Sunday, December 25, 2016

That's What Christmas Is All About: Charlie Brown Style

"...the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Luke 2: 10-11

The first winter snow falls like grace, silently blanketing the world in pure white. I watch from inside where the Christmas lights burn bright, chasing darkness from every corner.

My attention turns to the crèche set upon the shelf. I touch each piece: the shepherds, the Wise Men, the angels, the rudimentary stable, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus - they all tell the story - the simple story that redeems life and chases darkness away.

That's what Christmas is all about.

It almost seems too simple, too easy, but Truth is simple as Linus shows us in A Charlie Brown Christmas: 

We all need reminding as much as Charlie Brown, our children, and our grandchildren, that Christmas isn't about the presents or the tree or the preparations. It isn't about our loved ones, or their memories, as much as it is about the One who loves us - loves us so much that he came to us - became God. With. Us. 

God came, never to forsake us, but to redeem all of our losses - past, present, and future - through His son, Jesus. It's through his birth, his life, his death and resurrection that God offers us a way to redeem our loss and offer us peace, good will and eternal life. Christmas points us to the birth of hope and light and life through Jesus, Emmanuel, that we might know him better and be so filled with His light that darkness runs. Jesus replaces our sorrow until his joy falls like grace upon our hearts and spills to everyone around us so that they too, might know him better.

That's what Christmas is all about. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Believing Like Mary

Labyrinth by Ignacio Bernal BY-ND 2.0
"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Preparing for Advent, I'm drawn to Mary's faith. That she "simply" opened her life to the Lord as his handmaiden in obedience to the angel Gabrielle's message to be the mother of Jesus. But, I've no doubt her journey in those next nine months was not easy.

Amongst the ridicule and embarrassment of her illegitimate pregnancy I'm sure she questioned, more than once, if she was following the right path; wondered if she should be the chosen one of God to carry his child. What was she thinking? Life would have been so much easier if she said no and just went about her business as Joseph's betrothed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Posture of Belief

Believe by the unquiet librarian
Flickr.com_5215537173_0aff0e9598_CC BY -ND 2.0
"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!" Luke 1:45

Believing God's promises isn't always easy, especially when He promises the impossible.

I often marvel at Mary's experience with the angel Gabriel, in the Christmas story. There she was, a simple Jewish maiden, minding her own business, maybe hanging laundry, walking back from the market or drawing water from the well, when suddenly Gabriel greets her as God's "highly favored" one.

Scripture doesn't say Mary cowered from his large stature or trembled at the sound of his booming voice. So, not wanting to frighten her, I imagine Gabriel may have seemed a plain man; someone whom Mary would not be afraid. But what did frighten her was Gabriel's greeting. "Greetings! You are highly favored. The Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:28)

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, 

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

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.

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


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,,

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wind's in the East...

Wind by Gureu
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? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Be a Life Preserver

On the ferry by C Carlstead
flickr.com_photos/cristic/560163635_CC BY-ND 2.0
Life was smooth sailing until the summer before my tenth birthday when my father walked out on us. Forever etched in my mind, it was the first day I ever felt lost.

Everything in my life changed that day--holidays, church gatherings, even after school routines--and I found myself gasping for air, barely keeping my head above water.

Our home, once overflowing with family during holidays and birthdays, now sat eerily empty as half our extended family wondered what to do with us. After-church dinner invitations halted and television noise filled the air instead of friendly conversations and kids' laughter. And, worst of all, a locked door and empty house greeted me after school because my mom now worked.

Oh, how my heart yearned for normal and the family comfort it once knew. So, I sought out family wherever I could--looking for hope for my future--praying that God would somehow allow me a glimpse at what a forever family looked like. And He was faithful.

While I bobbed in a sea of raging chaos and change, God threw me four life preservers that helped me navigate those choppy waters of a fatherless childhood and adolescence:

