‘How to Motivate Your Child’ – A Book Review

Motivate-Your-Child-Book-Review

Recently I became a ‘Booklook Blogger’. This means that I can request paperbacks or ebooks of my choice for free, in exchange for posting a review on my blog. I’m not required to write a positive review, nor do I receive compensation of any kind, but I couldn’t rave more about the first book that I was sent - ‘How to Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need To Do Without Told’ by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. It’s a big title, and sometimes I avoid ‘How to’ books, especially on the subject of parenting, Sometimes I’ve discovered that books like this are all about encouraging us to do more with our children. And one can come away from such books feeling a little exhausted or overwhelmed. Like there are more things that we ought to squeeze in to our already busy schedule. I’m also a little wary of a titles like ‘Motivate Your Child’ as we seem to be pushing our children to do more and more today, when in fact they might not be ready to handle quite so much.

But preconceived ideas aside, I thought that it might be a good idea to read a book about encouraging motivation in children. While I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my eldest has been motivated with his homework this week, helping with chores around the house or tidying his bedroom however is a different story! Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth trying to get my kids to help with age appropriate tasks around the house. My children are only little, but my aim is that they would be able to do a few things for themselves without having to rely on ‘parental prompters.’ ‘We don’t want to do what we have to do’. they might say. Yet life is full of things that we don’t want to do.

Authored by the founders of the National Centre for Biblical Parenting in the United States, this book offers a rich toolbox of strategies – it is jam packed with gentle, down to earth, practical and manageable suggestions for motivating our children and imparting faith to them. Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanna Miller have a wealth of experience helping parents cultivate a healthy conscience and a vibrant faith in their kids.  It is a Christian parenting book woven with helpful scripture throughout, however if you aren’t a Christian, many of the concepts will still be helpful. It isn’t preachy, nor is it condescending, as some parenting books can sometimes be. The book is divided into two parts – Part One emphasizes the encouragement of moral development in children, and part two is about encouraging spiritual development in our children.

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Reading this book has enabled me to reflect on how to build intrinsic motivation in my children. I love the idea of heart based approach to parenting. We know that problems happen in the heart before they are seen in behaviour. Behaviour modification works to a point, because behavioural rewards appeal to the selfishness that is in our own hearts. However, this book demonstrates that there is a ‘large bucket’ of parenting tools that are heart related. The authors argue that a heart based approach to parenting enables children to make more progress quickly with what they need to do each day.

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The take home message that I received from this book is that we need to be intentional with our children about discipling their hearts, and praying about heart issues that come up. The authors argue that many of us have been influenced by secular humanism in the way we parent, and that perhaps we overemphasize rewards and punishments. I really liked the emphasis on relationship building with our children as a way to engage with their hearts. I liked the simple ‘Family Time’ concept, which is a family devotion over dinner once a week. It’s a strategy that is manageable, even within a busy family structure. And I liked the emphasis on teaching children to care for others, and not making life all about them.

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This book is certainly worth a look if you would like to learn about:

  • How to encourage internal motivation so your kids don’t have to rely on you to get things done.
  • How to train a child’s conscience – ‘Courage without a strong sonscience can lead children into all kinds of calamity.’
  • Ways of talking about faith and spiritual truths in ways that are engaging and fun.
  • How to help children respond when they make mistakes.

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When there are no words.

When there are no words This afternoon I made pancakes with Missy Middle and her just as miniature friend. Light and fluffy pancakes for Pancake Day. In the morning I enjoyed swimming with Miss Youngest in an outdoor pool overlooking the ocean. It was a glorious day. It wasn’t a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was a good day.

Yet while we made pancakes and swam on the cusp of the ocean, on the other side of the world, the ocean filled with the blood of twenty one martyrs. Almost on the eve of Lent, twenty one husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, were brutally murdered in the most barbaric way. That this occurred is unfathomable. Unthinkable even in the 21st century. And that in the age of the internet we see still images and video footage of this horror is surprising to me also. I haven’t watched these videos but the photo of the 21 men published on social media is now forever etched in my mind, imprinted in memory, much like a trauma. I know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).  Still, I find myself wondering why world leaders can’t take decisive action against these unspeakable crimes.

