Children need sophisticated vocabulary…..

A friend recently gifted to me three “old” books. No longer in print, he found old copies and sent them to me. This past weekend I curled up, started to read, and immediately was immersed in pool of complex words – rich vocabulary, different sounds, a few words that I had to more or less figure out based on the context. Reading this book is reminding me of how important vocabulary is in the nurturing of children. We need to read aloud books with words they don’t always understand, so they will grow accustomed to the sound and texture of words, so they will need to explore meanings, check their dictionaries, read around a word to figure it out. We need to let children check out books from the library that are beyond their “level”. Vocabulary is expansive – the more access to it, the wider and richer your education.

And not only reading sophisticated vocabulary, but using it in our speech. Trying it out, expressing yourself with a new word.

This is one of the hidden dangers in a texting/messaging/simple posting world. We lose a taste and love for flavor, and the world settles for abbreviations and shortcuts.

Children need books and laps to sit in while enjoying books and books that they don’t completely understand and moments before sleep as they enjoy a new story – such delight.

Posted in Children Need....., May 2014 | 1 Comment

Children need the particular…..

Children need the particular, the unique. They need favorite colors and special flavors and textured experiences. This is where mass responses can trip us up because God didn’t create one size fits all. God created the particular. The dictionary defines particular to mean “of or pertaining to a single or specific person, thing, group, class, occasion, etc., rather than to others or all; special rather than general.” I think it is in the particular interests that we often meet God or bump up against the whispers of our calling. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in recent days. I had a conversation with a young man who spent much of his childhood in television studios. His experiences in and around broadcasting have resulted in amazing work that is impacting the Kingdom. I’m reading again one of my favorite books, The Echo Within by Robert Benson, and here again we see this theme.

Walking with my father toward the old Benson building, I am headed to the place where one day I will begin to hear my calling. As much as anywhere, this is the place where I took my first steps toward trying to become the person I was spoken into being to become. All of the roads I have traveled since began in that place.

I am headed that day toward Eden in a way, if Eden can be the name for a place where all things begin, a place where our journey starts. This is certainly the place where my journey in the direction of my calling began.

Our Edens are not the same. And I do not know what yours was like, that place where your journey began. But I do know there were things in the place you began – sights and sounds and smells and rituals and work – that have played some part in your sense of your calling and in the work you do each day. Some of them drew you toward something; some of them may have pushed you away.

Eden has always smelled like paper and ink to me.

I can put my nose in a book and close my eyes and draw in a deep breath, and a whole world comes back to me. It is a world of printing presses and bindery machines, of dust an paper, of skids piled high with boxes of books, a world of forklifts hauling to and fro, of tape machines an page trimmers, of oily rags and engraving acid. I went through those doors once when I was young and entered the world of books, a world that has been drawing me ever since. Robert Benson, The Echo Within

One of the aspects I love the most about care for children that is based in local families and local churches is this sense of the particular. We no longer think in mass, as in all the eight year olds, or all the adolescents. We think in the particular. This girl. This family. This neighborhood.

Particular callings. Particular solutions. Zooming in the lens and staying away from the panoramic view. I tend to be a big picture person, but in this realm, the particular compels me. As a mother of three amazing boys, each day I am reminded that they are individuals and need care that is particular to who they are.

So much to consider here.

Note – This post is part of a broader “Children Need……” series of posts that we’ve collected over the years. Enjoy!

Posted in April 2014, Children Need..... | 1 Comment

If we want to offer bread…..

If we want to offer bread, we need to make bread, and the bread making process takes time. We could go purchase it from a store, neatly packaged and sliced, but it’s not the same as a fresh, homemade loaf from the oven. I think we all know this deep down, we simply wouldn’t choose a day old bread in its package if we smelled something baking in the kitchen.

Mix the yeast in warmth and let it bubble. Press and pull and knead the dough. Let the flour end up on your nose. Set the bowl in the warm sunshine. Return to shape and mold some more. Bake in the hearth of life.

Here’s to families that take the time.

Here’s to families that have learned how to mix their ingredients into something delightful.

Here’s to families that know how to linger, to wait.

Here’s to families that let life rise up.

Here’s to the families that share their bread with others.

Posted in April 2014 | 1 Comment

“I asked God for a dream…..”

