Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Who Doesn't Like a Good Snowball Fight?

Today I'm sharing the lighter side of life. I wrote this for all the young moms and grandmas who might want to add a bit of fun into their kids' day.  Enjoy!
Who doesn't love a good snowball fight, right? But what do you do when your kids have the winter blues and the ground is covered with...well...mud and grass instead of snow? You have a snowball fight, anyway!
How? You could shell out twenty bucks for this cute manufactured can of smiley-faced
"nondestructive" snowballs that could still take out your grandmother's heirloom lamp OR you could create a family project that promises to keep Grandma's lamp in tact.
Here's how:
white tulle, muslin or any old sheets
fluffy stuffing or tissue paper
elastic bands
1. Cut white tulle, muslin or old sheets into 8-10 inch squares

2. Stuff with fluffy stuffing or tissue paper
3. Gather edges around stuffing and secure with an elastic band
4. Download the song Freeze Dance off iTunes or play it on YouTube
To simplify this even more if you don't have the time or resources for purchase cloth and stuffing, just wad up a bunch of white tissue paper and secure the ends with scotch tape and use that as your snow balls, but I can't promise they'll last more than one use.
Time to Wind Up or Freeze Dance
Instead of letting your kids run wild chucking snowballs through your living room, here's a fun alternative game suggested by an author friend of mine, Janet Lawler, during her latest interview on my show, Penn's Pals featuring her new book, Snowzilla.
Janet suggests playing a game called Freeze Dance. Much like Musical Chairs, the kids chuck cloth snowballs at one another while the music, Freeze Dance is playing (found here on YouTube). The parent pauses or stops the song periodically. When the music stops, the kids must freeze in place. If they move or throw their snowball when the music stops, they're out of the game. The game ends when the last child is standing or Mom says, "Enough!"
It's a great way to work out their wiggles. Once they've wound down, enjoy some cuddling up and good book!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Greeting Cards & Love Languages

"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." Philemon 1:7 NIV

Lately, comfort enters my home almost every day in neat little envelopes. Rectangular card stock covered with beautiful artwork and carefully penned verses spill out and into my heart.  

But it's not the poet's words that linger, but rather the sender's.

I read their handwritten notes behind closed doors and their words refresh me. They're not poetic or fancy, but always sincere and thoughtful. They allow me those free-flowing emotions and tears or all-knowing smiles with private rememberances of my loved one. Mostly, they affirm me. Their written words reassure that I'm loved, I'm not alone and "everything will be okay."

And seeing those words penned in personal ink? It encourages this heart because I love affirming words. 

Gary Chapman taught me this years ago in his book, The 5 Love Languages. Did you know we all have a favorite love language? According to Chapman, we do. We either feel most loved through: words of affirmation (spoken or written), acts of service (like doing the dishes or laundry), receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch.

Knowing our love language and those of our family members' helps improve how we interact with one another. For instance, knowing my husband feels most loved by physical touch, I now hug him after an argument rather than just apologizing with words. While I'm just fine with an apology (affirming words), he needs my touch. 

Love languages, shown appropriately,  work in all types of relationships. Jesus taught us that the second greatest commandment is to love one another as we love ourselves; not that we love each other the way we feel most loved, but the way they feel most loved. That takes effort and thought and knowing, but it's not impossible.

Soon, I'll tuck your greeting cards and lovely notes inside a cardboard box and when my parched heart needs refreshment I'll drink your words again.

How can you encourage someone today?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Knowing Mercy

" 'But let him who boasts boast of this: that he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight, ' declares the Lord." Jeremiah 9:24

"I'm okay. I really am okay," she said reassuringly. We left her at the front door tucked behind the storm reciting her soliloquy.

Later, neediness calls. Another loved one demanding center stage.

We back away wondering what this next act might look like. We know the roles we'll play. Supporting roles, offering mercy - undying loyalty, kindness and unfailing love - for those who've stood strong for us all these years.

Mercy. It's my new word; the word my mind can't shake and the word God desires me to know. So, I search for meaning in this little word and God leads me right back to Jeremiah; the book where God's planted my feet since July. And suddenly, it's not so much about defining mercy as it is knowing the One who is mercy.

Right away, I want to know what I'm supposed to do and God whispers, "It's not about what you know but who you know. It's not about doing, or playing a role, it's about knowing." And how else do we know someone but spend time with them and abide with them?

In Jeremiah 9:24 God says, if anyone boasts, we should not boast of what we have or do (riches, wisdom, position) but rather we should boast in the Eternal One; that we understand and know God.