This is a hard and heavy topic to write about. Being a blogger and wannabe writer, I find solace and comfort in words. Words are nourishing. Words bring life. But this time I have no words. For what words are there to describe the depth of depravity that this crime encapsulates?  I’ve also felt short on words lately. I’m working on a manuscript, and with my energy poured into this project, there just aren’t any more words left over. And so I can only craft crumbs. I thought about writing a post on bloggers burn out, but then I felt too burnt out to write a post on burn out!

As I bring to the table the crumbs left over, I, like many others around the world, grapple with how to respond to the news of such evil. Atrocities happening in places far away can offer a new perspective on our own lives. But in the comfort of my home this Ash Wednesday in God’s own, I feel heavy with the horror and heartache of this world.  Yet I also feel hopeful. I know that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. As we bear one another’s burdens, and weep with those who weep, Christ carries our burdens to so that we can live lightly, despite the depth of darkness we discover in our world.  1 Corinthians 12:26 says that we as the church are one body. And as we are one body, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. In times like these, it isn’t any wonder that people tremble with fear. Though I am reminded of the words of Jesus himself when he said ‘Fear not, for I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).Hearing of unspeakable atrocities in faraway places gives us a gift – the gift of perspective.

The season of Lent encourages us to practice disciplines that are unpopular in our culture. Practices such as self-discipline, sacrifice and self-denial. Every year I give up facebook for Lent. For some it may be chocolate, others it may be coffee (if I could ever be that brave). My daughter offered to give up weetbix, trampolining and DVD’s (in that order!), and my husband has decided to give up procrastination….oh no, wait, he’s decided to leave that until next year! Jokes aside, I enjoy social media. For all the foibles of facebook, I enjoy keeping in contact with friends and family in other places. Yet I also waste time on facebook. And for all the time I waste on facebook, this Lent I want to spend that time in prayer. God seems to be calling His people to really exercise their prayer muscles. Lent is a time of lament, and perhaps this Lent calls for a prayer boot camp of sorts. To pray fervent and heartfelt passionate prayers for the persecuted church. That our hearts may be broken by the things that break His heart. Are we going to stand in the gap and be obedient to what God is calling us to?

Our minister has suggested that our church give up judging others for Lent this year. What a great idea. Imagine how our relationships and communities could be transformed if we prescribed grace instead of judgment for minor petty concerns. A word here, a slight here – insults that hurt, yet are possibly minor in comparison with the tribulations that our brothers and sisters are facing overseas. A merciful response to this evil may not come naturally, for me anyway. Yet I am reminded that these terrorists are someone’s son, someone’s daughter. They themselves may be trapped in terror and torment, the torment that is deception. God calls us to love justice and mercy, and I can only pray that I may come to the place where I am able to pray not only for justice, but also for mercy.  It’s a case of ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:24). beach

Set Me as a Seal Upon Your Heart: Poems for Valentine’s Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s a great honour to welcome Marcie Watson who has written these poems for Valentine’s Day.

WHERE YOU ARE

If each moment I saw a cloudless sky,

Would it paint me a picture

Of you and I?

The times we’re together,

Moments we are apart

You replace all my worries,

And silence my heart

To know you’re beside me,

each path that I go

Faith will bind us tightly,

and strengthen all that we know

In this future together,

this relationship so dear

that has been built up by love,

though each moment you’re near

Your picture hasn’t faded,

Your touch is so clear

I just want to be with you,

through our golden years

And to be the one to make you happy,

the one to shine life’s stars

the one who wants to hold you,

and be where you are

Often we find them when we least expect

Sparking real curiosity, the memory of their message speaks,

We suddenly remember that moment in time, which makes us complete

Is this a sign, was it part of God’s plan for today,

In this rusty old shoebox with purpose to save

Were these words for your loved one, you wanted to say

Such letters take a person back to that place and time,

So young in love that the truth blesses your soul, bringing tears to your eyes

Dreams were swept up in emotion; love was in each word and embrace

History was being written between these two,

With letters one couldn’t replace

As you look to the present, and bring yourself back,

You realize the journey embarked together

And the words preserved and kept

But one thing remains which beats upon your heart

You have now built a life together with no reason to part

So I thank you for this letter, my love of my life,

I promise you today, I’ll soon reply

And I’ll only ask you sincerely for one gentle kiss,

To seal the agreement that you are loved and missed

To remind you that this letter holds beauty and soul

Your words to me and mine not to let go

So let’s revisit these again when we are very old…

Together, let’s take in the moment these love letters hold.

