Bookish Christmas Gifts

As you’re preparing for Christmas, consider gifts that will encourage the love of story. Here are a few ideas:

Homemade Book Mark
When my children were very young, they created marbled and homemade (recycled) paper in art class. The colors and textures were beautiful. I didn’t want to throw the papers away, so I cut the them into 2″ strips, had the children sign and date the backs, then laminated each strip. From just a few sheets of paper, we were able to make several gifts for teachers, family members, and close friends.

Another option is to create bookmarks from photos – of family (individual or group), places you’ve visited through the year, Christmas’s past, favorite quotes or verses, etc. Here’s one my husband (yep) made for me a few years ago:

homemade book mark

Personalized Book Plate
These make excellent baby gifts, Christmas gifts, and birthday gifts. We reserve the usage of book plates for special books – those received as presents, those marking special occasions, or those that become favorites of the child. Personalized book plates say, “This book is important. It is meaningful to me.” There are countless stores from which you can order book plates (including virtually any place that sells personalized stickers). Although not the least expensive option available, this online store has a beautiful selection. For many folks (sadly, not me), it would be easy to create bookplates using an online template. (Embossers are also nice to have, although not ideal for children. I stumbled upon a nice selection of embossers here.)

book plate

“A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog’s ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.” Charles Lamb

Subscription to Lamplighter Book Club
This would be an ideal present idea to suggest to grandparents. The Lamplighter Books are beautifully-bound treasures. More about Lamplighter here.

lamplighter

“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” Abraham Lincoln

Start a Collection
There’s something special about owning a “family” of books. One collection that we’ve enjoyed is the Illustrated Junior Library. Several of these beautifully illustrated books are easily found in bookstores. Older titles are out of print, yet still available at the occasional book sale or online. Whenever we find a used bookstore, my children keep an eye out for a member of the collection’s family. Searching a specific and easily recognizable book helps to keep those who are too young to hunt for specific authors (or are less-than-excited about book shopping) occupied. I hope to read through all of the titles in set before the youngest leaves home. Choose a collection that has beautiful illustrations and easy-to-read print (lots of white around the border of the text). Add a new book each Christmas.

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“The book must of necessity be put into a bookcase. And the bookcase must be housed. And the house must be kept. And the library must be dusted, must be arranged, must be catalogued. What a vista of toil, yet not unhappy toil.” William Gladstone

Book Lover’s Journal
A book journal is great place to record books that have been read, favorite quotes, and insights gained. It’s a literary diary of sorts, not only documenting data about books that have been read, but also drawing the heart of the reader out to capture responses on paper. I wish that I’d started one of these years ago.

book lover's journal

Stories on CD
As much as I love reading aloud with my family, I’ve grown increasingly grateful for good audiobooks. When my children were very young, CDs by Jim Weiss (Greathall Productions), Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre, and Lamplighter Theater were staples at rest time and on family trips. Audiobooks are a great introduction to books that may be a bit out of reach for children to alone, and they foster a growing love of story. We recently invested in a family membership to Audible, which has already more than paid for itself.

Mark_Twain_Jim_Weiss_Adventures_Tom_Sawyer_dramatized_compact_disc

Hardback of favorite book (children’s book for teenagers/adults)
Don’t feel like you can’t buy a book for someone because they’ve already read it. Quite the opposite. Receiving a hardback book is an affirmation of its importance and an invitation to read it again (and again). Our eldest son had read Lord of the Rings several times in his teenage years, but had never owned a hardback copy. That situation was remedied in he early adulthood when we gave him a boxed set. If you’re looking for a hard-to-find book that is not longer in print, try addall.com.

lord of the rings

 “Some day, you will be old enough to read fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

Christmas Books
I shared some of our favorite Christmas books here (2011) and here (2012).