Sometimes the Kingdom shows up unexpectedly. We’re hosting an event we’ve held many times – same recipes, same back porch, same, same, same.

And then a young man tells me a story, his personal story about the adoption of his son. We remember together their waiting, oh the waiting, the years, the longing. And then they receive a phone call about a child needing a home, a family. Quite honestly, I’ve heard this story many times before, and each time it brings tears to my eyes, but this time, it was so much more.

He told me that the night before they needed to make a decision, he prayed as he fell asleep that God would speak to him in a dream. And God did. A specific dream, firm and resolute. And the whole universe shifted that night. A father and a mother and a son will never ever be the same, and the wide ripples that will flow from that? Who can ever tell.

Don’t stop praying.

Don’t stop asking God for a dream.

Don’t stop looking for the Kingdom.

It is here.

He lives.

God’s kingdom is like a seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows – he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps – harvest time!

How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it. Luke 4

Posted in April 2014 | 1 Comment

Family as a Door That Has Hinges and a Lock – Post 10 of 10

I have so enjoyed passing through this book again. I first read it over a decade ago when we were sketching and dreaming and musing about bringing children separated from their biological families closer to “living family”. It has been encouraging to read again these ideas, bounce them around a bit, think again about the craft of a family.

All that to say, this particular chapter resonates.

The hinges should be well-oiled to swing the door open during certain times, but the lock should be firm enough to let people know that the family needs to be alone part of the time, just to be a family. If a family is really shared, then there needs to be something to share. Whatever we share needs time for preparation.

If we are going to share bread, we need to be provided with the flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, milk, and whatever else we might put in it, and we need to have time to make the dough and bake it before it can be shared. If we took flour, sugar, a cake of yeast, some milk or water, and an egg or two, and tossed them out the window for someone begging for bread, a nasty mess would fall at his feet in a form that would do him no good. It seems to me that there is a danger of having a door so open that there might just as well not be walls, so that there is no shelter at all to enter. In the same way, the family to be shared can also be in a state of just being the raw, scattered ingredients of a family, which need time to become the “bread” which could be helpful to the hungry one needing the reality of a family to share. The kneading and molding and mixing and blending are things which go on throughout a lifetime of putting a family together, but if a certain amount of the togetherness of the ingredients has not taken place, there is nothing at all to share, and the one seeking help comes to an “empty table”. The door is the same thing, in the sense that one thinks of people – who are looking for a door – as needing shelter. If there is no lock on the door, there has never been a shelter for anyone. The family cannot be sheltered, nor does it have protection, if there is no possibility of locking itself in and others out – at certain times of need or special danger. If the storm can blow in the door, and the rush of rain can flood the house; if wolves can follow the dogs into the house, and there is no real protection at all – how can the home and family together be sheltered or become a shelter for anyone else needing help or a place of refuge? Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

Hmmmmm.

We’re going to spend a few days unpacking these ideas because they have such broad implications across so many spheres of life.

If a family is really shared, then there needs to be something to share, and whatever we share, needs time for preparation.

We’ll come back to this tomorrow, but for today, let’s just spend some time thinking about the slow, gentle process of creating family – the mixing of ingredients, the rise of the dough, the kneading and shaping, the setting to rise again, the warming of the oven, the bread fresh from the heat – the taste of fresh, homemade loaves – nothing quite compares.

Posted in April 2014 | 2 Comments

Family as a Museum of Memories – Post 9 of 10

I suppose it happens more as we age because we have more memories in our storehouse, but surely each of us holds certain sights, smells, tastes, sounds, or touches that kindle something deep within. I have mine, I hope you have yours.

The sound of a dove cooing in the early morning takes me back.

The whir of a sewing machine, the feel of fabric and thread, takes me back.

The first dive into the cool water of the pool takes me back.

Lemon cake with lemon frosting takes me back.

A quiet library filled with books takes me back.

The walk up a flight of stairs and into a sanctuary of God takes me back.

Certain hymns take me back.

What is family truly if it isn’t a museum of memories? What role is more important than to be a curator of the collection?

