.com_photos/cpyles/10866066513_CC BY ND 2.0
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. " Ephesians 3:20-21

I love a good bargain, don't you? When the receipt shows I've paid less than half the retail cost I feel like I've won a small battle; like I've out-smarted the man (whoever he is). But there is a limit to my bargaining. I don't price-haggle, travel more than 5 miles, snip piles of coupons, purposefully collect "magic" supermarket coins, or stockpile anything I'll never consume just because it's free. That's simply exhausting and wasteful.

If I were brave enough to climb upon a hernia-sized soap box from aisle #10 I'd shout, "Stop playing games and just lower the prices! Keep it simple! The end. Amen." I just wanna purchase items at fair price without all the planning and strategizing.

Guess what? We do not serve a $1.98 God.* When presented with our needs he doesn't ask for a coupon or bicker over the price. It's already paid for through Jesus and he generously gives us the best from his heavenly storehouses; rich, overflowing and limitless supplies of everything we need. And God always slips a little something extra into our bag just because he loves us. All he asks is that we say, "thank-you"--a heartfelt word of gratitude--and share with others.

God keeps life simple. Out of a life of gratitude and thankfulness, he gives abundantly more than we can imagine and we walk away with free, joy-filled bags of the highest quality hope not only for ourselves, but also to share with those around us. Nothing ever goes to waste. Whatever we give away in his name, God always returns ten-fold.

My prayer for you today:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19

*Original quote by Jennifer O'Neill

If you're joining me from the Christian Children's Authors Blog, welcome!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sweet Comfort


Madonna- www.flickr.com/photos/michaeljzealot/
CC BY ND 4.0
He will take great pleasure in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

A medley of hymns from my childhood rings clearly in my heart when I close my eyes and listen. They were completely separate tunes until my mother gathered me in her arms and strung them together as one. It's impossible to count how often she sang over me, but this I know: it comforted me.

Decades later, I gathered my own children in my arms and rocked away the nights in darkened rooms gently whispering that same strung-together-medley: "Jesus loves me this I know...Oh how he loves you and me...Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's just something about that name...On a hill far away, stood and old rugged cross...Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord." Every time I sang over them in love. Every time, it comforted them.

I miss those lingering moments of new sleep when I studied their sleeping little faces, inhaled their clean baby hair and thanked God for the precious gifts they were.

Now, six grandchildren later, I sometimes relive those times when they spend a night. Gathering them into my arms, that old, familiar, strung-together-medley reemerges, and usually, within minutes, their little bodies relax and their eyes close. If I’m honest, I linger with them when their fast asleep, tracing their familiar profiles and delighting in their presence.  

It awes me to know God looks at us the same way. I wonder how many lingering moments-when our hearts are quieted by His love-He rejoices over us with singing?

Do you have a favorite childhood tradition or memory that you’ve carried over into your own parenting or grand parenting? If not, memories can be intentionally created. Why not start today? Choose something that shows you delight over them like singing over your children as they fall asleep or sending them to school with a prayer. The sky’s the limit.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, thank you for taking pleasure in us, quieting us with your love and rejoicing greatly over us. And for those times when we might feel unloved, bring to mind how much you delight in us. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Holy Knees


Day 14_365 by Megapixx_Flicr.com_5747041178_5d7d312d94_CC BY ND 2.0
"I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. " 1 Samuel 1:27-28

I crawled on my knees, for what seemed like forever, after my babies were born. As soon as they got past the sleeping/eating/sleeping routine and stayed awake to play for awhile, I was on the floor cooing and playing with them while they got their necessary social and physical exercise. Then they became mobile and I was on my knees making sure the house was baby proofed, crawling with them, chasing after them and picking up the debris (also known as toys) they left in their wake.

Prior to babies, a pair of jeans lasted me a few years. Post babies, they wore out at the knees after only a year. I remember reserving one pair of jeans as my "good jeans"; the ones I only wore out in public or on a date with my husband because they didn't show where my knees were.

Children grew into adolescents and I often missed those days of holy-kneed jeans. I didn't miss the physical exhaustion as much as the uncomplicated simplicity of those peanut butter and jelly vs. bologna and cheese type of days. It was stepping back as they made their own decisions - good and bad - when I wished for simpler days.

When boundaries set meant boundaries tested I found myself back on my knees. But this time, instead of crawling after them, I was crawling toward Jesus' feet. I was on my knees praying for them - for God’s Truth to pierce their hearts and redirect their paths. There were days, weeks, months, and years when I wondered if God heard me.

Then He reminded me of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:27-28:
I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord.”

Like Hannah, I prayed specifically for my children and dedicated them to the Lord as infants. But somehow through the years I took back possession. I’d forgotten they were God’s gifts with their own hearts, traveling their own God-journeys.

And so, back on my knees, I offered my children back to the Lord - trusting His plans for them - knowing the same God who promised to never leave me nor forsake me offered those same promises to my children.

How's the knees of your jeans looking today?