A few more I’ve added since last year:

On that Night by Elizabeth Yates

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The Conscience Pudding by Edith Nesbit

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The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeline L’Engle

24-days-lengle

A Walk One Winter Night by Al Andrews

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Do you have any bookish gift ideas you’d be willing to share? 



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Mini-Me

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It’s a strange phenomenon – to have a child who bears your resemblance. My son looks just like his dad. He walks with the same posture and cadence. Their childhood photographs are virtually indistinguishable. The origin of my daughter’s knack for messiness and love of all things creative and comfortable isn’t a mystery. There’s a certain fulfillment that comes with seeing a smaller version of ourselves forging new territory in the world. In it’s purest form, the fulfillment reflects the heart of our Maker, who created His children in His own image. It was very good.

But as the story unfolds, the simple enjoyment of our children’s image-bearing has a dark side. One that creeps up in slight shadows, every-so-stealthily eclipsing the light. These smaller humans are trained to reflect our political postures, our preferences in literature, music, sports teams and social causes. We’re proud of our “Mini-Me”s. They’ve turned out well, of course, if they’ve turned out like us.

Having been thoroughly indoctrinated since birth, my children choose Starbucks as their favored supplier of refreshment. They prefer signed, hardback books to the lesser mass-produced paperback versions. Their artistic, movie-going, and musical palates are being refined daily. While listening to the (repeating) stream of popular songs on the radio, one of my children posed the (reasonable) question, “Why isn’t Ben Shive’s music played on our radio station?” To which his brother promptly responded, “The difference between Ben Shive and a lot of the music on the radio is like the difference between Tolkien and Percy Jackson.” They paused for a moment of somber reflection – perhaps for those starved souls who don’t know the difference. My children are becoming increasingly insightful – and opinionated. I’m grateful. I’m proud. Mission succeeded. Until I reconsider the mission. Until I return to the original mandate.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

~ Even creators of mediocre books and cheesy teen-angst music?

~ Even politicians who view things from a radically different viewpoint from my own?

~ Even pop-culture icons who make millions from our lust for celebrity?

~ Even friends who make radically different choices in how they parent, spend their money, deal with disappointment, and (fill your soap opera box of choice in here)?

“In humility, value others above yourselves.”

Am I modeling humility for my children? Are they learning to look for the dignity in others, regardless of their differences of opinions? Are their hearts being trained toward compassion and curiosity rather than judgment and pride?

Too often, my parenting is reflective of my own image rather than the image of the Father. My family becomes an unintentional empire through which I propagate my cause. The task seems insurmountable – to lead young ones toward the light, when my own sight is so skewed.

Yet the perfect parent steps in. He reminds us that He will complete the good works He has begun. That He will gently lead those who have young. That He will redeem my arrogant heart, my selfish motives, and my distorted view of myself.

It is in my brokenness that He does his best work.

As I listen to my children echo my opinions and preferences, my hope is that I will experience less satisfaction and more conviction. There, in the messiness of my own heart, the Potter molds and shapes me toward the image of His Son. Oddly, it is often through my inadequacy, rather than my competency, that my children catch a glimpse of their Father and an understanding of His goodness. It is at the pivotal point of humility and dependence that we begin to see ourselves in correct relationship with our Maker.

And it is very good.

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“Mini-Me”s in training.

 



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Less than Ideal

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It’s been a hard month at our house. I’m not sure when the tone started taking a turn – I think maybe sometime late summer. Life had been moving swiftly down the track, a rhythmic clickety-clacking through each sports event, date night, business meeting, and coffee with friends. Yet the track ahead had a sharp bend – one I didn’t see coming. Clackety-click shifted into an ominous creekety-lurchety screech. It didn’t sound good.

