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the tricky thing about sharing

the tricky thing about sharing

I see it in myself and I see it in my children: the need to hoard, to hide, to keep for myself. For me it’s the fancy bar of toasted coconut dark chocolate. For them it’s been a piece of gum or the oven-bake clay received in an Easter basket. It is this attitude of this belongs to me, there is not enough to share, if I share with you I will have less for myself.

 

I have never been one of those mothers that has forced my child to share with other kids. There is a lot of good chatter here on the interwebs that this is not the best policy because it teaches children that they can just demand their way and another child will be forced to give in. Instead at playdates I tried to encourage my children to be aware, to take turns, and to be sure they tracked down the child who wanted the toy when they were done with it to pass it along. I taught them to ask politely to “please can I have a turn when you are done with that” instead of demanding another child share.

 

And I walk that fine line of sharing when it comes to parenting siblings as well. (Let it be known I did not have siblings at home with me growing up so often I look to my husband for extra help in this area. Sibling stuff is so foreign to me!) If one of my daughters has received a gift that her sister is interested in, we have a lot of conversations about respecting that it is her new thing, and I’m sure she will let you have a turn soon when the novelty wears off, and down the road when your sister has a new toy you want to check out she’ll probably remember today and how you responded to her desire to check out your new thing. In general I am really proud of how my girls have taken this to heart and regularly share with one another and with other friends too.

 

But it is a bit trickier when they have consumable items like gum or clay. Because the reality of sharing a toy is really different than something that will actually get used up and mean there is less for her. For years I have taken the approach that selfishness breeds selfishness and generosity breaks that cycle. “Remember,” I tell them, “you don’t have to share your gum. But next time your sister has a pack of gum and you want a piece I can almost guarantee that she’ll think back to today and refuse to share because you didn’t share with her. But you can break that cycle today by deciding to be generous. I’m not forcing you, this is your decision. I’m just letting you know my experience of how this will play out…generosity tends to encourage generosity,”

 

That’s the thing about this world isn’t it? Our human nature is to hoard, to keep, to protect because we fear there is not enough to go around. If I don’t protect my own interests, no one else is going to. I am not immune to this! I am not at all interested in sharing my $9 bar of gourmet chocolate with a daughter who thinks Hershey’s bars are the best chocolate on the planet. And if I give a square of fancy chocolate to this sweet girl, who certainly won’t appreciate it like I do, there is one less square for me.

 

But then there’s Jesus, and in his topsy-turvey, upside-down, Kingdom-world we are told that God is a God of abundance. Just look at the way Jesus turned the offering of a few loaves and fish into a meal to feed a crowd with 10 baskets full of leftovers. And in Luke 6 Jesus promised us that generosity will be met with generosity: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap…” A measuring cup filled, pressed, shaken, and topped off to running over: that is abundance.

 

 

I think a lot of challenges facing our church today are rooted in a genuine fear that there is not enough. Not enough money, not enough parishioners, not enough love and grace to go around. So we put up walls and rules to keep us safe and guarantee we have enough to survive. Meanwhile people are starving just outside our doors.

 

Friends, I write this to myself more than I write it to you. I preach a good “abundance” sermon but I don’t practice it too well. I stress about my savings account and my fancy chocolate bar and my comfort and security regularly. Generosity does not come naturally to me, selfishness does.

 

And yet selfishness does not yield good measures.

 

Just the other day my youngest daughter proudly recalled how she had shared her penultimate stick of gum with a classmate. “Mom,” she told me, “my friend knows how gum helps her concentrate when she is taking a test but she didn’t have any. She asked me for one but I only had two pieces left. At first I wanted to tell her no, but then I remembered what you keep telling us about that…you know…that thing where there will be enough…”

“Abundance?” I ask.

“Yeah, abundance,” she says. “And so I gave her a piece of gum and she was so happy and thankful that I just felt happy all the rest of the day. I was really proud of myself and had good feelings about what I had done.”

 

If that isn’t a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, I don’t know what is. May we truly live in such a way that we believe in a God of abundance and give generously.

My Baby is Having a Birthday and I’m Feeling the Ache

My Baby is Having a Birthday and I’m Feeling the Ache

Note: This post originally appeared on my personal blog July 2014. I am sharing it three years later, this day my baby is turning 8. The ache is raw again today. 

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Once more it has happened, another year has gone by. And here it is: that ache that seems to be ever-present in my Mama-heart. An ache I am learning to live with, but that becomes almost palpable on these dates that mark the changing of a number. From four, or even four-and-a-half, to five.