Heart Red Velvet Cake

WHAT I WOULD DO…

My heart seems to know,

Of what I would do

If you needed my love,

I would give it to you

If you wanted the world,

In the palm of your hand

I’d bring it to you

All oceans and land

If you wanted to fly,

I would give you my wings

If you were ever afraid

To you I would sing

If you wanted to climb,

A mountain steep and tall

I would always want to be there,

To catch you if you fall

If you needed just a shoulder

To deeply cry upon,

I would plan to stay with you,

Even until dawn

If you needed someone special,

To listen to your dreams,

I’d be there to follow them,

Just like a winding stream

If you chose to study the earth,

It’s dimensions so afar,

I’d be a poet just to inspire,

I’d travel with you to reach the stars

If there was any wish,

I would give it right to you,

For anything you ask,

You know what I would do.

 

LOVE LETTERS
Often we find them when we least expect

Old letters lie timeless, hidden but kept

Sparking real curiosity, the memory of their message speaks,

We suddenly remember that moment in time, which makes us complete

Is this a sign, was it part of God’s plan for today,

In this rusty old shoebox with purpose to save

Were these words for your loved one, you wanted to say

Such letters take a person back to that place and time,

So young in love that the truth blesses your soul, bringing tears to your eyes

Dreams were swept up in emotion; love was in each word and embrace

History was being written between these two,

With letters one couldn’t replace

As you look to the present, and bring yourself back,

You realize the journey embarked together

And the words preserved and kept

But one thing remains which beats upon your heart

You have now built a life together with no reason to part

So I thank you for this letter, my love of my life,

I promise you today, I’ll soon reply

And I’ll only ask you sincerely for one gentle kiss,

To seal the agreement that you are loved and missed

To remind you that this letter holds beauty and soul

Your words to me and mine not to let go

So let’s revisit these again when we are very old…

Together, let’s take in the moment these love letters hold.

heart wall hanging

Sacred Scars of Divorce: Why the Divorced Need the Church

Sacred Scars of the DivorcedIt’s a great honour to welcome my friend and fellow blogger Julie Holly all the way from the USA, as she writes about the painful topic of divorce.

She writes: I sewed the scarlet letter for shame to my heart in exchange for freedom because I thought I needed to. You see, it wasn’t that long ago that divorce was still uncommon, even scandalous for those in the conservative church.  And there I was caught between serving God or pleasing man.

You hear pastors say, “Church is for everyone.” Sometimes there’s a heartfelt, “Church is for the broken.” I thought those were just empty words intended to stir emotion. After all, I remember vividly the “prayers” for so-and-so going through a divorce. Gasp. Even as a child it seemed like a backhanded way to gossip and there I was, adding to the growing divorce statistic.

The thing about being abused is it kills you inside out and sometimes it breaks every part of you. Sometimes it seems like God couldn’t possibly love you let alone redeem the mess no matter how much you love Him.

But during this time I learned something new about God, He offers Holy Spirit life support. Isn’t that how God is, reaching down, pulling us out, sustaining us in our moments of spiritual hypothermia?  You see, it won’t ever matter how much we love God, He will always love us more. And what do we do for those we love dearly? We do everything in our power to sustain them until they come to, and when they do, we nurse them back to full health.

Like a courageous wounded soldier, each week I walked through the doors of the church. Fervently I held back tears (pretty impossible) because just being there was the most peaceful place my battered heart could be. I wished to become a chameleon and blend in so I could stay in that place for hours, singing, learning and absorbing medicine for my soul.

For the first time I realized the pastors weren’t lying, the church is for the brokenhearted, the weary and the healthy; the church is for everybody because we all need somebody. It begins with God but the in real life somebody’s there are an extension of Him.  They sincerely want to support, nurture and help restore others.

Putting the bit of residual pride aside (because really, how much is left when your entire world has been destroyed) was the birthplace of real relationships with people at church. Getting to know these people cemented in my heart that God will finish writing every story when given the opportunity, a brilliant ending impossible without trusting Him.

Don’t judge that person joyfully singing at the top of her (probably out of tune) voice because you don’t know the abuse, caner, MS, miscarriages, adultery…she is praising God for redeeming her from. (And well, it may be me, a happily redeemed child of God.) As impossible as it may seem, it can be you to.