My child who loves and breathes activity developed a sharp pain in his foot that wouldn’t go away. After first dismissing his complaints (with five children, dismissing is a legitimate step in the process), we finally went to the doctor. What had seemed to be a temporary ache was actually more serious. He couldn’t run or jump for any length of time without significant pain. The combination of his intense activity and his rapid growth had contributed to a semi-chronic condition that could last for months. Although stretching and ice should bring eventual relief, time was the only guaranteed remedy. Despite his determined spirit, he wouldn’t be playing basketball this fall. He wouldn’t be playing much of anything this fall. My boy had received his first dose of grief. Sometimes, the world is less than ideal.

The early weeks of school are always bring transition, but this year was different. The simple, quiet life that we’d worked so hard to build could no longer be maintained. Although the shift is appropriate given the children’s ages, I’m grieving the closing of a sweet window in life. One day, I found myself driving the same stretch of road twelve times. Twelve. Times. Thus was my initiation into this next phase of parenting. I’ve been there before with our older kids. I know what to expect. Yet I found myself feeling profoundly depleted – after three days. Driving up and down that street through congested afternoon traffic, Ionging for a jog or a book that were no longer options, I could feel the frustration mounting. I knew the correct spiritual answers to my predicament. They couldn’t tame my discontent. I was bored. I was grouchy. I was irritated.  Life was less than ideal.

The same week that school was off to a hobbling start, we happened to notice that my husband’s ankle looked thick. Not swollen – thick. He’s an avid athlete, complete with all the requisite injuries and strains, so we didn’t give it much thought. Until the next day. A precautionary visit to Urgent Care turned into a concerned visit to the ER. “Nothing serious”, we were told. Probably a twisted ankle. Yet the voice of reason outweighed the ER’s diagnosis, and he learned three days later that indeed, he had a blood clot. “Fresh”, “acute”, and “deep” were the terms that applied. Not good news. The weeks to follow were full of unknowns. They still are. Although grateful for a correct diagnosis and treatment, the athletic options for my active husband have become quite limited. Multiple visits to the doctor and trips to the hematologist lab have replaced long jogs on these beautiful crisp mornings. We’re not sure what the next several months will hold. Not ideal.

In a defiant act of hope, I planted my fall garden. My fingers meandered longingly through the dark, moist earth. The earth that would eventually bloom life. In the still point of that late August afternoon, it dawned on me like the obvious answer to a riddle. It was death that had prepared the soil – hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of decaying plants. Plants that had once been green, soaking in sun, giving the good gift of oxygen, drinking in rain. They had served their temporal purpose on earth. Yet it was through death and decay that their impact would be generative. The process was far from immediate. Yet it would be lasting.

Ancient seeds were planted long, long ago. Hidden deeply away in the darkness, they are germinating. Their soil enriched with the death of convenience, ideals, comfort, security, and preferred agenda. If I readjust my eyes and look closely, I see the beginnings. Small signs of growth. Glimpses of what once flourished in the Garden and will be formed fully again. Unfurling are the tender leaves of thankfulness in my son, contentment in my husband, and patience in me.

Perhaps “less than ideal” is ideal after all.

 

 

 

 



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The Courage to Keep Going

LITTLE PRINCESS, A (1995)

“I don’t think I can keep going,” I told my daughter.

We were mid-chapter, and the story had taken an abrupt turn. The bright little girl, so full of hope and life and love, was minutes from receiving devastating news. She would have to trade in her pink satin birthday frock for a black dress of mourning. In an instant, her day of celebration would become one of unbearable grief. The life she’d known as an adored, lavished-upon daughter was to be no more. Unbeknownst to her, the little girl’s father had died. Fate had left her a penniless orphan. Life would never be the same.

I’ve been present when such devastating news has been delivered. When the hot coal of truth was passed to a child, searing the tender soul and leaving an indelible scar. I remember wanting to stretch those last moments of blissful naivety into years, where innocence could romp and play through the fields of childhood. Yet the hard realities of the world had intervened. I had no control. The truth had changed life’s landscape forever.