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And dear Dani, I think you feel it too. We are not together on this momentous day as you are off at Gran camp with your sister and your cousin, but last night on the phone when I asked you about your last day as a four-year-old, you cried because of that ache in your heart knowing something is past. Something you loved and treasured and aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to, is over.

You cried for the year that was over.

You cried for the knowledge that you were done with preschool, done with dear Miss Cindy and your carefree hours and your precious friends.

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Your heart is tender dear girl.

Your heart is fierce.

Your heart is generous and loyal and kind.

And your heart knows the ache.

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But here’s the thing I’m learning about this ache of ours: we can mourn over our loss but we can also rejoice at what is to come. So I do my best to take a few moments to be sad, to miss the little baby and toddler and preschooler you were. To look through a few pictures, and laugh at your antics in some home videos.

And then I say a prayer of thanks, step back from the nostalgia, and dream of what’s ahead. Knowing the ache will be there in the background, I have to choose to wonder with joy and amazement at what is next.

And this, your year of being 5, I’m pretty sure is going to be awesome.

So I won’t let the ache overwhelm my heart today if you promise to do the same.

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Happy Birthday sweet girl.

Love,

Mama

Best Ever End-of-the-Year Teacher Gift

Best Ever End-of-the-Year Teacher Gift

We have just under a month left before summer break, but I know for my friends in the south that means you have even less time. So today I’m sharing my favorite end-of-year teacher gift that has been excitedly received by our teachers the past few years. We have been blessed with amazing public school teachers that give and love and teach my kids in wonderful ways that we could never ever repay – but this gift is simple, thoughtful, homemade, and practical and a winner in my book.

A quick pinterest survey will yield hundreds of ideas for teacher gifts, some small and simple, to more extravagant. You’ll find posts from teachers telling you what they really want (cash, lol!) and cute stickers you can download to put on a bottle of wine. But I wanted to create a gift that was a real blessing after a long year of work.

Enter: the new mom meal. You know how new moms are blessed with dinners from friends and family members as they adjust to life with a baby? Well, what if we made a meal for the teacher to bring home the last day of school? A nice dinner so that she can relax, put up her feet, and have one less thing on her mind that day?

Here’s how to pull it off:
1. Email the teacher a few weeks before school is out. I let her know that our family would like to bless her with a dinner for the last day of school, but if there is another day that works better we are flexible. I ask about allergies/preferences and how many people will be eating the meal. (This past year both our teachers were grandmas who lived with their husbands, so I only had to prep for two, but the year before Dani’s teacher had three teenagers at home so I made a bigger meal.) Confirm the time of day for drop off as they may have after-school meetings, but are likely able to put things in a staff fridge until they are ready to go home.

2. Decide on what you’ll cook. One of our current favorite recipes is this healthy broccoli/chicken/rice casserole so that’s what we made last year. (And I planned ahead and made three casseroles at once so we had one to enjoy too.) We decided to add a nice roll of bread, some fresh berries, fancy chocolate bars, and fizzy drinks too.

3. Purchase tossable containers so the teacher knows she doesn’t have to return anything to you. As an extra bonus, we added paper plates, and plastic silverware wrapped in napkins. The fewer dishes the better!

4. Cook what you need to cook and package it all up. I used an aluminum baking pan but a box would work just as well. (The first year we did this gift only Daisy was in school and I bought a cute cooler tote to package the meal up in.)

5. Print cooking instructions. Last year I downloaded this printable and added our meal instructions to the menu. I think it turned out really cute.

6. Let your children help deliver the meal and enjoy the feelings of a special gift given and received.

One last thing: to make the gift extra special have your children include a thank you note. You can download adorable fill-in-the blank ones (what I’ve totally done) or practice writing skills with a traditional note.

 

There you have it: our very favorite teacher gift. Let me know if you decide to do something similar this year and how it works out for you.

A Family Conversation Guide on Protest

A Family Conversation Guide on Protest

First off, a disclaimer: I am no expert. There are men and women who have been working and protesting and community organizing for many years and I am most certainly a newbie. So the thoughts and questions and conversations here are not polished and not really written from much experience. Rather, they are a humble offering to you as a result of searching for the words and stories to help educate my own two budding activists. In addition, these are words offered from a Christian faith and worldview that to our family is the foundation for all we do.

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When plans for a women’s march in my local city were announced shortly after the 2016 Presidential Election, I knew I had to be there. Feeling naïve and frustrated and powerless and frankly scared, putting my feet and my voice to work seemed at least some small action I could take to voice my feelings. I wanted to bring my daughters with me, and my husband also asked if he could come and support the cause.

