Monthly Archives: June 2014

Gently

We were outside playing and pulling weeds.  Then, we decided to fill the watering cans.

“Flowers need to be strong!”  His little nose wrinkled up when he said it, and he flexed a tiny fist.

I thought only of the bright fuschias, reds and pinks in our meager flower beds.  Strength just didn’t seem to be a characteristic.

Gently wateringDo all little boys revere strength?  From the moment they can compose a sentence, they claim the boast for themselves.  “I can do it!  Look how strong I am!”  Precious young man, may you ever be willing to help.  While this mama brags on her son for his growing muscles, she also recognizes another need.  And yet does not voice it.  Little boys need gentleness.  Enter my job as his mama.  In learning to stop and use a gentle touch, in being compelled to slow down and rein in their impulsive, continuous movements, they just might grow into stronger men.

Carrying water requires strength.  Helping carry one another’s burdens requires even more.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” Galatians 6:2,9-10

In knowing what it means to brush a petal softly, to pull a weed tenderly, a boy might one day know how to use his inner strength when it is most needed.  One day he might be a man who knows the strength it takes to embrace gently.

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Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves….Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:10,12

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Talking FAITH and ETERNAL LIFE to your preschooler

mango

Several weeks ago S unceremoniously flushed a pet platy down the toilet.  He was fond of the little fish, though, and I could tell he was hoping for a replacement.  At breakast he announced to his brothers that “Mango” had died.  A expressed his disappointment, but G wanted to know when he would be coming back to life.  When we reminded him that when animals or people die they don’t come back to life, he protested.  “But Jesus came back to life.”  As if that settled the matter.  This is when I was reminded of the fact that preschoolers are still trying to make sense of the physical world around them.  Metaphysical issues are not comprehensible if you do not have a firm grounding in the basics.  In other words, to a certain extent, a miracle is not glorious or spectacular or joyful unless you first know the reality of pain and sorrow.

Below I have listed a few ideas on how to share with your preschooler your understanding of death and the afterlife, i.e. life with God. Two caveats before I begin: first, these ideas are shamelessly Christian in nature.  For those who do not believe in God, or in Jesus, specifically, please feel free to share how you comfort and reassure your child.  Second,  these are not meant to address little ones who have suffered real loss or who are experiencing emotional difficulties.  Instead, this is simply meant to describe how G and I (and his brothers) have talked about death, God and heaven at home as it comes up in natural conversation.  As the “Mango” illustration above shows, he hears about death in relation to pets, , insects, through stories, movies, etc. in everyday conversation.

How to talk to preschoolers about death when they “do NOT want to go to heaven.”

All three of my boys experienced this aversion to talking about heaven or living with God during a certain period in their preschool years.  As adults, we might imagine how wonderful such an existence will be.  To a child, however, this may just sound strange and scary.   Here is what we do:

1.  Listen and ask questions.  Their fear of death or heaven may not be a real worry, but more of a curiousity at this stage.  Likewise, it may mask another concern, like having to move to a different neighborhood, or not knowing when they will be able to see a family member from out-of-state.  Make sure you listen for the root of the concern.

2.  Stress happiness and family being together.  They need to know you all plan on being together, and they will not need to be without you.

3.  Speak openly without vague language.  Phrases, such as “when we rest in peace,” or “living in the clouds” will likely only confuse them.  Let them know that you, too, recognize the sadness of someone dying.  We all know someone whom we loved that has died.  Let them know that even though we will be happy to see them one day when we live with God, they will never return IN THIS life.

4.  Ask your child how he imagines heaven to be.  Give them the opportunity to explore the possible answers through their own speech and imagination.  Their theories just might astound you and inform your own theology.

5.  Allow yourself a few “I don’t knows.”  Admitting you are wrong or don’t know an answer may seem counterintuitive, particularly if you are the parent who wants to have all the answers, doesn’t it?  However, by opening up to the possibilities that we just might be living on the same planet in the afterlife with new and improved trees to climb, we are inviting our little ones to look forward excitedly to his promises.  It may even speak to the comfort and reassurance they crave at this stage.

In any case, do any of us have definitive answers?

 

Tiny, cold droplets of joy

Like the tiny, cold droplets of Chinese water torture,

so is yet another negative word from a child’s lips.

I crawl to bed, feeling not so much the physical weariness of a mother with toddlers, but  the emotional paucity of one who has battled with discouragement, and lost…yet again.  I am not sure whether our daily struggles are more related to emerging adolescent grumpiness, or a more serious condition related to A’s Asperger’s, but I am often utterly exhausted.  One can smile through an occasional grouchy day, or lightly sigh through temporary bouts of bad attitude.  Yet the ever present negativity?  It affects me…deeply.  It is wearing me down.  Like tiny, cold droplets.