The real world is one thing, a story quite another.  In the world of ink on paper, I possess the power to freeze time. With the closing of a book, heartache and evil can be kept at bay. I didn’t want to read further. I wanted to prolong the party, taking note of every detail, and basking in the enjoyment of fanciful dresses, the bounty of refreshments, and the crowning present – a beautiful doll, complete with a wardrobe fit for a princess. My heart dropped. I couldn’t bear what would happen in the next few minutes. It was all too familiar.

“But we have to go on, Mom,” she said to me. “We can’t just quit, or we’ll never know what happens. It has to get better. We just have to get through the hard part.”

My girl’s steadfast words spoke volumes.

We’ve been at this juncture before.  When Tacy’s baby sister dies. When Elizabeth Ann must leave the safe, protected world of her Aunt Harriet and Cousin Frances to live with strangers who felt like foreigners. When the cholera outbreak in India leaves Mary Lennox an orphan.

As we’ve walked with these characters-turned-friends through valleys of grief and hardship, a pattern has developed: Life is as it should be. What feels like unbearable hardship interrupts. Provision is made. Adjustments occur. Life, although not what was expected, continues. Like a river quietly cutting a path through stone, with time and repetition, such a pattern is engraved into the heart’s memory,

As my daughter’s insistence to continue reading nudged me out of my sentimental stupor, I was reminded. Of the power of story. Of the unexpected turns in life. Of the truth of redemption. Of a Storyteller who is often unpredictable, yet always good.

Ultimately, our quick conversation about little Sara’s plight left me hopeful. That when disappointment, hardship, betrayal, or heartbreak enter into my daughter’s story, a still, small voice will echo back to my girl (and to me, and to you), “We can’t just quit, or we’ll never know what happens. It has to get better. We just have to get through the hard part.”

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 This piece was originally shared in Story Warren. Drop by and visit. You’ll be glad that you did.


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The Lanyard

There was a time when treasures came in the form of trophies, grades, promotions and increased responsibility, yet the years have a way of sifting the through a multitude of souvenirs to reveal the few gems of great value. Of revealing that which was, and is, and always will be made of an eternal substance.

Today, I received one of those rare, imperishable gifts. My youngest returned from her first week of camp and proudly presented me with this:

lanyard
Which, of course, reminded me of this:

 

Sometimes a glimpse of heaven looks like red and yellow braided plastic.
I’m grateful.



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On Reading Aloud – to the Bigger Kids

readwithwill

Reading with my big kid.

There’s nothing quite like reading picture books to our little ones. They snuggle in tightly, nestle close to the heart, trace pictures with chubby fingers and beg for “one more”. But what happens when the little ones grow into lanky teenagers?

My middle-schooler no longer fits in children’s clothing, but must shop in the men’s department. As his body transitions from that of a child into that of an adult, so does his world. His calendar rivals mine. Discussions of college have begun to pepper our conversation and our planning for the upcoming school year. Conversations about world events have reflected the despair and depravity that are impossible to avoid. And then there is the dreaming together. The discovery. The hope.

I was reminded this week that despite the “necessities” that demand our time – the pivotal conversations, schoolwork, music lessons, sports and the myriad of activities that make up our days – our older children still need us to read aloud to them. Maybe as much or more than they did when they were toddlers.

As a family, we’ve been reading The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom, aloud. There is tremendous power in the story. In the realities presented. In the faith lived out that no human could conjure in his own strength. No doubt, there is great value in reading such a book alone. Yet each time we embark on the adventure of reading as a family, I continue to be surprised. Not so much by the power of the story – I’ve come to anticipate that. But I continued to be amazed at the potency of the conversations that flow from our reading together. I’ve discovered through the years that to “teach” breaks the spell woven by the language and the story. Rather, I’ve learned to guide our conversations – by opening doors of possibility, listening, and doing the hard work of seeing through the children’s eyes. As a result, not only are their souls stirred, but I’m given the indescribable privilege of baring witness to their personhood. It’s holy ground.