As we are now a week away from the event, I decided it was time to have some of the why conversations with my daughters. And also to prepare them for what they might see and experience along the march route. I went searching online for some resources, and came up pretty empty-handed. (If you have resources that I didn’t find, PLEASE leave them in a comment and I’ll include them in a list at the bottom of this post.)

As a family, our Christian faith deeply influences our choices. And it is from this perspective that I want to enter into a protest march as well. So here are a few conversation starters I put together to share as a family as we prepare to march. You do not have to be Christian to use this material. In addition, these are humbly offered as starters, if your children are anything like mine their questions and insights will lead the conversation to beautiful, challenging, and humbling places and may even offer you more opportunities to learn together.

A few notes before you dive in:

  • These conversation guides are written for my family, of which I have myself and my husband (both cisgender) and two school-aged daughters. Feel free to adjust the conversations and the questions for your family dynamic, these are simply a starting place. For example, if you have older children you could talk about sex trafficking or female genintal mutilation. You could also share this resource with your older children and encourage them to pick one and lead a family conversation.
  • These conversation guides are written specifically for the women’s march taking place January 21, 2017. But of course they can be adapted for any protest your family may be involved in.
  • You do not actually have to be taking your children to march with you to have a conversation with them. Actually, you should have a conversation with them if you are going, they need to know why this is important to you. And if you are unable to attend at all, these are still great conversations to have because this protest is a news-worthy event.

 

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Conversation #1: Justice for Women

Ask: In what ways are girls/women treated unfairly around the world? (Some suggestions: education, child brides, human trafficking.)

Ask: In what ways are girls/women treated unfairly here in America?

Ask: Have you ever felt treated unfairly because you are a girl? or Have you ever treated someone unfairly because she is a girl? or Have you ever witnessed a girl being treated unfairly because she is a girl?

Ask: What does the phrase you throw like a girl mean? Is it meant to be a compliment? Have you heard any other phrases that insult girls like that?

Ask: How do you think God feels about people being treated unfairly?

Study a Bible Passages: How Jesus treated Women (chose one or more)

Ask: Why is it important that boys and girls, men and women, everyone, is treated fairly?

Discuss: One of the reasons for marching is that when a large group of people get together, the leaders in charge learn what is really important to the people they serve. To us, it is important that women are treated fairly. That women are treated with justice here and throughout the world.

Ask: What specific message would you share with important leaders about how or why girls should be treated equally?

Make: Create posters together with the important messages your children want to share.

Or here are some suggestions for posters/signs with Bible verses about justice:

  • “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like an never-failing stream.” Amos 5:24
  • “Hold fast to love and justice.” Hosea 12:6 (partial verse)
  • “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8
  • “Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly” from Micah 6:8
  • “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” Proverbs 22:8
  • “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17
  • “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (As quoted by Hilary Clinton in her speech following the election results.)
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Conversation #2: Signs and Symbols

Activity: Google search “Women’s March Poster Ideas.” Look at the images together. (You may want to pre-search and be prepared for what you’ll find. There are images of women’s bodies, including breasts and reproductive organs. There are posters with the word “pussy.” There are other terms they may not be familiar with. As your children will likely see posters of all types at the march, having conversations ahead of time will prepare you all.)

Ask: What images/messages appeal to you? What images/messages are confusing?

Discuss: You are in charge here with what you want to share with your children about the messages being promoted.

Note: There are likely march partners with views not shared by your family. How do your values influence how you should treat people with differing views? Can you still march together? Can you find common ground?

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Conversation #3: Protest as Disruption

Ask: What do you know about the protests of the civil rights movement? What activities did they engage in? (Suggestions: marches, sit-ins, rallies, boycotts, etc. Overall, they were peaceful activities.) What do you know about the leaders of the civil rights movement?

Watch: this great video from Kid President about Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, I haven’t watched it but heard from a great source that this full length movie, The Watsons Go To Birmingham, is a great primer on the civil rights movement as well. If you have older children, Selma is an excellent movie to watch together.

Discuss: Martin Luther King Jr. is a famous leader of the civil rights movement. But he was also a Reverend, or a Pastor. Reverend King’s faith influenced everything he did, including the work he did to fight for civil rights. He had faith and prayed and preached about God’s love for everyone. His belief in non-violence to promote change was based in his Christian belief that we are to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us.

Ask: How should our faith influence us to work for change when we see things that are wrong?

Ask: Will it be easy to fight for change? (This would be a great time to remind your kids that they will likely face some challenges on march day, that they will be tired and hungry and that their feet will hurt. Ask them what they should do when they get tired and want to give up.)