  • An attentive teacher. Mr. P was my first male teacher and one I'll always remember. Rather than coddling me, knowing my family situation, he taught me courage. Oh, he had my back, like a good father, when the class bully picked on me, but most importantly, he helped me discover my voice. He gave me the courage to speak up for myself and to be comfortable with the sound of my own laughter. 
  • A caring faith community. Shunned from our "family" church, my sisters and I sought out a loving faith community across town; one with an active youth ministry. The youth group became my family; a place of comfort and belonging, spiritual encouragement, and growth. It's where God grew me up into who He created me to be through the leadership and friends.
  • A loving extended family. Newly married, my eldest sister and brother-in-law took me under their wing. They welcomed me to their extended family celebrations where I witnessed numerous godly marriages that extended decades. One celebration, in particular, a fiftieth anniversary, stood as the catalyst of hope for me. Attending with my then boyfriend (and now husband of 32 years, yay!), it hit me...there is such a thing as a godly, forever family. 
  • A generous friend. Adolescence was a tough road for a single-parented child, especially one whose sisters were both married. God graciously gave me a friend from seventh to twelfth grade who generously shared her family life with me. Her parents meant the world to me as they often invited me to stay for dinner, go on vacation with them, and allowed me to share the day-to-day routine of their family. It was in that home that I caught a glimpse of a normal, loving family; the one I longed for someday. Truly, a gift from my heavenly Father.

I am forever thankful that God placed these people in my life. The lessons I learned from them remain even decades later. And as I welcomed my children's young friends into our home, I prayed that God would use our family the same way He used those precious life preservers of my youth; that for those seeking acceptance, normalcy, family, and God, they would find it all under our roof.

Are there children or young people in your life who might be drowning in some rough family seas? Are they seeking some resemblance of normalcy in their world? How might God use you and your family to ease them through this tough time?

(If you joined me here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, Welcome!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Taming the Busy Monster

3 Monsters
by Larry Wentzel
CC BY 2.0

...keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord, your God. Ezekiel 20: 19b-20

If you've joined us here from {re}fresh, welcome!

Rest. Simply stop. 

But, it's not always that easy is it? 

Society screams above God's whisper to rest and shouts "Go! Go! Go! Don't stop, keep going!" It's like we measure success by how busy we are until there's nothing more left to squeeze out of us by day's end. And the worse part? Society wants us to repeat that every. single. day. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, minus a week's vacation if you're lucky. Oh, and on that vacation? Don't rest. Go, go, go some more. Pack as much "busy fun" into your week to make up for the previous 51 work weeks. 

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing that paragraph. Nap, please?

So, as Christians, what's the big deal about rest? Here's a few thoughts:

Rest is ordained.  After creating the universe in six days, God ordained rest as Genesis 2:2 states:

 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 

Rest is holy. It allows us space to breathe, to listen and to worship. God knew our bodies, minds and souls needed refreshment; down time to heal and process and rejuvenate our creativity as well as worship our Creator. 

Exodus 20:11 explains it this way:

 This is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. 

Rest is healing. When our physical, emotional, creative and spiritual health suffers due to anemic rest, we break. And even then, when our bodies try forcing rest upon us, we fight it. We will ourselves to "get up and be better". We ignore our symptoms and forge ahead despite the still small voice that says, "rest". But, if we let him, God will use rest to heal our emotional and physical maladies. It's then, when our schedules clear and our distractions disappear that we can finally hear Him; finally allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives.

If rest is so holy and healing, then what about work? God never said don't work. Work and creativity has always been part of God's plan for us. 

The Lord God placed man in the Garden of Eden to tend watch over it. 
Genesis 2:15 (NLT)

But, God created a day for rest and worship. Taming that Busy Monster that lurks over our shoulders or shouts above the crowd, is key:
  • Build a work ethic - work hard and efficient while on the job
  • Set boundaries - protect your family time, creative time, and Sabbath days
  • Say "no" - to projects, ministries and outings that zap you and overstep your boundaries
  • Be brave - stop feeling guilty while resting. View rest as holy, God-ordained time 

Father-God, thank you for thinking of everything, especially rest. While the world shouts "do more", help us to stop and rest and listen to your still, small voice that beckons us to come away with you to a quiet place. Remind us that resting in you not only brings healing and break through, but it's holy and ordained. It's through rest that we worship and commune with you and our hearts, minds and bodies are made whole again. Amen. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Easing First-Day Anxiety

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

If you're joining us here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Mikey entered kindergarten kicking and screaming.  His mother didn't know what more to do except drag his stiff, reluctant, five-year-old body behind her like he was drafting on an imaginary skateboard. 

I'd been brave up until the moment his blood curdling cries echoed through the halls of Samuel Huntington Elementary School and into Miss Kane's classroom. Once Mikey arrived, my courage slipped through my quivering lips as I held on tight to my mother's skirt. 