“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." 
Proverbs 3:5, 6

Hallowe'en

Halloween makes me uneasy. Always has. Ghoulish images, horror films, ghost stories, visions of death and destruction that seem to permeate this "holiday" doesn't intrigue me one bit. I find all that disturbing and avoid all contact with such imagery.
Scripture says it this way: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)
Scary images don't contrive anything honorable, right, pure, lovely or admirable so, I don't open myself up to those images. Why? Because I know my mind, especially my subconscious, would fixate on them and do me harm.
But what about all the fun? As Christians, do we have to become Halloween party poopers? Not at all, but we need to understand which traditions are worth celebrating and why.
Throughout history, the lines between pagan and Christian holidays blur, like Halloween. Hallowe'en in British tradition, is the marriage of the Gaelic festival of Samhain (lord of death) and All Saints Day. In an attempt to override the celebration of death, Pope Gregory IV, changed the May 1st celebration of All Saints Day (commemorating all passed saints), to November 1st, using October 31st (festival of Samhain) as a commemoration of All Saints Eve (All Hallows Eve). During the night, families would pray for their deceased loved ones and upon their return home, would feast on pancakes, curds and cider around the hearth. Later, this turned into begging for "soul cakes" door-to-door and in return, the beggars would offer prayers for the deceased loved ones of the home. Now, our modern-day trick-or-treat.*
Regardless, tradition does not make something right. But let me offer this: as Christians, we can bring Jesus' light into the darkness. We can celebrate the hope of life after death. We can celebrate the harvest that God has blessed us with. We can celebrate our family, past and present.
So, what does that look like? It is goodness. God is good (in the midst of evil) and, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 NIV).
Here's my GOOD Halloween guidelines:
  • Generate boundaries. Ex. Safe, family-oriented, harvest celebrations, positive secular or Christian-based character costumes.
  • Open your heart and home for alternative, positive festivities based upon the above. Reach out to your children's friends and your neighbors.
  •  Operate out of love. When your child pushes back, take time to explain why you've decided to celebrate in a God-honoring way. Be inclusive with neighbors and friends, not preachy. Live your witness and love your neighbors (and their children).
  • Discuss the reality of good and evil in this world age-appropriately. Explain that while there is a real Satan, Jesus has overcome him and all the darkness in the world. If we believe in Jesus and have an intimate relationship with him, the same Holy Spirit lives within us and empowers and protects us from all evil.
Whatever your tradition, have a safe and happy fall.
If you joined us here from Christian Children's Author's blog, Welcome! So glad you popped in for a visit. 
*(To learn more, go to http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween,  http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/all-hallow-s-eve.html, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/halloween_1.shtml)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wind's in the East...

Wind by Gureu
Flickr.com_photos/francescobellu/3667357527.jpg
CC BY-ND 2.0
Wind's in the east, mist comin' in
Like somethin' is brewin' and 'bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store, 
But I feel what's to happen all happened before.
(Lyrics, Chim Chim Cher-ee by Richard M Sherman & Robert B. Sherman)

Season's changing. The hot summer bids us farewell and autumn's settling in with his cool breeze, yellow,orange and rusty hued leaves, shorter days and longer nights. We've all been here before and we know what's in store, generally. 

I mean we can predict weather cycles, but not specific storms too far in advance. Calendars remind us of upcoming holidays, but not what will take place in between. We plan our days accordingly--check the weather, the calendar dates, our to-do lists, but when it comes down to it, we never quite know exactly how the day will start or end or what might upend us. I suppose that's good, or we'd never get out of bed. 

It's been a mysterious year for me--a year when the East wind kicked up a storm--compounded family crises (good and bad) found me spinning in every direction imaginable. I've been here before--handled years like this before--nine years like this, to be exact, but who's counting? (Oh yeah, me). I thought after that first year of suffering concussive syndrome symptoms for seven months, I'd be prepared for a year like this. 

But I wasn't.  This year I'm weary. Literally at the end of myself. 

For years, (nine years) I've been feeling like I'm never enough for everyone who needs me. And I'm not. This year proved it. 

Eighteen months ago, I was diagnosed with vitamin D3 and B12 deficiency. No biggie, right? but after a year's worth of healthy eating, bi-weekly B12 shots and a myriad of natural food supplements, I felt the east wind blowing and all the physical symptoms returned. Luckily, blood work showed my vitamin levels were fine, in fact way off the charts, but I'd contracted mono. Again, no biggie. It's treatable. Been here before.

The only treatment? Rest. Lots and lots of rest. 

Hey, every adult wishes they'd be ordered to bed, right? Yeah, but what happens when you're the main caregiver for two aging mothers, an active grandmother to six grandchildren whom you love with all your heart, a small group leader and an already a hard-to-motivate writer? 

Let. It. Go. and ask for help. 

Following the doctors orders, I gave myself permission to sleep. A lot. Twelve hours a day for two weeks. Nine hours every night the third week, and so on, until my body finally regulated to a normal eight hour night. 

And, you know what's amazing? While I slept, my mothers were well cared for by others, my family was flexible and came back to visit when I was well, and my writing...well...I didn't write, but the rest helped restore my creativity. Ideas flow more easily and instead of just scheduling archived articles, it's refreshing to actually write an original thought. (Thanks for your patience). 

Best of all, I'm learning that it's okay to not be enough for everyone. God is. That sounds cliche, I'll admit. But it's true. When I thought I had to run around like crazy meeting everyone's needs on my own, God's taught me that He is ultimately in control. [He will provide for everyone's] needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:17 NIV). So much more than I can offer. 

How about you? Is the east wind blowin'? Feelin' like somethin' is brewin' 'bout to begin? How do you handle the changes that upend you?