You can read more of Julie’s writing at: http://www.peacequility.com

peacequility

Dirt is Grounding

dirt is grounding

I was recently asked by Kirsteen of ‘The Forever Years’ blog to write a post about dirt. Specifically, the topic of our kids getting outside, dirty, muddy and barefoot. As I write this, the kids are in the garden with the neighbourhood kids, making mud pies, and loving it! As there is research for everything these days, it may come as no surprise that there is also research to support the importance of children getting dirty and messy outside. It’s the idea that just maybe we are a little too clean these days.

In the popular book The Last Child in the Woods (Louv, 2005), the author coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder.” to explain that people, especially children, are spending less time outdoors today, and that this may be associated in a wide range of behavioral problems. Nature Deficit Disorder is not a medical condition, it is a way to describes our lack of relationship to our enviroment. Some people call it ‘dirtphobia’ or ‘messphobia’. Call it what you like, but the dirt on getting dirty is that it is actually good for kids…and grown ups too!

One theory is the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’ – this is the theory that our society today is a germaphobic culture, in which some children are being raised in overhygienic conditions. Without adequate exposure to different bacteria and microbes, it is thought that the immune system doesn’t learn to recognize it’s own cells. Some researchers believe that this could help explain the higher rates of asthma and other allergies today (although allergic conditions often have a genetic basis too). Researchers also believe that microbial exposures early in life may be important to reduce inflammation in adulthood.

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Dirt Can Be Your Child’s Friend:

Many parents are afraid of their child getting dirty and ‘catching something’. I can relate to this and I don’t like it when my son looks like he has been growing potatoes underneath his fingernails! And some children are also averse to the idea of getting dirty; one of my daughter’s is a little bit like this. I know that I can be a messphobic, but how much better is it when the mess is contained outside!

And did you know that the stress levels of children are reduced significantly when they are outside in nature and greenery? There is even research to support the importance of going barefoot outside. This goes for adults too. But it seems to be especially important for children.

‘Children need leisurely, unscripted, and exploratory hours to find the wonders in their own backyards and neighborhoods, from discovering the beauty of the stars in the night sky to watching lizards on a warm summer’s day.’ (Charles, 2005).

Here are some more reasons why dirt is good for the body, soul and spirit:

  • A friendly bacteria found in soil helps produce serotonin, a hormone that helps with sleep and mood. It is grounding. I notice this myself  – when I am outdoors in nature, at the beach, in the garden, I feel calmer. Studies have shown that simply having contact with dirt, whether it’s through wallowing in a mud puddle, gardening, or digging holes, can significantly improve a child’s mood and reduce their anxiety and stress. And with childhood depression and anxiety on the rise, an increasing number of researchers are acknowledging the correlation between being outdoors and better mental health.
  • Kids who spend their free time outdoors ‘playing’ rather than being inside looking at screens have lower rates of obesity, ADHD, Vitamin D deficiency and depression. Of course, I’m not wishing to condemn any parent for allowing screen time. All things in moderation,  and I also struggle with the issue of screen time. It is a battle that we face as today’s parents. How much screen time to allow our children, if any, and how often?
  • Playing in dirt can help develop healthy immune function in kids that’ll keep them healthy and strong long past childhood.
  • Regular outdoor time will help children sleep better at night.
  • Playing outside is good for the character development of our children: when they play outside they become more adventurous, more self-motivated, and they are better able to understand and assess risk. Children who learn to judge and approximate risk when they are young (such as climbing trees) are more likely to make safer choices when they are teenagers.
  • Dirt can even improve classroom performance, creativity and social skills.

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I WANT TO MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO RECONNECT MY CHILDREN TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT. AND THE ANSWER CAN START IN OUR OWN BACKYARD. HERE ARE SOME FUN WAYS TO EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS AND GET GRUBBY WITH YOUR CHILDREN:

