Monday, December 15, 2008

Great Job Kids!

Teens all the way down to shepherds 2-years-old participated in "Night of Wonder, Night of Joy."  They performed four songs in front of a packed house, with a sprinkling of solos from Audrey Brown, Claire Brown, and Matt Wood.  They not only sang, motioned and looked adorable, they also had to wait a painfully long time before and during the show with added narration and an adult choir piece.  And they rocked it!  We lost a few headresses by the end, but endured no tantrums and lost no spirit.  There is something so tender, so real about seeing children sing out to God and our faith family.  Their sense of wonder and childlike faith has challenged me this Christmas.

Toolbox Fun on a Rainy Day

The toolboxes given out at FAMJAM are not intended to provide a comprehensive spiritual rhythm for families. They are designed to provoke questions, and hopefully inspire faith rhythms that are sustainable and life-giving for your family. So, even though I create these boxes, I tweak them according to our family dynamics and needs.  

Today's rain provided the perfect time to do some indoor activities.  Eli was zealous about making a Christmas wreath. Between the crafts coming home from preschool and Sunday School, along with the wealth of childhood decorations I inherited and some new, our house gets more cluttered each week. But almost everything we make and have around cultivates dialogue and points to the momentum of the season, culminating in Jesus' birth.  The wreath offered Eli and I the chance to talk about Noah and the Flood, the badness of people, God's promise, and how Jesus' coming a long time later was like the top of the mountain of God's promise.  It was the high point.  The shiniest point that is most special and catches our eye.  The icing on the cupcake.  Ahhh, Jesus becomes a little more clear, and that dove reminds us of the peace he offers our hearts.  Peace that wasn't so present this morning in our dealings with baby brother. But we'll try harder after naps.

And then we rolled our worries away to God, which I anticipated may make no sense to him. He was excited about playing a ball game, and I explained I would be writing fears on each ball and we would throw and roll them away. So the biggies came out...sharks (because of the teeth, pictured), Santa Clause (because I just don't know him and he always tries to hug; great point), and dogs (especially when they bite).  I was pleasantly surprised he got the concept and zealously shouted, 'let's throw them to God!  Let's get rid of 'em!' Not sure how fully comprehends the symbolism, and yet I am still mesmerized by how God stirs in the deep places of such young beings.

It forces me to think of my own fears and the things that rob me of
peace. Eli's fears revolve around safety and security.  They are fears that he has no control over.  In his little mind, what will that dog do? How do I know Santa is kind or good and not a creepy man (uhhh, that may be a legitimate one to hold on to)? If I go in the ocean, will there be a shark? I do have some physical fears (like my lifetime phobia of vomiting or fear of rape) but almost all the fear in my life is rooted in relationship, in disappointment with myself and others, in the deep realities of sin. I almost long for that childhood place of being afraid of shark teeth, rather than the daily and growing awareness of sin and how it permeates life.  But, God wants these rolled his way too. Stress and sin and complicated relationships and character flaws are not too much for him, nor too nebulous. And today, in the rain that just scared my two-year-old during his nap, I am grateful that God is present with us in the unnatural, illogical, and painfully real and legitimate fears that exist in our lives.  And none are a match for his peace.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Healthy Toys

I was surprised to discover the toys deemed safe, and those considered very unhealthy for our young ones.  One in every three of the more than 1,500 children's toys tested in time for the holiday shopping season have been found to contain medium or high levels of chemicals of concern, such as: lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. 

Children's jewelry remains the most contaminated product category, maintaining its spot at the top of's "worst" list for a second year (including High School Musical and Hannah Montana jewelry).

Read a news article on the findings at

Look up toys and statistics at

Easy Outs on Hard Days

Last week I had an interaction with a mother ushering her children away from church quickly.  It was a tough moment for her, and I made it worse by offering to pack up some cookies & crafts for the kids to enjoy later.  Absolutely not.  And I understood completely.  I knew circumstances well.  When my boys are bad, I quickly pack them up (so they won't be rewarded for bad behavior or ruin someone else's time).  But if my mother is there, she often coos over them offering stickers and sweets to smooth tantrums, behavior in my own childhood which, by the way, would have resulted in serious spankings (but these are 'innocent' grandchildren).  The thought of rewarding my children for such disruption infuriates me, so I should have known better when interacting with this mother.

Oh, how I would long to shove a cookie into my child's mouth to pacify him in his worst moments, and that would be the easy out.  Parenting well on hard days requires more.  And this "more" often involves jeopardizing our own fun, peace, and reputation.  However, the long-term benefits are invaluable.  I have to be committed to this longer process.  