Enter, Miss Kane--the sweetest, most loving teacher I'd ever known. She knew just how to calm our fears with reassuring kindness and creatively distract us long enough for our parents to slip away without notice. Soon enough, fully immersed in one of the play stations, we'd made new friends and our anxiety was long least until the next day. 

Easing separation anxiety with little ones isn't formulaic. Each child owns a different personality and it takes time to learn what works. However, from experience as a parent, day care provider, preschool teacher and grandparent, I've learned several general guidelines that help ease children's anxiety:
  1. Pray specifically for and with your child--that God would ease their fears and give them joy and protection
  2. Visit the classroom, day care, etc. with your child prior to the first day 
  3. Involve your child in "first day" preparations (packing their lunch, choosing a special outfit, packing a special "comfort" toy)
  4. Make drop off quick. Lingering only causes more anxiety in them and you
  5. Reassure your child about your return and leave them with a kind word
  6. Teachers/caregivers should greet every child with joy, compassion and kindness
  7. Teachers/caregivers should offer multiple activities to help distract children and ease them into healthy socialization with peers
  8. Parents, be consistent with routines and always return on time
by Dawn Aldrich
Halo Publishing, 2009
Years ago, while caring for my then, three-year-old great niece, I realized separation anxiety does not dissipate simply because they are familiar with the caregiver. It helps, but it's not the issue. The issue is, they fear separation from the parent. 

Implementing the above guidelines by trial and error and simply intuition as a parent and experienced caregiver, I wrote Auntie's House (Halo Publishing, 2009). This picture book, (pre-k through first grade), walks the young reader through a typical day a little girl spends with her auntie while Mommy works. It addresses separation anxiety in a positive manner, reassuring her that Mommy always returns at day's end. 

Adding Auntie's House to your child's first day preparations may help ease their anxiety. You can read the reviews on Amazon. 

Let's help one another out. Would you like to share your first-day stories or concerns below? We'd love to pray with you and for you and your children. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Be-attitudes for Building Healthy Friendships

Friendships-count on me by Ares Nyguen
Flickr.com_photos/rsnguyen/8884956545_CC BY-ND 2.0
"Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace. We have promised by the Lord that we will be friends...'" 1 Samuel 20:42a (ICB)

If you're joining us here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Helping our children build healthy friendships amidst the growing presence of social media can be challenging, especially children of Gen Y parents (born after 1981- early 2000's). According to a recent devotion I read, Gen Y-ers average 6 1/2 hours of daily Facebook usage. While their profiles brag of large "friend" totals, they rarely spend face-to-face time with their "friends".

Let's face it, virtual friendships are easier than "real" ones, but God calls us to true friendship. Consider God's relationship with Moses--the only man to see God. The Bible says, The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend, (Exodus 33:11). 

So, exactly how do we help our children (and ourselves) build real, face-to-face, healthy friendships? Here's my be-attitudes for building healthy friendships:
  • Be present. Limit social media especially when on a play date, family event, or extra curricular activity. Practice being present.  Rather than posing and posting every moment on social media, just live it and enjoy the moment. How many times do we miss the sheer joy of an event because someone wants us to "pose" for the camera.
  • Be friendly. Smile and say hello first rather than waiting for someone else to make the first move. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13) by opening your home to your children's friends and their parents. What better way to make new friends and keep an eye on your kids at the same time?
  • Be inclusive. School yard cliques happen, like it or not. Break out of the pack and befriend someone new, different, outcast, or lonely. When you're a longstanding community member, it's easy for both parents and children to stay within the familiar friendship circle. However, there's always a new family or classmate looking for friendship. Pursue them and include them.
  • Be wise. While teaching our children to be inclusive, we also must balance that with a dose of wisdom. If a new friend invites your child to their home for a play date, birthday party, etc., make sure the home is a safe place. If its a party, ask if you might accompany your child or check with other parents whose children might attend. If it's a play date, request it be at your home (see "be friendly" above). Once they arrive, invite the parent in for a cup of coffee or just make small talk at the front door while your children go off to play so you might get to know them better. I've also been known to do a drive-by the day before to check out their neighborhood, if I was unfamiliar, just to make sure it was a safe place to let my child play. Instruct your child to trust their gut. If they feel uncomfortable in the friend's home for whatever reason, call for a ride home immediately.
  • Be loyal. No gossiping allowed! Like Jonathan and David, we all need someone who's "got your back" and will stick up for us through good and bad times. If we call ourselves a friend, then we offer our loyalty in their presence and absence. 
  • Be forgiving. People will disappoint us, but the Bible teaches us that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). What a great lesson to learn early. No one is perfect and we will hurt one another's feelings, even if we love each other. Forgiveness is the key to building healthy, long-lasting relationships.
What would you add to the list? How do you foster healthy friendships in your home?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Awaiting the Groom