  • Gardening: I’m not really much of a gardener in this season of my life. In fact, I often joke that if my children were plants they wouldn’t survive! But getting out into the garden is great for children.
  • Explore nature with your children; study insects, leaves, wildflowers, rocks, etc. Start a nature collection. Go walking. Wade in creeks. Collect stones and paint them outside. Go on picnics, have pets, visit farms. If you are brave, go camping! Make a bug hotel, or a mud pie kitchen. Best of all, most of these activities are free.
  • Some experts even recommend parents allowing their children to taste things — Although our inclination may be to shy away from letting our children eat that flower or grain of mud, it isn’t the end of the world, and may actually be good for their immune system. Allow your children to experiment, play with, and even tasting the natural world around them.
  • Let your children go barefoot on soil, grass or sand: I personally don’t like going barefoot. I feel more comfortable in shoes given that I am rather vertically challenged. However, the science surprisingly shows that going barefoot (or ‘earthing’) can come with health benefits. Going barefoot can help moderate heart rate variability, it can reduce stress and inflammation, and help to improve glucose regulation and sleep. PaintSplashGD8

Let your children make magical messy memories outside. What would you like your child to remember from ‘the forever years?’ Clean clothes? Or days outside in nature, filled with fun, laughter and a sense of adventure?

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN GETTING GRUBBY AND DIRTY? 

A Gallery of Getting Grubby

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A Bug Hotel

Mud Pie Kitchen

Life is Too Short to Stuff A Mushroom: Hosting A Grown Up Party

Hosting a Grown Up Party

I’ve often heard it said that ‘life is too short to stuff a mushroom.’ But I recently discovered that mushrooms aren’t too difficult to stuff, especially with a simple mixture of crab, cream cheese and a squeeze of lemon. Fiddly, yes but difficult? No. Something that I’ve often put in the ‘too hard’ basket since having kids, is entertaining people in our home. I enjoy hospitality, but in our home meal times are often a circus, and our children are like a troop of itinerant orangutans! However now that the kids are getting a little older and we have a newly renovated space to accommodate people. we are having people over a little more. I enjoy preparing food, however the most difficult aspect of having people over for me is tidying up before hand.

cocktails

Recently we decided to have a grown up cocktail function after the children were in bed, to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We often put significant effort into children’s birthday parties, but do we celebrate occasions as adults too? I comprised a menu of canapes that I thought would be fairly simple to put together and early on the Saturday morning I went to the grocery store to gather all the ingredients. I then spent the entire day in the kitchen putting together the following menu. The mini quiches and petit fours were made from store bought pastry. This menu was fairly easy to put together (although it did take most of the day) and it was reasonable on the bank balance too. We offered three different cocktails and a non-alcoholic punch. I made the birthday cake a week in advance and froze it, thawing it out in the fridge the day before. We kept the decorations very simple, focusing instead on good food and good company. Please email me if you would like any of the recipes.

canapes

The Doctor Cake

She Smiles At the Rainbow in the Clouds

She Smiles At the Rainbow in the Clouds

An inspirational writer, Maya Angelou wrote in her groundbreaking memoir ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. that “Words mean more than what is set down on paper.” A tribute to this remarkable woman was published late last year after she passed away and was titled –  ‘Rainbow in the Clouds’. Maya Angelou always said that:

‘God put a rainbow in the clouds to give us hope.

We can be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud.’

The theme of a rainbow in the clouds (Genesis 9:13) is also the topic of a Sunday School Song. The lyrics go something like this:

When God shut Noah in the grand old ark
he put a rainbow in the clouds
When thunders rolled and the sky was dark
God put a rainbow in the clouds

God put a rainbow in the clouds
(God put a rainbow in the clouds)
When it looked like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore
God put a rainbow in the clouds

Away down yonder in Egypt’s sand
God put a rainbow in the clouds
Just to lead his children to the promised land
God put a rainbow in the clouds.

When they put old Daniel in the lion’s den

God put a rainbow in the clouds

Just to prove his promise to the sons of men
God put a rainbow in the clouds.

God put a rainbow in the clouds
(God put a rainbow in the clouds)
Well, it looked like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore
God put a rainbow in the clouds.

(Credit: Rhonda Vincent, http:’//www.songlyrics.com).

 The Rainbow in the clouds is the hope that we are reminded of when we need to breathe. When we feel fearful, but just want to have a ‘No Fear New Year.’ From the lines of my favourite book is ‘Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it…..yet (L.M Montgomery). If we are honest we all make a marvellous mess of things sometimes. And whatever foibles, oversights or misjudgments may languish on the landscape of last year, I do know that we can smile at the future, and laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25).When the end of the day draws near, we have the assurance that whether our future forecast is more like a rainbow or a cloud, it is He who holds them in the palm of His hand. God doesn’t promise us a world of roses and rainbows, but He does promise us joy for the battle. May we comprehend the peversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy (Maya Angelou).
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 As we come into a New Year we can meditate on God’s word and thank Him for His goodness. If there are disappointments that we carry, or hopes deferred that have made our heart sick, We can be reminded of His promise that He will repay us for the years that the locusts have eaten’ (Joel 2:25).