I had my moment this morning when meeting a different fellow church mom & pal for a playdate at Java Mama's.  We were late because Amos fell before we left, which launched a meltdown.  He perked up when we arrived and had a wonderful time.  Eli, on the other hand, turned into a little tornado of furry, greed, volume, and rage.  Despite the sizable play area with stairs, slides, books, toys, and video, he just could not play nice or share.  He even shoved aside children younger than him to go down the slide.  Unfortunately, Jeremy had the keys to the car and was down the street.  So, the normal reprimands followed.  Time-outs, longer time-outs, conversations, removal from play area, had to sit with the adults.  The spiral began.  He saw a cupcake, I said no - flip out.  He wanted to play, I said no, he was receiving a bad consequence for bad behavior - flip out.  And on.  It never got better.  

At one point, in a separate play room, a woman with her grandchild offered Eli a ride on the "rollercoaster" car ride.  I said, no thank you, he is not allowed on it (this after Eli had refused to share with other children & thrown a fit).  She insisted and offered Eli a ride, "Wouldn't you like a turn?"  Umm yah, but he is not ALLOWED another turn.  Would he have stopped crying and screaming to be given another turn?  Sure.  Would it have made my experience easier and less embarrassing?  Sure.  Would it have produced a child who learns the consequences of his actions?  No way.  Would it have taught him that he can behave like a terror and still get his way, especially in public?  Yup.  

So, I move on.  I know he's just a little guy and I know our long weekend probably contributed to his poor behavior, but that still doesn't mean it is okay.  The times when I have been called out for sin or received negative consequences for my poor actions (strained relationships or whatever) are the times that served as catalysts for lasting change.  It's never fun at the time, but the discipline does contribute to lasting change and heart renovation.  I want that for myself and I want that for my children.  So though I may do this poorly at times, I will still strive to avoid easy outs on hard days.  

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sabbath Rest...Really?

Life with kids is abundant and joyful.  It also feels relentlessly hectic. Balancing schedules and needs is no small daily task.  We were just invited to four kid birthday parties this month (not to mention Amos' first birthday).  I feel both gratitude for the many friendships that hem us in, as well as concern over the plethora of good things that fill our lives.  Concern because too many things - even good things - can crowd out God's voice and rest for us.

And then there are the too many not good things.    Poor choices of loved ones that drain and worry us.  Strained relationships. Our own mistakes and shortcomings.  And then there's the annoyance of illness, which has been no stranger to us.  Jeremy wasn't too well last week.  Days on end of nausea.  Then Amos began vomiting on Friday. Eli and I joined him on Saturday, and Jeremy took care of the three of us.  Good man indeed.  It's now Monday night, and we're just beginning to perk up.  The boys quicker than me or Jeremy.  I nearly pass out every time I stand up, and am on a steady chicken broth & gatorade diet. Jeremy is badly sleep-deprived.  Not one of our family's better moments, at least from our perspective.

Today I got to thinking about Sabbath, about taking deliberate time to rest and just be with God, and with each other.  I felt cynical at first.  It's hard enough to make the Sabbath a priority in our normal routines, to care out rest space that is freeing and restorative.  How can we possibly do it with these unannounced interruptions?  With emergencies and stomach flu?  Sabbath rest...really?  Yes.  It is the unending invitation from our Creator since He showed us what rest looks like in his own creative work.  It is the invitation and call to be refueled by the One who knows us best and knows what we need most.  

I think Sabbath must become a rhythm of life.  Each day must contain moments of rest, of reflection, of living very presently with God and those around us.  The weekly day rhythm (found in the 10 commandments) is also a necessity as well.  But sometimes, people like me have to start small.

So today, in the midst of having been inside and feeling yucky too long.  I rested as I held Amos in my arms.  I enjoyed doing nothing but playing with Eli's hair as he watched a video.  I allowed myself to sleep while the boys were sleeping.  And we'll try to carve out a day of rest this coming weekend, as we had last weekend until we all got sick.  Life is so complicated, it forces us to be deliberate in reclaiming the values God has for our lives.  And I am so grateful we love and are loved by a God who longs for us to be enveloped in his rest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FAMJAM in October!

FAMJAM: October 26th, 10:15am in fellowship hall.

We can't wait to see you to connect as families and watch our children enjoy God and life! This month we'll be exploring the JOY Jesus gives and how to live it out. See you there!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Paying Attention To Your Child's Spiritual DNA

As parents and volunteers, it is vividly apparent that each child is different, specifically crafted by the Great Craftsman, designed for purposes we only partly know. My husband and I laugh about how it seemed Eli was already turning the pages of books he had memorized at 10 months, while Amos, now 10 months, loves to sit around watching the surrounding activity and gnaw on his hand. But man, Amos can scoot, and scoot fast. He is more physically adept than Eli was at his age. We notice both superficial and deeper differences in the children we come into contact with, especially when they are our own.