Nehemiah said,….”This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Nehemiah 8:13b

Do not grieve?  There is joy even after every sigh?  In the midst of the constant complaining?  During the meltdowns induced by rigid thinking?  I ache at the evidence that my child seems so unhappy.  So ungrateful.  My anxiety swells as I contemplate his future, and blame myself for his lack of thankfulness and confidence.  How will he rely on God for his strength?  Does he see the beauty around him?  Within him?

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 94:18-19

Hold me, LORD.  I cannot sleep reflecting on how many times my foot has slipped.  I have spoken the wrong word.  I have yelled the wrong phrase.  I have used the wrong tone.  A rough hand.  An impatient gesture.  A harsh look.

Anxiousness.  Negativity.  They are creating something ugly in our home.  And my foot is slipping.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me…He has sent me to…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3

I have read these verses over and over, praying that I will receive an epiphany…or a glimmer of understanding to their significance.  Because, honestly, there are many days like today when I truly have no strength, much less joy.  These are the days when the force of gravity no longer feels like it is pulling me down, but is the only thing holding me up.  There may be a thin line that I cling to in desperation, maintaining my focus.  And I know it is not joy.  It is not even strength, but perhaps the hope of joy, the hope of strength.  I trust it will eventually be mine.  I trust that the joy may one day belong to A.  May I, then, grow and stretch through my sorrow, anxiety, and weariness.  May A one day be an oak.  And may the LORD love his every leaf.

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Stowaway: sofa travels with Captain Cook

Stowaway HR18

A, S  (to a certain extent G) and I just completed some adventurous arm chair travel from Plymouth, England, down to what used to be called New Holland, and around New Zealand, then down Cape Horn, and back to England.  That’s right, we circumnavigated the globe.  Newberry-award winner Karen Hesse has written a masterfully researched novel for middle schoolers entitled Stowaway.  It chronicles stowaway Nicholas Young’s three-year voyage on Captain Cook’s Endeavour as the crew attempts to chart the eastern shores of New Holland (today Australia) and the yet unknown continent of New Zeland.  From 1768 – 1771 young Nick eventually sails as a crew member, befriends a native from Tahiti, takes his blows from the fierce midshipman Mr. John Bootie, teaches a crew member to read and write, becomes apprenticed to the naturalist Mr. Joseph Banks, fights off malaria, dysentery and the like to return to his own English shore.  Hesse takes the name of an eleven-year old boy actually found on Endeavour’s roster and fleshes him into a character with a tragic past, yet full of intelligence, discernment and strong moral fiber.

We have been finishing up our history for the year, placing us in the early 1600s, in the age of exploration.  Although this novel takes place a hundred fifty years later, the topic still seemed to fit.  The boys and I had a great time with this read aloud.  Reading with them is one of the pure joys of learning at home.  I wish everything were this enjoyable.  We were all surprised to discover how much G had been listening while running in and out of the room.  We have caught him yelling “Land ho!” several times.  Here is what we did:

GEOGRAPHY

Latitude and longitude.  Stowaway reads as Nicholas Young’s log while on board the Endeavour.  At each entry he records his location by the latitude and longitude coordinates.  We kept our globe nearby and periodically followed Captain Cook’s ship.  To be honest, the guys wearied of this after a bit.  I think it broke up the story too much, but it was initially good practice.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Hesse obviously read volumes of other logs and historical accounts in order to provide the details of Joseph Banks’ finds along the journey.  S, in particular, enjoyed trying to guess which new creature was being discovered by the description.  At one point cuttlefish are described.  This was a relatively new cephalopod for S, so we stopped and read a bit about them.  This was the National Geographic video here that captured S’s imagination.

CONDUCTING RESEARCH

Who knew I would intiate something which A would be so enthusiastic about?  To close out our time with the novel we brainstormed several follow-up questions regarding the history of the novel.  Here are what the guys came up with – (yes, even G contributed a question).

1.  What eventually happens to Captain Cook?

2.  What sort of person was John Bootie?  Did he really have a cruel character?

3.  Describe how and why they threw people in the sea at the equator.

4.  Did Nicholas Young become Mr. Banks’ apprentice?

5.  What was the purpose of the 1772 voyage to Iceland?

6.  What plants/animals were discovered on the Endeavour?

7.  Find out more about Joseph Banks.

8.  Which islands were discovered by Endeavour?  Are they still called by the same name today?

9.  Find out about the food eaten on ships during this time period.

Wikipedia was a good starting place to gather information.  They also hit a few history websites.  A and S spent about an hour researching their pick of questions, and about ten to fifteen minutes retelling what they had discovered.  A took fairly impressive notes.  S just filed it all in his memory bank.  They learned a great deal.  Moreover, I think they actually enjoyed it.