Do you have New Year Resolutions? Or is your resolution to not make resolutions! I usually make resolutions to read the Word more, to pray more, to exercise more and to de-clutter the house more. But do you notice a theme? Are our New Year Resolutions merely another to-do list? A striving to do more? My husband has always told our girls that they are His delightful daughters. It has really resonated with my eldest daughter, and she always tells me proudly that she is ‘Daddy’s delightful daughter.’ It has been a gentle reminder to me also that none of us need to strive as we are His delightful daughters.

Sometimes self-help advice abounds at this time of year. But instead of looking inward, or looking to improve ourselves, what if we were to catch a glimpse of His grace by looking up and fixing our eyes on Jesus, who is the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Then we could be free this year to just be.

I do have a few goals as we journey into next year. I want to have a passion for compassion. I’d like to be unflappable (but I’m not there yet). I want to rejoice and rest in Him more this coming year, renewed and steeped in His peace. I’d like to go slow more often – as I’ve learned the hard way that hurry hurts the kids. And instead of seeking presents I’d like to always have His presence. I want to write God’s heart. And at the risk of sounding a little Pollyanna-ish, I’d like to be able to smile at the clouds as well as the rainbows……….and to be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud. new year

Happy New Year

Christmas for the Brokenhearted

Christmas for the Brokenhearted

‘Lay a whisper on my pillow,

leave the winter on the ground.

I wake up lonely, there’s air of silence

in the bedroom and all around.’

I recall a song that was released when I was not even ten. Performed by Roxette, ‘It must have been love’ was also known by the title ‘Christmas for the Brokenhearted.’ This popular song was essentially about mourning the loss of a loved one. And the brokenhearted are everywhere at Christmastime – folks for whom the cheer and celebration of Christmas only serves to rub salt into the wounds they carry. We may know family and friends who have been bereaved this year or even this month. Or perhaps they knew a loss or bereavement many years ago, for grief knows no timeframe.

There are folks for whom serious illness, divorce or death has characterized their year. There may be the empty chair at the Christmas table, and you wonder how you are going to get through the holiday season without falling apart. There are folks whose family tree feels fragmented, broken or messy. And there are those who long for a child, and spending Christmas around other family members with children only heightens the heartache of hope deferred.

Perhaps you haven’t experienced a major loss or trauma, but the stress of the ‘silly season’ exacerbates a physical or mental illness. Perhaps finances may be stretched, or perhaps Christmas in the age of Pinterest just makes you feel exhausted. What do you do if you just can’t make a joyful sound at Christmas? Where is the hope when your heart is hurting at Christmas?

wonders of His love

For the brokenhearted, sometimes it is the anticipation of Christmas (or a wedding or any other special occasion) that is worse than the actual day itself. 

Taking care of oneself around Christmastime and the holidays is imperative. If you are grieving, allow yourself to grieve. For some reason, the textbooks and society seem to advocate that people should move on from grief within the timeframe of a year. But many of us know that it may take longer than that. Having realistic expectations is important too.

And if you are a friend or family member of someone who is grieving, offer them support, love, and concrete assistance (such as help with housework, childcare or gardening). We can call someone, even if  we don’t know what to say. We can carefully select a Christmas card, and we can choose not to send a newsletter filled with joyous news, because sometimes our well meaning words can drive a knife into the heart of someone who is bereaved or hurting.

We can invite those who are alone at Christmas to join us. We can listen to their stories and feelings, therefore validating their grief as a normal response. We can understand that even though there is a clinical term called ‘complicated grief’, in real life, all grief can be complicated. And we can introduce them to the God who came to heal the brokenhearted, to bind up their wounds and cure their pains and sorrows (Isaiah 61:1). The babe that was born in the lowly stable is acquainted with our sorrows and trials. He is the wonderful counsellor, the everlasting father, the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6).

wonderful counselor

Whether it is healing from estrangement, rejection, loss, unforgiveness or betrayal – God is in the business of heart transplantation. He longs to bring comfort and His word says that He will ‘give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you’ (Ezekiel 26:26).