To attempt to distill such rich time would be futile – I’m not gifted enough as a writer. Yet I want to share a few snippets of our discussions. If for no other reason than to chronicle for posterity.

As The Hiding Place unfolds, it becomes clear that the most treasured possession is not a vial of precious vitamin oil or the blue sweater from home smuggled under the prison uniform. Rather, the most precious object in the prison camp is the small tattered Bible that hangs around Corrie’s neck. The role of Bible grows in importance through her captivity and practically becomes its own character. One day after we read, a child paused thoughtfully, then asked if I thought it had been “just a regular Bible” to the prisoners before they had entered the concentration camp. I could see his wheels turning. We have several Bibles. Always have. No big deal. Or perhaps it is a bigger deal than we can begin to comprehend.

Items present in our everyday that hold little or no significance take on new meaning. Like bread crumbs guiding Hansel and Gretel, a sparse trail of beauty offer hope in the midst of tragedy. Corrie uses scavenged threads to create a masterpiece of embroidered flowers on her pajamas. The singed remains of tulips offer promise. Color is more than symbolic for life – it infuses life to the deadened imaginations and despairing souls. The book ends with the following words:

“Windowboxes,” I said. “We’ll have them at every window. The barbed wire must come down, of course, and then we’ll need paint. Green paint. Bright yellow-green, the color of things coming up new in the spring.”

As we prepare our questionable garden (not enough sun and relentless dear threaten its success), as the children sketch on lazy summer days, and as we make simple choices to bring beauty into our home, this same trail of hope is offered to us. Our conversation will continue through these everyday observations. “Remember when she wrapped the light with red paper to decorate her cell?” We don’t live in the unthinkable environment of a concentration camp, but our souls are assaulted daily. Just more subtly. We need the same life-saving medicine of beauty.

I first read The Hiding Place as a young adult. I remember the shock and horror, but not much else. This time around, life experience had given me much broader vision through which to take in such a story. My children, although lacking years of experience, bring their own unique perspective to our reading. For them, much of that framework was the result of the myriad of stories they’ve ingested. The prisoners in the concentration camp were referred to only by numbers, not by names. “Mom – that’s just like Les Mis” interjected my son. He’s right. The conversation meandered down a path leading to our interactions with the local refugee community and how hard it was to learn and remember a person’s name. But knowing a name is important. We treat others like numbers everyday when we fail to look into the eyes. To Listen. To develop a posture of curiosity.

As we finished The Hiding Place, the children talked about what they would remember about the book. God’s provision in the midst of a horrible situation. The difference between the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of Heaven. But the response that stopped me was when one of them said, “It helps us imagine what it looks like to trust God when really hard things happen.” I saw it happen. In my living room. My child is developing what my friend, Sam, calls “Holy imagination.”

Life is full of wonder, adventure, and beauty yet to be discovered. But life can also be ruthless. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and I can’t protect my children from the realities of the world. But I’m grateful that I can do something. I can continue to feed their minds, souls, hearts, and yes – imaginations. So if and when the unimaginable happens, they’re not taken completely off-guard. Through our reading, they’ve witnessed injustice and loss. They’ve practiced empathy, trust, choosing others over self, and belief that in the end, good will undoubtedly triumph over the most heinous evil. In reading as a family and leaving space for discussion, we have the great privilege of offering them a training ground for hope.

There’s nothing quite like reading to older kids. They leave behind their schedules, assignments, and social engagements. If even only for a brief period of time, they hang on every word we say. And if we’re lucky, they still snuggle in tightly and nestle close to the heart.



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Ten Reasons to Support the Slugs & Bugs Kickstarter

Randall Goodgame Slugs and Bugs

In the past year, I’ve had the great privilege of getting to know Randall Goodgame as we’ve dreamed, schemed, and planned for the future of Slugs & Bugs. Prior to working with Randy, I had been a big fan of his music. Yet after hours of conversations in which I asked a million questions about business practices, goals, and mission, I’m even more passionate about supporting his endeavors. The Slugs & Bugs team is a rare and beautiful phenomenon where talent, passion, and vision are fueled by the spirit of servanthood.