What is God like? He delights in mercy (unfailing love, kindness, compassion), righteousness and justice.  And when we spend time knowing Him, we transform into His likeness.

It's easy being God-like when we love the ones who ask for mercy.  It comes readily when we're unscheduled, unhurried, and burden less, but how easy does mercy flow when we're busy or obligated or we don't particularly love the person and they don't love us either?

There's the rub. Our part is to emulate God, who delights showing mercy to all in all circumstances.

Father, help us to understand and know you. May we take time each day to soak in your presence until all we do emulates who you are; One who delights in mercy, righteousness and justice.

Monday, January 21, 2013

All That and a Bag O' Chips

"God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT

I never understood the place comfort food played during loss until last week. All I wanted was a bottle of diet Coke, but somehow I walked out of our neighborhood grocery store with all that AND a bag of chips; like somehow my body craved more and more comfort food after an entire week of binging.

Within hours of my father-in-laws passing, neighbors dropped off chicken cutlets and salad. Friends delivered a basket of gooey pastries piled a mile high. Fed Ex dropped a Honey Baked Ham on the front stoop and gourmet chocolate baskets poured in from my husband's sympathetic clients. 

In a brief moment I thought, "There's a Seinfeld episode here somewhere!" What a funny way to share condolences, right? Not so much.

As waves of extended family and close friends arrived and we poured over Dad's photographs and favorite hymns, the last thing we thought of was food preparation or trudging out to a public restaurant. Exhausted at the end of every day all we craved was food - comfort food - that ooey, gooey, chocolaty, sweet and salty, delectable that satisfied our sorrowful emptiness with some familiar, short-term happiness.

But all that AND the bag o' chips I bought a week later? It wasn't lasting comfort. I knew that.  Lasting comfort comes in knowing the Source of all comfort  - God our merciful Father - and being reassured that Dad knew Him, too. Sounds cliche, I know, but when you realize the finality of death - when you know that today IS the last day you'll set eyes on  your beloved this side of eternity - there is no lasting comfort aside from knowing God and knowing death is NOT the end.

God, in all his mercy, sent his Son, Jesus to live among us (Emmanuel) to show us who He was and to bridge the chasm that sin drove between us. Through Jesus' death and resurrection lies all hope and comfort that even in death, those who place their faith and trust in Him, will be resurrected, given a heavenly body and spend eternity in a place prepared just for us.

"For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands." 1 Corinthians 5:1 NLT

Now, that is everlasting comfort food and it is with that same comfort, Paul says, that we are to comfort one another.

Thank you, heavenly Father, for your mercy and enveloping us with your everlasting comfort in the midst of loss and sorrow. How reassuring to know that in this temporary world, You have prepared a place just for us; that in the end,  you will make us anew and eternal in Your presence.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Do You Explain Life and Death?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Children innately believe this life is eternal and as parents, we protect their innocence as long as possible. But, eventually, death interrupts this life and begs an explanation. While death isn’t a particularly “happy” topic, in light of recent tragedies, I felt it needed addressing.

If we’re fortunate, death makes its first appearance through an innocent lady bug or sundried night crawler before it takes our family pet or visits our beloved family member. But, no matter the circumstance or our age, death is always difficult and painful. For our children who think concretely, it can prove traumatic unless we take care to explain it honestly, clearly, and kindly and offer them tools to cope with their emotions.

How do we explain death? Death is concrete and our bodies, also physical and concrete, will cease working. The experts* suggest, “Honesty is the best policy,” with children. If we define death clearly and kindly we eliminate confusion. As Christian parents or grandparents, we also hold the hope of the Resurrection and eternal life. For the youngest, explaining this can prove complicated, but a kind pastor recently explained it like this:
(Please join me for the rest of the story at Christian Children's Authors blog)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Eternity Begins Today

"And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. " John 17:3

We Christians speak of eternity with Christ, living in God's presence like it's some futuristic event or an ultimate goal, not yet achievable. It's almost like we're living some fairytale waiting for the words "Happily Ever After" to scroll up onto the movie screen as we sit quietly in a dark theatre.

But let's take a closer look at Jesus' words in John 17:3:

     "And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. " John 17:3

If eternity begins with the knowing, and if knowing begins when we surrender ourselves to Jesus, then doesn't eternity begin in the here and now? 

Doesn't the knowing occur daily in our pausing, in the sitting in God's presence praying and listening to His voice speak love into our souls?

(Join me at Christian Children's Authors blog for the rest of the story...)