…..memories ought to be planned, memories ought to be chosen, memories ought to be put in the budget, memories ought to be recognized and given the proper amount of time, memories ought to be protected, memories ought not to be wasted, and memories ought to be passed down to the next generation. Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

Wow, let’s not miss this one. Let’s be careful about curating a museum of memories for the children in our homes, the children in our care. Let’s be mindful of the tastes we place on the table, the way we approach meals, the beauty in our homes, the walks we take in God’s creation, the way we celebrate birthdays and special days and ordinary days. We are curating a museum whether we like it or not, and it’s less about taking pictures of it to post somewhere than it is about living it. And if you listen to most adults reflect on their childhoods, it was the ordinary life that settled in and created the storehouse. Of course the big days are remembered, but the little days perhaps mattered the most.


Posted in April 2014 | 1 Comment

Family as an Educational Control – Post 8 of 10

Good morning!

I’m back. 465 posts and counting, we’re going for 500 and then we just might let this field of writing become fallow ground. We will see.

Edith uses this word “control” to mean “a matter of constant attention to some dangerous deviation in one direction or another, in some area of physical, psychological, or material part of life” – the monitor that beeps, the date on the milk carton, the reminder email. Her point is that we keep an eye on the education of our children.

I agree with her that education is a widely expansive word, and schooling is relatively small in comparison. Whenever we plop our children on the doorstep of an institution and give them full charge over the education of our children, we have made a grave mistake. Education shapes how we wake up in the morning, the books we read before we sleep. Education is our conversation at the breakfast table, the way we invest in the community where we live, it is how we relate to our family and friends. Education is the frame we build early in life. It’s the way we solve problems, the vocabulary we use. Education is our deep understanding of world history and the lives of those who have gone before us. It is learning the expansive story of God and our place within it, it is walks in the woods and days at the sea.  We would do well to pay attention to the education of our children – the basic premise of junk in/junk out seems to apply.

I believe strongly it is a command to train the whole person – intellectually, spiritually, culturally, emotionally – in things of creativity, in understanding the whole of history, in relationships with other people, and in seeing something of the tremendous scope of the universe from the viewpoint that God exists, God is the Creator, and that He has made us with the capacities we have in His image, to think and act and feel and create on a finite level. As our children are being educated, they are being taught to think and act and feel and to be creative – and we need very much, as parents, to be aware of what is taking place, as much as we are able. We are very much put in the place of responsibility and can either simply go out and have a milkshake and let the TV electrocardiogram ring its bell and blink its red light with no one caring – or we can ask God to help us to watch and recognize the educational danger signals day by day. Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

Posted in April 2014 | Leave a comment

Family as an Economic Unit – Post 7 of 10

What is a family? A family is an economic unit – willing to live in conditions “better and worse” in different times of life, expecting to have ideas and a pioneering spirit of approach at times, but also having a deep understanding together that the family is not floating alone in an impersonal universe with no one to appeal to. We understand that God is there, and that the family members can, together as a unified group, come to Him and say with honest belief and expectation, “Please, God, do a new thing for us as a family, such as You speak of in Isaiah – make a way in the wilderness for us, and rivers in this desert” ( see Isaiah 43 vs 19). Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

This was an interesting chapter. I didn’t remember it from my earlier reading of this book. She delves into the economic realities of making family work. She writes about the specific challenges of facing financial hardship, and then reminds us that you can have money, but without a “family” or a “unit”, you still come up empty.

So let me share a few additional thoughts.

1. Fill your life with perspective. One of the rare privileges of where we live and how we live is that we’re surrounded with perspective. In some of our arenas, we are viewed as poor – we don’t drive the right cars, our clothes aren’t quite right, we live in a shack. In other arenas, our friends don’t own a car, Target is a distant dream, and our home is a palace.

2. Keep it simple. Try adopting a “less is more” philosophy for a year and see what happens.

3. Teach your children the privilege and responsibility of resources. Children need perspective as well. If their bubble is demanding they have the latest fashion or game, exit the bubble.

4. Give and serve, be generous.

5. Be accountable. We’ve spent time thinking about the Parable of the Talents here in this blog space, many of those thoughts are applicable here. We simply don’t know who has five talents, who has two, who only received one. It just doesn’t matter. What matters is that you become aware of what you’re holding in your hands, and you learn to multiply it over and over.