For more on the Slugs & Bugs story, you can visit here.

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Slugs & Bugs is embarking on their next endeavor – an all-Scripture CD. Everyday, we are given endless opportunities to support good things. I commend to you the following reasons you should consider supporting the Slugs & Bugs Kickstarter Campaign:

10. You may not paint, compose, write, or “create” in the way the world traditionally defines the word, but you can play a meaningful part in creating something beautiful. Without the Medici family, there may not have been a Renaissance. Help us make this happen.

9. Randall Goodgame has the unique ability to create quality music which is loved as much by adults as it is by kids. This proclamation comes from a parent whose fifth child never saw Barney or heard The Wheels on the Bus (I couldn’t take it anymore), but who is as likely to put Slugs & Bugs on the day’s playlist as are the kids.

8. We hear plenty about the brokenness of our world. This is an opportunity for you to help bring light into the darkness. Thy Kingdom come.

7. You’ll get to hear Sally Lloyd-Jones (of The Jesus Story Book Bible fame) read Scripture. Imagine joining Peter Pan for story time in the Darlings’ nursery. Delightful.

6. It’s always a good idea to keep presents on hand to be used for birthdays, baby showers, Christening or baptisms, Easter baskets, Christmas, and the list goes on and on. In supporting the project, a stack of cd’s (and other treats) can be yours. And you don’t have to go to the store.

5. The average American spends $1,000 per year on coffee. Skip a few cups and support Slugs & Bugs.

4. You’ll get to hear and support the African Children’s Choir. Visit here for a preview.

3. In addition to Randall Goodgame, The African Children’s Choir, and Sally Lloyd-Jones, Andrew Peterson will be joining the gang yet again. The only thing that’s better than listening to great music – is listening to dear friends making great music (not to mention clever antics and general tomfoolery) together.

2.  Community is created when like-minded folks work toward a common goal. Consider inviting your book club, small group, Bible study, MOPs group, play group (you get the picture) to pitch in and contribute to one of the higher-level options. You may be the beneficiaries of a house concert tailored specifically for your group, or even a LIVE SLUGS AND BUGS CONCERT (the crowd goes wild)!

1. When I asked my youngest son why he thought people should support the Slugs & Bugs Scripture cd, he said, “To spread God’s Word to all the nations.” I can’t top that one.

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Grab your kids, or your spouse, or your friends, and make a few minutes to watch the Slugs & Bugs videos on the Kickstarter page. You’ll get a taste of the vision for the new CD as well as the heart behind its making.

You can make a difference in less than five minutes. Support the Slugs & Bugs Kickstarter campaign by visiting here.



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Sketchings

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This piece was originally posted in Story Warren, a project in which I’m delighted to play a small part. Drop by and visit. They’re great folks.

— — —

It had been a long day. We were exhausted. But we had traveled a long way, and the trip wouldn’t be complete until we found it.

In the prior week, our family had roamed the fields at Gettysburg, floated down the Charles River, cycled the picturesque trails of Nantucket, and skipped stones across Walden Pond.  We had endured long-winded tour guides on the Freedom Trail, haunted the House of Seven Gables, and foraged through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in search of Alcott, Emerson and Thoreau. Our family had gorged on history with the zeal of Templeton at the fair. I was full.

But not my daughter. She was on a mission. With quickened step and unshakable resolve, she scanned the horizon searching for her destination. No, not toward the crimson dappled Virginian mountains. No, not behind the gardens where slaves had toiled for decades. Where could it be?