‘God takes broken hearts —- and gives you His’. Isn’t that the miracle that all began because of Christmas.

heart

If you are feeling alone this Christmas, I pray that this beautiful song ministers His comfort to you.

Photo Credit: http://www.aholyexperience.com

A Slow, Simple Christmas

A Slow, Simple Christmas

Will you be having a happy Christmas this year, or a hectic, hurried one? I love Christmas. I love everything about it. That is, apart from the rush. Last Christmas I was madly crafting and baking……and blogging about it too. And in years before that I’ve been known to attempt to make truffle towers and gingerbread houses from scratch with a toddler under my feet. But this year, with house renovations going on and family staying, I’m trying to take it easy.

Do we in our society make the Christmas season a little crazy? If we are not careful this busy season can just fly by in a blur. By all means elf on the shelf if you want to, please don’t let me stop you. But for many of us perhaps the key is to find a way to enjoy Christmas without running oneself ragged.  Many psychological studies that have demonstrated that people do often experience more stress in the lead up to Christmas.  I wonder whether this may be especially so in the southern hemisphere, where Christmas, and the end of the academic year coincide. Prize givings, end of year school productions, shared lunches, and gifts for teachers is an equation that often equals frazzled parents and grumpy kids. In addition, it is summer so instead of the quieter advent season that you may have in the northern hemisphere due to the colder weather before Christmas, many families also go away on their main holiday of the year on boxing day or soon after. So not only are you winding down from school, getting ready for Christmas, but you are also having to organise and pack for your holiday which may be camping or the like. No simple feat especially if you have smallies (aka children).

A Slow, Simple Christmas is not about doing away with Christmas.  Instead, it’s about taking the crazy out of Christmas and figuring out how to have a simple joyous celebration in the midst of a hurried life. Perhaps we can learn from the slow food movement, cultivating a Christmas celebration that is sustainable, nourishing, and deeply delicious.

There are many factors that are beyond our control, however here are a my top ten tips to ensure that it‟s a time of year that refreshes you, rather than one that raises your blood pressure.

1. Plan ahead

Dont keep Christmas in your head. Get it down on paper (or download a Christmas planning app!). I devised a Christmas planner that is one page, as I am aiming to keep my Christmas Plan to one sheet of A4  this year.

christmas planner
2. Delegate
Write out your list of things to do, then strike through the tasks that are neither urgent nor essential. Look at what‟s left and see what you could delegate, e.g. give someone responsibility for buying and putting up decorations. Your ‘to do‟ list will instantly shrink.

3. Presence or Presents? 
Is Christmas about spending time in the presence of family and friends or is it about presents? Taking the consumerism out of Christmas can be a way to simplify this season. If you are buying presents, shopping online or through catalogues can minimize stress. Another option is to do all your Christmas shopping in one day as this helps focus you. Last week I went into town and had a Christmas shopping blitz. I often joke that now that I am a mother of three I shop like a man. I write a list, I go to the shop and get what is on the list, and then I get out quick! Gift for Life and other catalogues can be ideal gifts for the person who has everything. (http://www.giftforlife.co.nz/). And I have often wondered whether our children today acquire too many gifts. We have decided in our family to give our children one gift plus a stocking. After all, they are thoroughly spoiled by other relatives!

Gift Labels for Kids

round something christmas labels

 Credit: http://www.greatfun4kids.com

4. To write Christmas cards or not to write Christmas cards?

This year we have decided not to send christmas cards in the post. Not to mention the cost of sending cards overseas, but I also find that sending christmas cards is rather labour intensive for me. So this year we are sending a card and brief newsletter by email instead.

Christmas Card 2014 for blog

Year in Review for Blog

5. Learn to Say No. Limit obligations (such as Christmas cards for example) and just do what you can.

6. Practise self-care. As women we are always giving to others. But like a car, we can’t keep going and going without refuelling. Find something that nourishes and refreshes you during this busy season.

7. Practice giving this Christmas season. If you have the time and resources, find a way to bless others, whether it is someone in financial need, someone recently widowed or someone who is ill. There is heartache everywhere we look.