Posted in The Year 2013 | 1 Comment

Family as a Perpetual Relay of Truth – Post 6 of 10

Truth is headline news these days, but I think it has always been and will always be a running current in and around our notion of reality. We all have a deep need to know the truth, to know that somewhere somehow we are held by something deeper and wider and higher and longer than we are. God is truth and truth is God. Indisputable reality, unavoidable evidence. Truth isn’t negotiated apart from God, when we bump up against truth, we find Him.

How clear it is. The truth of the existence and the character of God is to be made known to the children and the children’s children. We are responsible for our children and for our grandchildren, for our nieces and nephews and our grand-nieces and grand-nephews. That they may know what? The wonder of who God is, what God has done, what God has said, and what He has meant to those doing the telling. There must be some reality to relate, some true understanding of God to pass down. Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

I think we need to be better about exploring truth with our children. We need to be very careful not to overlay every discussion with our personal take on truth or how we would like the truth to be. Let’s give children ready access to God – through the Word, nature, history, science, story, fantasy, mathematics, pattern. We need to immerse ourselves in the Word with our children – chew on it, ask questions, seek, knock. I think we want children to find the Rock and cling to it, and so, we need to be searching for truth as well, probing for it, looking for it as hidden treasure.

We need to remind our children that are already known, chosen, blessed. We are beloved, sought, cherished. We are pursued relentlessly by our Creator. This is truth, and it needs to shine bright.

Truth is so very, very important when we work with children who have been abused, abandoned, tossed aside. As we minister and walk alongside them in the suffering, much of what we do is the slow work of untangling truth from lies. Children were designed to seek connection and trust with their caregivers, when evil twists that in dark and horrific ways, it is a long, slow road to the King. We walk ever so gently and carefully because lies have settled in their soul, and the King needs time to minister in places we cannot see. Slowly but surely the deep love and power of Jesus begins the healing process, and always truth is present.

Lots to think about here, such a critically important topic in our work.

Posted in The Year 2013 | 1 Comment

Family as a Shelter in the Time of Storm – Post 5 of 10

Comfort.

Shelter.

Refuge.

I had the unmistakable privilege of seeing this first hand last weekend. Newborn babies and children only months old being cared for with such love and hope. The origins of the word “comfort” are found in roots that mean “giving strength”, which, in fact, is what we do when we care for a person in a weakened state.

Edith’s chapter on this was compelling. I fear that in our current culture we have so little time to be sick or injured or weak. We rush children off to the doctor in hopes of an antibiotic so we can hurry back to work and they can quickly return to school. While we would never wish sickness or injury on anyone, both happen, and when they do, let’s extend shelter and comfort and care.

I don’t think we learn compassion by watching images on television, we learn it when we clean up yet another set of sheets and blankets, when we slow down and read books to a child with a fever, when we visit with the elderly, when we prepare a nutritious soup for someone who is hurting.

Physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain – they are all met within the arms of compassion. Compassion grows and strengthens in the context of an intimate, loving family.

What is a family? A family is a well-regulated hospital, a nursing home, a shelter in time of physical need, a place where a sick person is greeted as a sick human being and not as a machine that has a loose bolt, or a mechanical doll that no longer works – to be shoved aside because it is no more fun, nor is it useful! A family should be a training place for growing human beings to know how to care for a great variety of sicknesses and for people who have just had accidents or operations, because each one has received both knowledgeable and loving care and has watched it being given to others.  The knowledge of what is necessary for basic care ( and what is added thoughtfulness to make the time more bearable ) should be absorbed through years of living in a family. If, however, a person has not been brought up with the kind of care that has given pleasant moments in the middle of misery, assurance of love in the midst of fear, or the mingling of gratefulness with pain, then one needs to be told.

On a human level, children are meant to learn  how to comfort others with the same kind of comfort they have received in their own pain, sicknesses, and sleep troubles. Children are meant to understand compassion and comfort because they have received compassion and comfort – and this should be in the family setting. A family should be a place where comfort is experienced and understood, so that they people are prepared to give comfort to others. Comfort should be related to the word family. Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

If we want to nurture compassion in our children, then we need to cultivate places of comfort – homes where it matters how you feel, homes where you can communicate what you need, where kind and gentle responses are the norm. As we receive comfort and compassion, we learn it in such a tangible and authentic way, we can’t help but extend it to others when we are walking strong and the weak are all around us.

Posted in The Year 2013 | 1 Comment