Suddenly, she stopped. Her pause was not due to uncertainty or confusion, rather it resulted from her being absorbed in a moment of delight. Her gaze was fixed beyond the flowerbeds at the end of the meandering brick path.  There it was. The Reflecting Pool. She sprinted with abandon toward this, her final destination. Knowing the significance of her discovery, I dug the camera from my bag and prepared to capture the moment. “Not there,” I was instructed. “You have to take it from the other side – where the house is reflected in the pond.” The angle had to be just right. We were finally at her pond. It was perfect.

In preparation for our trip to New England, my children sketched landmarks which were included on our itinerary. They had taken a great deal of time and effort in selecting and recreating their building (or pond) of choice. A clever tactic, I thought. They would have exposure to the historical icons prior to experiencing them. We would optimize our time and financial investment in the trip.

The goal was indeed achieved. They did learn much about American history. Yet I was unaware of a deeper working in their hearts. What had started as a simple sketch had taken on dimension. As my daughter had considered angle, perspective, depth and shading of the Reflecting Pool, she had grown in attachment to it. She became intimately aware of each curve, shadow, and line. Through each stroke of pen on paper, the picture in her mind became more clear. As we roamed the grounds of that stately home, she knew exactly what she was looking for.  A similar pond wouldn’t do. She longed to see the real thing.

When our children experience goodness, glimpses of eternity are etched onto their hearts.

Each great story engraves lines of truth.
Each work of art imprints ultimate beauty.
Each symphony resonates loveliness.

They all leave their mark, their imprints reflecting the image of the Master Artist. Their effect, to woo His children to himself.

Our children’s lives will be full of adventure, detours, landmark moments and wrong turns. They will travel long distances and lose their way. I can think of no greater honor than to present a rich array of goodness from which they can choose. Goodness that will find its place in their souls. Goodness that will mark the way toward Home.

 

Monticello



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Time Flies

time flies

Let me tell you about my 2-year-old. He loves life. He wakes early in the morning, eager for the adventures of the day. He is inquisitive about the way things work. He transforms long-forgotten remnants of this and that into tools, and he builds wood-block cities where the good guys decimate the bad guys on an hourly basis. He has a kind, generous heart and notices everything extraordinary that adults religiously dismiss. He has a sense of wonder and whimsy for which I yearn. He exudes the very essence of life.

I love my 2-year-old. But the thing is, he just turned 13. It happened when I blinked. As my eyes refocus on this newer version of my boy, I’m acutely aware that so much has changed. He has almost matched me in height.  He is the one recommending books to me, and I learn as much from our conversations (or more) than does he.  He is closer to a man than a boy, and the rate of change is just getting kicked into high gear.

Yet when I consider the best part of that 2-year-old, the truest, most human, most alive part of his soul, it is still just as present eleven years later.  The best part of my son is that which is eternal.  It doesn’t slip away with years, although I’ve been granted the privilege to see it grow and develop.  His joy, his compassion, his curiosity for life, his kindness and his creativity.  Those things remain. They were formed from a substance more foundational than atoms.  They are not bound (or marred) by the passage of time. The best part of my vibrant son, of my elderly grandmother, of you, and of me, won’t vanish with the years. It can’t be ended by a milestone birthday. Or even by a funeral.

Most of us have felt the twinge (or gut-wrenching) sadness that accompanies the milestones commemorated in our photo albums. We sigh, and with a mix of melancholy, nostalgia, sadness and yearning, we chant the parental mantra, “Time flies.”  Yet take heart.

Yes, time flies.

But I don’t want to stop it.  I want to climb on its back and soak up every inch of the scenery. I want to drink in the laughter, the tears, the soccer games, the visits to the ER, the blues skies and the torrential rains that this world has to offer. For when the cosmic clock is finally grounded, I will climb off its back, grateful for the wild and wonderful (full-of-wonder) ride.

So enjoy your toddlers, your teenagers, your grandchildren. Don’t miss one bit of the ride due to fear or regret. For the day is coming when the tarnish of time will be removed  from us all.  And underneath will be revealed the beauty, the creativity, the wonder, the whimsy, and the perfected love that was imprinted on our souls from the very foundations of the universe.