The Bride by Katharine Shilcut
CC BY ND 2.0
"The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry went out 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' " Matthew 25: 5-6

Outside my second floor living room door there was a small, steep staircase that led me to the mostly empty attic. Smelling of cold, dry wood in winter I'd make my way up there to fill the time with great imaginings until my sisters came home from school or until my mother called me down for supper.

In one corner close to the stairway laid an old black trunk with a rounded cover and a big brass latch in front quite resembling a pirates' chest. With my two, tiny, white hands I'd carefully lift that latch and open the cover to reveal the girly treasures inside: Mom's old dresses, her beige tortoise shell high heeled shoes and sheer, white, summer curtains! Treasures indeed to a little girl who loved to play dress up and especially loved to play The Bride! My wardrobe was complete when I found some plastic flowers in a box nearby marked, "Christmas."

I'd place my right hand on the stair rail to balance myself as I lifted feet into Mom's shoes one at a time. With that accomplished I'd dig deep into the pocket of my play dress to find the bobby pins I'd stashed for the veil. Then pinning it atop my blonde crown I'd grab the plastic, Christmas bouquet and start to hum "Here Comes The Bride." One shaky foot in front of the other I'd slowly clip-clop the entire length of the attic floor to where I dreamed my groom was waiting, wondering who it would really be someday.

That mystery has been solved. I've been married thirty-two years to a wonderful man and now my own children are married ... but I'm still getting ready for my Groom.

Today, those of us who follow Jesus are considered his bride. Brides are always thinking about their groom; always waiting for his voice to say, "I'm here. I'm ready. Today's the day! Join me at the altar, won't you?" 

What a heart-pounding day of excitement it is on our wedding day! Do we think that way of Jesus coming for us? Are we as excited about our groom, Jesus as we are about our earthly groom or are we drowsy from waiting? 

It's a challenge to wait but the wedding day is so worth it!

If you joined me here from {re}fresh, welcome!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

6 things Alice Through the Looking Glass teaches us (about life and family)

Alice through the looking glass by Sami Davis Dog
Flickr.com_4243505603_c52b2c9890_CC BY-ND 2.0
I break the rules in movie theaters quite often. Like, I tuck my own healthy snacks inside my purse in order to avoid my weight gain inducing, popcorn, cheesy tortilla and soft drink cravings. But mostly, you'll find that I'll pull our my iPhone and jot down life changing tidbits hidden within a movie's dialogue on my Notes app that strike a chord. 

That said, here's the 6 things Alice Through the Looking Glass teaches us about life and family:

1. "Very important thing, a family. You only get one,” said the Mad Hatter.  Living within our families isn't always easy. I know growing up in mine wasn't easy. One day we were the perfect, twice-on Sunday and once on Wednesday church-going family. The next day, we were the newest broken, absent-father, lock-key-kid, mother-working divorced and church-shunned family in the pews. No matter how I wished my family were whole again, or wished I could live in a different family, I soon realized you only get one. You only get one family and I wanted my whole one back. 

While my prayers were eventually answered, (unique among divorced families), we weren't the same. We were still a broken family striving to erase the mistakes of my father's indiscretions.  But, living through those broken and mending years reinforced in me was that we only do get one family and I wanted mine to work.  I wanted a Godly husband and family characterized by God-centeredness, unconditional love, loyalty, fidelity, honesty, transparency, and forgiveness toward one another and our “neighbors.”

2. "If you don't go back and reconcile, you'll be sorry...You're family will be lost and you won't be able to do anything about it, " said Alice to the Mad Hatter. While my parents' reconciliation was my heart's greatest desire, it took me thirty years to work through the heartache and pain of an absent father. Unforgiveness became my secret defense weapon—holding him at arm’s length protected me from further pain. Unfortunately, I carried every relationship I had at arm’s length, hoping to protect myself from their possible rejection and abandonment as well.

