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.