 

 



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Necessary Losses

A year ago, we sent our Sam away to camp for the first time, as is chronicled below. This afternoon, we sent him again. Really, little had changed. The packing list, the drop-off destination and time, the schedule for the week, all had remained the same. But we are different. Life is like that. We don’t love less – we trust more. We’ve had the experience of letting go for a time, yet we receive back. A pattern emerges, and we learn to identify that pattern for what it is while we are in the midst of it. The more we experience, the more we believe. The more we believe, the more we relinquish the illusion of control. Yes, through the little losses in life, we learn to trust. What we experience and see in the moment is not the end of the story. The end has been written – one where all loss is cast away into the darkness. An end where everything sad will indeed come untrue.

No, there was not a lengthy breakfast, nervous boy, or teary goodbye today. We’ve been here before. The scenery is familiar. And that, I suppose is a loss as well.

 

I’m feeling a little sad this afternoon.  An hour ago, we put my baby boy on a bus that is taking him to camp for the first time.  Ok, he’s almost 10, but he’s still the baby boy of the family.  He was “a little bit nervous but more excited.” Backpack and guitar in tow, he bounded up the stairs of the bus behind two of his best buddies.  After they boarded, we strained to see through the darkened windows as the three of them peered out and waved furiously… “good-bye.”

This is my tender-hearted boy, who only a few years ago, couldn’t bring himself to say goodbye to his sister as she was leaving home after a weekend visit from college.  “Mom, it just hurts too much.” As I sat on the edge of the bed and watched my sweet boy unsuccessfully fight back the tears, my heart was divided. I never want him to hurt deeply.  I want to protect him from all of the evil in the world.  I don’t want him to be disappointed.  I don’t want his heart to ache.

At the same time, my hope is that he will grow to be a man who will love others well and live life to its fullest.  This is the kid who exudes life.  Whatever he feels, he feels deeply – both joy and pain.  You can’t have one without the other.  I love his depth of emotion, but I’m sad for the self-protection that years and experience will most likely bring.  It’s a paradox of sorts.  The very thing that I love about him is bound to bring him pain in life.

So it is with love and life.  Virtually every good gift that we are given comes as the result of some kind of loss.

~The butterfly – the end of the caterpillar
~The tree – no more a seed
~Wisdom – only after loss of innocence
~Marriage – the loss of carefree singleness
~Each new child – the smaller family unit will never be the same
~Graduations, weddings, birthdays – markers that a chapter of life has been written and completed

For me, here are a few to add to the list:

~Coming home to be with my family – the close of a rewarding career
~High school and college graduations – the shift in our family as 2 adult children launch their lives
~The wedding of our daughter – she’s now under someone else’s care

And now, a much smaller, yet still significant loss.  My blonde-headed blue-eyed little boy will come home to me having changed.  A bit more confident.  A little less dependent on me.  More aware that yes, there is life outside of our family, and it is good.  I’m thrilled that he’s able to go.  I’m thankful for his opportunity to   have a life-changing experience in a safe, nurturing environment.  But yes, there will be loss.

Ultimately, I am deeply grateful for the gifts of growth, change, and reminders of my ultimate dependence.  My hope is to encourage you that in the dark of night, and in the melancholy seasons of loss and closing chapters, you will be aware that your heartache is evidence of you are living life fully.  That you’d look to times past when necessary losses led to deeper peace, greater joy, and a firmer foundation from which to live.  That you’d be comforted to know that indeed, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every purpose under heaven.

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  C.S. Lewis

Chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast

 

I don’t think he’ll starve
A few more songs before we go
Have guitar, will travel
He’s going to be missed
Mrs. Anderson and her ducks
Last “Good-byes”
Camp Lurecrest  –   Thanks for taking care of my baby boy…

 



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