3. "Forgive me?" asked the White Queen. "That's all I ever wanted," replied her sister, the Queen of Hearts. In the movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass, we learn the back story of why the Queen of Hearts harbors so much anger. You see, everyone has a back story which doesn’t dismiss their misbehavior, but it sure explains a lot. Once I learned my father’s back story and God helped me see my father through His eyes, (how God created him, how nothing could stop God from loving and forgiving him)   then all my excuses to withhold forgiveness fell away. How could I not offer my father what Jesus so freely offered me? Freely offers the world?

4. "You cannot change the past but I dare say, you might learn from it," explained Time. No, we cannot change the past, even when we offer forgiveness. We don't own a chronosphere to travel back in time to make things right, like Alice did. But, we can move forward, learning the lessons from our past and with God's help, (always with God's help) we can forge a better future. 

5. "To do the impossible, you must believe it is possible," declared Alice.  Forgiving someone who has wronged you and hurt you deeply, may seem incredibly impossible to you right now. I get that. Although God confronted me about my unforgiveness, it took me over thirty years of working through my woundedness before I finally asked God for the impossible—the courage to face my father and offer him forgiveness and ask forgiveness of him.

6. "Everyone parts with everything, eventually," explained Time.  While God created all things for his pleasure, including and especially family, sin entered the world through the first family of creation, and therefore, we all pass away...eventually. My father suffered a long good-bye. In some ways, I'd never want to relive that again and yet, it was the sweetest good-bye I've ever experienced. During his last months of life, God reconciled all the stolen years. We talked about the past and said all those important, unregrettable last words to one another. Best of all, God taught me how to be a good daughter to him; how to love and care for him unconditionally, until his very last breath.

Do any of these statements challenge you today? What are some great life lessons you've learned from stories or a movie recently?

If you joined us from the Christian Children's Authors blog today, thank you! Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Do You See a Sparkle?

Reflected Stone Rainbow by pshab

"...brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." Ezekiel 1: 27b-28a

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

"When you look at me," Molly Mahoney asks, "What do you see? Do you see a something reflective of something bigger that's trying to get out?"

This is one of the best lines in one of my favorite family movies, "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," (2008). It's one the most significant questions we can ask ourselves as followers of Christ. Even as parents and grandchildren, do we seek, encourage and call out their sparkle?

In the movie, Mahoney is the loyal manager of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, a magical toy store where everything comes to life. Most alive and happy when she's working, Mahoney relishes in Mr. Magorium's child-like faith. Mr. Magorium recognizes her "sparkle" and upon his retirement, transfers ownership of the toy store to Mahoney. But she feels completely inadequate, noting her lack of magic (the sparkle) that makes the Wonder Emporium...well, magical. Mahoney further reasons that she just can't be a kid anymore and therefore, opts to sell the store even if it means her unhappiness and that of all the children.

Isn't that how we act too? I mean here we stand, created in God's image, meant to reflect everything about Him including His glory and yet, we feel so inadequate most of the time. We don't see the sparkle, the reflection of His greatness in us. And as parents or grandparents, do we look for that sparkle in our children/grandchildren and encourage it's appearance?

God placed a desire in each of us to do something that seems, in any normal circumstance, natural. But, when asked to step out in faith, using that desire or gift for His kingdom, we suddenly retreat. We may even opt to "sell the store" of possibilities to someone else; someone more deserving or more talented, because for us, accepting the task would be simply impossible, even childish. 

And what happens when our children are maturing? Do we acknowledge their talents, applaud their God-given desires and encourage them to seek out opportunities to grow those desires or test them?

Sometimes we miss God's reflection in ourselves and our children. We cheat those around us of the same when we sit frozen to our chairs of impossibilities. So, what does it take to get us to see God's "sparkle" in ourselves or others?

I believe that something, event or moment when time stands still and we say, "Aha!" is different for everyone. But, common to all God followers? Abiding - spending alone time with God through His son, Jesus. We reflect the heart and glory of God himself when we abide in Him. Then, when we recognize God's movement in our lives or the lives of our children, faith grows. That's when we realize that with God nothing is impossible.

Thankful hearts brim and respond in obedience to God. It's here where we find our true selves - through obedience - what make us, us.

Do you see a sparkle? Do you have that reflection of something bigger that's trying to get out? Will you let it out? Will you spend time with your Creator so that He might shine through you?

What about your children or grandchildren? Do you encourage their sparkle? Do you recognize God's reflection through their personalities and do you give them opportunities for God to appear?

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16