Discuss: Fighting for change is hard work and takes a lot of time. And you may have people who disagree with you. Powerful people didn’t want the change that civil rights leaders were fighting for, and powerful people never like change because that means they will have to lose some of their power.

Ask: What does the phrase “speaking truth to power” mean to you? How does that describe protesting?

Discuss: Protest is about interruption. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable or angry because it interrupts their comfortable lives. Remember, we are gathering with a large group of people who have permission to shut down areas of a city and walk on the road. This will interrupt people who had plans to drive on that road! But God is no stranger to interruption: that’s what God did with Jesus. Jesus came to our earth to interrupt our comfortable lives and teach us how to love and serve him and one another.

Ask: How would you respond if someone argued with you that you shouldn’t be protesting?

Pray. Spend some time this week praying as a family. And pray as you head out for the protest. And then when you get home.

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My prayer for you is that this sparks within you a hunger to learn and to grow and to engage in healthy dialogue around issues that matter to you and your family. May you have courage to invite your children into the journey with you.

 

Resources:

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent – PEACE

Fourth Sunday of Advent – PEACE

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REVIEW: Previous week’s candles. Advent symbols. How we are feeling about the upcoming arrival of the king.

LIGHT THE CANDLES AND ASK: What makes you feel peaceful? (blanket, cup of warm milk, hug, snuggles)

SAY: Those things help me feel peaceful too. (If your children mentioned cuddles or blankets, snuggle on the couch under blankets for the story today.) But you know what? The Peace that Jesus gives is even greater than a blanket or a warm cup of milk. Jesus is called “The Prince of Peace” because he gives us peace that nothing on earth can give. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

READ or WATCH: The King of all kings” from The Jesus Storybook Bible (The Wise men from Matthew 2)

ASK: The kings in this story had a lot to be afraid of. Like what? Why do you think they kept going?

ACTIVITY: Christmas is close. Are you feeling stressed or anxious? Take time this night to cuddle with your family. Have a special treat. Spend time together enjoying the Christmas lights. Feel the PEACE that Christ can bring.

SING: We Three Kings or Let There Be Peace on Earth

Third Sunday of Advent – JOY

Third Sunday of Advent – JOY

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REVIEW: Previous week’s candles. Advent symbols. Why we celebrate advent.

LIGHT THE HOPE and LOVE CANDLES, along with a PINK CANDLE AND ASK: What are you most excited about for Christmas? (This week’s candle is pink because we are over half-way through advent, there is great celebration to be had…Jesus is coming!)

SAY: That feeling of excitement is kind of like the feeling of happiness, kind of like joy. But joy and happiness are a little different. Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes because it depends on your circumstances: if someone is being nice, if you are doing something you like, if you got something cool. But joy is a feeling that is deeper, it is a feeling that comes from God. It is that always-there-never-goes-away happiness of knowing that you are loved by the Creator of the Universe. As I read today, I want you to listen for someone who might have felt joy.

READ or WATCH: The Light of the Whole World” in The Jesus Storybook Bible

ASK: Who did you hear about in this story who had joy? (Angels and Shepherds) What did they have to be joyful about?

ACTIVITY: There is great joy in giving someone a really cool gift that you think they’re going to love. Spend time together wrapping gifts and praying for people who will receive them. OR, go through the Christmas cards your family has received and pray for JOY for each family in the coming year.

SING: Joy to the World or Hark the Herald Angels Sing

PRAY

Second Sunday of Advent – LOVE

Second Sunday of Advent – LOVE

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REVIEW:  What was last week’s candle? What are some of the advent symbols? What does light represent? What does “advent” mean?

(This week light two purple candles. The “HOPE” candle from last week and a new purple candle.)

LIGHT THE CANDLES AND ASK: How do you show love to someone? How do you know if someone loves you?

SAY: God sent Jesus to earth so that we would know how much he loves us. That’s what the Bible says in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” But how did this Jesus get here?

READ or WATCH: He’s Here” from The Jesus Storybook Bible (The Nativity, from Luke 1-2, ending with Jesus’ birth)

ASK How did Mary and Joseph show love to each other in this story? How did they show love to Jesus?

ACTIVITY: Wrap a small box (like a shoe box) and cut a slit in the top. Leave out pieces of paper and pencils nearby. Talk about how you can show love to Jesus at Christmas by showing love to others. Encourage your family to “fill” the box with love, by writing or drawing when you do so and putting it in the box. (Open the box on Christmas eve as a gift to the baby Jesus.)

SING: Away in a Manger or Silent Night

PRAY