8. Cultivate Christmas traditions that won’t cause undue stress to maintain each year. Instead of making a gingerbread house from scratch as I tried to one year, this year we are going to simply turn ice cream cones upside down to make Christmas trees and decorate them with icing and sweets. Instead of making a gingerbread house, we hang gingerbread decorations on the tree. (They have a few nibbles in them already!) My husband makes a birthday cake for Jesus and on Christmas Day we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Don’t compare your efforts to others. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect. Celebrate Christmas your way.gingerbread xmas tree decorations

9. And on Christmas Day – create a calming atmosphere. If cooking stresses you out, opt for a simple BBQ, a pot luck lunch or eat out at a restaurant or hotel. Not only does this omit the menu planning and food preparation, it also means that you don’t have to wash up.

10. Most importantly, have fun. Find out what is important to you at Christmas. For us it is about ‘unwrapping the greatest gift’ – the baby in the manger.

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An Artful Advent

An Artful Advent

Advent is a season observed in many Christian traditions as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity at Christmas. The term essentially means “coming’, and is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus.

What emotion encapsulates the Christmas season for you? For me it would have to be anticipation. Every year in December we prepare for Christmas by (attempting) to get our house in order. We place a wreath on our front door, we put up the tree, add a few lights and some decorations. But this year our Christmas preparations may be a little more challenging as we are in the midst of renovations. At present we have no kitchen, dining room or laundry and we have effectively moved these operations into our garage! Our house is Camp Chaos headquarters at the moment, and relatives from the UK arrive on Tuesday!

reno

In the same way as we decorate our homes to prepare for Christmas, I believe we can also find creative ways to prepare our hearts. Part of this preparation that we can engage in for Advent is in waiting. But many of us find that waiting can be a bit of a struggle. I know that I’m not good at waiting. We are waiting for our renovations to be completed so that we can resume life as usual. Waiting is character building. And at this time of year we can do a lot of waiting. It isn’t even December yet and already the shopping centres are crazy. It can be difficult to carve out time for expectant, hopeful and quiet waiting, especially so in the month of December. And our house is anything but quiet at the moment!

Reindeer Handprints

I’m trying to keep Christmas simple this year, as with major renovations going on and family staying, simplicity is about all that I can muster. Whereas in previous years I might have been madly rushing around making christmas crafts, baking (and blogging about it too), this year it is going to be about slowness and simplicity.

A Jesse Tree

Jesse Tree

We have never had a Jesse tree before, but this year we are going to start a new family tradition. A Jesse Tree is an Advent tree anticipating the coming of Christmas. So instead of the chocolate advent calendars that anticipate the arrival of Peppa Pig, Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine, a Jesse tree gives some clear Christian meaning to the anticipation of Christmas.

The Jesse Tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.”  It is a way to tell the Story of God in the Old Testament, and to connect the Advent Season with the faithfulness of God across 4,000 years of history. The Branch is a biblical sign of newness, which became a way to talk about the expected messiah. It is therefore a symbol of Jesus, who is the revelation of the grace and faithfulness of God.

There are many different ways to make a Jesse tree. Some individuals make beautiful fabric or felt trees. I opted for the simplest route which was to cut down a branch from a tree, put it in a vase with a little water, and add a paper decoration to it each day in December. My children helped to make and colour in the printables, which I found on Ann Voskamp’s website. She has some beautiful Advent free printables, which you can find here: http://www.aholyexperience.com.

Fingerprint Christmas Lights Wrapping Paper

And I’ve introduced a little series link up here on the blog called ‘Artful Advent’. Artful Advent is about creatively celebrating the arrival of Jesus. Each Monday you are invited to share any form of art related to Advent: writing, music, crafting, photography, drawing, baking…….there are many possibilities. There are several ways you can share with me, too:

  • You can email me and I will add your photos or writings to the blog
  • You can comment here on this blog post
  • You can also post a picture or video on twitter or facebook and tag it #artfuladvent

I believe that we all have a creative bent. What are some ways you use art to celebrate Advent? This is a busy season for all of us, so please feel free to share past writings, art pieces, photos and music that speak to the theme. Make sure to link up with Lattes Laced with Grace. I can’t wait to see your ideas!

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Add your art to this week’s Artful Advent collection inspired by the theme of Hope.

ARTFUL ADVENT THEMES:

Week 1, December 2nd: Hope
Week 2, December 9th: Love
Week 3, December 16th: Joy
Week 4, December 23rd: Peace

 

advent3

 

Credit: http://www.aholyexperience.com 

 

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