Do you seek to know your child's giftedness? Do you long to understand how to nurture their God-designed interests, abilities, and passions? This article is great for both volunteers ministering to children, as well as parents.  The article offers tangible descriptions to look for and questions to ask children, as well as experiences you can facilitate with children at various stages of development to better understand their spiritual DNA and giftedness. Enjoy!

Flow-Through Ministry

This is a beautiful article for ministry volunteers who struggle to understand their place in serving God and others. It deals with our perceptions and need to keep Jesus at the center of our minsitry, while addressing our personal need for both solitude and community. Also, the author utilizes the words and perspective of Henri Nouwen, one of my all-time, favorite authors. For a little soul nourishment, check out:

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Parents: do you know what cyberbullying is?  It is common, online bullying and many kids are deeply affected by it.  Some statistics show that though boys may be more typical bullies at school, facee-to-face, girls are more aggressive with electronic bullying.   And 1/3 of kids and teens report that they've been bullied online.  Our children are exposed to so much and it is imperative we pursue the scope of information generated to them, protecting them whenever possible.  Check out these websites for more information on cyberbullying and internet protection:, (this one has sections for kids, preteens, and teens), (has an entire section on cyberbullying and internet safety, as well as other aspects of safety for your family).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Plastic Baggies & Creation Care

Did anyone else read the recent SD Reader article on plastic bags?  I knew they were problematic for the environment but I didn't realize the scale, and the facts check out in other places...crowding landfills, 1000 years for many of the bags to biodegrade, and on.  The article reinvigorated curiosity on my part for our family's usage of these unassuming bandits.  Let me tell you, we use baggies a lot.  We use them for our lunches and the separation of food inside our lunches.  We have one or two Target bags full of other plastic bags at any given time.  Bigger bags are used for the gym, clothing changes, Sunday School supplies, or in which we can throw the content of our cars or kitchen tables.  Little bags are used for food or goopy trash, to go inside the trash.  

We are people who care about the environment because we care about and are called to creation care.  We recycle everything, but what about those plastic bags?   Now that we have two children, we don't want to add to environmental issues (two little people can help generate big waste) and we want to model creation care for them.  This means that from a young age, we talk with them about why we bring our colorful totes to the grocery store or why lunch boxes are so great, beyond the awesome Lightening McQueen image.  

Want to change your use of plastic bags?  Use canvas or another alternative. This website
provides a great alternative. Cheap, durable, ethically made nylon bags made especially for grocery shopping and just about anything else:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Depleted Immunities

Sick again? Yes, sick again. Since the entrance of children into my life, there has been a steady stream of fluids - snot, saliva, drool - that make their way to my left shoulder and skirt hems, as well as blanketing my face, daily. I generally don't have time to be sick, and therefore will myself not to be. Sort of the way I willed myself not to vomit through my entire pregnancy and labor with Eli (my will had waned by the time Amos came along).

But here I am, sick again. I saw the doctor yesterday after flirting with symptoms a month and being officially ill a week with on-and-off fevers, headaches, dizziness, sore throat, ear pain, coughing, body aches, sinus pain, and finally, laryngitis. After tests confirmed that I did not have mono (score) and am not pregnant (double score given the double scooters), it seems I have a complicated cold and nasty sinus infection. What better day to start a blog?

What better day to also ponder the greats in the faith? I think specifically of great medieval men and women serving in the monastic tradition, caring for others in dark times such as the black plague, while needing to nurse their own illnesses as well. I am a bad sick person. I torture myself by pondering their lives when I feel too sick and self-pitied to get out of bed. Catherine of Siena tirelessly cared for others in poverty and grotesque physical ailments. I think about her a lot when I am wishing I had more strength in me to carry the ailments of everyone in my life. But then I remember, she didn't live past 31. I hope to have a long life. And then I also remember, Catherine knew she wasn't the Savior, just an extension of his power, and I better keep that knowledge straight too.

So here are my questions: what does self-care look like for the life of a parent who cares more about snuggling with a sick child than preserving herself? How do we stretch our arms beyond our immediate family unit to care for the wider body of humans - both inside and outside the church - who need us and to whom we are called? What role does spiritual and emotional exhaustion play in our depleted physical capacities?

I have to admit, the last few months have been long and wearying for me. There has been little space for me to refresh myself in the One who pours out living water for thirsty followers. The depleted immunities of my body are an external snapshot of the depleted immunities in my soul right now. I always feel compelled to serve others. Serve my kids, make my calls, schedule another meeting with someone to talk. But I want to serve God from a wellspring of love and abundance, not human scarcity. And on this sick day, I am led back to the God who restores immunities.
For another tidbit on Catherine of Siena, and some good words on being at home with ourselves, check out: