Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Christmas Birthday

You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift.  ~John Rice

It was a long eight years. Years of hoping, yearning and many times crying over my desire to be a mother.  And then, just when I was least expecting it, I was -- well, expecting!  Oh, the anticipation and planning.  Our child!  I had come to believe in my heart of hearts it would never be.

Melanie Lynn was born on the thirteenth of December.  Holding her in my arms felt so right.  This tiny baby with a head of black hair and brilliant blue eyes captured my heart.  What fun it was to dress her in beautifully smocked dresses and tiny patent shoes.

It wasn't long until her navy Stride Rite shoes were skipping off to school. Where did the years go?  Somewhere between navy plaid jumpers and roller blades my little girl traded her jumper for a skirt and became a teenager.  Oh, how I loved her teenage years!   In the midst of a big move and new school for her senior year, Melanie's navy plaid turned into green plaid and...she fell in love.  Suddenly the familiar plaid was traded for a gown of white and my hands-on mothering was completed -- talk about a tough transition!

It's been such a joy to watch Melanie evolve into a beautiful woman of God.  She chose to be a stay-at-home mother to three growing knights and one sweet princess.  Her home is organized and decorated with care.  She shelters family and friends through entertaining and sweet gifts baked in her kitchen, tucked into mailboxes at church or shared with neighbors and Shawn's employees.  Melanie uses her gift of music to play her violin in the orchestra,  enhance her children's love of music by consistent practice of piano, trumpet and saxophone, and exposure to assorted genres -- singing in a formal community choir, entering a junior competition for voice and instruments, and encouraging them to audition to act and sing in a Christmas production. 

Did I happen to mention the joy this daughter of mine brings to me?  This month as I celebrate this gift of my first-born, I will be thanking my Heavenly Father for Melanie.


Another mother birthed a baby this month -- a Baby she wrapped in swaddling clothes and cradled in her arms.  It wasn't long until Mary's baby was using His tiny broom to sweep up the wood chips in His father's carpenter shop.

Then Jesus' bare feet were clothed in leather sandals and His broom was traded for a walking stick.  He turned water into wine and His hands touched blind eyes and made them see.  He fed crowds of people with the simple meal of fish and bread while His teachings fed their hearts.

This Jesus traded His walking stick for a crown of thorns. His body hung on a cross as the veil of the temple was torn in two.  Because of this, the sins of the world -- MY sins can be forgiven.

Did I happen to mention the joy this Jesus of mine brings to me? This month as I celebrate His gift, I will be thanking my Heavenly Father for the Son He gave so freely -- the Son who has forgiven my sins, and sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for me!

This birth of Christ is so much more than an historic moment; it is the promise of joy! A joy that sparkles in my heart more brightly than the 600 lights on the nativity tree in my living room, the festive motion lights inside the gingerbread train in the kitchen, or the glow of all seven lighted wreaths hanging outside.  Its radiance goes beyond the angel chorus announcing Jesus' birth.  The prisms overflow with the light of a thousand colors, I know my Melanie came to be my child just as assuredly as I know the Christ Child came to be my Savior.

On the 13th we'll be singing, "Happy Birthday, dear Melanie," and on the 25th those words will echo, "Happy Birthday, Jesus... I'm so glad You came."

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Singing when the Evening Comes

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning.
It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
Matt Redman

I love the morning hours. I wrote my books from 4:00 - 7:00 in the morning so I could be available to my children when they woke up. Just recently I began to revisit some of those early hours. When "the sun comes up and a new day dawns," it's easy for me to sing God's song. My heart is at peace, and my soul is joyful. It's just God and me.

Fast forward to the end of my day, and I find it much harder to sing. I didn't meet my writing goal, I forgot to throw the clothes in the dryer, I can't find something that I put in a special place where I knew I could find it, a waitress was grouchy, I was charged wrong on a purchase...little things that steal my song. 

In the battleground of daily frustrations, I have found standing with my sword raised above my head only serves to keep the song from my heart. Yet when I simply kneel, focus my thoughts on blessings, (which far outweigh my petty frustrations) I can start to hear a simple melody seep into my soul. As I focus on the melody, it grows and expands into a rising crescendo until I am singing "when the evening comes." 

There are times when we take the stance of a warrior. When we raise our sword and rebuke the enemy. But other times we can lay aside the armor and weapons, and allow our Most High King to restore the song to our heart. Like the shepherd, David, wrote, "He'll anoint my head with oil," as if I am a distinguished guest.

Don't look for me in the evening's battle. I'll be kneeling with bowed head, counting my blessings, ready to receive the anointing from my King's ram horn. I'll be "singing when the evening comes."


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Kindness in My Backpack

Elementary school kids pack and repack their backpack. The safety scissors, glue, 64 count Crayola crayons, ruler, markers…everything on the list the school provided. But there’s one necessity that is often overlooked – kindness.

This is a good time for you to review kindness with your children. While much emphasis is placed on RAK – random acts of kindness – it’s important to teach consistent and intentional kindness. Name calling, taunting and ridicule should never cross your child’s lips. I’ve found the best way to teach your children kindness is in using, “Treat others as you would have others treat you” (Luke 6:31).

Teach the verse to your child, and help them live it. Say, “I would want you to help me make my bed, so I’ll help you.” “I would want you to forgive me, so I’ll forgive you.” If siblings are bickering, ask them the question, “What would you want your brother to do to you?”

Here are 6 ways to help your child learn and live kindness.

1. Kindness in helping
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if you didn’t know where to go for lunch?
  • How would you feel if you dropped a pile of papers and nobody helped you pick them up?
  • How would you feel if you didn’t understand the rules of a game?

2. Kindness in joking
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if someone made fun of your name?
  • How would you feel if someone made fun of the way you dressed?
  • How would you feel if someone made fun of you because you couldn’t read?

3. Kindness in praising
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if nobody liked your idea?
  • How would you feel if nobody high-fived you for getting a good grade?
  • How would you feel if someone got mad because you were picked to be line leader?

4. Kindness in sadness
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if your daddy lost his job?
  • How would you feel if you had to move and go to a new school?
  • How would you feel if you made a poor grade?

5. Kindness in inclusion
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if you were always picked last in a game?
  • How would you feel if you didn’t have someone to eat lunch with?
  • How would you feel if you didn’t have someone to play with on the playground?

6. Kindness in sharing/giving
Questions to ask:
  • How would you feel if you didn’t have crayons or markers?
  • How would you feel if you forgot to bring your lunch to school?
  • How would you feel if you were the only one in the class not invited to a birthday party?

Read “Fill a Bucket” by Carol McCloud. My daughter used this with her children  and they still are careful to fill others’ buckets.  Make kindness a priority in your home. Kind hearts are found in the hearts of happy kids.

More Reading on Bullying

Kindness Teaching Tools

Monday, August 1, 2016

Growing in Grace -- To Offer Grace

May God break my heart so fully that the whole world falls in.    
                                                                             ~Mother Teresa 

There it stood. Not in a flower bed, but in the middle of a dirt pile. Straight and tall with all its golden sunshine splendor. Bringing beauty to the ugly. Growing in the midst of nothing but dirt.

Until, of course, you remember God used the dirt to create man. Man who could walk with Him in the cool of the day. Man who was made in the likeness of God Himself. Man given the choice of right or wrong.  

Sometimes I feel like the lone tulip in a dirt pile. Oh, not beautiful in the physical sense. But beautiful through the blood of the Sacrificial Lamb. Beautiful because of grace. Beauty claimed daily in my walk of faith.

But still, the dirt. In the midst of standing I see those who live and work and play. Those who haven't chosen, although not choosing is really choosing the wrong. I see them out my window delivering packages. I see them at the grandboys' games. They pack my groceries and lean out their window to hand me drinks in foam cups. They fill my prescriptions and put gas in my car. Men and women packed in the dirt of life. People who need grace.

I look around me and see the evilness of Satan. See him stepping on dirt, surrounding me in a victory dance of sorts. But I stand straight and tall with all my SONshine beauty. Growing in the midst of nothing but dirt.  

I was first planted as Pamela, but replanted as Daughter of the Son. Sent to a world longing to flower but trapped in the dirt.  "I find myself standing where I always hoped I might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting my praise" (Romans 5:2). 

I'm alone, but seeing the vision of a garden of tulips. Tulips ready and willing to find their own plot of dirt.  Tulips standing in all their SONshine beauty. 

There are many tulips to plant and not enough planters. Pray to the owner of the tulip gardens that He will send workmen to gather his harvest.  (Paraphrase of Luke 1:10).

Saturday, July 30, 2016

7 Ways to Parent Your Teen

Our teens a facing a different world from the one their parents lived. Teen suicide, cyberbullying, easy access internet porn, a violent culture which has their peers going on shooting sprees, and addictive video games. Add to that depressive disorders (11% of teens affected), and drug and alcohol use. 

When Emily was a preteen we vacationed in Colorado. She grew up on Whit's End Corner, and was excited to see what she had spent hours listening to. During our tour at Focus on the Family, a man asked if he could interview her for an upcoming article. One of the questions was, "When was the last time you had alcohol?" When Emily said she had never had any, he grinned and said, "Forget that your parents are sitting here, and answer the question." He could not believe a child her age had never tried alcohol. She did get a great "behind the scenes" tour of the Odyssey broadcast rooms, but I'm not sure he ever believed her.

Even with all that faces our teens, it is possible to let them live in the world, with a heart for God. Here's 7 ways to help your kids through the minefield we call the teen years.

1. Monitor Friendships: We wanted our daughters to be friendly with all, yet their soul friends should love God, too. We encouraged friendships with parents who had our values. That way we didn't need to worry when they were together. Encourage your children to pray for good friends. Emily's best friend prayed that God would send her a friend. From the first time they met, a friendship was born that continues to this day. I never had to worry when they were together. 

2. Saturate them with God's Word: When they have questions, find the answers in the Word of God. The girls were learning verses when they were barely talking. They may not have understood the depth of the content, but there it was, hidden in their hearts, ready to be used when temptations were whispered by the enemy.  

3. Keep them talking: One of my mentors told me the most important thing I could do is get the girls used to telling me -- when they were little -- all about their day, what they were thinking, and their hopes for the future. Then, when they are teenagers, it's automatic. When Melanie was a teenager, she was with a youth group and was being urged to do something wrong. "Come on, your mom will never know." Her response? "Yes, she would, because I would tell her." 

4. Expect much: Too often we set our kids up for failure. Don't nag your kids about their homework. Expect them to do it. I never asked the girls if they needed homework slips signed. They brought them to me. They packed their own backpacks and gym bags. Chores were accomplished on their own. Although my girls tell me (now) that when the tablecloth was dirty, they often turned it over. That makes me laugh. I can't believe I never noticed. 

5. Model the joy of service: Whatever we were doing, our children were involved. They took part in our ministries, learning to encourage others. Instead of taking part in bullying, they will find ways to encourage fellow students, even in spite of social standing or the cliques they are or are not a part of.

6. Be the parent: You often have to do the hard thing and set boundaries, say no, and punish misbehavior. Know where they are, what they are doing, and who they are with. Our girls didn't "cruise the downtown square," or roam the mall without supervision. Everybody may be doing it, but we're not.  
7. Encourage each other's teens: Do you know of a teen who is struggling? Reach out with a note, small gift, a gift card to Starbucks or iTunes. Praise their talents, attend their games, recitals, and school dramas. I was so blessed with my girls to have others who encouraged them. Mom can brag on them, but "you say that because you're my mom." However, when someone else brags on them, the words seem to hold more validity. Pray consistently consistently for them, too. I always knew Eleanor was praying for Emily as much as I prayed for her girls. 

I wasn't the perfect mother. I've yet to see a mother who is. Yet God honors our efforts. And when the enemy pulls our children the wrong way, intercede in prayer, and fill them up with love. It's natural to want to show a constant disapproval, but model God's love for us, "In that when were were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

Make 2016-2017 a good school year for your teens. And if your children are grown, pick one to encourage. You'll be surprised what a blessing these teens will be to you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Let's Give Some Love to our Police Officers

On the darkest day of my life, August 7, 1987, our daughter was lifted out of her crib by angels and taken to the arms of Jesus. Amidst firetrucks and police cruisers, one policeman took the time to kneel on the pavement, and pray with RB and me. I don't remember the words, but remember the comfort they brought.

Several times in the next few months this kind policeman would leave pictures (pencil drawings) for Melanie and notes for RB and me on our car windshield. It was "beyond expectation" behavior, and oh-so-appreciated by the three of us.  

"Beyond expectation" behavior like Don's is repeated over and over throughout the United States. Why do we let the media and anti-cop groups take that truth from us?

Not only do our police officers sacrifice each day, sometimes with their very lives, but their spouses, mothers, and children sacrifice each day their loved one leaves the house, shiny badge pinned, and their gun strapped to their side. They know this police officer they love will be in danger. They sigh with relief when they walk back through the door -- safe at home. And if they don't have that opportunity, they grieve the loss of love and life.

But what's more tragic is the treatment the police officers bear. I say it's time for us to take action. It's time we stood up for the men and women in blue. With every negative we hear, let's proclaim a positive. Let's write letters to our newspaper, praising their efforts. Let's give to the Fallen Trooper's fund. Let's write notes and leave them on their windshields. When we see a police officer dining, pay for their meal. And when we meet a police officer's child, let's shake their hand and thank them for the sacrifice they make so their dad or mom can keep your children safe. 

Our Shelter: Postmarked Group is committed to mailing some encouragement to those police officers we know. And we will be using our address lists to pray safety over our men and women in blue. 

Will you join us? I will be happy to share our list with those of you I know personally and will keep the addresses private. Freely giving them to people I don't know is a risk I don't want to take for these civil servants. I'll be adding a small note to those who have spouses -- they sacrifice, too.  

I want to remember our men and women in blue, because someday I may need a hero -- and you may, too.

I suggest contacting your local police department before preparing a gift. There may be regulations such as pre-wrapped, etc. 

Police Love Mason Jar  Tutorial

Printable Toppers for "Lifesavor" Policemen

M & M Treats for the Men in Blue

Nacho Ordinary Police Officer

Kid's Thank You

Policeman's Jar of Doughnuts

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Shelter Yourself: Practicing Self-care

Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. 

                                                                                Parker Palmer


Self-care – what we all need, but often it’s the last on our list to be accomplished; the one item not crossed off at the end of the day. We sang as a child, “Jesus and Others and You. What a wonderful way to spell JOY.” We belted out that last sentence, “Put yourself last and spell joy.” The children’s song was meant to explain the importance of putting God first in our lives, and the unselfishness of putting others before ourselves. However, with that imprinted on our hearts, we often forget the spirit of the song and make it the law of our lives. 

My sister-in-law, Marsha, is the greatest nurturer of all time. She taught me the delight of preparing my environment. It’s my favorite self-care practice. Plumped throw pillows, a neatly folded soft throw, a cleared space, a goblet of tea, and a lit candle – and my body and soul begin to relax. Add a Bible, journal or book and the quiet evening is perfect. (Chocolate gives bonus points!)

The disciple John knew the importance of self-care. He affirmed our need to be well in body and soul when he wrote, Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul (3 John 1:2).

Here are five places to prepare your environment:

1. Prepare your environment at your reading chair:
Do you have an over-stuffed chair where you can curl up and read? Move a table close so your drink is near. Light a candle or diffuse lavender oil. Add a favorite framed photograph to the table.

2. Prepare your environment under the sun: Sunshine's Vitamin D is important to our body. Float frozen berries in your water, and go outside to God’s environment. He’s already prepared it. Watch the birds and squirrels. Enjoy the flowers and green grass. Turn your face to the sun and talk to the Father through the SON, Jesus.

3. Prepare your environment in your bedroom: Fill a vase with a bouquet of fresh flowers for your nightstand. Prop up on pillows, and cover yourself with a comforter. Line up your colored pencils or markers, and color or draw Scripture art. Write in your gratitude journal. Lean your head back and take a nap.

4. Prepare your environment in your War Room: Where do you talk to God? Sometimes when our body and soul need care, we can find both at the feet of Jesus. Add your prayer journal and a box of tissues. Sing along with worship music. 

5. Prepare your environment at a home away from home: Pack a bag, remembering your goblet, candle, and photograph of someone you love. Don’t forget your journals, books, and magazines. Book a room at a motel, or a local convent or monastery. These are quiet places – where you can unplug. 

Subscription Boxes are gaining popularity. Here are a few especially for self-care. Purchase them for yourself, or for a gift.

Self-care monthly subscription boxes:
1. Buddy Box: (UK) All the items included in the box are intended to make you feel good: helping you de-stress, find calm, feel pampered, relax, get creative, or simply have fun.
2. trösta box: trösta box is a monthly subscription box that helps you love and care for yourself better.
    3. The Bloom Beautifully Box: Each self-care box contains 4-5 self-care essentials that nurture the mind, body and soul. We've carried art journals, luxurious bath bombs, herbal tea, sleep masks, and much more in our boxes.
    4. Better Box: A monthly subscription service that delivers self-improvement experiences designed to help people live happier, healthier lives.